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Patching… and PATCHING Thx to Buy.com

August 4, 2010

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We’re STILL installing Sheetrock. Ugh. Patch patch patch. I wish it was as easy as tacking up panels, like you do in modern homes. But as any homeowner of an old (renovated) house realizes– nothing is straight in an old house. Besides the centuries of settling and movement of the structure, there’s the inherent crookedness of old plaster and lathe walls and ceilings. Back in the olden days, the builders didn’t need to make anything straight. The plaster was applied as the final building coat, and that’s all that needed to be straight (somewhat). So, it’s a big challenge to install Sheetrock. It requires a lot of measuring, a lot of cutting, and a lot of patching. Thank God for crown molding!!!

The other kind of patching I’ll be doing is with a patch panel, Ethernet switch, and router. I am transitioning the computer Internet away from wireless, and working toward an all-wire, built-in system. I have the router and the switch (I got a good deal on a Netgear 16-port at Buy.com last month). All I need is a patch panel. Found a phenomenal deal (once again) at Buy.com. It’s the Tripp Lite 12-port shielded patch panel (shielded cables and panels help eliminate electrical interference). Looks sweet.

Basically, to install an Ethernet control station, you wire Ethernet cabling from the control station to all the various branches throughout the house. The wires in the control station connect to the patch panel. The patch panel has Ethernet RJ-45 jacks, as you can see in the picture. Those jacks receive Ethernet cables, and the other end of the Ethernet cables go to the switch. The switch is connected to the router, which is connected to the telephone system, which is coming from the telephone company. It’s similar to electrical wiring system, in that you have a “service entrance” that enters a service panel, and from there all the various connections branch out throughout the house. I think the most difficult part, next to wiring the cables through the studs and etc, is punching down all the little Cat5 wires into the slots. It’s rather laborious.

Anyway, Buy.com has made it pretty easy for me. They sell everything I need, from the equipment to the supplies like Cat5 cables, punch down tools, Ethernet cables, and more.

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We Passed the Electrical Inspection!!

July 6, 2010

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Woooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!! Look at this!!

PassedElect Inspect

That is my official sticker, dear friends! The electrical inspector was here today, and he put that on my door. That sticker tells the world– the UPS man, the pizza delivery boy, the traveling salesman– that I have passed the first INSPECTION!! We did it!!

I crammed to finish the remainder of the wiring today, in the midst of the worst heat wave since 2001. Phew, it’s hot. Thank God it’s deliciously cool in the basement. πŸ™‚

So the inspector was able to pop in today. I’m suuuure he was very, very impressed with my beautiful electrical schematic of my kitchen.

ElectricalSChematic

He paid me a really, really nice compliment: “Everything looks really well done.” Yay! That is thanks to a couple of helpers who have worked on this project a LOT this summer.

The electrical inspector gave me an assignment, though. We have to install furring strips on the basement ceiling joists and staple the electrical cables to those. That won’t be too bad a project, actually. When we have done the furring strips, and have put up the walls and have installed all the electrical outlets and lights, he will come back to inspect again; and I get my certificate.

So now we are ready for Stage 2 in this project The Greatest Kitchen Renovation of All Time: I get to insulate the walls (get that inspected), install the outlet receptacles and fixtures, finish the plumbing, and PUT UP THE SHEETROCK!! Stage 3 is installing cabinets, countertops, and flooring. And then it will be done. *collapse*

Livvy is taking it easy in this heat. Look at her adorable face. I think I’m going to celebrate and put my feet up for an hour. Whew.

LivvyConkedOut

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Working in the Attic

June 24, 2010

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It actually wasn’t so horrible this time. πŸ˜€ Some folks must be praying for me!

The weather was nice– a bit cool, breezy, and overcast– perfect weather for a latte at the cafe… or a pedicure… …. orrrr….. WORKING IN THE MOLDY, DUSTY, DARK ATTIC. This is what greets me when I pop my head into the small 3-foot wide attic hatch:

Attic1

Attic2

It is for this reason that I will NEVER NEVER NEVER use blown-in insulation. This house is SOOOOO dusty. Who is the knucklehead who came up with the idea of filling a home’s cavities with DUST for insulation?! Egads.

