Archive for category Electrical

Seriously?!

At some point, you just have to wonder if the previous owners crossed the line from “blithering idiot” to “criminally insane”.

Since my roommate moved out, I’m going to break down the wall between his room (my old room) and his boys’ room (the former library, TV room, etc.) and make one big 20’x15′ bedroom. You can see the first step here:

However, just like when I tried to remove part of a heating duct last month, I find that I’m going to have to break the existing structure back further and further until I almost might as well just gut the whole thing right now.

For instance, inside the wall hidden by the door in the foreground, is this nonsense:

  
Hidden junction box, weird connector, individual conductors stripped out of the sheath and passed through holes, and (not pictured) wires in a notch between a 2×4 and the drywall with no protector plate.

I’m ever more convinced that the previous owners (ptui) wired up the addition with a bunch of 6′-8′ lengths of wire they got surplus and just connected together any old how. At least they’re not just wire-nutted together end-to-end hidden inside the wall, like I found before when I was wiring up the hall lights.

And it looks like they built the wall between the rooms and then put in the ceilings. There’s all this structure between the beams and attached to the roof deck up inside the ceiling, that to remove and insulate the cavity, I’m probably going to have to remove a couple of feet of drywall on either side of the joint. And pretty much rebuild the wall that’s got all the weird electrical in it as well.

Idiots!

Tags: , ,

Upcoming Projects

Here’s a list of smaller projects we’re contemplating for the near future. No particular order.

  • Finish work on hallway
  • Clean and organize basement
  • Build pergola roof
  • Seal up south shed windows and doors, run electricity to it, set it up as workshop
  • Wall in north shed rotted-out garage doors, replace rotted-out and falling-off person door
  • Run temporary lights and sockets to basement
  • Waterproof leaky parts of basement
  • Till and seed south raised area

Larger projects:

  • Replace the roof (we already have a contractor and estimate, just need to pull the trigger on it)
  • Build porch and re-route front entrance to existing closet (turning it back into a foyer/mudroom again)
  • Turn addition into master suite (this can be done in stages with the bathroom coming last)
  • Bump out back wall and enclose basement stairs into building envelope
  • Smart wire the house and create tech hub
  • Gut and refinish the library and living room
  • Retile the fireplace

“Someday” projects:

  • Finish basement, create laundry/plumbing room
  • Redo all the supply plumbing with PEX and a manifold system
  • Knock down the existing sheds, extend the foundations, and rebuild as garage & cottage
  • Replace forced air heating with radiant
  • Add a second story to the addition
  • Build a better patio
  • Redo the kitchen

Not that I’m going to be starting any of these right away, except maybe cleaning and organizing the basement. I really need a break.

Jen adds Yard Projects:

  • Clean out top bed and ready it for arborvitae planting
  • Continue building up the raised beds
  • Set the initial plans and start building my perennial garden
  • WEED! Oh goodness I need to weed. My beds are horrifically overgrown
  • Cut down strange bush/tree covering the library window

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Second Bedroom Gets Closer to Done

Five weeks ago it looked like this:

    

Four weeks ago it looked like this:

    

The white stripe is where the boundary masking tape went. It’ll be covered up by a self-stick flowers-and-garlands border we got from Amazon.

Two weeks ago it looked like this:

Look! Lights and plugs!

The upstairs storage area is lighted as well.

Next on the agenda

  • Apply border
  • Wall plates for the plugs
  • Install door jamb and bifold doors for the closet
  • Install prehung bedroom door
  • Install window jambs and sills
  • Install casings
  • Patch floor where old wall floor plates used to be
  • Clean old linoleum mastic off the floor
  • Move my daughter and all her stuff in

Lessons Learned

If you have a 10′ wall, don’t try to cut down a single piece of 12′ drywall. There’s no way to get a tight fit and maneuver it into place, and plus you’ll crunch all the corners. Instead, just accept that you’ll have butt joints to mud and feather with the tradeoff that you won’t have big gaps at the edges to fill.

Tags: , ,

Still Here

Right. The earth did not open up and swallow us whole along with our house.

