Can pushbutton light switches be rewired to modern code?

ginam_ohJuly 19, 2005

Does anyone have experience with pushbutton light switches? The house I wrote about once before--we're in contract on it(still waiting for the appraisal but hopefully it will be ours)--has all pushbutton light switches. I love them and really want to keep them. Has anyone here worked with rewiring them to accomodate modern wiring? Does it work? Could this be a DIY type project, or should a licensed electrician handle it? We have one contracted to replace the K&T wiring throughout the house.

Thanks in advance!

Gina

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
mrblandings

You can buy reproduction pushbutton switches that meet all current codes.

Here is a link that might be useful: reproduction pushbutton switch

    Bookmark   July 19, 2005 at 12:03PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
ginam_oh

But I don't want to buy new ones if I can refurbish the old....not just for the cost savings but because I strongly believe in reusing historic materials whenever it's feasible. The K&T wiring isn't suited to modern appliances, so it has to go, but if the switches can be redone I'd like to continue using them.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2005 at 3:13PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
thecobbler

Check with your local electrical inspector (Authority Having Jurisdiction or AHJ). You might be able to run a pigtail from the metal frame of the switch to the circuit ground (and the box if it's metal). This would involve drilling a hole in the frame and tapping it (I think it's 10x32 but check) and using special green screws. You can buy the green screws and pigtails you need at any hardware or big-box store.

The complication here is that the metal on a switch has to be grounded even when the cover is off of the box.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2005 at 5:56PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
dayenu

my neighbor did an historic restoration and kept the 1800's button light switches, and it all met code.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2005 at 8:57PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
spewey

The trouble with the old switches is that there are usually only two wires, the black (hot) and white wires that complete the circuit. For safety's sake, there should be a separate bare copper ground wire grounded to the circuit ground and connected to the switch frame, yes by that green screw. Pull one out and see how your switch is wired (turning off the breaker/fuse to that switch first, of course). Then you'll know whether you need to replace or rewire the switch. Don't continue to use the switches if they are not grounded.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2005 at 12:06AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
housekeeping

I expect you'll be able to re-use the visible parts, perhaps even including the botton covers. Keeping old materials is always a good thing, but if you need to replace the "guts" of the switches with modern equipment, don't hesitate. There's absolutely no need to have un-safe wiring or switches just for historical accuracy. Unless you also want to have only hand-drawn four-man fire pumpers used to extinguish any fires. Leather fire buckets can also still be purchased at antique stores....... (just kidding!)

Hope the appraisal comes in on the right side of the money and you get your house!

Molly~

    Bookmark   July 20, 2005 at 11:56AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
thecobbler

To reiterate:
As long as you're rewiring, you'll have a ground connection to which you can connect pigtails from the switch frames. Once you do that, it'll be safe.

These switches are isolated from the metal frame by virtue of their ceramic housings so the pigtails may just be window dressing but they won't hurt.

If you want verification of this, post the question on the wiring forum.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2005 at 7:53PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
bulldinkie

We bought old ones and had them redone.Thers 2 fellows near us that do restoration they have a really nice supply of used higes,knobs,plates etc.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2005 at 7:37AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
kframe19

In a word... yes.

My parent's house is a 1903 Queen Anne. It has push-button switches through most of the house. Dad and Grandpa rewired the house in the 1940s/1950s to get rid of the knob and tube wiring.

"The trouble with the old switches is that there are usually only two wires, the black (hot) and white wires that complete the circuit."

If I'm not mistaken, a properly installed switch is only ever installed on the HOT wire anyways. The NEUTRAL should never be in the circuit, or else the fixture will always be powered, even when the switch is off.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2005 at 1:42AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
brickeyee

"If I'm not mistaken, a properly installed switch is only ever installed on the HOT wire anyways. The NEUTRAL should never be in the circuit, or else the fixture will always be powered, even when the switch is off."

Two conductor cable is routinely used for a switch loop. The white wire is required to be used as the hot from the light to the switch, and the black is then used as the switched hot. The white wire should be marked to indicate it is no longer a neutral, but this is often omitted.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2005 at 10:53AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
judeNY_gw

I rewired my entire house and reused all the pushbutton switches that were here. It passed the NYC electrical inspection.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2005 at 4:59PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
kframe19

Brick,

"Two conductor cable is routinely used for a switch loop."

Switch loops are great -- if the house was wired/rewired with sheathed cable.

When my Father and Grandfather rewired the house that my parents now own (bought it from Grandma and Grandpa's estate), they pulled individual wires through much of the house due to the construction.

Few, if any, switch loops to be found.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2005 at 12:50AM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Need color help with exterior paint on 1902 Victorian with bad siding
We have a 1902 victorian in a small town in Iowa. Unfortunately,...
Jennifer Weinman
Sanity check: Huge window & shutter repair/replace bill?
Hey folks! I am the proud new-ish owner of 1740s brick...
ahoyhere
Plaster stamped like tile?
My house was built in 1915. I am tearing out some 60s...
civ_IV_fan
Craftsman tile question
I recently visited a friend who lives in a beautiful...
lalala
Claw foot tub...best?
I also posted this in the bathroom forum, but though...
monica_thompson
Sponsored Products
Tricod Yellow Labrador Dog with Lantern Solar Light
Overstock.com
Modern Indoor/Outdoor Artistic Weavers Rugs Formosa Silt Green 2 ft. 6 in. x 8
Home Depot
Cone Satin Nickel Amber Glass Tech Lighting Monorail Pendant
Euro Style Lighting
Plymouth Decorative Chandelier - Four Lights - Olde Bronze
Signature Hardware
Citrine lara linen table runner
Origin Crafts
Good Point Side Table
| Dot & Bo
Fusion Modular Four-Light Matte Black Chandelier
$440.00 | Bellacor
Holiday Shine Owl Statue
$23.99 | zulily
People viewed this after searching for:
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™