Have you ever heard of cloth wiring? It might sound like something out of a vintage fashion catalog, but it’s actually a type of electrical wiring that was commonly used in homes built before the 1960s. While it may have been considered a modern marvel at the time, many people today wonder if cloth wiring is safe to use. After all, technology has come a long way since then.
So, is cloth wiring electrically safe? Let’s explore the facts and find out what you need to know to keep your home and family safe.
Cloth Wiring Basic (Explained)
Cloth wiring is electrical wiring that was standard for buildings and properties before the 1960s. Now, cloth wiring is not used anymore for new houses. Modern houses or rebuilt houses replace cloth wiring with modern wiring systems like Romex.
This wiring system was developed prior to the widespread adoption of thermoplastic-coated wiring, or modern wiring. It was cheap, easy to deploy, and met the requirements at the time.
When cloth wiring is widely available, it is also often connected to knob-and-tube wiring. Knob-and-tube wiring was a simple and popular way of running wires in many houses back then. In Knob and tube wiring, electrical cables/wires are passed and run through walls using ceramics.
Buildings and houses using cloth wiring were constructed in the early twentieth century. If you own a house built around this period, your electrical wiring may be coated with fabric insulation, or at least some of it. You may consider replacing them with a modern wiring system, as they are considered unsafe by today’s standards.
We will explain further why clotch wiring is considered not safeunsafe.
Six Reasons Why Cloth Wiring is Not Save
When cloth wiring was used to wire homes back then, it managed to keep electrical currents going in houses for many years. It was common electrical wiring. However, for current home wiring standards, it is no longer considered safe. Cloth wiring is out of date and poses some risks, mainly electrical risks and a potential fire hazard.
The nature of insulated layers made from cloth and rubber has made cloth wiring easily wornedworn and abraded by rats and insects. This opens and exposes the wire underneath. If this is the case, there is a risk of an electrical short circuit, which can result in fire.
Below, you will find six reasons why clotch wiring is not safe.
1. Contains Asbestos, A Potentially Harmful Materials
Asbestos was used to make cloth wiring well before the late 1970s, but now it isn’t used anymore. There are some reasons why asbestos was considered the best material back then.
Asbestos is a mineral made of silicate that has tiny fibers in it. Asbestos intrinsic natural properties are good for heat and chemical resistance. Asbestos also provides strength in a structural material. It is readily available and plentiful in nature. Those are the reasons why Asbestos was considered the best material for cloth wire, thanks to its inherent insulation and low cost.
By now, we know that asbestos is a well-known highly carcinogenic material for human health. But there was a period when we didn’t know much about the dangers of asbestos. Now that we know that asbestos is not really that safe, the current type of insulated wiring is constructed of plastic or graded rubber.
2. Not Strong and Flexible Enough
Material wise, cloth wire is relatively hard. This may be a positive thing in terms of ruggedness to protect the cable inside. Some of its layers are made of rubber, which will deteriorate over time. It might turn brittle and breakable over time, exposing the cable inside.
This should not happen and must be rectified promptly. If not, then there is danger of an electrical shortcut where electricity will flow from the cable to the most nearby conductive item. This has the potential to start a fire.
3. Rodents and Insects May Expose the Outer Layer
Cloth covered wire, as with any cloth material, may attract rodents and insects. Depending on how rough the clotch is, some of them are simple targets for chewing and damage. You don’t want the wire to be exposed or the electricity to arc, which can be dangerous. Because of its brittleness, cloth wire is also likely to fatigue and strain. The more wear and tear that occurs, the more the wires inside become exposed. This increases the danger of electrical fires caused by arcing.
4. Not As Effective at Retaining Heat
We know that cloth’s material intrinsically doesn’t work as well as other materials to keep heat in. Clothes are not as good as rubber or plastic at containing heat. Cloth wiring has more limitations on how well it can be used for insulation than other materials. This could be dangerous if a lot of power and heat from the wire goes through. A fire can start from too much heat.
5. Not Applicable for Modern Houses
Modern houses are equipped with more electronics, hardware, and machinery. They consume far more energy than previous generations’ homes. This will be difficult for outdated cloth wiring to keep up. Overloading causes a lot of heat, which can cause your house wiring to break down.
6. Lack of Modern Features
When we look at the wiring systems in modern homes, as well as those built after the mid-1960s, they are quite similar. This is due to meeting the rules set by local building regulations or the national power wiring code when there is any new wiring added.
Today, when people buy and install cable wiring, they want more features than just a way to pass electricity. Electrical wiring is not just attaching wires and cables to the main distribution board before being routed to various devices and equipment.
