We’re finally able to go ahead with upgrading the electrical service from 125 amp (and a totally-full, out-of-date, not-terribly-safe panel) to a nice shiny new 200 amp Siemens panel.

The plan is to install a new mast and meter in a better location on the house (where the wires won’t cross over the roof at no more than five feet clearance), run conduit back to the same room in the basement as the old panel, install the new panel there, put in a 100-amp breaker and run a feeder cable to the old panel. That way I can leave the horrible mess of electrical spaghetti untouched for now, and as I remodel rooms put new circuits in the new panel and retire circuits from the old panel until I can remove the old panel completely.

Also, the old panel is attached to a stud wall that I’m going to want to remove (well, it’s attached to the beam above a stud wall, but I wouldn’t want to remove the wall and leave the panel just hanging out in open space). The new location will let me reconfigure the walls however I like, and still leave plenty of room on that wall for washer/dryer/utility sink.

Before the electrician can come out, however, I’ve got a lot of work to do to prep the site. There’s a set of stairs from one of our back doors that needs to get detached and pulled away from the house so the conduit can run (I’ll cut a hole and put them back later). There’s a bunch of drywall that needs to get removed to clear a path for the grounding wire to reach the plumbing (at least the plumbing that will be left once I convert everything to PEX). And, most importantly, there’s a couple of water pipes directly over where the panel will go, which is forbidden by code (confirmed with an electrical inspector at the permit department).

So the plan is to cut out those pipes and divert them around the panel location using push-on or compression connectors and 3/4″ PEX. The problem is that they’re embedded in/hidden behind a plaster ceiling one of the previous owners installed in the whole central section of the basement (for fire protection from the furnace maybe? who knows).

Actually, I’m beginning to think that’s not plaster, it’s concrete. This hole took me half an hour beating on it with a crowbar and hammer:

Here’s a closeup, after some of the wire mesh lath has been cut away:

The reason I’m thinking it’s concrete is not only is it really hard but the sawzall will barely notch it (although it’s easy to cut out the mesh and keys once I’ve knocked off the visible layer).

So here’s the plan, before and after:

Hopefully I can at the very least get all the demo done on Saturday, and then I’ll be taking two days off work: the day the electrician comes to let him in and supervise and do any last-minute helpful homeowner things, and the day before to complete the plumbing and remaining demo.

Then the city’s inspection, then the Seattle City Light guy comes out for his inspection, then he schedules a crew for the re-splice to the service wire, and on that day the electrician comes back and makes the final hookup from the new box to the old, and then we have a completed upgrade.