insurance question

ks_toolgirlAugust 25, 2010

Hi, I really hope this is a dumb question... When we bought our house, the inspectors report said it was built in late 1930's, and I don't recall it mentioning K&T wiring. Paperwork is boxed up somewhere, I go hunting for it later, however... Here's my question. Our homeowners Insurance went by that report, I'm sure. We've since found out that it's MUCH older, and that the entire 2nd floor is still wired w/ K&T. If a company wouldn't insure a house this old, would they not cover us if we had an emergency & they found out the true age? We didn't intend to be dishonest, and didn't think anything of it making any difference until I read posts about the hassle of getting coverage at all on the "old girls". Needless to say, I do NOT want to open up a can of worms by contacting the company or agent. I don't think they'd buy the "Um, purely hypothetically, what if.." question.

Any thoughts? I don't like the feeling of being less than honest, but I like the idea of no insurance far less!

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It depends on the company, I think. If your current insurer thought it didn't have K&T wiring and then you have a fire as a result of the wiring, you'll have an issue, I imagine. But I don't think they'd deny a claim unrelated to the mistake on age. You do have the paper trail to document why you told them it was newer, which probably helps too.

I was a little surprised by how much trouble people have had with insurance...but we're just shy of the 100-year mark, and possibly that makes all the difference. We had one company that would not insure the house unless we replaced all the K&T wiring within the first six months, which we weren't in a position to do. State Farm did not care whatsoever, though they did send someone out to physically inspect the house (but he barely went beyond the living room, and definitely never looked at electrical or anything like that). Interestingly, when I first called them and explained the situation, the agent's response was that half the bungalows in town still have some K&T so he'd be out of business if they didn't insure homes with older wiring. So, who knows. They didn't ask for any of the inspection reports on the house, though; they just asked me to answer a series of pretty basic questions. Then again, our house is pretty typical for our neighborhood. Might be different with an agent accustomed to working with much newer homes and yours is the one outlier.

Are you planning to rewire that floor anyway? If so, I'd just do that sooner rather than later and not worry about it.

    Bookmark   August 25, 2010 at 4:56PM
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No matter how much of a chore, I think I'd try to find the inspection report or get a copy from the inspector. If the report does indicate some K&T wiring, then you're all set.

As artemis78 said, different insurance companies have different attitudes toward old wiring. In many areas of the country K&T wiring is virtually unknown; in others it's very common.This probaby accounts for the variations.

In many ways K&T wiring is safer than other types because of the separation between the neutral and hot wire. It's certainly a lot safer than metallic BX wiring or the aluminum wiring that appeared in the 70's. Some years ago, I was a trustee of a historic building with K&T wiring throughout when the insurance company demanded that it be replaced. We instead replaced the insurance company saving tens of thousands of dollars and much destruction. All the new company wanted was an inspection report by a licensed electrician attesting that the wiring was in good condition.

    Bookmark   August 25, 2010 at 5:43PM
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"All the new company wanted was an inspection report by a licensed electrician attesting that the wiring was in good condition."

As long as the K&T has not been messed with it is not only perfectly good, but is still listed in the NEC (though restricted to extensions on the same floor).

The insurance companies are trying to make money based on ignorance.

    Bookmark   August 25, 2010 at 7:53PM
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It seems like everyone's experience with this issue is different.

My agent used to work for State Farm. He had to come over and take a picture to ensure that we had 100 amp service. He stated that it's not the K&T wiring that's the danger, it's that a lot of old houses have 50 amp or even lower service from the street which can lead to big problems.

My agent started his own independent agency and he's switching my insurance companies. The new one needed a picture of the electrical box, too, to ensure that it was 100 amp service and that it was not overloaded. K&T wouldn't have been a problem, but probably would have increased my premium. The house was built in 1910 but all new electric.

My agent stated that if the insurance companies, especially up here in the north, stopped writing policies for homes with K&T, they'd be out of business. It may be different in areas without a lot of housing, but it's very true - almost every house built before the war, and some after, have K&T and the vast majority of housing stock in this area (Cleveland) was built before that, and most electrical has not been replaced.

He did state that the problem is that the service from the street isn't upgraded so people are trying to run all of today's appliances and electronics off of a 30 or 50 amp service.

If you do have K&T wiring, and the insurance company isn't aware, you need to tell them. If something happens, they can deny your coverage. Even if something happens that wasn't related to wiring, if they see that you neglected to tell them that you had K&T, it could be grounds for canceling the policy. It all depends on how the policy is written, how it is applied, etc. Lots of issues there.

At least up here, State Farm is excellent about covering older homes.

Also, you are right on your assumption about not calling and asking "hypothetical" questions. Some agents are required by their employers to report any such questions to the insurance company. It's kind of shady, if you ask me!

    Bookmark   August 25, 2010 at 8:58PM
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I don't know much about any issues you might have w/ a claim, but I would assume that since you answered their question about age based on your knowledge (and backed up by the inspector...I think you'd be ok...after all, you're a homeowner, not a professional!)

As for insurance issues regarding old homes..........I was told by Progressive (who I've used for my car insurance for 13+ years) that my 200 year old home is "uninsurable"....I was able to get insurance through State Farm with absolutely no problems at all. (State Farm will also now be getting my car insurance....Progressive can kiss my butt). I was so stressed out about being able to get insurace after reading some posts on here, and because of my own issue w/ Progressive.......but State Farm was wonderful. I don't have knob and tube, but the wiring is quite old. They came and took pictures of my electric box as well as my furnace and gave me insurance w/ no hassle at all. I highly recommend them!

