Installing Electrical Wiring in an Old Home

Bob meets up with electrician Barry Driscoll, who is wiring a third-floor subpanel. An electrical inspector reviews it for adequate size and proper location.

Clip Summary

Bob meets up with electrician Barry Driscoll, who is wiring a third-floor subpanel. The panel feeds air handlers, bedrooms, bathrooms, and an entertainment area. When the house was built in 1892, gas was used for lighting. Electricity was not used in the home until the 1920s. An electrical inspector from Cambridge, MA, looks at the subpanel for adequate size and proper location.
When this house was built in 1897, it was illuminated with gas. Probably in the 1920s they improved the technology up to knob and tube electrical wiring.

Since then, I'm sure in the forties and fifties they updated, and as of last year, we had a brand new two hundred amps service and then a hodgepodge of different types of wires.

We've gotten rid of all of that. Barry Driscoll is totally rewiring the place, along with a few helpers.

And, I guess this is the feed to the third-floor is it?

Yes, it is. This will feed our third-floor sub-panel, which also feeds a couple of air handlers, a couple bedrooms, some bathrooms, and a big entertainment.

That's right. This is basically the third floor teenage area.

The living room where you could have parties, you could have a lot of-

That's good.

Rock and roll and a lot of noise. Okay.

So, that has to go all the way to the basement, right?

Yes, it does.

And it ties into the new service?


And then we've got.

Okay Brendon, feed that up.

Okay, we have more similar wire, same size.
What size wire is this?

Okay, that's a, this is a three-three sub-feeder, which is going all the way back up from downstairs to this second floor sub-panel,

Okay, okay.

Just like the third floor, which we just ran.

So, if anything goes wrong on the third floor you go to the sub panel up there to check out the circuit breaker, and the same thing happens here.

That's right.

And we are standing in utility closet on the second floor, where we're gonna install a stacked washer/dryer for immediate family kind of stuff, and we are also going to have storage and a kind of linen closet function here, but it serves the purpose of having the panel located accessible, but not out in plain sight in the middle of the hallway.

Okay, so what are the three?
There's a red and a black and a white.

The red and the black are our hot conductors. The white is our neutral conductor.

The white is the neutral.

And the bare copper is our ground.

And we've got to get rid of all the casings.

All the junk.

All the junk before we can feed it through into the panel.

That's right. Here you go. Alright so this thing goes in go through here, you go ahead and get it here.

Bring this right through our Romex connector and up into the panel.


There's a lot of juice that's coming through here now. How do you secure this in the box?

It's secured actually through the Romex connector, which makes the ground itself through the can which the panel is located in.


We have a grounding conductor, which is going to go to the ground bar.

Our neutral which goes to the neutral bar and our two hot legs to right in on the two lugs.

Okay and then all the individual circuits are labeled here. As you can see. What's that one say?

Stairway hall lights.

Stairway hall lights.

Okay. So everything will be identified.

Yes it will.

But although this, you know, to us looks like we're pulling a lot of wires into place, etc. This is one of the most dangerous jobs that anybody can undertake in a house.

And I always discourage "do-it-yourselfers" from getting involved in this type of and bringing a professional in.
And of course, the professionals have to answer to the inspectors.

Right now, we should be able to find a city of Cambridge electrical inspector up on the third floor.

Let's say hello to Greg Rockland, our project manager and architect.

Hi, Bob. This is Thomas Machela, inspector of wires for the city of Cambridge.

How are you Bob? Nice to meet you.

Inspector of wires. Great. Hey, what's this?

It's a service light, Bob. So when a service man comes to work on this unit, he has some light, doesn't have to.

Now is that just an added goody, Thomas? Or is that something that's required?

No, that's required by code. Along with the convenience outlet for servicing the unit.

For servicing the air handler that we were looking at and talking about earlier in the show.

That's a very, very good idea. Now I know we've got a sub-panel here, in this storage closet.

And I know that you are inspecting just the third floor today, right?

Yes sir.

Now, what sort of stuff are you looking for when you do an inspection?

Well, the sub-panel is one thing that we're looking at, Bob. Making sure that we have enough power coming

Up here and the fact of its location.
Now I did notice you said that this was a, its not a clothes closet. So that's good because it would be required to not be in here. Being a closed closet.

I see what you mean, it would be a violation if we stored, if we had closet rods in here. Yes.

Now this was designed barely almost as a mini trunk room, a place to keep suitcases and the like.

Well, that will be fine.

But you have to worry about how well tighten everything is and stuff.

Everything has a torque dimension sir, and it's all on the inside of the panel.


You'll notice this being a sub panel, the ground bar has to be separate from the neutral bar.


And they have accomplished that and they have done a very nice job here.

Now does the City of Cambridge or the State of Massachusetts allows home owners to do their own wiring in their own remodeling projects.

Well, no the state law requires that you be a licensed electrician and you go to an apprentice course and.

You gotta have a license?

That's most definite.

And in fact as I understand like one of the the leading causes of house fires and fatalities.

It is electrical wiring problems, right?

That's correct.

Especially, in an old wooden frame building, too. You'd find that a lot of people have done that themselves. Done their own wiring and it does cause problems.

It is a difficult situation. Now, anything unusual about what we're doing up here in the, you know, we're creating a big kind of family room up here.

Well, basically everything seems to be in pretty good shape. You've got your outlets by code are required to be twelve feet apart,


So that you're not standing at any point more than six feet from an outlet.

From an outlet. And that's to reduce the the number of extension cords that people use for lights.

Right, exactly. Now they've done a very good job of securing all their wiring here.


And it appears like you're using, I would say half inch sheet rock-


By the way the box is out away from the stud about a half inch.

That's right. And, our lighting in here is a little bit unusual.

Yes. What we are doing on the tops of all these beams is strip halogen lighting which will give you up light for general lighting. And then if you need to light a specific thing like a pool table, or a card table, there'll be track lighting which you can focus, on that.

Yeah. Exactly, that's, there is no problem with that.

Not at all.

So we pass inspection?

Yes, sir.

Great, thanks a lot.

Alright, thank you.

We've gotta break for some messages, don't go away.

And that's going to wrap things up, but it's been a great day.
We got that inspection.
Come home again next time when we'll be working up on the third floor. Putting up the plasterboard and the plaster, putting up some of the carpentry trim, and hopefully out in the front of the house we're going to be digging a trench for a brand new water service.

That's it.
Till next time, I'm Bob Vila. It's good to have you home again.