How dangerous is old electrical wiring?

How dangerous is old electrical wiring

Can the old wiring start a fire in this house? is a frequently asked question when we inspect older Vancouver homes.  Electrical fires are always a concern when it comes to old wiring and outdated electrical systems.

Little is worse to imagine that a fire breaking out in your home.

Not only could such a calamity be a serious threat to you and your family members’ lives, but the material consequences can be devastatingly steep. The same, of course, applies to your business and employees’ safety.

Yet, why do wiring hazards often go ignored?

Well, that’s mostly thanks to the “out-of-sight, out-of-mind” factor. In our technologically advanced era, admit it: do you ever think about the energy and associated infrastructure that underpins so much of what we do and enjoy at work and at home?

Many of us take our cars in for regular maintenance because it boosts our everyday safety. By the same token, confirming that your home’s electrical system is in optimal shape is prudent and cost-effective.

Wiring Fire Hazard Watch List

This list aims to help you learn to be proactive about the electrical safety status of your premises. Unless your home/business is quite newly constructed, chances are some of these fire hazards are lurking. If you’re unsure about any of the below possibilities, we think you’ll see that it is worthwhile to consult a licensed electrician.

·       Knob and Tube Wiring

If you own a heritage home or older building, you may be living with an electrical antiquity known as “knob and tube” wiring. In this old-fashioned system, copper conductors run inside walls and/or ceilings, supported along their length with knob insulators, and pass through drilled holes that are fitted with porcelain tubes. Since it’s single-insulated, this type of wiring can easily be compromised or become hazardous due to age-prompted fraying.

·       Old Insulation on Wire

On the topic of insulation, it’s not just an issue with knob and tube systems. Wiring, like the rest of us, will eventually deteriorate and become damaged with age. Be it chewed by mice, damaged by nails hammered haphazardly into walls or simple disintegration, a lack of insulation means exposed wires lurk that can lead to sparks and fire.

·       Poorly Modified Wiring

Today’s rules for doing wiring work are much more stringent than ever. Unfortunately, the electrical health of many older buildings and homes suffers from decades of DIY dabbling. It is pretty common that wiring will show signs of having been modified over the years by various people who were trying to do a quick-fix and/or had no proper electrical training. The older the building, the higher the risk that, somewhere in the building, faulty wiring or badly executed connections have snuck in. Don’t ever ignore buzzing, flickering or dimming lights and burn marks around outlets.

·       Low Amp Wiring

Think of how quickly technology has advanced, filling our homes with many more appliances and devices than ever before. However, has our wiring been kept up to snuff? In fact, older wiring is often rated for a lower amperage than what today’s appliances need. This can see circuits being overloaded, which can lead to a fire.

·       Outdated electrical design

Older buildings, we love you, but you’re just not in step with the times. Amateur patch-work modifications and other specific age-related hazards aside, the overall design of older electrical systems can be the root of fire hazards. Electrical codes and standards have advanced a lot over the years and, if it had pass inspection today, your home or business probably wouldn’t meet current safety requirements.


Replace extension cords anywhere they are permanently used and have a professional electrician run wiring to additional new receptacles.

Replace all damaged switches and receptacles. Also, change out any loose outlet. This is most likely to occur at locations where cords are constantly plugged in and out, like at the kitchen counter. A loose connection between the outlet and cord can cause arcing. Any outlet where an electric cord can be pulled out without resistance should be replaced.

Upgrade your electrical panel to a new 200-amp one. 

If you don’t have the budget to replace the electrical panel replacing circuit breakers with arc-fault circuit interrupters is another safeguard. These detect dangerous electrical arcs—abnormal sparks—and halt them before they can start a fire.

Have your electrical system inspected by an experienced electrician.

Call an electrician if you notice any sign of an electrical problem, such as lights blinking, appliances that work irregularly, breakers that keep tripping, or a burning smell of a short circuit.

Don’t let old wiring worries scare you away from considering the purchase of an older house. They are usually located in very desirable neighborhoods. Book a comprehensive electrical inspection by one of our licensed Vancouver electricians, especially if the house has knob and tube wiring or aluminum wiring to get the most informed report on the condition of the electrical system. And be sure to make any recommended electrical safety upgrades once you buy the house. 


WireChief Electric provides old house wiring inspection, repair, and rewiring services in Metro Vancouver Area. and maintenance in the area. If you’ve got an older home, give us a call. We can inspect the wiring for you to make sure you don’t have an invisible fire hazard on your hands, and repair any issue we find, ensuring that you, your property and your loved ones are totally safe. That type of peace of mind is priceless.

Related Posts:

Is Knob & Tube Wiring Safe?

Electrical Issues Affecting Insurance Coverage for Older Vancouver Homes

Buying a House with Knob & Tube Wiring

Purchasing an Old Home with Outdated Electrical Systems


Electrical work is inherently dangerous, always call a professional, licensed electrician to perform electrical work in your house. These recommendations should not be considered an alternative to an actual electrical home inspection by a licensed electrical contractor. At all times follow electrical code requirements specific to your area.