Attic3

That is the original knob and tube wiring resting in peace there. The wiring must have been installed sometime in the 1920s or 1930s… and the insulation (I assume) went in sometime in the 1970s or 1990s. It is against codes to insulate around the old knob and tube wiring. There is the danger of wires overheating, and thus a fire hazard. Plus, the old wires are not grounded at all. I am glad to be rid of them.

You can see the handiwork of an 1855 attic, eh? I took lots of photos, because if I ever get curious about what the attic looks like, and I get it in my stupid head to go up and see, all I have to do is look at these photos to remind myself.

Attic4

Today, I ran some wiring for my son’s bedroom ceiling light, the hallway ceiling light (unfortunately, I won’t be able to wire a light until next year when we gut the upstairs. But I thought I’d throw in some wiring while I’m up here), and the feed line coming from the service panel, two floors down. A junction box handily holds all the wires for me.

Attic5

Attic6

I was exhausted after the job. Tomorrow, I wire the light and the two outlets for my son’s room, and feed it to a junction box in the basement, which will be connected to the service panel. Then, this room will finally have electricity for the first time in three years. AND he’ll have a ceiling light that WORKS, something he has never had since we moved here.

The attic work is not yet finished, though. Besides the hallway light situation reserved for next year, The Hubs has to go up here this week– we need to electrify the bathroom ventilation fan again (I couldn’t get to it when I was up there). It hasn’t worked for three years, and mold grows on the bathroom walls because of the intense moisture. I haven’t broken the news to him, yet… 😐

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Wiring the Upstairs From the Downstairs

June 12, 2010

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I worked on a small project Friday. Well, it was a BIG project– lots of sawing, drilling holes, running up and down stairs and ladders… all for three outlets in the upstairs bedroom. :-p But it’ll be worth it. I’m finally getting electricity in this house! Hopefully by autumn, the entire house will be completely wired.

So here’s a small pictorial story of how it goes.

First, I have to meticulously run the wiring, from the basement through the first floor and up to the second floor. Because the second floor walls are closed (and have the lathe and plaster), I have to measure the first floor studs to locate every wall cavity, then measure the upstairs wall to match the cavity exactly. I then drill holes and run the cable. Lots of work for every measly outlet.

Wiring 1

I break through the plaster. Dirty and messy. Some holes are larger than others, because I may find some extra wood in the way, or I need to enlarge the hole for whatever reason. Today, my holes were pretty small. Yay!

Wiring 2

Saw through the lathe. Install the new work box, and run the first cable through. Lots of running up and down stairs and up and down the ladder to perfectly situate the cable, staple it to the wood, and run another cable in.

Wiring 3

My work place. I take my yellow caddy with me wherever I go. πŸ™‚

Wiring 4

I strip the wires and make little loops on the ends. This is the end of the line of outlets for this circuit, so I only have one cable to work on here.

Wiring 5

Here’s a middle-of-the-run outlet section; notice it has a lot more wiring (one for the feed, one for the outlet here, one leading to the next outlet in the circuit). I attach pigtail wires that attach to other wires in the box, to continue the circuit along a run of outlets. As a general rule, I always wrap the ends with electrical tape, to prevent arcing. I don’t expect arcing, but it’s just another little thing to do for safety’s sake.

Wiring 6

I attach the pigtail wires to the cable wires in the work box using some fancy new devices, called “push-in connectors.” I like them because I don’t have to mess around with twisting three groups of three wires each and then capping each group with a huge wire nut (I find it hard to twist the wires neatly, and I find it very hard to cram all the wire nuts in the box). These pigtail connectors are really handy.

Wiring 7

Finally, I ram all the wires in the box. My least favorite chore of the job. πŸ™ I have small, sensitive fingers, and find it difficult and painful to push the wires in. It’s a tough job for me.

Wiring 8

Forgive me, I didn’t snap an end photo of the outlet in the box! Maybe next time. πŸ˜‰

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Patchwork and More Framing

June 7, 2010

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One of the most beautiful sights in the world:

Its Level

Sunday was another big work day. We finished the rough framing for my 48-inch by 60-inch window, WOOOOO!!! Next week, we’ll remove the siding and install the window. I’m really looking forward to that.

