Archive | September, 2007

R & R

September 21, 2007

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We’ve been so busy all summer that this autumn comes with burnout. So we took a much-needed break and made a day of it. We didn’t get to go camping this year, but at least we got to explore a natural environment for a day. No cars, no trucks, no motorcycles, no screaming neighbors! Just some screaming eagles!

So, my energy is slowing building up again. I am not quite ready to jump into more projects yet. I must have strained my shoulder tendon or something (my knee is better) and it is hard to lift a drill or swing a hammer. My husband asked me to make him a “honey do” list for next week and we will tackle some loose ends together. I am much relieved by this! My electrical projects will have to wait until school is out in the spring. I want to wire things up correctly, and it will need my full attention. Plus, I am going to have to be taking some walls and ceilings down– too large a project while I am juggling schooling at the same time. I am relieved by this, too. We’ll just have to endure the disorganization a little while longer. It will also give me more time to plan. Here’s hoping I can build a new kitchen next year!

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The Grasshopper and the Ant

September 19, 2007

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There was a short story read to me in school as a kid, that I remember from time to time, particularly at the change of seasons here in NY. When summer’s languid heat begins to fade and autumn’s crispy winds begin to blow, I very often remember the story. It is Aesop’s fable,The Grasshopper and the Ant.

The Ant works hard in the heat all summer long, building his house and laying up supplies for the winter. The Grasshopper thinks he’s a fool and laughs and dances and plays the summer away.

Come winter, the Ant is warm and well fed. The Grasshopper has no food or shelter so he either dies out in the cold, or [in various renditions of the story] begs and receives humiliating charity from the ant he teased.

Even as a kid, I was always a bit of an Energizer Bunny. I always found projects to work on. I also sometimes grew uneasy at winter’s approach, as if I wouldn’t be sufficiently ready for this hibernating season of shorter days, central heating, processed foods, and round-the-clock indoor living. I am feeling a little like this these days.

Many of my projects are still undone. I have electrical wire hanging out from holes, waiting to be connected or extensions to be fished through walls. My French door– the only buffer between the very cold Front Entry and the Living Room– is off it’s frame and waiting to be hung again. The kids are still in their summer clothes, and have their lists of clothing needs. Plus, I don’t even have my thermostat installed yet!

Worse, my energy seems to have dissipated, of late. I’ve been a little under the weather, and I strained my shoulder and knee. I’m hoping this is just a momentary lapse, that soon I will be back in action to batten down the hatches before the snow starts flying!

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I Can’t Figure It Out

September 13, 2007

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The electricity in this house continues to drive me crazy! I just can’t figure it out.

Half the electricity in the house is still out. I have been very slowly redoing what I can. But we still have only a cobbed-together kitchen light with two outlets. We are still without lights in the Front Entry, the Dining Room, the Laundry Room, the Breakfast Room, the upstairs Hallway, the upstairs Bathroom, and one of the bedrooms that we call the “Spare Oom.” So far, the only new circuitry I have put in are the Living Room, the girls’ Bedroom, the Master Bedroom, and the boys’ bedroom.

For the sake of brevity, I shall quickly explain my goal: in order to get lights for our Dining Room, I have to do the Front Entry first. And in order to do the Front Entry, I have to do the Upstairs Hallway. The switches I want for these rooms are all near each other, and the holes in the plaster walls are all open to accomodate the new lines.

So, I decide today that I am going to put a switched light in our upstairs Hallway. I remove the old fixture and test the wires (as I always do) to make sure there is absolutely no voltage surging through the wires. I am devastated to discover a mass of tangled wires behind the fixture, and some wires are still live. ??? Wha? I had shut off and removed this circuit a month ago. It should have no voltage!!

I suspect that the original installers used lighting fixtures as extra junction boxes. I am no master of electricity, so I don’t even know if this is possible. But this one fixture has three cables attached to it… I completely disengaged the switches for this Hallway fixture long ago. They were on Circuit #18. This circuit is gone– removed from the service panel! So I open up the fixture and find energy… I try to see where this fixture wiring is getting its energy, and when I shut off Circuit #15– the kitchen light with two outlets–one wire from the fixture wiring goes dead (but the third cable still has power from another place). So… this Hallway light was originally being fed from two or three circuits??? (Circuits #18 and 15 and something else?) Can this be? Or could the switches have been on one circuit and the light fixture on another circuit?