The back bedroom project is still underway, though. After gutting it back in March and April, we pretty much ran out of time and money. In May I was able to get all the framing done: I filled in the existing exterior door, framed two windows, added a real closet, and created a rough door opening where the end of the hallway once was. In June or thereabouts I was able to buy a roll of wire and run the almost all the electrical. And there I stopped for a couple of months.

Luckily, Jen had some stock options from her job that became sellable in August, so we finally had the money to get all the remaining stuff. Last week I took advantage of some time off work and finished the rough electrical and had it inspected (passed except for one minor issue with the closet light fixture placement). I also installed the folding attic stairs (I was able to do it entirely myself with the assistance of our drywall lift — thanks Jen!)

This morning, I went to Home Depot and ordered all the plywood, drywall, joint compound, doors, tar paper, light fixtures, switches, receptacles, etc. that I’ll need to complete (almost) everything. It gets delivered on Tuesday, so I get to spend this weekend doing everything that I can get done short of having the materials on hand: clean up the room, fill in all the floor/ceiling holes with firestop foam, pull the vinyl siding off the relevant sections of wall, flash the rough window openings, etc.

No pictures for this post, but I’ll take plenty as I work on everything next week.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Catching Up With Casa de Lovely

Since my last post I’ve gotten a bunch of smallish projects done, and I’ll address those before going into the stairs project and the painting project:

Plumbing

I spent a Saturday wrestling monkey wrenches over my head and broke back the galvanized water pipes to the most convenient joints, and substituted in PEX. I got everything installed, turned the water back on, checked all my joints, and found no leaks at all. Yay!

Then I noticed a drip. Grrr.

Turns out that I had a pinhole leak in a section of the galvanized that I hadn’t even touched. So I got to turn the water off again, heft the monkey wrenches again, and break out another section of galvanized. Luckily, that was the last of the work for the day. There’s still more galvanized, but it can wait until I can buy a manifold and replace it all.

I also ended up having to replace the kitchen sink supply valves (and then the flexible supply lines as well since they were clogged with galvanized pipe-rust), and the PEX-compatible ball valves were so easy to work with I don’t see any particular reason to mess around with copper stubouts and compression valves at all — just run the PEX out of the wall in a chrome sleeve and crimp a valve onto it and you’re all done.

Electrical

Of course, all the plumbing work was in support of putting in a new electrical panel. The guys from Kemly Electric came out and did a great job installing it and putting in the new mast, and then a couple days later the city moved the wires and put in the meter, and Kemly came back and set up the feeder line to the old panel.

I’ve moved the bathroom circuits and the cooktop circuit to the new panel. I suppose I could move the dryer circuit but I haven’t gotten around to it yet. The rest will have to wait until I start renovating rooms.

More Plumbing

Shortly after installing the supply lines, I went to run a load of laundry. I came back later to find the utility sink completely full of water. Apparently the drain had chosen that moment to clog. Since it’s the drain that serves the washing machine, the kitchen sink, and the dishwasher, I needed to fix it immediately.

So I basically rebuilt the entire trap, with long-throw bends and a cleanout, so it won’t clog as much and if it does I can unclog it without having to cut it all out again.

Before

After

Through all the frustration and work, I kept telling myself I was not going to call a plumber, dammit.

That completed, I decided the next day to finally install the new garbage disposal that’s been sitting in a box under the sink for almost a year. Installing it was pretty easy, except when I realized that it was physically larger than the old disposal and therefore the shunt over to the sink trap was at the wrong height.

So I basically had to completely rebuild that trap as well. Sigh. At least it’s now built so that it won’t accumulate ick in the shunt pipe, and I installed an air access valve so at least the kitchen sink now has a vent.

Kitchen disposal and trap rebuild

The neat thing about the garbage disposal is that it’s very very powerful. The damn thing sounds like a tractor engine starting up or something.

I think that’s it. Now on to the stairs…

Tags: , , , , ,

Electrical Upgrade Preparations

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.

Yay!

Tags: , , , , , ,