I got a call from my realtor friend, John Brooks of JP and Associates, a couple of weekends ago. John was helping a young couple with their first home and they’d just received the inspection report. Everything about the home was perfect except for one thing: it was wired with aluminum wiring.
John’s clients weren’t all that concerned when they learned their future dream home has aluminum wiring, but it quickly became a problem when they spoke with their existing insurer. The couple was told by their agent the company would not write a policy on a home with aluminum wiring. Many don’t due to it being a fire hazard.
Most homes built from the mid 1960’s to early 1970’s were built with aluminum wiring. Aluminum wiring is a good conductor of electricity and costs less than copper, but it ages poorly. It can become brittle and worn, especially where it connects with other wires, outlets, and switches. Aluminum wiring can overheat at these connections and start a fire which is why many insurers will not write a home policy on a home with aluminum wiring.
I explained to John the known issues of aluminum wiring and how some insurance companies respond. It had been a couple of years since I’d been presented with this dilemma, but I assured him I’d found coverage before and was confident I could again. I would need to talk with the insurance companies’ underwriters to determine who would and who wouldn’t.
The underwriter calls played out mostly like I expected; most wouldn’t write a home insurance policy on a home with aluminum wiring but I found two who would. The ones that would were larger companies with a great track record. In order to write the home insurance policy though, the connections would have to be pigtailed. If the connections are not pigtailed then they’d be unable to write the policy.
A pigtailed connection involves replacing the aluminum connection in a switch or outlet with a copper pigtail. A short piece of copper wire is bonded to the end of the aluminum wire using a special tool designed for the task. The new connection is referred to as a pigtail or the Copalum repair. All connections in every switch, outlet, and the junction box must be replaced using this process. In order to qualify, the process must be performed by a certified contractor trained in the Copalum process who must use a specific tool only available from Tyco. The biggest problem would be finding a certified contractor who has been approved to perform this repair. As of 2006, there were only 55 in the entire country.
Home owners may also elect to have the entire home re-wired with copper, but it may not be affordable for all. The average price to have a home completely rewired is near $8,000. This makes the $3,000 cost for an average size house to have the Copalum process sound downright affordable!
My advice to anyone looking for a home is to verify the wiring type before making an offer, especially if the home you’ve fallen in love with was built from the mid 1960’s to the early 1970’s. Almost no one will pay to have a home rewired, and only a small number will pay to have all the connections pigtailed if that hasn’t already happened. If you’re still in love with the home, call me. We can help and it won’t cost you an arm and a pigtail!
What do you think? Share your thoughts, experiences, and questions with me in the comments section of our blog, or on our Facebook page. I’d love to hear from you!