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View Full Version : OT--Electrical Code in the 1970s??



Bob Childress
10-22-2006, 9:56 AM
As many of you know (though don't really care), I am renovating our kitchen. The last two ceiling light fixtures I removed (and one was a ceiling fan as well) there was no junction box in the ceiling, just Romex sticking through a hole. The fixtures were screwed directly to the ceiling. Was this ever code (I have an erly 1970's house)? Of course I cut in junction boxes before replacing the fixtures with new ones, but I'm wondering if the whole house is wired this way and if it is safe. :confused:

Any comments by the numerous electrical experts out there would be appreciated.

Rob Russell
10-22-2006, 10:30 AM
Bob,

I'm not a licensed sparky, just a knowledgeable homeowner type. Unless you're talking about knob and tube wiring, boxes have been used for decades. Our house was built in the late 70's and it's been the expected romex and boxes throughout. It was a messy job in the main panel and the way some of the circuits are split and routed is bad wiring practices, but it met code.

My guess is that a previous homeowner installed those fixtures by fishing the romex and directly hanging the fixtures off the sheetrock or ceiling joists.

If you want to test your question, pick a room like a lavatory or bathroom that has 1 ceiling light on a switch that really looks like an original installation and see how that fixture is mounted. If that's on a box, it supports the "homeowner hack" theory for your kitchen fixtures. If that test fixture is also direct mounted without a box, it sounds as if there could be other problems in your house to discover.

Rob

Jim Becker
10-22-2006, 11:38 AM
It's also important to understand that code enforcement has changed dramatically...both because it makes sense and because it's a very nice revenue stream for the local jurisdictions. ;) The former is the most important reason, however...

There is a lot of "very scary" wiring and other building practices in many of our homes. Some is the result of "homeowner" improvements and some is, frankly, the result of slip-shod work by contractors and handymen who's main motivation was to get done as quickly and cheaply as possible.

The best advise I can offer is that when you identify something like this that is substandard and potentially dangerous, remediate. If it's not something you can do yourself, either due to lack of knowledge/experience or just capability, hire someone. I include in this things that may even be grandfathered "as is" and relatively safe or functional. (plumbing things come to mind) But if the wall is open and you have access, bring it up to code. IMHO, it's worth it in the long run.

Rob Russell
10-22-2006, 12:06 PM
... But if the wall is open and you have access, bring it up to code. IMHO, it's worth it in the long run.

Jim,

Most local codes stipulate that, if you're in working on something, you're supposed to bring that "thing" up to current code. I don't mean swapping out a light fixture or switch, but if you're in doing rewiring on a circuit ("have the wall open"), you're supposed to bring that entire circuit up to code.

That can turn into a big deal if, for example, you're adding a receptacle to an existing bedroom or garage circuit. Many local codes now require bedroom circuits to be ARC-fault protected which would replacing the breaker (and they're in the $20-25 range). Garage circuits are supposed to be GFI and if your existing garage circuit was run off of a multi-wire circuit - that means rewiring the circuit because you can't have a shared neutral on GFI circuits.

Rob

Tyler Howell
10-22-2006, 12:11 PM
Bob,
If a handiman, home owner or even paid pro has been in there you can't count on anything being standard or consistant. So many fixtures, plumbing, walls, and ceilings have been installed by well meaning friends, reatives, and pros with limited knowledge of other trades. You don't know what to expect.
Best bet is add time and money to every project.
Old sailing term has saved me many times on the water, EMS and home repairs" When in dought back out". Get somebody to go in there with you.
If there isn't a probem in other areas of the house, fix as you go. "Leave it better than you found it".

Tyler's formula for home repairs. 2 X Money. 4 X The Time.:eek:

PS that was standard operation for old knob and tube wiring.
Shouldn't be still used in the 70's

Kent Fitzgerald
10-22-2006, 9:47 PM
My awareness of electrical wiring dates back to the mid-to-late 1970s, and boxes have been a requirement as long as I can recall. However, local codes and, as Jim mentioned, the enforcement thereof, can vary considerably.

Omission of ceiling boxes seems to be a common violation, probably because there's just enough room under the canopy of most fixtures to jam in a couple of splices.

