Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Electrical Progress

As you know, we have started a major project. We have stripped-down, dismantled, and thoroughly gutted two of the bedrooms and a hallway wall in the second story. The majority of the prior electrical wiring was unceremoniously discarded with the rest of the debris. Now it is time to stop destroying and start creating. Well, perhaps there is a little more demolition yet to do.

My father and I spent nearly the entire weekend rewiring the two bedrooms. I am very grateful that my dad was and is willing to help us out, his knowledge and experience are extremely valuable. Plus, many of the applicable regulations in the NEC are practically indecipherable due to the language or context. I think that there are a few good puzzles involved in any project, and it was great to have another engineer to help riddle them out.

Starting with morning coffee and notes, we assembled our resources and made a plan of attack. Phase Zero: Drink coffee.

Moving on. Phase One: Install load distribution panel & splice the service drop. After some carpentry, I was able to mount the new circuit breaker panel. Dad worked on the splice in a separate junction box up in the rafters.

We had considerable trouble with the insulated neutral bar in the GE panel. I was surprised that the plastic stand-off feet were so slim and brittle.The spring tension of the 2AWG service line was enough to snap one of the feet in half. My anguish doesn't shown in the following photos.

When I turned my back, dad took out part of a wall. We intend to build-up new closet spaces in this area. Removing this partition now sure makes it easier to get around with the ladder.

We made decent progress the rest of Saturday. All of the receptacle and switch boxes were mounted, as well as the overhead boxes for closet lights, ceiling fans and smoke detectors. Phase two - complete. We were even able to run a few lines before we collapsed with exhaustion.

We started working again half-way through Sunday. Phase Three: Run wire. Much of our time spend pounding staples into beams and routing the lines to outlet boxes and junction boxes. Here is a good picture of me pretending to do some work.

And here are some photos of dad really working.

The branch circuits were being defined as the various boxes scattered around the rooms were connected. The receptacle boxes look a little haphazard with all the leads hanging out, but soon enough we were starting to terminate them and populate the boxes.

Which leads, at last, to Phase Four: Termination. After supper, dad set to work on the circuit breaker panel. The photo below show the branches that he expertly crafted into a clean and orderly distribution panel. I was able to finish-up the light switches & fan controls and most of the receptacle outlets before quitting time. Once the branches were terminated at the circuit breakers, we engaged the external main breaker and tested the network. A piece of the preexisting network is supplied on a separate breaker, and I guess we shouldn't be too surprised that it did not entirely behave as expected. For whatever reason, the lights and outlet in the bathroom are not energized with the rest of the circuit, I have some investigation to do. 

When my dad left, there were only two receptacles yet to terminate. Amanda and I took one each and mounted the outlets. We did a lot of good work this weekend, and made substantial progress for our renovation.
Thanks dad!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Autumn Leaves

The leaves have completely fallen off our ash and black walnut trees, but the other trees are slowly changing their color.  The oaks are being the most stubborn and are still mostly green.  I took a walk out into the yard the other day and took some pictures.  I love this camera!


Oak--I forget if this is the red or white variety

Red Maple--Although our red maple looked more orange to me...

Yellow berried Crabapple?

Red berried Crabapple

Bush turning red in our front yard

Late blooming pink gladiolus

Bird of prey scoping out our yard from the top of our pine tree.

While Jim and his dad were rewiring the upstairs this weekend, I finally switched out my summer clothes for winter.  Jim is going to blog later about what they did over the weekend.  My only contribution was to finish pulling out the nails in the beams and wire one outlet into the receptacle.  I have all the pictures ready for him, so all he needs to do is actually blog about it.  :)

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Let the Walls Come Down that Separate You and Me

Woo!  Last week was a grueling week, but I think I've now recovered.   I have plenty of pics to show you our progress as we tore out the plaster walls and ceilings in the nursery, guest room, and part of the hallway.  However, I wanted to finish what we did in the attic.  We did manage to remove most of the blown-in insulation from the attic floor over the guest room and nursery.  The only other new discovery we made was some charts that look like they belong in a butcher shop.  They are diagrams of the various cuts of meat for a cow, pig, and lamb.  There were also some posters of various types of cows.  They are labeled with American Angus Association and F. C. Murphy.  Maybe I'll try to google them and see if they are worth anything.  While we were working in the attic, Jim made a hole large enough in the nursery ceiling for the trash bags full of insulation to pass through.  As you can see in the pic, our nursery was pretty full of bags by the time we were through.  We also learned to double bag everything, or they would explode on impact when tossed out the 2nd story window.  Bleh!

