Knob and Tube is now Uninsurable

Knob and Tube, a form of a very old electrical system, is now all but unisurable in the California Howeowners Insurance marketplace, in our opinion. In other words if you are shopping for home insurance with Knob and Tube- Do not call me. Marindependent may only have one pretty bad solution for you. All of the good insurance options no longer seem to exist.

"Knob and Tube is now all but uninsurable."

A couple of caveats here: 1. This is our experience and opinion. 2. This is based on the time of this blog post, things can and will change. 3. We do not have access to all insurers – so its possible that some insurer out there still takes it on the personal lines side. 4. That is another caveat to my statement – I believe knob and tube is no longer insurable for CA personal lines policies, not necesarily commercial lines.

Is Knob and Tube Safe:

According to International Association of Certified Home Inspectors: Knob and Tube wiring “is not inherently dangerous” but “the dangers… arise from its age, improper modifications, and situations where building insulation envelops the wires.Source. When building or remodeling – Knob and Tube is no longer allowed in any locations within the United States that we are aware of. It was last used in the 1950s and some reports of it being used up until the 1970s. If you have an older home you should be aware of this type of dangerous electrical system.

According to Attic Projects Company: “the principal danger from knob and tube wiring is a fire, often caused by a spark igniting attic insulation or insulation in the walls. ” And that might be a major part of the problem. While it might be possible to inspect the wiring in the attic its really not practical to inspect wiring inside your walls.

Was Knob and Tube Insurable Before:

Obviously knob and tube was insurable back in the 50s and 60s. As time has gone by fewer and fewer insurers accept it. However even just a few years ago, there seemed to be a small market for this type of electrical systems in home insurance policies. That though has changed.

Why is Knob and Tube Considered Dangerous:

There are numerous reasons cited for why Knob and Tube is not safe – but the most obvious is the age. Assuming that most knob and tube installations were last done in the 1950s, that means at the time of this writing, that that electrical system would be more than 74 years old. Does that sound safe to you?

That however is just the simple and obvious reason. The other more technical reasons are as follows:

  • No Grounding Wire. Knob and Tube does not have a grounding wire.
  • Ceramic Knobs that are prone to cracking/ breaking.
  • Most Modern Appliances use more power than Knob and Tube wiring can handle
  • Contact between the black and white wires can overheat and cause a fire,” Source.
  • Knob and Tube wiring is intended to not touch insulation, over time they can contact it and create problems.
  • It does not deal with moisture well.
  • Knob and Tube is often been used incorectly over time and hence creates further risk.
  • Knob and Tube wiring by definition is old and out of date technology.

There are a lot of other issues with Knob and Tube wiring and some of these are aggregates of the same problem. When the lines overheat, for almost any reason – a fire can ensue.

Electrician installing modern [non knob and tube] wiring.

What to do if You have Knob and Tube Wiring in your House and Want a New Home Insurance Policy?

The best solution is to replace all of the active knob and tube wiring in your house before procuring a new insurance policy. Sometimes when folks are purchasing new houses, they even request that the Knob and Tube be ripped out before the deal closes.

In summary the best solution to having Knob and Tube wiring is to hire an electrician to replace it. Think of the electrician as your best friend.

Who Used to Insure Knob and Tube Homes:

Yes, I know who used to insurance homes with Knob and Tube, but Id rather not publicly go into that. Suffice it to say that some insurers that used to take it, are not taking on any new insurance policies at this time. Others have just increased their underwriting standards. Now though – Knob and Tube electrical is uninsurable.

Will the Home with Knob and Tube be easily insurable again someday?

Its possible that underwriting for homes with older electrical could change someday. However – it might be a long time before that is the case. Its also possible that this is a permanent shift. Knob and Tube systems are not getting any younger.

What is Knob and Tube:

Knob and Tube is a form of original wiring used from when electricity was first deployed into homes. From about the 1880s to the 1940s and even some 1950s homes was widely used. There are sporadic reports of it being used beyond then into even the 1970s. Regardless its is not a a form of modern electrical connection any more. It is considered an ancient form of electrical connection in the decade of 2020. Knob and Tube is not considerd “up to code” in any jurisdiction within the United States that we are aware of.