Legacy wiring sparks questions

Buyers ponder safety of 'paper wrap' wiring

Q: My wife and I are looking at buying a home that was built in 1955. Some of the wiring is paper wrap. We aren’t sure how much. I was wondering if any of the paper wrap was ever made with a ground wire. Also I was wondering about the safety of paper wrap. We have to travel about 750 miles to look at this home and would like to know if it should be a big concern.

A: There’s no easy answer to this one. Some of the cable you refer to did not have a ground wire, and some of it did. Also, older wiring such as this was not as heat resistant as the jackets used today, and it’s not unusual to find wiring that has heat damage to it, especially behind light fixtures. Finally, a house that is more than 50 years old is almost certainly going to have had some remodeling work done, and it’s impossible to know what different homeowners, contractors and electricians may have done with the wiring.