I’m Crying, I’m Screaming

July 10, 2008


I promised myself (and my daughter) that I wouldn’t get frustrated working on the electric today. Unfortunately, I broke that promise. But I remained relatively calm and nothing was broken! The “electric” in this house is a NIGHTMARE. I cannot possibly express how horrifying and frustrating it is. The wiring is well over 80 years old, and is a mish-mash of the most retarded work I have ever seen in anything.

It is completely chaotic, there are circuits going everywhere and anywhere, sometimes even doubling up. I’ll switch off a circuit, thinking that all wiring is de-energized, but lo and behold, mystery wires are still energized.

Take, for example, my kitchen lighting and outlet receptacles. This kitchen light and the receptacles are powered by Circuit #17. There are two receptacles (yes, just two for our entire kitchen) and a light fixture with two switches. One switch is at one doorway, the other switch is at the other doorway.

So I go to turn off Circuit #17 in the basement. Both receptacles and the light fixture and a switch are off. But guess what? One of the light switches is still on! That switch is connected to Circuit #14 (which powers one-third of the rest of the house on that one circuit). I’m no expert with electrical systems, but I know the basics. Please tell me HOW a kitchen light switch on Circuit #14 can switch off a light fixture that’s on Circuit #17? There are two circuits at work with this switch??

I am so frustrated I could sell this house RIGHT NOW. And this was only just ONE of my frustrating problems today– and it was the easiest! I’ve been wallowing around in The Dreaded Attic [insert creepy organ music] for a while. trying to figure out how some old wiring that has been sealed up and disconnected is showing up as energized on a brand-new circuit I built (and I never connected any of this old stuff to it?). I’m at wit’s end. Oh Lord help!

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12 Responses to “I’m Crying, I’m Screaming”

  1. chilly Says:

    Oh wow! I wouldn’t wish the job of wiring on anybody! LOL!

    I remember remodeling the house before the one I have now. I rewired the whole house plus ran cable, phone and speaker wire though out every room and basement. I was never so happy as to be finished with that job! Best of luck to you with it! šŸ™‚

    Hi There! Hope all is great with you! (ummm, other than the wiring job) šŸ˜‰

  2. fwaggle Says:

    we have a 125 year old house in indiana, and had about the same experience. the best part was once i had it all working again, we plugged a heater in and popped a wire somewhere, which took out roughly 50% of the outlets in the house. not half the house, the entire house lost 50% of it’s outlets.

    we decided to say “screw this”. we bought a new breaker box, some heavy gauge wire to jumper from the input of the old fuse box to the input of the new breaker box (you may have to have your utility company yank the meter while you do this), and started running new electrical from scratch.

    it’s 100% worth it. the less time you spend messing with old wiring, the more sanity you’ll retain.

    draw a plan of what you think needs to go where, how many breakers you’ll need, then run the essential wiring to get as much stuff on the new wiring as you can. eg, run the main “trunk” of each circuit to it’s first outlet, you can then switch off each circuit and run the subsequent outlets later, where you can be sure the power’s off.

    i hope you keep your sanity, and just keep telling yourself it’ll be worth it in the end. šŸ˜€

  3. Wayne Says:

    There are several scenarios why this could be happening. Here are just a couple:

    1. You may be getting a back feed from a bad lighting circuit, electric heater or motor.
    2. There could be a problem with the neutral wire.

    What kind of voltage tester are you using? I highly recommend using some type of a meter verses a neon tester, “hot stick/pen tester” or solenoid tester.

    By using a meter, you can determine if you have 115 – 125 volts on the circuit or only partial voltage. Using a neon tester, “hot stick/pen tester” or solenoid tester will typically give you the same results with 125 volts as it will with 5 volts. However, knowing you only have 5 volts on the circuit helps shed more light on the problem.

    When troubleshooting electricity, one of the first things you need to know is voltage readings. To determine this, you definitely need a decent voltage meter. You can typically pick up a decent voltage meter at any home improvement store or Radio Shack for under $20.00.

    The picture of this light fixture and junction boxes really scares me as well. All electrical splices need to be enclosed in a 2 hour fire rated box and covered. This will prevent any loose connections from starting a fire. I highly recommend getting all of those wire terminations into a 2 hour fire rated junction box and covered. You may need to add a junction box or 2 to get everything into a box and safe.

  4. mommyandmeboutique Says:

    Wow….that is about all I can say is wow! This is quite a challenge. But, somehow, I think you will be able to carry it out. I wish you the best of success!

  5. CondoBlues Says:

    Oh man, I feel your pain. I really hate starting a “very quick and easy DIY project” just to have it become a much more complicated job. That happens to me quite a bit and I have a newly built condo. the only positive is that it gave me the idea to name by decorating and DIY blog Condo Blues. šŸ™‚

  6. Mrs. M Says:

    Thanks for your support, guys. I’m back to breathing normally. I wish I wish I wish I could rip out all these walls and do it MY way and start from scratch. It is impossible to patch it up or work over someone’s shoddy work.

    Wayne, you have been a real friend for me with this. Thanks for your advice. šŸ™‚ I’m taking your advice to heart and will do it.

    Chilly, I actually like electrical wiring. Of course, I’d rather me dropping Entrecards or something, but if I had to choose a job for remodeling, it’d be wiring. I just HATE having the plaster and lathe still existing. I won’t do any electrical if I have to fish the wiring through the plaster walls. Impossible. So, half the electric in the house is shut off permanently until we can gut the rooms.

    Fwaggle, wow, I hear ya!

    Condo Blues, I wondered where you got your name– that’s funny! šŸ˜€ Well, kinda. šŸ˜ I am plagued with the same thing.

  7. Kathy@brazoscowgirl Says:

    I wish I could loan you my electrician, he is cheap and great at deciphering the weirdest wirings. Our house doesn’t have ground wires, I truly get your frustration. If you use the microwave when the frig is cycling and the light is on you will flip the breaker! I need him to move some of that stuff around for me. He can tell what is scary and what just looks scary! I hate trying to figure it all out!

  8. haleyhughes Says:

    That photo is truly frightening. I think what makes the photo especially frightening to me, is that I live in Illinois where all electrical wires have to be run though conduit pipes, so it always startles me to see electrical wire outside of conduit, even when it has that thick protective coating.

  9. Mrs. M Says:

    I know, I know! It’s a real nightmare!

    It was this way when we bought the place– I cannot believe this got past inspectors (or maybe they didn’t look, or maybe the people before us never got an inspector). This mess was all covered up by a decrepit drop ceiling, so maybe that’s why they got away with it.

    But I’ve run out of money to fix it.

    Anyone want to donate??? šŸ˜€

  10. Indonesia Travel Says:

    its happened to me too, sometime i get frustated too doing DIY project something at home, fixing this fixing that, and the hard part is electric job, and plumbing šŸ™ . good luck.

  11. orgarfgrerak Says:

    Thanks for the post


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