    Bookmark   August 25, 2010 at 11:18PM
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Wow, thanks to ALL of you for your responses! This community has the best members ever.
Regarding the K&T, over a year ago I came to possess a box of old ceramic "things" & didn't know what they were. DH said they were from k&t wiring, and added that our 2nd floor still used them. He said they were safe, and after researching I felt comfortable with it also. However! Last night he said he's never even heard of k&t, and insists he never said we had it. (I blame 30+ yrs of chomping down on lead fishing weights, lol, & don't recommend it!). So do I have it? I won't know till I go forth to the attic. New SCARY issues have come up with the house that put that issue on hold. If there is k&t, I know it likely needs looked over, but if it's in good shape there aren't any plans to replace it. (Till we have to).
I guess I just feel guilty, since I know the house is so much older than they were led to believe - but we can't risk telling them and getting policy cancelled OR rates jacked up. The only thing I want getting "jacked up" around here is the structure itself, thank-you-very-much, lol!
Thanks, everyone! I'll be posting about the new BAD problem soon. I'm definately going to need serious advice. (Sniffle... ). :-(

    Bookmark   August 26, 2010 at 2:21PM
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Pretending ignorance in case of a claim doesn't cut it with insurance companies. The premium savings will look pretty lean compared to an uninsured loss.

Here, virtually all companies will not insure homes with k&t. Ditto, homes with galvanized plumbing, aluminum wiring, past due inside fuel oil tanks or exterior or underground tanks that are not fully up to the latest standards.

    Bookmark   August 26, 2010 at 3:00PM
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That's interesting Worthy! Are you in the South?

ks_toolgirl: I don't know what the technical name is for them, but I call them "Knobs", they are the olden-day version of fuses.

So if one of the "fuses" blows you have to replace one of those ceramic things with a new one, it's not just a switch. Usually. But not always. I'm not an expert on electrical (hopefully there is one reading), but I did grow up in a house with those ceramic thingies I call "knobs" and when a fuse or whatever blew we had to put a new one in.

As far as the safety of K&T, only an electrician could advise you as to the safety of it in your particular home - people do silly things like splicing it onto newer romex, etc., but K&T in and of its self is not unsafe.

Do you have two electrical boxes in the basement?

    Bookmark   August 27, 2010 at 2:28AM
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The ceramic knobs in K&T wiring are insulators and have nothing at all to do with fuses. They have a base and a cap. The wire is placed in the base and the cap goes over it held in place by a central nail or screw. The tubes are also insulators used when the wiring goes through wall or stud.

Splicing K&T into more modern wiring can be done safely as long as the relavant code practices are followed.

    Bookmark   August 27, 2010 at 6:00AM
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We are paying the higher "non updated" premium for our homeowners even though it has been updated because we can't PROVE it's been updated. Even though anyone looking can SEE it's new, we can't prove it on paper (i.e. a paid receipt for an electrical contractor and plumbing contractor).

It's an extra $600 a year, which ticks me off, but in some ways is a good thing. Everything we can see or have worked with is obviously modern wiring but I suspect that there is old wiring still in the walls - maybe live, maybe not. And, who knows if maybe there are new lines tied on to old lines, especially on the second floor where it's harder to get in? This house has passed through so many owners over the years and wasn't treated very nicely by some. Lots of DIY messes (who the h e double hockey sticks puts in gray misfitted cabinets with black and white skeletons stenciled on them and green shag carpet in a beautiful queen anne with hardwood floors????) The formal sitting room was obviously used as a "cat room" for some time as the urine stains were beyond fixing. The wood work in the entry hall had been painted HOT PINK enamel, and not in a fun chic sort of girly funky way. The walls had been wallpapered with cheap dollar store contact paper (which does not come off after being on there for years and becoming brittle-ly "one" with the plaster.

OK, sorry, got off on a rant there. Back to insurance. Yes, better safe than sorry, IMO consider getting with them and offering a full disclosure - you believe it's been updated but you're not an electrician and you will not attest that there is no old wiring present. Make sure they understand that in writing so the agent can't tell you to hush and not worry about it.

Better to pay a little extra each year than have a total loss claim denied.

We have MetLife by the way.

    Bookmark   August 27, 2010 at 10:23AM
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Mainegrower-I may have been confused - I thought she was talking about something else, not the actual Knob part of the K&T wiring!

I thought in K&T systems, in the "fusebox", there are a bunch of glass/ceramic knob things that you have to replace when a "fuse" blows? I'll take a picture when I go over Mom's Monday.

    Bookmark   August 27, 2010 at 10:15PM
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That's interesting Worthy! Are you in the South?

Does southern Ontario count?

glass/ceramic knob things that you have to replace when a "fuse" blows

Those are the fuses. I realize now for many young people all they've ever seen are circuit breakers. Just as phones with dials and even wires are a novelty to the youngest generation. I found myself explaining what a phone booth was to my cell-phone equipped grade schooler when we came upon one of those curiousities recently.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2010 at 12:16AM
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Thank you worthy! I knew there was a real name for those things!!!!!! My Mom has quite a few of them in case they blow. They are neat little things. I am only 26 but I had to help her replace more than a few of those...usually when I turned the microwave on at an inopportune moment!!!!

    Bookmark   August 28, 2010 at 6:43PM
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