Rough Framing Window

I’d ripped out must of the old wood from this opening. It was all just nailed chunks of bits and pieces, and was in my way. I do try to reuse the old wood, but in many cases it is either so brittle or rock-hard, because it’s *only* 155 years old, ya know. All I could use for the window was one 6 x 6 beam, in the center. This has got to be one of the best-supported window frames EVAH. We joked that if a tornado ever hit the area, this framing would still be standing. It’s immovable. AND it’s level, AND the rough opening is EXACTLY 48-inches by 60-inches, just as the window manufacturer instructions state. I went the extra mile to constantly check things again and again.

Window Rough Framing

In the evening, after cleanup, we allow Livvy to come down and inspect the work.

The Hubs moved the sink away from the wall under the window, and reconnected plumbing. It was his first experience with PEX, and it went pretty well. He needed me to hold the clamps down over the PEX tubing, however, because the PEX crimper requires two hands to use. Someday those PEX guys MUST make a tool that requires just one hand. I hope I don’t have to follow Hubs all around while he makes PEX connections… :S

LIvvy Inspection

She likes her new “door” to the living room.

Vent opening w Livvy

The electric is going well, too. We FINALLY have lights and electricity in the basement, complete with a switch!

Light Switch

One of the biggest conundrums is trying to remember what all this old and newer wiring goes to…. I know I put it in there for a reason, three years ago… ugh! Most of my week will be spent unraveling the mystery of the wiring. When I finished the living room in 2007, I added some wiring for the other rooms, before I closed up the walls to the living room. Problem is, I now don’t remember where the wires run. I’d written it all down at the time, but we cannot find the notebook. πŸ™ Ugh ugh ugh. That’s one of the foibles of piecework and patchwork in an old home.

Crazy Wiring

This week I have to finish building out the walls in the dining room to accommodate for the electrical wires (the code requires certain clearance from the wall). And I hope to get some outlets working in the upstairs bedrooms.

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Back to School for Me

April 2, 2010

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It’s hard to believe that I haven’t worked on this house (in a major way) for three years! I wish I hadn’t waited so long to pick it back up again; I’ve forgotten a lot of what I knew about electrical wiring.

So I’m repeating this year what I did for that summer of ’07: pouring through various wiring books, learning about codes and how to wire the house. I managed to wire about half the house in 2007; we’ve been without electricity for the other half all this time. Ever since I opened the walls and saw the horrible mess of 1930-era knobs and tubes, I’ve been too afraid to turn the electric back on, not until I can replace the entire system. So my home is still a mish-mash of new, old, and intermediate wiring, not to mention a LOT of extension cords everywhere. :-p

Anyway, I went to the library and checked out half their stacks, lol.

Kitchplan1

The best books have lots of diagrams and have information on codes in basic, simple lists.

Kitchplan2

I have also got the floor plans made out.

Kitchplan3

I have yet to map out the electrical schematics, and the plumbing schematic. I dread the plumber’s bills. The entire plumbing system must be replaced… it will cost a pretty penny. I am apprehensive about the condition of the pipes, especially that nasty black cast iron sewage pipe in the basement. It’s turning orange, which means it’s rusting. I do NOT want to be around when that thing breaks apart, uh uh. Talk about toxic waste!

Anyway, I’d better get cracking on this stuff. I figure I’ll start demolition after I plant the vegetable garden, sometime in late April/early May. I am itching to start pulling down plaster, but I have to box and pack away ALL my stuff including my books and computers, cover my heater vents, move the animals to the upstairs, hang plastic in doorways…. there’s a lot to do.

I can’t wait til it’s all over.

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You Can Do It, Yes, You Can!

March 22, 2010

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In my recent post about my new textbook, Lin from duckandwheelwithstring.blogspot.com asked a question in her usual elegant and poised manner:

Head gonna ’splode. Are you seriously gonna do that yourself??? Wow.

Hee hee!

I thought I’d post my response here (rather then have it buried in the comments), because I realized that a few of you “newer” readers did not go through the excruciatingly crazy time when we gutted our living room, in the summer of 2007. It was SUPPOSED to be a simple tear-down-the-walls-and-slap-news-ones-up-again job.. but my house is 150+ years old. I guess that kind of project never happens with old homes.

