Showing posts with label electrical. Show all posts
Showing posts with label electrical. Show all posts

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Ready for insulation

I'm also ready for my nervous breakdown. I don't know why, but this upgrade-the-electrical-and-insulate-the-house project has broken me. Oh wait, I know why: it's really freaking expensive and disruptive. Again, I would never survive a full-scale remodel.

I'm going to apologize in advance for how whiny I'm being. Break out your tiny violins.

I mentioned a while back that Greg was going to invest in the house and pay for electrical upgrades and insulation, but that changed. Everything is fine with the two of us but it left me scrambling to apply for financing and it annihilated my savings to pay the electrician. As expected, everything took a bit longer than expected, if that makes sense.

The financing took place with Umpqua Bank with a really obnoxious man who kept asking, "No husband? You're doing this by yourself?" Then he slowly explained how a checking account works and what would happen if I "just had to have that diamond ring" and overdrafted my account. I am not making this shit up.

Have I mentioned that I've been having insomnia so I cut alcohol out of my diet? It's like I'm not thinking sometimes.

Anyway. Our electrician finished all the work in the attic! Instead of wires hanging out of our living room ceiling we have this super cheap Ikea fixture.

I'm not sure this is an upgrade.

I want something beautiful and dangling in here eventually but I have no money right now. So a cheap Ikea fixture it is! Yay, throwaway culture. The good news is that my electrician redesigned the wiring so things make a modicum of sense. Everything's up to code! If we die in a house fire it probably won't be due to sketchy wiring!

I also had him put in a new receptacle in the hallway so we can better see how badly we need to vacuum.

I grabbed these $39 schoolhouse fixtures from Lamps Plus, then went into a shame spiral over how they were made in China and I should have bought real Schoolhouse Electric fixtures and supported a local company.

We really need to vacuum.

Then Greg came out and said, "I think the scale is wrong and they're too big for the space," which made me start worrying about that. But you know what? I'd rather they be too big than too small. And everyone is going to be distracted by the fact that we need to vacuum so badly in here, and then they'll be noticing that our rug is the wrong length for the hallway. So it doesn't matter.

If you need me I'll be here, waiting for my waaahmbulance and reminding myself that things could be worse. I'm not destitute, nor do I live in a country where I could be punished for being a woman and driving a car. I can put up with stupid loan officers. Also: my mother sent me this:


She's the best.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

And lo, there was hyperbole!

Guys, these lights almost killed us.

I came home from the gym last week after attending one of those classes with an oily bohunk who makes you lunge and lift and squat, all the while yelling, "faster! faster!" while he flexes his enormous, hairless muscles at you. It felt like I was part of a movie montage where the nerds try to get in shape but they're hopelessly flabby.

Anyway. I got home from the gym and the electrician had wired up the receptacles we installed and Greg was like, "Should we hang up the lights now?"

I was like, "Um, of COURSE we should hang those right now. But let me go throw up first and then I think I'm supposed to drink a glass of egg yolks."

There were a series of errors, beginning with the fact that the sun was going down, so we were working by headlamp. Next: Greg was hangry. He's a very sweet man until he gets hungry and then he gets mean. Third: At some point I dropped one of the nuts that attaches the fixture to the ceiling and it rolled away to parts unknown, laughing most likely. Remember how Greg was hangry? This was not our best moment. And we couldn't install the last light fixture.

Also: at some point I misplaced one of the Edison bulbs that came with the light fixture and we didn't have a replacement. We spent 20 minutes tearing the house apart looking for it.

I went and took a shower, during which time Greg located the missing nut! I came out from the shower and we finished the last light installation. Thank freaking goodness.

Nine hours after we started this project I flipped the breaker back on and hit the brand new dimmer switch . . . and nothing happened. Sonofabitch.

There was nothing to be done except go to dinner (at 9:30! so European!) and bemoan our lack of a proper reveal. We assumed the problem was in the dimmer switch, since our electrician seems to know what he's doing. After dinner Greg decided to swap out the new dimmer switch with the old one and voila! it freaking worked. FINALLY.

