Archive | August, 2007

Spackle, Spackle Little Star

August 28, 2007

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The spackling of the Living Room is finally complete! The room is beginning to look like a “real” room now. I have to sand it and perhaps do a few touchups. The primer/sealer and the paint (interior flat! something you could never use on old plaster walls!) is purchased. I am very, very eager to get to the painting stage.

My sweet husband told me he wanted to rent a drum sander for the floor. I was quite happy to use the little Black & Decker Sandstorm handsander, but he thought it would be too tedious and would take me too long. Use a drum sander for the big area, and my Sandstorm for the edging. And he volunteered to operate the drum sander! Sweet! So today, before calling the rental company, I thought I’d give my Sandstorm a try, to see how it would do.

I sanded a small area to practice. I was surprised to find dark green paint underneath the dark brown paint. I had thought the brown paint was original. Little red flags went up when I saw the green paint. It looked like very old porch paint. Better check it, I thought. I made a quick trip to Home Depot to buy one of those small lead testers. They are very handy– you crush two small tubes, shake the implement, and squirt a bit of yellow liquid out to moisten a swab. You rub the swab on the painted area, and if it remains yellow, you’re clear; if the swab turns pink, you’ve got lead. My swab turned dark red, almost purple. My heart sank.

I have to cover the floor. There is no way I can sand this stuff. Time for Plan B: laminate flooring. My husband agreed, so we are shelling out the bucks for laminate flooring. Home Depot has been having a clearance on the stuff, at 88 cents a square foot, so I can’t complain… I just didn’t want to spend any more money on this! Oh well, I do like laminate. But P.S. I spent $400 on materials for flooring, and then I had to pay $36 for TAX. Talk about theft!

Pictures to come. Tomorrow is sanding day, then I prime and paint for the rest of the week! The end is near!

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August 23, 2007


We’ve got all the sheetrock up in the Living Room! I am ecstatic with joy. Such speedy progress is due to my generous sister, who has been coming over with two of her kids to help us. They have been renovating their old farmhouse and know all too well the plights of an old-home renovation!

I sat down tonight and looked at the calendar. The past two weeks have whizzed by and I was stunned that it was late August already. School begins in about three weeks! If it wasn’t for my sister, I’d be a week behind schedule. We got the sheetrock done in TWO DAYS! God bless her!

The kids pitch in, too. My sis’s daughter helps with my gals upstairs, patching the large holes I left in the plaster where I installed electrical outlets. My sis’s son, a young handyman in his own right, helped with us in the Living Room. The room looks good. I am overjoyed at the progress! What a relief!

So all that needs to be done is the spackling, priming, and painting of the walls; sanding and refinishing the wood floor; adding the electrical fixtures; installing the furnace ducting and thermostat; and wiring up the ethernet Category 5 wiring. I will eventually add wall-to wall-carpeting and molding. We also hope to someday get new windows (and I will install new jambs and sills at that time). I can’t wait until it’s done!

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Decided to Install Cat5 wiring

August 20, 2007

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I am taking a break this afternoon. My breaks have become a little longer these days. My arms are in agony from all the heavy work! I have wimpy hands and wrists, and skinny forearms. They are begging me to stop working, but I can only give them rests between jobs. The poor limbs are speckled with purple and blue bruises, multitudes of splinters and abrasions, and all my nails are chopped and peeling. My muscles are in agony.

Aw, poor me! LOL.

I take an ibuprofen and keep plugging along. I only have about four weeks until school starts, and we need this room to be done!

Today I bit the bullet and shelled out the cash for rigging up Cat5 internet wiring between the studs. I was really undecided about it for weeks. It just seemed more like a luxury, an added expense that would detract from the necessary needs of sheetrock and paint. But I decided to go for it because I know I will appreciate the effort in the future. I imagined what my room would look like with stringy yards of ethernet cable hung across the walls and over the doorways…I shuddered, and decided to install it. The installation went very easily. I haven’t actually installed the wires to the plugs yet– I only installed the boxes and strung the wiring through the walls and basement ceiling. Rigging up the wires to the jacks doesn’t look too hard.

