Should I Buy a Home With Aluminum Wiring?
Aluminum wiring is definitely a concern, but it should not stop you from buying or selling a home. There are ways to deal with aluminum wiring in the home. If you follow these easy steps you can make your new home a safe one for you and your family.
The home that I live in now has aluminum wiring. It bothered me at the time and I almost didn’t buy the home. However, it had everything else that we wanted so I was willing to overlook the fact that it had aluminum wiring and then deal with it afterwards. Down below, I will share with you what I did to make the home safe.
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Why is Aluminum Wiring Dangerous?
Many homes in the late 60’s and early 70’s were built with aluminum wiring which was cheaper than using copper. The main problem with aluminum wiring is that it expands when it gets hot and then shrinks again when it cools off. This expansion and contraction can make wires loose. When they get loose, they can create a spark or an arc and then a fire can start.
What You Should Do Before Buying a Home with Aluminum Wiring
We recommend that you take the following measures before buying the home:
- Have an electrician (in addition to a traditional home inspector) examine the entire system to make sure that there are no serious issues with the wiring right now.
- Get an estimate from the electrician on what it would cost to change all the wiring in the home to copper. You may be able to use this in the price negotiation of your home.
- If the electrician recommends a less costly alternative, then get a quote for that and weigh that option into your decision to buy the home.
- Make sure that a single wire coming from the panel is not carrying too much load. For example, one wire should not be powering half of the house, or the kitchen and laundry room together. This is when an aluminum wire can get too hot and begin to cause problems for you.
- Call a homeowner’s insurance agent and ask what it would cost to insure the home with aluminum wiring. You may actually have difficulty finding insurance which would prevent you from buying the home. I recently was trying to shop homeowner’s insurance carriers and did find a lower rate. However, when the agent found out that we have aluminum wiring, they said they could not insure the home.
- Make sure it will be an FHA approved home if you are planning to use FHA financing.
How to Make Your Home with Aluminum Wiring Safe
You found out that the home you want to buy has aluminum wiring and you are unsure whether you still want to buy it. Here are steps that you can take to make your home with aluminum wire safe starting with the least to the most expensive.
Install receptacles that are safe for aluminum wiring. There are electricians out there who do not believe this is the best method because you still may have problems long term. However, these are much better than receptacles that are made for copper wire.
Pigtail an aluminum wire to a copper wire. This would essentially involve twisting a special purple wire nut over both wires. The inside of the wire nut has a compound inside that prevents oxidation which in turn can make the connections heat up.
Aluminum Wiring Remediation
Our Solution – Re-wire the portion of the home where the majority of the load is being used. In my home, I was melting wire nuts behind the outlet in the master bath where the hair dryer and curling iron were getting plugged in. One day the lights in the bathroom were flickering and I was smelling that electrical burning smell. I shut off the power and checked out the receptacles to find two wire nuts were completely melted. After doing some investigation and crawling through the attic, I found that one lead wire from the panel was powering the hallway lights, the master bedroom and two bathrooms. So, I separated the bedroom and the hallway from the two bathrooms. Then, I ran a dedicated copper line from the panel to each bathroom. I did the same for the kitchen and the microwave is on its own line as well. The rest of the house is now ok on aluminum as we also switched to cooler running LED lights.
Install copalum crimps which basically uses a powerful crimping tool to fuse a copper and an aluminum wire together. This method works but it can be very expensive.
Install new copper wiring throughout the entire house. This obviously would be the best solution but will cost you the most. It also most likely will mean that you have to get a new panel as well. Any home with aluminum wiring most likely has a panel that is about 50 years old. I recommend getting a few estimates before you buy the home. Then use that in the negotiation of the purchase price.
Watch this video on how to make aluminum wiring safe to more tips.
Selling a Home with Aluminum Wiring
You need to prepare yourself for the fact that buyers are going to be concerned with the aluminum wiring in your home. The reality is that this will either cost you some money up front or it will cost you during the negotiation of the sale of your home.