 Friday, Oct 1st
After our dumpster arrived, we got straight to work.  Jim took a vacation day for Friday and the following Monday to allow us extra time for demolition. We started with the nursery ceiling. By the end of the process, I had decided that tearing out plaster ceilings was my least favorite part of demo.  No matter how careful, or what type of goggle PPE we were wearing, rubble would somehow get in our eyes.

 This is what the ceiling looked like after we were done.

Saturday, Oct 2nd
We had a late start on Saturday so we were only able to tear out 1/2 the wall separating the nursery and guest room, and 1/2 of the guest room ceiling.  The wall that we did remove will be where the new closets will go.

This second pic is looking from the guest room towards the nursery.

Sunday, Oct 3rd
We also had another late start on Sunday, but we managed to remove the rest of the guest room ceiling and the other half of the wall separating the two rooms.
The pic on the left is looking from the guest room into the nursery.
 The pic on the right is looking from the nursery into the guest room.

The left pic is a view of the attic and chimney from the guest room.
That is quite a growing pile of lath we have in the nursery, eh?

Monday, Oct 4th
We were able to get a lot accomplished on Monday.  We removed all the plaster from the guest room walls, and were also able to remove the lath and insulation from one entire wall.

You can see the various stages of demo in these 3 pics.

Tuesday, Oct 5th
This was the first day I was all alone.  I was quite the busy bee and was able to remove all the remaining lath and insulation from the guest room walls.  

 Since I was going to start on the nursery the following day, I threw out the giant pile of lath that was in the center of the nursery.  When Jim came home, he moved some of it onto a tarp in hopes of moving it to the firepit later.

While I was working on the area by the east window in the guest room, I made quite an interesting discovery. 
Can you guess what I found buried in the wall?  
a) Gold coins  
b) Blue prints of the house  
c) Human bones
d) Lingerie
e) Dead animal
If you guessed a, b, c, or e, you would be wrong.  That's right, folks!  I found lingerie balled up in my wall!  There was also some baby clothes and a little girl's dress.  I have as yet to take a picture of them, but when I do, I'll post it.  When I first saw the clothing, I was a little apprehensive because it was balled up in the wall as if something was bundled inside.  My first thought (which was quite morbid) was that I was about to find the remains of a baby.  Fortunately, that was not the case.  However, this still begs the question of why you would purposefully leave lingerie in the walls?  OK, I can sort of see the baby clothes as a timecapsule-keepsake-legacy-thingy that you'd want someone years from now to discover...but lingerie?!  That is just nasty and disturbing!  And if you wanted to leave it as a legacy-thingy, why would you not at least put it in a bag to protect it?  

Wednesday, Oct 6th
Day 2 of being on my own.  I was able to remove all the plaster from the nursery walls.  You can see the fan in the first pic that I used to blow all the dust outside as I was working.  By this point, I was starting to get quite tired of my respirator; but it was a necessary evil.

Thursday, Oct 7th
Come Thursday, I was starting to feel like this demolition would never end.  I did manage however to remove all the lath and insulation in the nursery, except for one area in the southeast corner.  I did not find anything else remarkable hidden in the walls.

Friday, Oct 8th
Yea!  Friday had finally arrived!  This was my last day of demolition by myself.  I managed to remove the remaining lath and insulation in the nursery as well as the lath from the one hallway wall.  Since we are moving the upstairs breaker box from the guest room to this hallway wall, we decided to demo it too while we were at it.  When Jim got home from work, we ripped up the carpeting and threw it out the window.  I have a feeling that that green carpeting will never be green again.  It was quite dirty and dusty by the time we were through.
These are pics of our newly exposed wood floors (most likely pine).
                             Left: guest room              Right: nursery

This is what the "walls" look like now.
 Left: In back corner of guest room looking towards hallway
Right: In nursery looking towards hallway.

