As we’ve pulled back walls, floors and ceilings, we’ve found some really interesting bits and pieces in the house. Some of them tell an interesting story about the history of construction and changes in the property. Some of them are a complete mystery.
Throughout the house is old nob and tube wiring. Prior to contemporary wiring systems (think circuit breakers and that thick, flat romex wiring often running in conduit), homes were wired up with copper wrapped in cloth sheathing. Because of fear of the wires heating up too much and causing a fire, this wiring was installed in such a way that it never touched wood directly. When running through wood (for example, if you’re running it perpendicular to ceiling joists) each drilled hole would be plugged with a glass tube and the wire would run inside it. Likewise, when running along wood like up and down in walls, the wire would be wrapped around glass nobs that would keep it suspended above the surface of the wood. Hence the name nob and tube.
We reckon that all the wiring in the house was upgraded about 10 or 15 years ago based on finding some newspaper in a wall that was partially cut away to run new wire. The entire house has been completely upgraded from nob and tube. There’s not even an old fuse box lurking around. But unless you have cause to open up walls, you can do that kind of upgrade by just punching strategic holes and patching them in later with drywall. As a result, all the old wiring will be left in the house even though it’s no longer hooked up. We’re very thankful to not have to worry about the electric in this house. All the houses in the neighborhood are just as old as ours and it’s a laborious and expensive prospect to upgrade the electrical infrastructure.