My first recommendation is for you to get an estimate from an electrician to re-wire the home with copper. Get multiple estimates and hold onto the lowest one. If the future buyers are looking for a price reduction to deal with the aluminum wire, you already have an estimate in your hand to be used as the cost basis.
Ask the electricians for an alternative method instead of rewiring and get an estimate for that as well. The buyers may find pig tailing as an acceptable compromise.
Do not blow a sale over the wiring issue. Aluminum wire is going to be a problem for most buyers. So, it is best to just understand that and know in advance what you are willing to do from a negotiation standpoint.
How to Identify Aluminum Wiring
The first step is to determine when the home was built because Aluminum wiring was installed in homes during 1965-1974. All homes built during this time have aluminum wiring, but there is a greater chance if built during those years.
To be sure, you can remove the electrical panel cover to reveal the wires that are connected to the breakers. If you are not comfortable doing this, then absolutely call an electrician. You can see whether there are aluminum or copper colored wires attached to the breakers. If you do not see copper, the you have aluminum wiring.
What Home Inspectors Look For
Whether you are buying or selling an older home with aluminum wiring, the home inspector will be required to look for aluminium wiring and report back if single strand aluminum wiring is found in the home.
The inspector will also look to see whether remedies have been taking to mitigate any potential hazard. Some of these remedies include:
- Copalum crimps – this process involves crimping the aluminum wire to a copper wire with a specially designed sleeve and crimping tool. This process costs about $50 per outlet or switch.
- Pigtailing – this is a less expensive way to essentially merge the aluminum and copper wires together although less preferred. The home inspector will look for this as a possible remedy.
- CO/ALR Switches and Outlets – The inspector will look to make sure you are using these type of outlets which are most compatible with aluminum wiring.
If the home has gone through no process to make the home safe from aluminum wiring, then you can expect to see some notation and recommendation from the home inspector. If you are selling your home, you may want to get a pre-listing home inspection to see whether you need to make any adjustments before putting the home on the market.
Final Take on Buying a Home with Aluminum Wiring
The concerns about aluminum wiring is a good reason to have a home inspection if you are buying a home. You can see that there are options available to you. If you find a home that you really like, you can negotiate with the seller and then deal with the aluminum wiring afterwards. Or, part of the agreement would be to even split the cost of rewiring or other mitigation options with them. The bottom line is that it can be dealt with. If you love the home, then buy it.
Hopefully you found this information to be helpful. With that in mind, we would love to help you to finance your next home or to refinance the home you currently live in.
Can you insure a home with aluminum wiring?
Some insurance companies will not write a homeowner’s policy if the home has aluminum wiring. However, some will as long as you have a licensed electrician make acceptable, pre-approved modifications to make the home safer.
Is aluminum wiring illegal?
Aluminum wiring is not illegal, but it is no longer up to code and new homes are now built with copper wiring. If you are thinking about buying or selling a home with aluminum wiring, you will be ok as long as you follow the instructions on how to deal with it.
How much does it cost to rewire a house?
On average, you can expect the cost to be about $2500 for every 500 square feet of living space So, a 2,000 square foot home may cost $10,000. Keep in mind that this is just an average and the true estimate will be based upon how difficult it will be for the electrician to run the wires. If you have a single level home with a crawl space under every room, it will be easier than a multi level home with limited access.
Is it legal for me to make the electrical repairs in my home?
Many people are handy and some feel very comfortable working with electricity. However, electricity truly is dangerous. The other concern is if your insurance company may not accept repairs or modifications that were not made by a licensed electrician. Finally, if you have a fire in your home that was started by the wiring, you may not be able to collect on your homeowners insurance policy to pay for the damages if they found that the work was done by an unlicensed person and without a permit.
Is Aluminum Wiring Safe?
Aluminum wiring is considered to be unsafe unless measures are put in place to reduce the risk of fire. These measures include pigtailing, copalum crimps, and converting to CO/ALR switches and outlets.
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