I took this pic of Jim while I was standing in the hallway.  Jim is in the guest room, and I am looking at him through the hallway and nursery wall studs.

Saturday, Oct 9th
I just want to say that I was skeptical of this plan from the start.
Jim wanted to try to use the lawn mower to drag the tarp full of lath to the firepit.  I had my suspicions that the  pile was too big, but Jim wanted to give it the old college try.  The only thing Jim was successful at was pulling the grommets out of the tarp.  LOL.
We switched to Plan B after that, which was attaching the dump cart to the lawn mower and taking the lath back in multiple trips.

Here are pics of the only 2 new flowers I have blooming now.
 It is quite sad.  I think at this point, I have more weeds blooming than flowers.

Jim was recently in the basement and saw this little fella on our cellar door stairs.
That very night, Jim was on the family room floor playing video games when he saw a mouse scurry past him.  The next day, he went out and bought some mouse traps.  We have since captured 4 total using peanut butter.  We can't really take credit for the 5th mouse...or maybe we can...
I know this is a little disturbing, but I couldn't help but laugh; It just seemed so comical.  After they took away the dumpster, we went out to inspect the damage to our lawn.  Lo-and-behold, there was a squished mouse where the dumpster had been.  He was pretty flat.  The part that made me laugh though was not this poor mouse's fate, it was the way he was positioned.  He was on his back, all four feet in the air, with his head turned to the side and his mouth open.  The only thing needed to complete the picture was his tongue hanging out.  Honestly, he looked just like what a cartoon animal looks like when they die.  I took a pic, but later decided to spare everyone the image.
After Saturday's bonfire and mystery (see Spirit Watcher tab), Jim and I were in the family room reading.  We both looked at each other when we heard a strange howling/barking coming from outside.  We cracked open one of the windows to hear better.  It sounded like an entire pack of dogs, but not quite dogs.  The sounds seemed too high pitched and strange to be dogs.  We decided that maybe there are coyotes hunting/living across the street in the farm fields and vacant lots.  This is even more reason why I want to fence in our yard.

 This is a picture of the farm across our street.  I love the view.  It looks even more serene in person.

Left:  Me posing by the mimosa tree/bush before leaving for a luau themed company clambake.
Right:  I just like this picture of Jim I took recently.

Yes!  I've finally finished!  I hope you like the update.  I was too tired to blog during the demolition week, so it kept building up.
Toodles, Noodles!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Electrical Inconsistencies

We have been busy for the past week with some major demolition work upstairs. After much planning and preparing, we spent most of our spare time this week dismantling two bedrooms. I have mentioned previously that our home has two electric meters; the original circuit breaker panel is located in the basement, while the second is in a bedroom closet upstairs. One of my jobs during this renovation project is to relocate the panel and redistribute the subsequent networks. Here are two peculiarities we have encountered so far.

After disconnecting the mains supply and dismantling the panel I noticed that one of the two lamps in the stairway was out. I know that the stairwell lights are supplied by the basement panel, and assumed that I had a bad bulb. Although, my suspicions grew after a few failed attempts to replace the bulb. I need to investigate further, but I have a hypothesis here. I suspect that while the the live wire is connected to the switches and routed to the basement, the neutral for this one lamp was routed to the second story bus bar, which completed the circuit. Since the second story panel has been removed, the circuit for this lamp is now incomplete. What a mess.

While excavating the walls I would periodically disconnect receptacle boxes or remove wires and conduit. I made it a point to disable the supply connections and remove the panel before starting, so I knew that the lines were dead. As I yanked an outlet box out of the wall, I was surprised to see two lines connected to the box. One more than there should have been! We could easily trace one line from the light fixture / junction box; however, a second line exited the receptacle box and went down in the wall to the first story. Since we knew that all the electrics below us were supplied from the basement panel, I gently pulled on the mystery line. Gradually, the bare end of the cord was reeled-in, with only the live wire terminated with just a wire nut.

Amanda says that it is remarkable that the house hasn't caught fire yet.