A few days ago in Aluminum Wiring—there is still lots of it around I started a conversation about aluminum wiring in homes. One of the approaches to “repairs” of the wiring in these homes is to have what is called “Copalum Connectors” installed at all splices in the wiring. It is one of the few methods of repairs accepted by the CPSC (Consumer Products Safety Commission). This is a very expensive approach to addressing the problem—-but so is rewiring the whole house.
One of my biggest concerns with this approach is verifying that ALL locations have been found. This type of aluminum wiring was installed in homes between 1965 and 1975, which makes these houses at least 43 years old. Lots can happen to houses in 43 years—-including remodeling where junction boxes end up being covered over with drywall. It is not “supposed” to happen, because all wiring junctions are “supposed” to remain accessible—-but it most certainly does happen.
Related to a recent house where I found aluminum wiring, the seller agreed to have this home repaired with Copalum Connectors. My buyer asked me to go back and take a look at the work after repairs had been made. I would never pretend to verify that the work was done “properly;” and, there would be no way I could verify that every splice had been found—-the work was done by a Licensed and Bonded Electrical Contractor—-that certainly “trumps” any of my qualifications. As an educator of home inspectors however, I want to know what these connectors look like and what better educational opportunity can one get than to see an actual installation.
I took the covers off the boxes I had checked when I did the original inspection and found that repairs had indeed been made. Here is a picture of one junction box. The previously overheated wires and the new black Copalum connectors are visible.
During the original inspection I had noted where there was one semi-hidden junction box behind some shelving and I wondered if they had found that one. Sure enough—-they had not.
The standard red wire nuts, that are not rated for installation on aluminum wiring, were present and some overheating of the wires was noted.
I see missed junction boxes with this approach to repairs being a HUGE problem. This box was merely “hidden,” not “buried” in a wall or ceiling somewhere.
After finding this location I did find one ceiling fixture that had also been missed.
The big question one has to ask is—-how many more are there? How many times could I go back and still find ones that had not been repaired and how many others are buried that will only be found when they are poking around in the ashes looking for the cause of the fire.
Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector
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