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.

If you are seriously considering buying the house, you need to have a qualified electrician examine the wiring and determine its condition, as well as determining whether subsequent repairs and remodeling were done correctly. The electrician can also determine if the house is safe and up to current code and, if not, what would be required to get it there. Incidentally, I would suggest the services of a licensed electrician for this — not a home inspector.

Because the house is so far away, if you are working with a real estate agent in that city perhaps he or she could arrange to have the electrical evaluation done for you and save you a trip. That way, if the work is too extensive you can have the opportunity to reevaluate your purchase plans, or perhaps talk with the sellers about a price reduction.

Q: We remodeled our kitchen a few years ago. We replaced the recirculating stove hood and installed a better system that vents to the roof. I don’t recall if they used 6- or 8-inch piping but it was the size recommended by the manufacturer. The total amount of piping is probably about 12-15 feet from fan to roof vent. I think the bigger problem is that this ventilation piping takes a few turns via a few 45-degree turns before it exits the roof.

The fan mounted in the stove hood was very powerful (based on the manufactures specs), but I think the turns and pipe lengths are impeding the airflow and it’s an inefficient system. The amount of air that leaves the stove vs. the noise it produces makes it easier to tolerate the smoke. …CONTINUED

Reconfiguring the vent piping is nearly impossible, although access to the attic is very possible. I was considering a rooftop ventilator. Instead of attempting to push out the air through a fan, this device works more like a vacuum and pulls the air out from the roof. A little extra power and noise would not be a problem because it would be mounted outside on the roof and the existing vent pipe would remain. The old fan would come out and the metal filters would remain. Any recommendations or am I wasting my time?

A: First, let’s look at the situation with the existing range hood. Contained within the instructions and specifications that came with the hood will be a chart of some sort that lists the maximum length of duct that is allowable for that particular unit. The chart will also tell you how much equivalent length is taken up by a fitting — for example, it may say that an elbow is the equivalent of 4 additional feet of duct.

So if you add up the actual number of feet of duct and then factor in the number of feet that’s added by the fittings, you can determine if what you have exceeds what the manufacturer recommends.

You mentioned "they used," so I assume you had this done by a contractor. If the contractor did not install the hood to the manufacturer’s specifications, you may have some recourse there for getting them to make some repairs or adjustments. All that being said, however, you may still not get the type of exhaust results you’re hoping for with the existing hood, even if the duct is redone to fall within the manufacturer’s specs.

This leads us to your idea of an exterior vent motor, which I think is a great idea. (I’ve had one for years with very good results). Exterior vent motors that pull instead of push work very well, for the two reasons that you mention. Because they’re outside, the motors can be considerably larger than what’s possible inside a range hood. And the exterior mounting means that the noise the larger motor generates is not nearly as much of an issue. It’s why you almost always see restaurants and other commercial applications utilizing exterior vent motors.

The downside is typically one of cost. The exhaust motor is more expensive, and it requires more labor to cut and flash it into the roof, and to run the necessary ducting and wiring. If an exterior vent motor fits into your budget, then I would certainly recommend making the change.

Remodeling and repair questions? E-mail Paul at paulbianchina@inman.com.


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