Whatever the case, I have absolutely no control over the old electric in this house, and it makes me terribly jittery. How can I disengage a fixture’s wiring if I don’t know where it is coming from and to where the electricity continues? (we have found junction boxes in the walls and ceilings and this kind of circuitry may be no different). And what if I disengage it anyway only to discover that I have disconnected a connection that makes the meager remainder of the house electrified (as what happened with my mouse-chewed wire)? It seems that the electric in this house is not in “sections” as is standard practice now (a feed cable running from the service panel out to sections of the house), but rather is in a loop (a “feed” wire running through all sorts of places, electrifying anything and everything it goes through, and then back to all sorts of other places in a “neutral” loop. It is crazy and how can I replace this kind of wiring without losing everything beyond it in the looped circuit???

Since I can’t afford to lose the small amount of electricity I have left in the Kitchen, I have chosen to leave everything alone until I can redo the wiring in one big sweep. And that means tearing down ceilings and some walls.


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Moving In

September 12, 2007


The laminate floor is installed. Of course, there are small spots and some touch-ups to do yet (install t-moulding, threshholds, etc). But the bulk of the floor is done! So, we moved in our furniture and unpacked our books. The room hasn’t been this clean in three months.

Those little blocks all around the room are laminate flooring spacers. Laminate floor is a “floating floor,” which means it sits– all interlocked together– on the subfloor but not attached to it. It is important to leave spaces all around the perimeter of the room. The laminate expands and contracts with changes in temperature and humidity. If it does not have sufficient space to do so, the laminate will buckle.

I love the look of laminate. Walking on laminate is a luxurious experience, too– it is cushiony, since it sits on a foam underlayment. It is amazing to clean, too.

However, laminate scratches easily. Already I have found a few scratches, even though we have been very, very careful with furniture moving. I will have to invest in a laminate repair kit. We do intend to lay an area rug down. I also have to sew curtains (we are using old miniblinds right now, yuk).

There is no baseboard or window trim yet. I have to redo door jambs on the two doors first, then I will install the trim, a little at a time.

So there are a lot of loose ends! But it is wonderful to have my Living Room back. It is wonderful to have an organized desk with my printer and my pencils back. My ethernet cabling works fine, too. What a relief! Since installing that was so easy, I may install it in other rooms as well (when we get to them).

I am exhausted! The weeks of intense activity have tuckered me out! So we are taking a break from work today, before I continue with moulding installation and more rewiring (we are still without electricity in the upstairs Bathroom, the Hallway, and the Laundry Room).

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Duct and Cover

September 8, 2007


AT LAST! I have my furnace ducting finished. It has been a long job– took weeks– but it is complete. It took so long to complete this because the ducts are so integrated with the room (walls and floor). I now have three heat vents and one cold air return. I should actually have another cold air return, but I am going to wait on it until I remodel the accompanying room (when we finally remove the crumbling chimney).

I can’t even begin to explain how I did this job, it was so time-consuming and complicated. Cutting the metal with tin snips was the hardest part, I think. Also difficult was screwing in the sheet metal screws.

I do not consider my ductwork to be final. This is something I would truly like a professional to do. Working with metal, and that room by room, is enormously laborious. I had to do this room myself because the cost isn’t in the budget right now. I think I did a good enough job to last us a few years. By then I’ll probably hire my furnace guy to redo everything. Ductwork is pretty intense work. I have great respect for my furnace repairman.

I did not recycle as much of the old ducting as I wanted. This is mainly because the old ducting is 7-inch diameter. Modern measurements are 6- or 8-inch. I was in a real pickle, trying to make things match. I used a few adapters (6- to 7-inch) and I stuck with the flexible ducting. I suppose I could have bought all new 6-inch ductwork, but it would have cost a small fortune for this room.

Anyway, I think my adaptations are acceptable. I can rest easy that we are ready for winter now. The ducting is sealed good and tight. It is free from drafts and finally free from all those spiders making their nests in the holes.

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The Cat’s Out of the Bag

September 7, 2007


Today I finished wiring the telephone and ethernet jacks. It was a long, loopy process. Yesterday, I discovered that I had run out of POT wiring (Plain Old Telephone wiring– the typical old red, green, yellow, and black stuff) and attempted to just use a regular 25′ telephone cord with the heads chopped off. We’ve used it before and it has worked fine. But I couldn’t use this stuff. The strands of wiring inside the cord are thinner than hair, and they kept splintering and breaking. To top it off, our old phone terminal (the connection box where the service lines from the telephone company come in the basement and are attached) is old and has no cover. And it is a PAIN to use (if you want to add a new phone line, you have to disconnect all existing lines and hopefully reinstall them all wound around the bolt together). I tried to replace it with a NYNEX box the telephone repairman had used for an old business phone here (long ago). I couldn’t figure out how to use it! Arg! I was going beserk with frustration trying to “make do” with faulty stuff.

So I went to Home Depot to look for a new terminal and to get some POT. LOL, that sounds funny. Well, we searched high and low and could find no POT wiring. The guy there cut me some 18AWG speaker wire, thinking that would work. I got home and opened the wiring to discover that it is just too big and too cumbersome to try to run up through the openings.

