How to Identify Aluminum Wiring—And What to Do About It [Video]

by | BiggerPockets.com

Aluminum wiring… AHHHHHHH!!!

You’ve heard of it. You’re afraid of it. But what is it, again? And how do you know if your property has it? If it does, does that mean your deal will figuratively and literally go down in flames?

Why is it Important to Watch Out for Aluminum Wiring?

Like a lot of things we collectively regret, aluminum wiring became popular in the mid-1960s. The price of copper had gone through the roof, and aluminum was seen as an affordable alternative.  However, after years of widespread use, aluminum wiring was found to be less flexible than copper, prone to denting and crimping, and more easily oxidized. These qualities made aluminum wiring develop hotspots that led to fires—generally not a good thing! So, even though by the mid-70s better aluminum alloys had been developed, its reputation was so bad that pretty much everyone switched back to copper once the prices came back down.

Related: The Free, Award-Winning App That Takes the Pain Out of Home Maintenance & Repair

Aluminum wiring won’t necessarily kill a deal or keep you from ever getting insurance, but it’s important that you identify it in your property so that you can properly mitigate it. But how do you do that? What exactly does it look like? What are acceptable uses for aluminum wiring today?

Watch the video for a look inside the electrical panels of two real apartment units—one with copper wiring and one with the dreaded aluminum wiring. Learn to identify the two types of wiring and what you should do about the aluminum wiring should it turn up in your property.

Have you dealt with aluminum wiring in your rentals?

Let me know your experiences with a comment.

About Author

Andrew Cushman

Andrew Cushman is a former chemical engineer who found his entrepreneurial calling in real estate. In 2007 Andrew left his corporate position to start a business in real estate investment, starting off flipping single family properties. Sensing a shift in the market, in 2010 Andrew transitioned to multifamily acquisitions and has successfully syndicated and repositioned just under 1,700 multi family units. Outside of the business world, Andrew has been a certified alpine ski instructor and when not working in real estate enjoys surfing, backcountry skiing, and trying to not be outwitted by his 5 and 3-year-old boys.

13 Comments

  1. Mike Dmuchoski

    Good video, Andrew. Nicely explained.

    Just one more nuance when dealing with older properties. We see this in the Phoenix area a bunch as many homes were built in the 60s and 70s. Part 2 could be showing off the pigtailed option.

  2. james moore

    Andrew, great subject for discussion here. Nice video once again. Thanks for taking the time to do this presentation. AAA quality and keep them coming. You might want to add “Video” in your title for Bigger Pockets because that will let people know it is not just a written article. These are the best. Grant Cardone is publishing videos of himself out-in-the-field prospecting for real estate deals. I think that is a great idea. It adds an inside scoop into his methods and provides lots of entertainment vaule. Would love to see you do something along those lines if you desire to.

  3. John Murray

    I’m an electrician and aluminum wire is a bit problematic. Crimp pig tails and AL/CU connectors work well. Alsco makes some good coatings as well as Ideal. If you keep aluminum coated and have proper listed terminations you should be OK.

    • Andrew Cushman

      Glenn, someone like John Murray would be better able to answer that question, but my limited understanding is that there are two main reasons. First, the aluminum alloys that are used today are far superior to the ones used in the ’60s and don’t have as many issues. Second, aluminum is still much cheaper than copper, so builders would rather use an extra thick line of twisted aluminum and save expense. The extra aluminum reduces the resistance and is less likely to generate heat. On the branch wiring throughout the unit, the cost benefit analysis still favors copper.

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