We were missing a bulb but it was still pretty glorious. To celebrate I promptly got a migraine that lasted four days.

But I'm fine now! And lights! Such pretty lights! Such pretty holes in the ceiling that need to be patched! Boy, I don't feel like doing that at all!

But if I've learned anything from movie montages it's that my muscles will soon be huge, I will get the girl, and you will find me either yelling Adwian!Adwian!* or singing We Are the Champions with my buddies** at the end of all this.

I love movie references. I love lamp***. The end.

*see: Rocky.
**see: Revenge of the Nerds.
***see: Anchorman.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Plaster dust does nothing to cover gray hair, just FYI

Whenever I take photos of my dining room (which isn't all that often) I try to crop out the light fixtures. 

They are ugly and utilitarian and they make a terrible humming noise if you try to dim them.

Terrible photos, ahoy!

I never noticed that they're not even aligned, to boot. It took cutting holes in the ceiling for me to notice this.

Greg (an engineer) was like, "How have you never noticed that those lights aren't aligned?" and I was like, "Oh, I don't know, I've just been exploring the wonder of the natural world and worrying about bumblebees. God."

Except in reality I've been watching The Bachelorette and playing The Simpsons Tapped Out on my iPad. You know, the important things in life.


I got to use the hole saw to punch those beautiful holes in the ceiling. I wear glasses, which I thought would protect me from the falling debris but I ended up with two eyes full of plaster crud, which was awful. Our electrician went and grabbed his safety goggles for me, but I couldn't wear them with my glasses so I had to operate the hole saw blind, basically. I qualify as legally blind without corrective lenses, so I'd like a medal for getting three perfect holes in the ceiling (Greg was in the attic) without any blood loss.

Greg is in here somewhere

You have not lived until you've passed tools back and forth to your love through a hole in the ceiling while trying to discern what the other is saying.

Mumble mumble barn owls.
I said I needed a drill bit! Focus, Heather.

The house was a mess and it took multiple showers to get the plaster out of my hair, but we got the electrical boxes installed and they are ready to be wired.

This was all a walk in the park compared to picking out light fixtures. I don't think Greg and I would ever survive a full-scale remodel and all the decisions that come with it, unless Jimmy Carter was involved. We finally found one single light fixture that neither of us hated, based on this picture:

Greg worked some Photoshop magic to mock this up:

I thought they were too far apart, so then we switched it to this:

But the attic beams conspired against us, so the final placement is somewhere between the two. Hopefully our electrician will be finishing up the attic work soon so we can ditch the old lights, patch the ceiling, and hang the new lights.

Grody carpeting, I'm coming for you next.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Dream big, baby.

Greg and I have a running joke. He asks me what I'd do if I won the lottery and I always reply, "I'd put insulation in the attic." And I really would. We have some loose insulation in the attic that doesn't do much to keep the heat out of the house in the summer. If I won the lottery I'd apply to be on This Old House, fan-girl over Tommy, have them fix everything in the house, and then live there forever. I'd finally buy that black daphne too.

Greg and I are taking a bit of a step and he is investing in the house. He's going to pay for some big stuff, like installing insulation and updating the electrical.

I contacted Clean Energy Works a while back to an energy audit on the house and draw up a bid for making our house more energy efficient. The proposal includes insulation in the attic, floors, and walls, as well as gap sealing. We're going to be working with Neil Kelly. It's one of those things where we need the electrical upgraded before we go blowing in insulation in the attic, so I've found an electrician to do the work. The harder thing has been finding time where he can get it done. I took off to California this weekend for my niece's birthday and Greg texted me that the electrician was mapping out the electrical in the house and "it makes no sense."

Tell me something that I don't know.

So yeah, we're having him pull all of the old original Romex (the cloth covered wire that disintegrates every time you touch it) with new Romex and wiring everything in a way that makes sense. He's also going to do fun things like put the microwave on its own fuse so the lights don't dim when you run it.

