How to remove old house wiring

Electrical wiring was introduced into homes as early as 1881. Early electrical wiring was comprised of rubber-insulated wires strung from ceramic knobs and tubes. Some homes still use this old knob-and-tube standard of wiring. The wiring is outdated, however, and does not meet modern codes regulations.

Place the mat or board on the floor in front of the circuit panel or fuse box. Stand on it while you work. Use the flashlight or headlamp to illuminate the box or panel.

Turn off the main circuit panel or fuse box. Use the screwdriver to remove the cover to the panel box. If you have a fuse box, remove all the fuses from the fuse box by twisting the fuses counterclockwise. Be very careful not to touch the main service entrance wires that feed the power supply into the panel or fuse box.

Use the screwdriver to loosen the screws on the circuit panel's or fuse box's neutral bar. Remove the neutral wires from the circuit panel box.

Pull out a circuit breaker from the panel box by grasping the outer edge of the breaker and swinging it toward you. Use the screwdriver to remove the feed wire. Set the breaker aside.

Continue removing the circuit breakers and feed wires until all the old wiring is disconnected. If you have a fuse box, use the screwdriver to loose the screws on the feed terminals next to each fuse. Pry the wires from the fuse terminals. Do not jab the fuse terminal with the pliers.

Follow the run of the wires as they branch out from the circuit panel or fuse box. Use the linesman pliers or the pry bar to remove any staples or porcelain knobs that secure the wiring. Toss the old staples in an old can or small wastebasket. Use the cable cutters or linesman pliers to cut the wires into sections as you remove them.

Go to the electrical socket receptacles and light fixture receptacles throughout the house. Use the voltage tester to check that the electrical supply is off.

Remove the faceplates from the receptacles. Unscrew the wires from the terminals. Throw away any old receptacles.

Pull out the wires from the wall cavities. Remove the old receptacle boxes if they are damaged or do not meet modern standards.

Remove the old ceramic knob and tube pieces from the ceilings or floors. Gently tap the tubes with the hammer to eject them from the holes. Use the pry bar to pry off the porcelain knobs.


If you are unable to remove the walls, you may leave the wiring intact but disconnected within the wall cavities. Keep a journal with notes, dates and diagrams of your progress. This ensures that you remember where you left off in your work.


Do not work on your home's electrical system unless you are trained and prepared with proper tools. Electrical shock can result in death. Call a licensed professional or your power company for assistance. Never connect new wiring to any old wiring that you may have dismantled. Using electrical tape, tape the ends of any wires that you do not remove.

Things You'll Need

  • Rubber mat or wood board
  • Flashlight or headlamp
  • Screwdriver
  • Linesman pliers or cable cutters
  • Pry bar
  • Old can or small wastebasket
  • Needle-nose pliers
  • Hammer
  • Voltage tester
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About the Author

Rebecca Mecomber, a former radio broadcaster, has been a professional blogger and writer since 2006. Her articles and interviews have appeared in "The Wall Street Journal," and several other publications, covering topics such as Federal Trade Commission policy and media regulations, blogging, home improvement and New York travel.