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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Last December a tree fell on my powerline ripping a yard light wire out of the attic. Previously the yard light wire was just cut and the end wrapped in electrical tape. The other end was just 2 wires that look like they were connected to a switch. There was only 2 wires with no bare ground wire. The ripping loose of the wires also disconnected my bedroom light.

There are 3 wires in the attic and each wire has two wires. They look identical to me so I'm wondering how do I know which one is the ground and which is hot? The wiring is old and has the wire covered with a twisted cloth layer and a paper layer on top of that. One of the wires seems to have a slight silver color on the twisted cloth covering but I can't say for sure.

I checked the wires with one of those pens today and they are all hot. When I first looked at the wires after the storm there was a connection within a metal box. It was just a few wires left. My guess is that the box is where the now disconnected yard light connection was made. If I can't figure out the wiring I'm going to have to start cutting holes in the sheet rock.

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I'm not following your description of the wiring or exactly what you are trying to do. Reconnect your bedroom light?

Sounds like the yard light wires had been disconnected earlier---right?
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
I'm not following your description of the wiring or exactly what you are trying to do. Reconnect your bedroom light?

Sounds like the yard light wires had been disconnected earlier---right?
Yes. Reconnect the bedroom light. I'm assuming that there must be a connection that got pulled apart. The yard light wiring will be removed.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Do you have a volt meter?
No plus I don't know how to use one. It did seem that when I was checking the wires with the pen it wasn't as bright as the other one.
 

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I'm not 100% sure so don't take this statement as fact BUT, IIRC those old cloth wrapped lines (hubby says 'cables') predate the use of grounding wires. In my grandparents house a lot of the wiring was cloth wrapped, but none of the outlets had an opening for a ground line. That lack of a grounded outlet is why those 3 prong plug to 2 prong outlet adapters were so common years ago.
 

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Old old old wiring. There may have been other damage that you can’t see. Get a professional licensed electrician out there.

If you are going to work on it yourself, have the fire department on standby.

I don’t know if your house insurance will cover the loss, either.
 

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I helped rewire an old house back around 1961 that was wired with that old cloth wrapped wiring. In the attic, each wire was run through small holes about 12 inches apart in each rafter.

Yes, even what's commonly called "Romex" (the newer kind of wire) was 2-conductor for a long time. Then they went to the 3-wire design. Do you know that the 3rd wire (the bare "ground" wire) and the white wire are BOTH grounded back in the breaker panel?

Now we have GFCI (ground fault current interrupters) in circuits. They can be located in the breaker panel or in the outlet itself. And, yes, they fail.

We've gotten uber safe.

OP, if you were nearby, I'd come over and fix it for you.

ETA: Those non-contact pens are useless for what you are trying to do. The tester works by detecting the electric field associated with AC voltage. These fields are present near the live conductor . . . so it's sensing the voltage in the "hot" (energized) conductor whenever you get near it.
 

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No expert here, but I learned this by asking a similar question here a few months ago-- The "third wire" is a ground and not necessary for the circuit to work, but adds a measure of safety to the installation....If all three wires in the cable are hot, then you have a short. ..Either get help or make sure your will is in order and your insurance paid up.
 

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The first house I ever lived in after leaving home was a very old rental, circa 1880. While I was out at the bowling alley one evening, a large old oak fell on the service and pulled the wiring, still intact, away from the house. I got home after dark and didn't notice it. The few lights I used worked and I went to bed.
As I stepped out to go to work the next morning, I saw the tree down and the wires dangling. I called the utility company. They said they would get to it when they get to it. A few hours later I get a call at work from one of the neighbors. My house was on fire.
The tree had pulled wiring loose inside an exterior wall. The bare wires made contact with each other, heating up the old insulation and lap boards until they ignited.
Yes, I would probably get a professional out to your house asap.
 

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the hot is the one that tickles when you grab it

it is cloth wrapped and probably knob and tube in the attic , if you don't know how to use a volt meter you need to hire someone who does so you don't burn down your house.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
The wiring is marked Romex and it's 2 wire.

I expect that if I did contact an electrician they would just say that they can't work on it and need to replace it. My house is up for sale and a standing offer is from someone who will knock the house down so it doesn't make economic sense to pay an electrician thousands of dollars to run new electric wiring or for me to run new wiring like I've already done in part of the house when I replaced the sheetrock. That was all approved by the state electrician.

For now I'll have to turn off the power and see if I can backtrack the wiring to the damaged wire or connector. If that works I can just replace that run of wire.
 

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The wiring is marked Romex and it's 2 wire.

I expect that if I did contact an electrician they would just say that they can't work on it and need to replace it. My house is up for sale and a standing offer is from someone who will knock the house down so it doesn't make economic sense to pay an electrician thousands of dollars to run new electric wiring or for me to run new wiring like I've already done in part of the house when I replaced the sheetrock. That was all approved by the state electrician.

For now I'll have to turn off the power and see if I can backtrack the wiring to the damaged wire or connector. If that works I can just replace that run of wire.
In that case, just pull the fuse on that circuit and keep a flashlight handy for that room.
 

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Flip the breaker, use your best guess on how to fix it, turn the breaker back on and watch for smoke and for the breaker to trip.

Then, if you see no smoke and no tripped breaker, try the light switch.

Repeat until it works.
 
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