All of this is to say that I've been so busy trying to coordinate with a busy electrician and keep the house supplied with cool beverages and Romex that I neglected to take photos of the Casa Blanca lilies that came and went. They smelled nice.

I did have the wherewithal to create a drinking/bathing station for pollinators. (Do I want to know why there's a rock pie in the veggie beds? Greg asked. No, you probably don't.)

So yeah, July was here. I put some rocks in a pie pan. Have you accomplished anything bigger?

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Oaklanders are coming!

As part of their Renovation Road Trip extravaganza, I got a visit from Chris and Meryl of Picardy Project. Meryl and I have known each other for about a year online but had never met in person. That always makes me nervous, so I obsessed over the state of the house in the days leading up to their visit. You'd think that would mean I would attempt to fix or hide my shoddier work but my brain went into stupid mode and said "YOU SHOULD BUY AN ENORMOUS PLANT."

So instead of buying renovation supplies to make their work go faster, I bought a new plant. Because you know Chris and Meryl would walk into the house and immediately judge that my air isn't pure enough. I found a bamboo palm (Chamaedorea seifrizii) at Ikea, which is one of the top plants for removing toxins from your home.

Oh my god, what am I talking about? Sorry, I'm so sleepy today. Anyway, Meryl and Chris showed up and it was immediately like we'd known each other forever. I highly recommend letting them in, should they ever arrive on your doorstep.

I didn't have any major projects for them to help with; instead I had a long "homeowner fatigue" list of things I could probably do myself but I'm tired and a little worried I'll do it wrong, and also there's a new episode of Revenge on the Tivo and those cookies won't eat themselves in bed.

First up: that hideous light fixture over the kitchen sink. This is what it looked like right after I moved in.

I took it down halfway when I painted the kitchen and the wiring looked strange to me. Chris took down the fixture and confirmed that, nope, everything in there was pretty normal. I felt really silly. I'd spent all this time with an ugly light when my wiring was totally normal! He got the fixture, an old piece I bought on craigslist three and a half years ago, rewired and hung up in less than an hour.

I've been wanting to repaint the kitchen, so this should be just the motivation I need.

Next we moved to the living room, where I was pretty sure there was an electrical box in the center of the ceiling, hiding beneath a spot where the plaster looked a little different. Chris climbed up into the attic, confirmed that there was indeed a box there, then carefully excavated the box and revealed the wires.

You know how normally when you hire an electrician or a plumber they'll use a sledgehammer to open a tiny hole in the wall? And then they'll leave dirty fingerprints everywhere, necessitating touch-up painting and a ton of patchwork? Chris and Meryl don't do that. There are tarps and careful placement of hands and no additional patching or painting required.

You remember how my wiring in the kitchen was supposed to be weird but it was just fine? Well, ha ha Chris, I TOLD YOU MY WIRING WAS JACKED. This is where everything got a little frustrating. For Chris, that is. Electrical is his gig, so Meryl handed him tools and assisted with testing while I braided Meryl's hair and tried to convince her to move to Portland. I was useless. The rest of the day was mostly Chris wandering from ladder to outlet to attic to ladder muttering, "This just isn't right."

Greetings from the attic.

It turns out there is an extra wire in the ceiling box. A whole bunch of weird stuff runs to here and we can't tell if the light that used to be here ever had a switch hooked to it. Despite digging around in the insulation in the attic and chasing wires, we just couldn't figure it out.

We decided to leave it for a professional electrician, one who we can pay to swim around in the attic insulation. Chris recommended installing a new switch and running brand new wire to the box. I asked him if he'd cut the switch box hole for me, because I didn't want an electrician to do it. I don't want to patch and paint this room again.

So he made me a perfect one. Then he and Meryl spent the rest of the afternoon in a shame spiral, convinced that they had failed because they hadn't magically fixed the fact that my entire house is wired imperfectly. There was a rush to fix anything else I could throw at them.

Shaky bathroom vanity? It's properly anchored to the wall now.

Strike plate that would fall out of the door jamb because the screws were stripped and the holes were way too big?

