The building codes, requirements, et al, have a tendency to become confusing the way they cross reference each other, are modified, etc., etc. My attempt below was a simplified version to explain that the City of Austin is actually being generous in their requirements. I hope you do not take this as argumentative but here is a more detailed description without placing all of the detail here.
Yes, it is not expected that as a result of removing the fixture, switch and receptacle that the remainder of the K&T will be affected. This is one of the grey areas I mentioned previously. A change was made to the electrical system requiring the work to be permitted. The local AHJ has the authority at that point to require the entire electrical system be upgraded regardless.
The City of Austin has adopted most of the new building codes. You can find a complete list and links to their codes and amendments here http://www.ci.austin.tx.us/development/bpinfo1.htm. Austin has amended the 2006 IRC and deleted Part VIII, Electrical, and has replaced it with the ICC Electrical Code. Use the link below to the free version of the ICC EC (called the Electrical Administrative Provisions at the link location) and read Chapter 9, Unsafe Systems And Equipment. As I stated below K&T was more than adequate for the electrical usage requirements for the era it was originally started to be used. K&T today is potentially inadequate, degraded and could be considered unsafe for todayâ€™s electrical requirements.
The Building Official has no idea how you plan to use the current electrical system. There are many potential hazards that can exist with the current K&T wiring and potential cross connects between the K&T and the new wiring. The City (any city) does not necessarily know how every older home is built until they receive permit requests and perform ensuing inspections as a result of the permits. In your case they now know your home has the older K&T wiring. Letâ€™s take a scenario which can potentially be disastrous with regards to K&T wiring:
1. Everyone in the family starts coming home after work, school, etc.
2. Mom heads to her little office area and fires up the computer to do a little extra work from home.
3. The son fires up his electric guitar and cranks up his 1000 Watt amplifier.
4. The daughter fires up her gazillion Watt stereo system to listen to her favorite Jonas Brothers CD.
5. Dad fires up the electric oven and cooktop to start dinner and then throws in a load of laundry (This part is for the benefit of the ladies out their reading this, chuckle).
6. The whole time a bad connection in the K&T is heating up, the system is potentially already overloaded and the smoke alarms start going off. Fifteen minutes later the house is engulfed in flames and fire department is now doing protective services to the nearby homes as this house burns to the ground. Luckily nobody is hurt but the home and contents are a total loss.
7. In the following weeks Dad gets so pi$$ed off he hires a lawyer and tries to sue the city for passing his new electrical change but not being forced by the city to rewire a potential hazardous wiring condition, the K&T, or even being notified it could be a potential hazard.
Ergo the requirement the City of Austin is placing for you to sign this waiver. The City of Austin is doing everything it can to make sure you are aware of the potential hazard without forcing you to take large sums of money to completely rewire the home. They are giving you a choice to either sign the waiver or not have the permit finalized with a passing inspection. Again I feel it is a fully reasonable request and a surprise they are not making more of it. The City is trying to strike a balance between safety and situations such as yours where the money is just not there to do everything at once.
This is not meant to be an attack and believe me I am big on non-government intervention in private lives. What I have a difficult time understanding though is why you feel this way about having to sign the waiver? Is your Electrician balking about signing the waiver?
Emmanuel J. Scanlan
PS Inspection & Property Services LLC
TREC License # 7593
International Code Council, Residential Combination Inspector #5247015-R5 (Electrical, Mechanical, Plumbing and Building)
Certified Infrared Thermographer (ASNT-TC1A Standards)
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Texas Residential Construction Commission, Inspector, County Inspection Program
Texas Department Of Insurance, VIP Inspector # 08507061016
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