Is Cloth Covered Wire a Fire Hazard?

house rewire signsElectricity has been with us for decades. The industry continues to make new discoveries and update on former methods and as a homeowner, it might seem tasking to keep up. The good news is with every innovation comes safer, more efficient, and convenient electrical systems. You get to enjoy all the benefits still.

Cloth wiring

It might seem strange to some, but if you have an old home, it’s possible you have cloth wiring. Cloth wiring is exactly what it sounds like. They are wires sheathed or insulated in cloth. They are easy to spot because of the clothed exterior. This type of wiring can be found in homes wired anytime from the first half of the 20th century.

Yes, at the time they seemed like a good idea and served their purpose. But as the industry progressed it quickly became clear that cloth wiring posed several risks to homes.

How did cloth end up on wires?

Electrical wiring of these modern times is often covered with PVC insulators. This protects from shock, short circuits, and arcing. These insulated cables are then run as a group into multiple-conductor cables or individually but still within a protective conduit. Plastic which is an ideal insulator for copper was yet to be invented at the time electricity was. Hence, all of these described above was unavailable. Cloth became a grand option.

In cloth-covered wiring, the conductors are first insulated with an early plastic better known as vulcanized rubber. After this, they were wrapped in braided cloth. They worked until the drawbacks set in.

Is cloth wiring a fire hazard?

Short answer – Yes. Long answer – It’s more than that.

Cloth wiring presents all sorts of dangers, especially in these modern times. For starters, the outer cloth sheath is prone to deterioration and so is the inner vulcanized rubber. Cloth wiring is also not only out of date but an easy target to be chewed on by rodents and rats. All of these leave the wires within exposed. This exposure can lead to arcing, short circuits, shocks, and ultimately fires. Electrical fires caused up to 440 deaths and 1,250 injuries every year for the period of 2012 – 2016. Even now, it leads to over $1.3 billion worth of property loss each year.

Having cloth-covered wiring might indicate your electrical system is not properly grounded. Older homes were improperly grounded at that time, and this poses even further risk to your home now.

What to do about cloth covered wiring?

If you notice you still have cloth covered wiring, it is likely time to consider an upgrade/rewiring project. It is a demanding project both financially and practically but in every way worth it for your safety and the safety of your property. An upgrade will provide you with replacements of any other aging material, a better electrical panel, GFCI outlet protection, grounding, modern three-prong outlets, and more.

If you are unsure about having cloth wiring in your vintage home, you can contact us here at the Electric Connection for an inspection.