I started spackling the ceiling sheetrock, just to get it done. We don’t have the walls up yet. My husband is going to do the walls, as that is truly too hefty for me. He works a full-time job, however, and therefore must squeeze in the drywall installation between dinnertime and bedtime. I must finish the ceiling as soon as possible, to get a light fixture hanging in there. Days are becoming shorter again, and the floor lamp we have been using isn’t sufficient.

I hate spackling, so I figure it will be less tedious if I do small jobs at a time. I have almost half the ceiling done (first coat). Tonight Hubby will install some walls, and I’ll spackle them tomorrow, as we go along.

No wiring projects for me yet, although I have a long list of them. The new washing machine circuit is working great– the house’s lighting voltage no longer drops when the washer kicks on! I have to wire a separate circuit for our sump pumps; that’s another small project to do. I’m saving the bigger projects (the lights for the stairwell, and wiring for the Kitchen, Bath, and Laundry Room) for when I finish the Living Room and we get moved back in there.

I am procrastinating! I have to swallow my cup of coffee and get back to the spackling.

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Rolling Right Along

August 18, 2007

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Things are really starting to roll now. Thursday, the electrical inspector said that everything looks very good, and that day I installed fiberglass batt insulation and the vapor barrier.

The next day, we rented a sheetrock lift and installed the ceiling drywall. My husband did most of the work– and what a job that was! Our ceilings are over 9 feet high; we were up until 1:30am to finish the job!

I haven’t done too much with the electrical. My arms and hands have been so sore that they are swollen and the veins are showing through! Yuk! The carpal tunnel gets unbearable at times. This explains why I haven’t blogged much, even though I have had lots to blog about. I am taking it easy this week and focusing on getting the Living Room done. My full-time rewiring projects will continue after we finish that.

Yet I did spend a little time today making a new circuit for the washing machine. I’d discovered that the wiring was 14/2 gauge (a lightweight gauge meant for lighting fixtures, not appliances) with a 15 amp outlet. My computers, television, refrigerator, kitchen outlets, porch lights, and DSL modem were all on that same circuit. It took some time to rip out the old washing machine outlet (I dated it to the 1940s, judging by the old powder-blue paint all over it), but snaking it down to the basement and stapling the line to joists and to the circuit breaker panel was a piece of cake. I am very comfortable working in the circuit panel now, and I actually like it! I like to organize, and my panel shows it. I hope the next owners of the house appreciate all my hard work!

The girls have been working on their own projects, too. I showed them how to repair plaster walls with sheetrock. Their bedroom walls have a dozen big holes punched in them, from the electrical work we’ve done in there. They are doing a very good job with the repairs, and becoming quite proficient with the tools.

Things are rolling right along. My husband is going to handle the bulk of the sheetrock installation, which is a big relief for me. He is elated that I will spackle the seams and he won’t have to! I now know why some people hire out the drywall installation… ugh. But for us, this endeavor is 100% sweat equity.

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The Saga Continues

August 14, 2007


Well, here’s another progress report on our electrical! Thank God I have them to give! Since I finished the Living Room and the Girls’ Bedroom, as well as finally updating the wiring in the Boys’ Room and my room, thngs have been going at a rapid rate. We are cleaning up bits and pieces of things in preparation for the inspector and to get sheetrock up.

I spent all day yesterday (from 9am to 10pm, my typical work time) cleaning up the circuit panel and the gazillions of old, decrepit wiring in the basement. I am even profiient enough with the service panel to wire up a little work light for me near the panel (I got sick of holding a flashlight while trying to work).

I’d say I ripped out about 30 pounds of old, bad wiring. I pried out old staples and reorganized the wires that remain. I neatened the old wiring, and labeled all the new wiring that I have put in so far. I also made a circuit map and and labeled all junction boxes with their circuit number. The place looks good, as far as a service panel in a basement goes.

I still have many, many lines to add. There are only two 1940s black wires left hooked up to the circuit box, but those two wires electrify half the house. I am making progress, but I am only one person! It can be overwhelming to think about it, but we are actually doing very well.

