Newly Rewired with Aluminum

julienolaJuly 1, 2013

I recently purchased and gutted an old house (circa 1870). In the process of renovating, I had the entire house re-wired. The HVAC installer told me this morning that the house was partially re-wired with aluminum (I believe that the 110s are copper and the 220s are aluminum). The contract states that the house would be re-wired according to national code. Is aluminum up to code? I assumed that the house would be re-wired with copper. It's already passed inspection by both the bank and the city inspector (a personal friend of the electrician) and the renovation is virtually complete. Would I have to rip out the sheetrock to replace the aluminum? I still have one more check to release to the electrician.

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paul21

I don't know the regulations where you are but here , aluminum is outlawed .

Good luck .

    Bookmark   July 1, 2013 at 3:34PM
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renovator8

In the US it would be the device used rather than the wire that is regulated.

Aluminum wiring is acceptable for larger conductors in devices marked CU/AL and smaller ones when the devices are designed for it. Such devices are labeled CO/ALR (copper-aluminum, revised) and have specific characteristics minimizing the effects of aluminum expansion and contraction. They employ screw terminals that have deeper undercuts and are designed to act as a similar metal to aluminum and expand at a similar rate. CO/ALR applies to standard light switches and receptacles rated 20 amps or less.

To be sure check the markings on the devices that use aluminum wiring or better yet have a home inspector check out the entire system.

    Bookmark   July 1, 2013 at 4:21PM
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julienola

So was I wrong in assuming that a fully licensed electrician that charges the going-rate would use copper and not aluminum? Do I have any recourse given that aluminum is not outlawed?

    Bookmark   July 1, 2013 at 10:23PM
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columbusguy1

I don't know the regulations at all, but I understood that aluminum wiring was best replaced entirely, and am surprised someone still uses it. I guess a lot of homes built in the 70s had it, and it is always recommended to be replaced because of the greater risk of fire.

If you haven't paid the final installment, have him replace the aluminum with copper before you pay him off. You were expecting copper entirely, and if the contract didn't mention the aluminum, then you have a valid complaint.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2013 at 3:16AM
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snoonyb

Do not ASSume that respect for professionalism, breeds complacency.
"Renovater 8" was correct, 120 and 240 devices are specific use designated.
While it may be the "opinion" of the HVAC contractor and his preference to use copper, it does not make aluminum disallowed.
Ask the elec. contractor to show you the code sections, for your edification, which allow the use of the alum. conductors in question.
Show him the specific verbiage in his contract which calls for "all copper conductors".
You might also offer to compensate him for the rime spent in your "edification."

    Bookmark   July 2, 2013 at 6:40AM
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worthy

I assumed that the house would be re-wired with copper.

Bad assumption. But, as noted above, if the correct devices and connectors are used, the risk is reduced.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2013 at 9:47PM
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julienola

I spoke with the owner (Gerhold) and told him that I was going to hire an independent inspector before final payment. The carpenter said that one of his workers showed up a short time later to install junction boxes for the hanging fixtures. The inspector for the city said that the aluminum wire falls within code, but is highly frowned upon. The electrician told me he uses builder-grade materials unless otherwise specified. I guess I'll cross him off my list of subcontractors!

    Bookmark   July 3, 2013 at 10:15AM
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snoonyb

"The inspector for the city said that the aluminum wire falls within code, but is highly frowned upon."

Is this the same inspector "alluded too" here;"the city inspector (a personal friend of the electrician) "

Did he also explain to you the reason it is "frowned upon" is that there is a specific process to be used when attaching devices, unlike the "johnny-come-lately" method employed by the uninformed.

    Bookmark   July 3, 2013 at 11:28PM
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julienola

No, I was referring to the mechanical inspector in my last post.

    Bookmark   July 4, 2013 at 10:54AM
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worthy

I've personally done a lot of wiring to Code. One circa 1880 property I bought had been "upgraded" in the 1970s to aluminum. It was absolutely dreadful stuff to work with. Just bending it once around a receptacle screw and it's ready to break off. Yet I often re-connected 70 year old copper wire to new receptacles, switches and lights with absolutely no concerns.

    Bookmark   July 4, 2013 at 12:00PM
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renovator8

To be honest, I have never known convenience circuits in a house to be wired with aluminum. Not making it clear in the contract was irresponsible if not dishonest.

    Bookmark   July 4, 2013 at 2:23PM
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millworkman

Agree 100% with Reno.

