Archive for March, 2005


Saturday, March 26th, 2005

I’m almost done with my workbench made from the bowling lane. I still need to attach the “skirts” for the top, install the bottom shelf (3/4″ plywood), plane the top, and sand and finish it, but it’s usable as it stands. Most important for me, it’s rock solid and doesn’t so much as budge when you’re working on it. I guess that’s what 300 pounds of wood, a pint of glue, and a whole bunch of 4 inch bolts get you.


Thursday, March 24th, 2005

It took the three of us a total of six days, but the basement, and a good chunk of the first floor are now rewired. We pulled out *all* the old wiring in the basement and installed almost 300 feet of new (EMT) conduit. Despite my getting a horrible cold the second day in, we’re done.

We now have 5 new circuits:

  • Circuit 1 (20A): Rear basement lighting, plus two outlets
  • Circuit 2 (20A): Front basement lighting, plus 4 shop outlets
  • Circuit 3 (20A): 4 outlets in the shop
  • Circuit 4 (15A): Everything on the first floor that used to be on the basement circuit, including the sun room, living room outlets, the foyer, the front porch, and the second floor hallway.
  • Circuit 5 (15A): The sunroom, the backyard outside outlets, and the garage.

Other highlights:

  • The original house wiring is actually in pretty good shape, but it was the hundreds of feet of armored cable that took a lot of work.
  • We put the dining room sconces on the dining room circuit instead of the basement circuit.
  • The old circuit box, which was a total mess, is now half-empty.
  • We found a box almost completely buried in the original wall of the basement. Tsk tsk. (That’s the “before/during/after” picture).
  • The old basement breaker has been completely disconnected.
  • The blank plate in the side of the stairs in the foyer, which housed an empty electrical box that was hooked to nothing, is now the proud home of a brand new 20A socket.
  • The outlet in the dining room, which housed a loosely attached non-functioning outlet with a huge burn mark on one of the grounding holes, has been replaced.
  • We had to demolish a *lot* of stuff: The old basement bathroom ceiling, part of the cinderblock wall in a few places, bits of the original plaster wall in other places. Messy, messy, messy, but I can’t wait to get rid of the rest of the cinderblock.
  • We made a total of nine trips to the Home Depot and the electrical supply house.

Some things that I learned:

  • Always remove the hot wire before the neutral, and connect the neutral before the hot. The neutral wire is your friend.
  • After you throw the breaker, it really pays to make absolutely certain that every wire in the box that you’re working on is dead, or you might wind up dead yourself. One of those pen current detectors (that works right through the insulation) is an invaluable tool.
  • 12 gauge stranded wire is a lot easier to work with than 12 gauge solid wire.
  • When the previous electrician doesn’t tape around the sides of a light switch, you get a lot of sparks when it touches the side of the box as you pull it out.
  • Taping around the sides of light switches and outlets is The Right Thing To Do.
  • Making complex bends in electrical conduit is a pain in the ass.
  • The Gold-Fish is the coolest fish tape ever.
  • If at first you don’t succeed, use a bigger wire nut.
  • Electrical work isn’t as scary as I thought it was, but having patience, taking your time, and having a healthy fear of it don’t hurt.
  • When in doubt, use your multimeter.

The Basement Wiring

Sunday, March 13th, 2005

Aside from a few outlets with reversed polarity, The Old Man passed the electrical part of our home inspection with flying colors.

Then, I tore out the basement ceiling and discovered some bits that weren’t up to code:

and this:

Scary stuff, but liveable until we can get some electricians in–at least it’s not knob and tube.

Before moving in, while using the Shop Vac to clean out the basement, I blew a breaker and only then did I discover that the entire basement was on a single circuit. Again, annoying, but liveable until we can get some electricians in.

After moving in and plugging in a few lamps, the TV, the stereo, etc., we discovered that not only is the entire basement on a single circuit, but that same circuit also feeds the living room, the sun room, the breakfast room, the foyer, and the front porch.

So, on a single 15 amp circuit, we have:

  • First basement flourescent light
  • Second basement flourescent light
  • Third basement flourescent light
  • Fourth basement flourescent light
  • Basement stairwell light (top)
  • Basement stairwell light (bottom)
  • North basement storage room light
  • South basement storage room light
  • West basement closet light
  • East basement area light
  • Basement Light near water heater
  • Basement Light near washer/dryer
  • Basement Light near furnace
  • Basement Light near workbench
  • Old basement shower light
  • Old basement bathroom light
  • South basement outlet
  • North basement outlet
  • First sunroom outlet
  • Second sunroom outlet
  • Third sunroom outlet
  • First Living Room outlet
  • Second Living Room outlet
  • Third Living Room outlet
  • Fourth Living Room outlet
  • Living Room ceiling fan and light
  • First breakfast room outlet
  • Second breakfast room outlet
  • Backyard outlet (outside)
  • Garage outlet (outside)
  • Garage outlet (inside)
  • Garage yard lights (outside)
  • Garage wall light (inside)
  • Foyer light
  • Front porch light

Now I don’t know if you’ve been counting or not, but that’s a grand total of 21 light fixtures and 14 outlets on a single 15 amp circuit. Now I’m no electrician, but that seems a little excessive to me.

Thankfully, tomorrow, our nephew S. and his friend M., who is an electrician, are coming over to start rewiring the basement (And I’m going to help out-at least until they throw me out). Not only are they going to replace all the wiring in the basement, but they’re also going to divide up the 35 endpoints above across 4 or 5 circuits. I’m really looking forward to this!

And now, a gratuitous shot of the old electrical fusebox, which was turned into a giant junction box by a previous electrician:

My favorite part is the coax for the cable TV that comes in through the hole in the wall where the electrical service used to enter the house–that’s classy.