Please: Get Your Work Inspected

March 31, 2009

electrical, remuddling

One of my favorite blogs is Electrician’s Notes, and blogger Sparky has had some really good posts lately. He’s been showcasing some of the nightmares discovered in homes concerning their electrical wiring. I am closely associating with the posts (and photos), because my home is a nightmare, too!

My house was built in 1855, and has remained largely unrenovated since then. But there have been a few additions throughout the decades, one being electrical wiring installed in the 1930s. Believe it or not, until two years ago, 98% of my electrical system was running through those 80-year old, knob-and-tube wires. I had no idea how horrible the system was until 2006, when I completely gutted the living room. This is an example of one of the ugly blackheads I discovered when I pulled down the ceiling.

Bad Knob Wiring 3

Bad Knob Wiring 1

Close Up

Apparently, the previous owners had ripped up the floorboards on the second floor above, installed the wiring for most of the house in between those floor joists, and closed up the floor again with the old floor boards. (See how close some of the nails are to the wiring between the joists). The owners in the 1960s slathered the second floor flooring with glue and installed this disgusting-looking yellow lineoleum in the bedrooms, making it impossible to see the damage done.

So last year, when I pulled down the ceiling in the living room below, I found this massive wiring disaster: open wires, spliced wires connected ONLY with black electrical tape. A disaster. A lot of the “improvements” are disasters. The previous owners had insulated the attic floor in the 1980s, where more of this black-cloth knob-and-tube wiring was located (it’s against codes to insulate on top of this kind of wiring).

Actually, most of this house is completely against codes– not just the electric. The plumbing had no vent system, no u-traps or vent for the washing machine… no cold air return vents for the furnace…. fiberglass batting is stuffed in the kitchen cabinets to plug the gaping holes in the walls…. a true DISASTER. You can read some of my past posts about my venture into DIY electrical– what a harrowing ordeal! I have details here and here and here and here is my successful Inspection Day! I passed!

What blows my mind is that all this work was done without any inspection at all, obviously. I know the house is old, but… I’m stunned that all of this stuff was done without the homeowners consulting the codes and building inspectors.

I have had to disconnect a good deal of my electrical system– half the house– because after I saw the condition of the wiring and the way it was installed, I was absolutely terrified. So we are without electricity until I can gut the remainder of the rooms to wire them.

My plea to you homeowners is this: PLEASE get your work inspected. PLEASE resist the urge to slop something together just to “get it done,” and then seal up the walls. Do it the CORRECT way and the SAFE way– for your own sake, but also for the lives of the people who will live in the house after you.

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8 Responses to “Please: Get Your Work Inspected”

  1. Denford Says:

    You seem to have a large machete or panga in your living room ceiling.

    Have you checked the attic, or dug up the garden to see if there are any bodies there.

    Otherwise, what is that panga doing there, hidden in the ceiling? Or did you put it there yourself?

    Or am I imagining things…, that is a machete alright, the kind the Hutus used to hack away at Tutsis in Rwanda during the genocide?

    Come to think of it, do you come from Rwanda?

    ….seriously though, I love your blog, very very useful and the illustrations are a boon!!

    I will not attempting any of this, since my religion forbids me from doing any handiwork except when my life is under threat.

    • Mrs. Mecomber Says:

      Ha ha! Denford, you are funny! Hm.. I don’t see any machete or panga! I almost wish I had found something like that, I could sell such a treasure to fund my renovations! A religion that forbids handiwork? If only the previous owners of my house had practiced that ritual!

  2. Denford Says:

    Mrs Mecomber, but what is that in the first picture, on the left hand side as you look at the picture, next to the two white round things that are close together.

    Looks like a panga to me.

    • Mrs. Mecomber Says:

      Hm, Denford, I’m not seeing it. Firstly, which picture– the 1st, 2nd, or 3rd? As I do not know what a panga looks like, I am not 100% sure what I am looking for. In the first picture, I see something long and gray, to the left right below the floor boards. If this is what you refer to, that is a long piece of very old wood, serving as a floor shim. Perhaps the floorboards were warped, and the builder of the house put in an extra piece of wood there, to keep the floor boards from bouncing.

      Let me know if this answers your question. I am very curious about what you see in the photo! But rest assured, we founf no weapons of any sort, not even any newspapers. šŸ™‚

  3. Karen, author of "My Funny Dad, Harry" Says:

    My dad decided to switch from the fuses and that old bype of wiring shortly before he died but never got to it so after he died, I went ahead and did it. I really had no choice because the insurance company said I had to have it replaced or they wouldn’t insure the house! It was pretty scary some of the things the electrician found–including some bare wires!

    • Mrs. Mecomber Says:

      Karen, did you wire it yourself?! šŸ˜€ I did– I learned practically overnight how to do it. It would be so cool to find another lady who did it, too! It was quite an accomplishment. I just have to finish the rest of the house… *sigh*

      My house was like yours when we bought the place– it was a fuse box with two small fuses. We had to update the service panel to a 220 by law, in order to buy the house. (We hired out for this job). The electrician was astonished that the house had not gone up in flames before this time- one of the fuses was blackened and smoky. The wiring is THAT bad here. So, I heartily sympathize with you!

  4. Denford Says:

    Oh yeah, I think it is the floor shim thing. You see, I thought these were pictures of your ceiling!!

    Then again, I only learnt English by studying those Instruction Manuals that come with Japanese DVD players and televisions.

    So, if that is a shim, you’re alright then, I will keep dropping by.

  5. Rebecca Says:

    So glad you decided to do without electric in the parts of your home that haven’t been replaced. That’s exactly the same kind of wires that burnt down my parents farm nearly 20 years ago. They were replacing the wiring but it was getting close to Christmas so they decided to put off the last room until after the holidays. Unfortunately that was the room that burnt the place down. It took four days for the old place to stop smoldering. Thousands of heirlooms and antiques were lost and my mother was devastated for nearly a year after.