My husband drills holes in the joists for me to loop new wiring through. I can’t hold a drill over my head for very long, let alone drill through petrified joists! I’ve also got the phone wiring and the thermostat wiring done for the Living Room. I am debating whether I should spend more money and wire Cat5 for my ethernet… it would all probably be an extra $50… that’s a lot when you have to get sheetrock, paint, and stain yet. And we are keeping the old windows in, too, til we can afford new ones. I don’t know yet…

I took down all those old knobs and tubes and 1920s wiring from the Living Room ceiling. I plan to sell them. I also finally electrified the Girls’ Bedroom, so they have lights. We were living off their one outlet for the entire upstairs! They are so happy to have a switched light!

Other news… I’ve been waking up at night with numb hands, particularly my right hand. I didn’t think much of it until yesterday when it became numb all day. It dawned on me today that the old carpal tunnel is acting up! I haven’t had any symptoms of that in almost 20 years! My hands and wrists are very small, so all this beefy work is building them up, and the expanding muscles are pressing on the nerves.

I think we are ready for the inspector, so tomorrow I am taking the kids out. We have an appointment in Oneida, and will just make a day of it. Inspector comes Thursday, and I’ll be ready to install sheetrock Friday, if we can get the boards soon enough!

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The Attic

August 13, 2007


I have to go up in there only one more time…

Attic with Flash


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Let There Be Light

August 13, 2007

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I am ecstatic. For the first time in years, I am typing under a bedroom ceiling light. With a switch, by the way! Pull-chain lights are history, baby! (not that they ever worked here, anyway).

I spent most of the day Saturday in the suffocating confines of my attic. It was awful. But after a time of some blood, sweat, and tears, I survived. And I was able to electrify the two upstairs bedrooms (my room and the boys’ room)! Oh we are so happy. I only have one outlet, though, in my room. The boys will have to wait for me to tear out more plaster and install another in their room. But we only had two outlets each in our rooms, anyway… and we never had good working ceiling lights, so this is a real plus for us. I am also so happy to see the fruits of my labors!

I have to neaten the circuit panel in the basement before the inspector comes Thursday. That will be quite a chore, as it is a mess with 60 year-old cables and empty fuse panels from the 20’s still there. I have to eliminate all the junk and the useless clutter to make room for the new circuits I am building. It is a day’s work, I think. After that, I must remove all the old wiring from the Living Room ceiling (knobs, tubes, etc).

After the inspection, we can start rebuilding our Living Room– at last! And after that is all complete, I have to finish wiring the remainder of the house: Stairwell, Kitchen, Upstairs Bath (which has no electricity at all), the Dining Room light, the Front Entry, the Laundry Room and Breakfast Room, and the basement lights. So… I’ll be busy for a while.

But right now I am enjoying an evening of doing nothing, under my newly wired ceiling light– with wall switch!!

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August 11, 2007

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Had my handyman over yesterday, and he rigged up my Kitchen ceiling light (we are using one of those $5 Walmart two-bulb bedroom lights, cuz the old flourescent fixture wasn’t working) and I also got two of my outlets back. The Laundry Room light still doesn’t work, which puzzles us. He gave me some helpful tips on cleaning up the wiry mess in the circuit breaker panel, and we discussed runs for new circuits. I have a lot of work to do.

I am procrastinating right now. I know I should be up and about, racing to finish as much as I can before Inspector Day, Thursday. But I have to muster the courage to go into the attic again today.

In order for me to close up the Living Room, I have to remove the live wire dangling from the ceiling. In order to remove the live wire, I have to dismantle it from the circuit. In order to dismantle it, I have to find the junction box to the circuit. The junction box is somewhere, buried in the attic under a foot of rock wool. And it is too dangerous to tie in any new wiring with the fragile and illogical circuits of the old wiring… which means I have to rewire that section of the house that this circuit affects… all so I can close up my Living Room ceiling.

Needless to say, I have to go into the attic in order to lay new wire, because this circuit does affect the upstairs bedrooms. I know, I know, anything new will an improvement over the one outlet and light fixture in the Boys’ Bedroom, and the two outlets but no lights in the Master Bedroom… but I dread working in that attic. I’ll take a photo sometime and show you what I mean.