The holes were filled with toothpicks (a This Old House trick), then four-inch screws were driven in. The strike plate doesn't fall out anymore and it will make it much more difficult for someone to kick in the door.

All the sticky parts were lubricated and weatherstripping was put up. It was like Christmas but without your drunk aunt saying something shitty to you.

Please come back, Meryl and Chris, because I've thought of 600 more things I need help with. I promise none of them are electrical.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

A man-cave fit for a man in a cave.

It's almost been a year since I put the flooring in the basement and I've never really done anything with it. Just a friendly reminder of what it looked like when I moved in:

And then I did all that work last winter so it looked like this.

And yesterday my electrician came out and configured all the plugs so we wouldn't have to run an extension cord from the dryer area to the finished portion of the basement. And now it looks like this:

It's starting to look like a real room! It needs baseboard and window trim but it's getting there! I grabbed the painting from the reveal that used to be over the living room mantle.

But don't look over there; when I do I get the theme song to Sanford and Son stuck in my head.

The boy and I have an agreement, stolen from a very smart friend, that we will keep everything we own for the first year of living together. So we have two beds and lots of duplicate kitchen gear that got boxed up and stored in the garage and basement. The last thing you want to do after a relationship ends is to have to buy a new bed (or a new cheese grater, or whatever) because you got rid of yours when you moved in together. So we'll reassess in a year or two or whenever we feel like it and then we can start to pare down our stuff. But for right now we have a mattress in the alcove.

Now I'm itching to paint the wood paneling that lines the stairs down to the basement and replace that nasty carpet.

And lastly, Hall and Oates will finally have to go.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Mysteries in the laundry room

When I moved into the house I needed a lot of electrical work.  This is what my electrical panel looked like.  Wires sticking out, no cover . . . just a tiny bit hazardous.

Luckily I have a friend who is an electrician and would work for a reasonable rate (and access to the food in the kitchen cabinets).  He did a couple of really awesome things without my asking, like putting a motion sensor on the light in the laundry room.  So if I'm carrying a basket of laundry there's no fumbling with a chain in the dark--the light just comes on.  After five minutes without motion it turns the light off.  It's awesome. 

Fast forward to now.  A few weeks back I started noticing that the light would be on when no one had been down there.  I noticed that the dryer hose had popped off the window vent and figured that must have triggered the light to go off.  Some contractor had told me that, in the hierarchy of venting, rigid metal ducts are best.  They accumulate the least dust and lint resulting in a lower fire risk.  The only problem is that I couldn't get the stupid hose to stay connected to the window outlet. I kept finding it like this:

I kept applying more foam tape and the stupid thing kept popping off.  I finally decided to screw the pieces together.

Bingo!  Why didn't I think of that before?  The only problem?  The light was still going off.


My roommate and I had a very serious conversation about the light (we had both noticed it and gotten freaked out); my roommate solemnly informed me that it could be a ghost.  I was worried it was a mouse or some other critter.  I hunted around for signs of critters: droppings, nests, chewed stuff . . . but found nothing. 

So my latest theory concerns the old stove downdraft.  My house didn't have a stove hood so the previous owners appeared to have one of those stoves with a downdraft that vented through the kitchen floor.  There was a hole in the kitchen floor with a duct attached.


That hole was covered by the underlayment for the Marmoleum and I repurposed that duct into a vent for my portable AC unit in my bedroom.  But in the winter the duct was just hanging out doing this:

My theory is that it gets windy outside and air comes shooting into that duct and into the basement, causing the duct to swing.  I should have remedied this long ago.  I'm letting cold air into the house and basically left a fun slide for critters wanting to get into the house.  Like SPIDERS, OH MY GOD, SPIDERS.  Or mice.  Or whatever. 

So I took the cover off the exterior of the house . . .

. . . cut some of this stuff I found in the basement to fit . . .

. . . screwed it in and replaced the cover.

I'll keep you posted about the light.  I really hope this stops the light triggering because I don't want to consider the alternatives.  Like ghost-rats.

Edited to add: I did finally get a cover for my electrical panel.  It feels slightly less dangerous doing laundry beneath it now.