Well, I did some heavy-duty research online and learned that the POT wiring is slowly being “sunsetted.” That is, it is not going to be on the store shelves very much anymore, because there is a new kid on the block: Category 3 wiring. Cat3, for short. I bought some and have found it to be a delight to work with. I did not find any phone terminal boxes, unfortunately. I actually can’t find them any anywhere. Weird. Do only phone companies provide them?

Well, since I already have my Living Room walls up, I had to fish this new telephone wiring through. It wasn’t too bad. I am used to fishing lines through walls around here. Let me say that it is sooooo much easier to fish wires through sheetrock walls!

I only had to fish one Cat3 wire through, even though I am going to have two telephone lines at this area. Cat3 has 6 wires in its sheath. You can see in the blurry photo below (sorry) that I wired two jacks with one cable. I am using orange and green for my POT “red”/”green” connection (with that old terminal) in the basement. (The terminal doesn’t care what color wire it gets, just as long as the wires makes a continous loop). For the other jack, I wired the Cat3 white/orange wire as my “red,” and the Cat3 blue as the “green.” The other two wires I tucked back. Maybe someday they will come in handy.

They say the quality is better using Cat3, too, since the wires are better insulated and twisted together to prevent interference on the phone line. Since I will be plugging my DSL modem into this telephone jack, I chose to make the line as good as possible to improve my DSL speed.

Category5 cables are used for ethernet lines. I wired an ethernet jack for all four walls in the Living Room, since this is where we homeschool and do office work. I have no fancy home network wiring panel… not yet anyway. I just rigged up the ethernet jacks to connect to the DSL modem that I will have at my “work station” (i.e., my desk). This is so that our computers can connect to the modem without having 100′ ethernet cables strung all over the floor and across walls.

Below are two shots of the ethernet wiring. You can see that the wires are color-coded. You just install the correct wires into the color-coded ethernet jacks (called RJ45). The jacks give you an option of using a wire pattern A or B. I chose A. The key is not which pattern is correct, but to pick a pattern and use it for everything. If you choose A for some and B for others, your network will not work.

After punching in those wires, I snipped the ends off and put on the little cover for the jack. It is amazingly easy. I hope it works! Since I have no modem in there yet, I can’t test the system. But it is an easy job, if a bit tedious. The colorful combinations keep it lively, however. šŸ˜‰

This is the finished project for the connections at the work station.

I left one blank for future use, if necessary. The top two jacks are RJ11– my two telephone lines. The remaining jacks are for ethernet. The DSL modem cables will plug into these. These jacks hold cables that run out under the room in a “star formation.” Our computers at the other ends of the room will plug into their corresponding jacks. They will be able to connect to our DSL modem through these wall jacks, rather than stringing cables all over the room. Eventually, it would be neat to build a whole home networking panel, but I am not interested in that right now. Gotta get the basics done around here, first!

P.S. If you are looking for a little help or just more info about telephone and data wiring, I found a few sites to be very helpful.

I think the hardest part for me was understanding how the system works. This is not hard, I just didn’t know how the system works! Once I figured that out, installing everything was very easy.

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Light and Laminate

September 5, 2007


I haven’t posted in so long because I’ve been hopping. The room is painted now! The ceiling is white, walls are beige. This new color scheme is a bit drab for me. I am usually painting walls and ceilings vibrant colors (my Dining Room is a brilliant ruby red, and the ceiling is wallpapered pink!). I opted for a more neutral, wood-tone friendly scheme this time. Plus, I was tired of dark green, which is what the Living Room walls were previously.

Eventually I will install crown moulding, but not for a while. Therefore, I put extra effort into making the ceiling and wall seam look nice and neat. I think I pulled it off.

The room is finally electrified! I was a little anxious about the electrical work, honestly. It was my first electrical job (I have since done several areas now) and I was nervous about it. I splurged and bought a chandelier, and it looks beautiful. Twin sconces balance the symmetry of the windows. The room is very bright and looks great.

Since we cannot refinish the floors (they had been pained with lead paint in eons past), we decided to cover them with a “floating floor”: laminate flooring. Home Depot was having a clearance on Traffic Master laminate, so I nabbed numerous boxes.

We’ve got the foam underlayment installed, and two courses of the flooring. It is a learning experience for us. Every cut and the placement of every plank must be carefully thought through before you begin sawing boards.

Before we set the underlayment down, we drew a few things on the boards, for posterity.

The whole family and other helpers have signed the studs, too. I also placed a newspaper in the studs as a little time capsule.

The room is coming together. I am hoping we can get the flooring in by the weekend, and I also must finish the furnace ducting and the telephone/internet wiring done. There are a lot of loose ends.

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