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Things Looking Brighter

August 9, 2007

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I’ve had some good conversations with some electrical inspectors today and yesterday. I guess one could say things are looking “brighter.” They’ve helped clear up some problems I had, and they’ve been very patient with my constant streams of questions.

I have finished wiring the Living Room and the girls’ bedroom. I am thrilled! I have yet to install the switches, receptacles, etc. But all holes are drilled, all plaster is punched out, all wires are strung! Oh joy!

Because of that mouse-chewed wire, I now have to rewire the Kitchen, Bathroom, Laundry Room, and Dining Room light. I realized tonight that of the entire house, only two rooms have its ceiling lights operational– the boys’ bedroom and the small half-bath downstairs. Ugh. Three room’s lights died long ago, and we’ve had problems with two others– we’ve merely tolerated it thus far. But since the collapse of the remaining, I am out of lamps!

Also, a new development has arisen in which I discovered a live wire hanging from the Living Room ceiling. Lord knows how long it was there, encased in the plaster and lathe until I uncovered it. It is the old knob-and tube wiring from the early 1900s, just buzzing away freely.

bad wire

I discovered it when I scoped the area using a nifty new volt tester (they make a sound when they pick up energy).

The Lord is looking out for us, no doubt about it. This dangling wire is right under my daughter’s bed.

This wire is somehow connected to the same circuit as the other half of the house– the half I thought I wouldn’t have to rewire… but now looks like I must. Sigh. The only way to disconnect it (that I know of, so far) is to turn off that circuit. The wire goes willy-nilly around the Living Room ceiling and then disappears into the murky abyss between the floors and behind the stairwell. This tenuous system of aged electricity is falling down around me. Oh well. It is high time we redid it. One hundred years is long enough, wouldn’t you say?

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Progress Report on Electrical

August 6, 2007

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I had a handyman from Little Falls visit on Saturday. It is comforting to know that he is just as baffled as I about the electricity in the house. He couldn’t make heads nor tails of it, either. We did a little chasing of some wires. It looks like some junction boxes have two circuits going into them. I’d shut off a breaker to a circuit, and one or two wires were still buzzing away.

Today I am going to be a very brave girl and wander around the cellulose-filled attic for a while. I have to wire for some ceiling lights. The dust and intense heat are almost unbearable up there. Tomorrow the weather will turn humid, so I have only today to do this. No fun.

We’ve decided to wait on rewiring the Kitchen, Upstairs Bath, and other places. Basically, all the rest of the house needs to be rewired, but I have to get this Living Room completed before school begins for the kids. I really doubt I can handle a whole-house rewiring project with winter coming in a few months. We’ll pick it up in the spring. But right now, at least, two rooms will be completely wired by winter. I’m also going to wire the stairway and the Dining Room, which have very bad wiring and make me nervous. I shut off the circuits to these rooms when we are away or asleep– it’s that bad.

On another note, I’ve noticed that our basement is receiving water again. Not from the sump well, which has been at its lowest for the first time in years! (we’ve had very little rain this summer). Strangely, the water is coming in through the foundation from the front of the house, a place where we’ve never had water problems before. My parging is flaking off the walls, and pools of water are forming… oddly enough, this water forms directly under our circuit breaker panel, where I must work. Hm. I am hoping this mysterious occurrence goes away, so I don’t have to dig down and install perforated pipe here…

But my attentions must be on the electrical right now,and that is looking good. We are making progress! And thanks to folks who have graciously donated advice, money, and time! God bless you!

Update on the Update:

I spent six hours wandering around the attic. Found out its not insulated with cellulose– it’s “rock wool.” Yuk.

Anyway, there are a LOT of wires buried under a foot of rock wool! We tried chasing them down, but I just cannot tell what feeds into what. The electrical was probably OK for it time, but it is impossible to do anything with wires and junction boxes buried under tons of blown in rock wool. Wow. Forget it, there is no reconciling this disaster of old wiring. Why should I go crazy with frustration trying to figure out someone else’s crazy wiring jobs, especially when I have to try to bring them up to code? I am going to rewire. I’m going to do it right. We are going to have to make do with a lamp in the Kitchen and Upstairs Bath until I get this rewired.

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