Dan Mages
10-23-2006, 12:53 AM
My house is from 1962 and has full conduit and box wiring. I think you have some hinkey second rate work there!!

Jim Becker is very right on the scary wiring thing. Here are my two favorites from my house.

The light above the outside door was wired by a romex wire that ran from the bedroom socket, out to behind the aluminum siding, then down the concrete basement wall, in through a hole to a light switch, back out to a plug that the light was plugged into.

The second one was a plug that was wired with bell wire from a different part of the room. The bell wire was stapled to the baseboard along its path. On its terminus, the small box was suspended from the wallboard by that universal adhesive, duct tape! No grounding at all!

Dan

Dennis Peacock
10-23-2006, 1:51 AM
Every drop in your house should have a required "junction box" which is where the light/plug/switch is made up via the wiring. I've never known the code to not require a box. That's pretty unsafe if'en you asked me.

Rob Russell
10-23-2006, 8:28 AM
My house is from 1962 and has full conduit and box wiring. I think you have some hinkey second rate work there!!

Jim Becker is very right on the scary wiring thing. Here are my two favorites from my house.

The light above the outside door was wired by a romex wire that ran from the bedroom socket, out to behind the aluminum siding, then down the concrete basement wall, in through a hole to a light switch, back out to a plug that the light was plugged into.

The second one was a plug that was wired with bell wire from a different part of the room. The bell wire was stapled to the baseboard along its path. On its terminus, the small box was suspended from the wallboard by that universal adhesive, duct tape! No grounding at all!

Dan

Dan,

Raceway (conduit is a form of raceway) is a Chicago-area local code requirement. There are those who say it's because of the strong union in the area.

I hope that you've fixed those 2 wiring hacks you mentioned. The outside light is bad enough, but the "bell wire receptacle" sounds like an out-and-out fire hazard because bell wire can't carryu much current. Plug a hair dryer into that and you could probably watch the bell wire start to smoke after a few minutes.:eek:

Rob

Bob Childress
10-24-2006, 8:05 AM
Thanks everyone for your advice. I figured it was jackleg work. I also found the same thing where the wire came out of the wall for the range hood. In every case, I have cut in new junction boxes and added strain relief, so I am bringing it up to standard as I go. I did look at some other fixtures in other rooms and they were on junction boxes, so maybe it was a kitchen thing.

Russ Filtz
10-24-2006, 8:23 AM
My house in Tampa was built in 1999. Guess my surprise when I changed out my kitchen fixtures, NO BOXES EITHER!

There was plain romex (just the plain plastic cable, not the metal shielded kind, which I think is BX?) drapped across the ceiling sheetrock everywhere and stapled to a rafter. Full metal staple, not the kind with a plastic guide to revent crushing!

I was pissed! Got some boxes and was able to secure them somewhat properly through the hole from below (no attic access). I moved from Chicago area, and I LIKE the idea of EMT running through the house. Feels safer.

Tyler Howell
10-24-2006, 9:56 AM
Thanks everyone for your advice. I figured it was jackleg work. I also found the same thing where the wire came out of the wall for the range hood. In every case, I have cut in new junction boxes and added strain relief, so I am bringing it up to standard as I go. I did look at some other fixtures in other rooms and they were on junction boxes, so maybe it was a kitchen thing.

Some fixtures like an installed range hood, stove or recessed lighting fixture provide the junction box and you land your wiring there to make it lagit. "leave it better than you found it.

Dan Mages
10-24-2006, 1:23 PM
Dan,

Raceway (conduit is a form of raceway) is a Chicago-area local code requirement. There are those who say it's because of the strong union in the area.

I hope that you've fixed those 2 wiring hacks you mentioned. The outside light is bad enough, but the "bell wire receptacle" sounds like an out-and-out fire hazard because bell wire can't carryu much current. Plug a hair dryer into that and you could probably watch the bell wire start to smoke after a few minutes.:eek:

Rob

Bell wire is wrong... my bad. It was lamp wire, but still equally bad. And yes, as soon as I saw this stuff, it was immediately yanked.

Dan