How To Look At A House
McGarry and Madsen's home inspection blog for buyers of
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Is tinned copper wire safe?
Saturday, February 8, 2020
A tin coating has been applied to copper for many years for corrosion prevention, especially in humid environments. It is still manufactured today for marine applications, but we only see tinned copper during home inspections of some mid-20th century homes at the larger gauge wires, such as service wires or to a range.
Because of the silver color, it is sometimes mislabeled by inspectors as aluminum. But it is easily differentiated by the older, cloth-embedded rubber insulation, and also by looking carefully at the cut end at a lug, where you can see the copper center, as shown below.
The tinned copper itself is fine, but the older-type rubber insulation that wraps it has lower heat resistance than newer wire insulation, and can crack and flake off as it ages. So tinned copper should be examined carefully for insulation deterioration.
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