    Bookmark   July 4, 2013 at 2:37PM
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worthy

I have never known convenience circuits in a house to be wired with aluminum.

So I won the lottery!

    Bookmark   July 4, 2013 at 5:53PM
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Jumpilotmdm

I'm not electrician but I thought aluminum wiring went the way of bias ply tires.

    Bookmark   July 4, 2013 at 9:21PM
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lazy_gardens

I had this discussion with my electrician, because the house had several generations of wiring upgrades.

There are special connectors that MUST be used with aluminum because it breaks if you wrap it around a screw. It doesn't break immediately, it waits until months later and the sparking across the gap starts a fire.

Fortunately, he found no aluminum

    Bookmark   July 5, 2013 at 8:05AM
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snoonyb

worthy
lazygardens
Jumpilotmdm
millworkman
Renovator8

While it is true the aluminum is no longer allowed for convenience circuits, those dwellings which were wired with aluminum still exist, in the thousands.
And for the "uninformed" there exist an approved method of attaching a copper pigtail to the existing aluminum conductor, thus negating the "screw-wrap" argument.

"Renovator8 (My Page) on Thu, Jul 4, 13 at 14:23
To be honest, I have never known convenience circuits in a house to be wired with aluminum. Not making it clear in the contract was irresponsible if not dishonest."

Really?

So when a B-1 writes a contract to "build according to approved plans and specifications using builders grade materials".

Which "mind reader" will ASSume the other to be irresponsible and/or dishonest, because they guessed wrong?

    Bookmark   July 5, 2013 at 4:03PM
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renovator8

I assumed the contractor wrote the spec if there was one; why would an owner's spec writer include the term "builders grade". I don't even know what that means for electrical devices and conductors. If the work was specified it would have to say aluminum conductors and the grade of the devices.

    Bookmark   July 5, 2013 at 9:12PM
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snoonyb

He did exactly what was legally required of him;
"The contract states that the house would be re-wired according to national code."

So now there is an uninformed owner who was "erroneously" informed by another trade, who couldn't keep his cake hole shut, about a deficiency which did not exist.
The OP has "informed the owner(Gerhold)," whoever that is, of the intent to hire an independent inspector.

If I were the elec. contractor and this cost me any additional time or held my payment up 1sec. the OP, HVAC contractor would receive a demand letter from an attny.

All the OP would have had to do was spend some time in any big box or hardware store, ask a few questions, and then, and then, ask the trade.

Instead, it's someone else's fault.

"I don't even know what that means for electrical devices and conductors."

Really?

Do you understand stranding in large dia. conductors, or the difference between plug-play and commercial recp.,

"If the work was specified it would have to say aluminum conductors and the grade of the devices."

And had the OP assumed the responsibility afforded and ask that that was a "call-out".

This has to be selective memory lose, or have you forgotten the ad-nausium admonishments, on these boards, to home owners to read the specs., make changes, additions/deletions, call-outs and ask questions.

    Bookmark   July 5, 2013 at 10:50PM
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renovator8

There was no specification; the contract simply stated the work would meet national code. That is not a specification. I really have no interest in this discussion other than to point out the obvious: the homeowner hired someone who took advantage of their lack of knowledge. I run across this every time I do a renovation and I don't like it and you shouldn't either. When a homeowner trusts a contractor they should not have to regret it.

    Bookmark   July 5, 2013 at 11:20PM
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julienola

Renovator8 is correct.

My contract did not mention "builder grade materials."

It stated in part: "Complete wiring of house; placement of switches and receptacles as per owner. All wiring as per national electric code.

The initial bid stated in part "rewire house using 2008 NEC standard."

My worries are based on the reactions of the subcontractors and inspectors, and the fact that the electrician removed junction boxes after the electrical inspector signed off on the work.

I simply posed the question on this board to gain some perspective.

Thanks to everyone (or almost everyone) for posting!

    Bookmark   July 6, 2013 at 11:06AM
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renovator8

There is nothing wrong with aluminum wiring for 240 volt circuits. Unless there are electric resistance heaters those circuits would be for a stove and perhaps a water heater. The failure to mention the use of aluminum in the contract is irresponsible in my opinion but the absence of "specific" specifications is common in residential work.

The discussion got sidetracked because many are not aware that aluminum wiring is allowed for 120 volt branch circuits with properly marked devices. But that is irrelevant because in this case copper was used for those circuits.

I recommended that a home inspector review the work but I would recommend doing that for any work where the homeowner does not have on-site professional representation.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2013 at 7:27AM
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