Modern houses are equipped with modern appliances, smart homes, IOT, and gadgets. That’s why cable companies come up with a lot of interesting new features.
It’s a shame that cloth wiring doesn’t come with these modern features.
How to Check Your House for Cloth Wiring
The main indicator that cloth wiring was installed is if your house was built before the 1960s. The fact that you live in an older house doesn’t mean that your house has copper wiring.
Some may not find it easy to spot cloth wiring. Maybe you are not seeing cloth or fabric material wiring in your house or attic. You may need to check if the outer layer of wire was insulated with rubberized material. But inside, it contains an interior layer of cotton insulation. The easiest way to find out for sure is to hire a local electrical inspector to check.
Below, we summarize how you can easily spot them in your house.
1. How to Spot if there is knob-and-tube wiring
When cloth wiring was deployed, knob-and-tube wiring was quite popular at the same time. Knob and tube wiring is made out of ceramic knobs and tubes that are used to pass cables through the walls. Both cloth wiring and knob and tube wiring were regarded as obsolete and unsafe by today’ standards.
So if you can find knob-and-tube wiring anywhere inside your house, you almost certainly have cloth wire. Cloth or fabric was often used to insulate knob-and-tube wiring with something like a rubber outer protection.
2. Look for the company’s wire name
The manufacturers’ or brand names of cloth wire companies may be found on the fabric-covered wiring. Their brand name and model are mostly visible on the outer layer.
Because nobody uses cloth wiring for new houses, most of these companies are no longer in operation. Some have been sold to other businesses or changed their names. Below are some of the company’s wire names:
- Triangle PWC
3. Call an electrician or professional
After all, if you are still unsure or unable to identify the wiring on your own, your best bet is to contact a professional electrician or home inspector. These professionals can quickly identify cloth-covered wiring and will inform you whether your home needs to be rewired. Certainly there are some costs involved, but the service you get is worth it.
What To Do If You Have Cloth Wiring
You have done a thorough inspection of your house and find out that indeed there is cloth wiring installed. What should you do then?
The first thing to do is have a professional come and inspect it. A licensed home inspector or a qualified electrician will check the wiring condition. They will give suggestions on whether you can keep or replace it (totally or partially). Mostly, they advise you to replace the wiring with modern wiring.
If your house does not have Knob and Tube wiring installed, then there is a good chance that just a few circuits were installed with cloth wiring. If this is the case, you don’t need to change the entire wiring. The cost of replacement would be just a few hundred bucks.
If you find knob and tube wiring all over your house, then you may be out of luck. This will very certainly need to be replaced completely. Well, the cost of the replacement is not cheap. For an average middle-sized house, it will cost a few thousand dollars. Though it may be a significant financial investment for some, changing from cloth wiring to modern and safer wiring is your best choice.
Upgrading From Cloth Wiring: What You Need To Know
Should you decide to change the wiring in your house, there is an obvious choice to make. Hire a professional to do it!
Doing the replacement and installing a new wiring system by yourself will only make it more risky, both for your house and for your safety. It’ll almost certainly do more harm to your property or business.
Most likely, you would not know what to do until you had done wiring installation before. The lack of knowledge and skills will only make the whole thing worse.
What we want you to do is hire a trained electrician to do the work. If you can, please choose ASP Level 2 electricians rather than regular electricians. Level 2 electricians are better in every aspect: knowledge, skills, and experiences. They are competent to do more complex and demanding jobs. They are knowledgeable on how to properly prevent injury when exposed electrical wires, fragile wires, unground systems, and/or asbestos are present.
One of the biggest benefits of upgrading from cloth wiring is the increased safety it provides. Cloth wiring can become brittle and crack over time, which can lead to exposed wires and electrical shorts. This can create a serious fire hazard in your home. Upgrading your wiring can give you peace of mind and protect your family from the dangers of electrical fires.
Another benefit of upgrading from cloth wiring is the increased efficiency of your electrical system. Older systems may not be equipped to handle the demands of modern appliances and electronics. Upgrading your wiring can ensure that your home has the power it needs to run smoothly and efficiently.
How Much Does Cotton Cloth Wiring Replacement Cost?
The cost of cloth wiring replacement will depend on the size and structure of your house, the length of the wires needed to be replaced and installed, and the complexity of the wiring. On average, it will cost you somewhere in the $1,000s to replace the whole thing with the old wiring installed.
Then you need to count the cost of rewiring with new, modern cables. Rewiring a house costs anywhere from $1,500 to $10,000 all over the country. Most people pay an average of $2,100. For this amount, they also include the cost of labor and materials. But bear in mind that they change considering the size and age of your home, the rooms that need to be rewired, and the amount of wire that needs to be changed.