When I opened up the walls, I found a few surprises. One, noggin– noggin is brick, installed in the studs. We’ve no idea why the original builder did that; it was rare even back then. We suppose it was to help keep the house cool. And it does… both summer AND winter. :S

tn_more-noggin

I also found mouse-chewed wires, and quite a few bare wires. And a disastrous mess of mangled wires. Oh Lord, it was a disaster. Long ago, the previous owners ripped off the flooring to the second floor, installed wiring, and put the floors back on– basically encapsulating the wiring. And this is what it looked like, 70 years later when I opened it up.

Bad Knob Wiring 1

You can read more about the craziness if you click the links. I had no intentions of doing the wiring myself, but I couldn’t find an electrician who would do one room– well, I did finally get one quote, but he wanted $1500 for it. I decided to study at night and do it myself.

Electrician Shock
Why My Electricity Won’t Work
Things Looking Brighter
The worst part was going into The Attic [insert creepy organ music]
It was a very frustrating job at times.
I also installed Cat5 ethernet wiring for the living room.

ALL MY WORK PASSED Codes Inspection! I was so happy.

tn_cb-panel

Besides the living room, I installed wiring in my daughters’ bedroom above, light switches for two bedrooms upstairs, and separate outlets for the washing machine and sump pump. However, half the house still has no electricity. After seeing the condition of the living room wiring, I was too terrified to turn the rest of the old wiring back on. I disconnected everything I could. It’s been almost three years, and I’m hoping praying I can get electricity into the kitchen, dining room, stairwell, and upper bedrooms very soon. This year, we’re tackling the kitchen. The dining room and bedrooms will have to wait, unless a miracle happens.

This is our living room. ALL MODERN wiring!!!

lr-today

You can read more about the House History and Our History here and all about Our Story of renovations up to now. After the massive 2007 renovation, which was the largest project we’ve ever accomplished yet here, I got a job blogging, and life just got hectic. I haven’t done anything else besides garden work around here. I’m praying the kitchen will be accomplished this year because it’s almost unlivable now. Please keep us in your prayers! I’m a little older now (40s) and rather out of shape because of my desk jobs for the past three years. I’m a little apprehensive about the physical labor involved. But God willing, it can be done. πŸ˜€ Thanks for reading.

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My New Textbook

March 22, 2010

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Here it is, came in the mail today:

newbk1

It’s not a thoroughly extensive book for wiring, but it addresses the basics. Plus, there is some very good information on wiring ethernet and other digital stuff throughout the home. I am definitely going to wire for ethernet throughout the house. Eventually, I’ll set up a small control panel in a special cabinet in the kitchen. It will look like a typical matching cabinet, but it will actually be a small service panel, disguised. I like to make the kitchen the “central” place.

Back to the book: diagrams like this as in the photo below are helpful, too. My next goal is to create a schematic. It is important to map out all the wiring and lighting fixtures, so that I can keep track of the circuits and make sure one circuit does not have too great a load.

newbk2

So I’m preeeeeettty busy these days! More to come.

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Staying Ahead of the Curve: Networking the Home

December 4, 2009

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I am finding technology extremely difficult to stay on top of. I’m in the process of planning a centralized networking system for the home- we have problems with Internet wireless here- and I prefer to use ethernet cabling as much as possible. This means wiring the entire house with it. I’m slowly learning how to create a central networking hub where I can manage all connections from one station (preferably a built-in closet downstairs) and from one router (or an additional hub). But just when I think I’ve got a handle on the latest and easiest techniques and tools, technology changes everything all over again! I guess I am going to have to draw the line somewhere…

…but it is so neat to explore the possibilities! I’m checking out something called “POE” which is “Power Over Ethernet.” The technology is amazing. Basically, POE allows you to connect to ethernet Internet through the power system in your home. There are adapters that allow this.

And then there’s more! Buy.com has a bunch of equipment with informative videos about POE devices. The latest one, the D-Link DWL-P200 Power over Ethernet Power Injector, allows even more flexibility. Let’s say you want to create an access point from a room that has no electricity (hello, that’s us) or has no electrical outlet where you want to have your access point (such as, a ceiling or wall with no outlet). This handy dandy little gadget connects via network cable, providing power for an access point AND the connection power to create your own little Local Area Network.

I don’t know about you, but I find all this stuff both fascinating, complicated, and a little overwhelming! I think it’s great that Buy.com has the equipment AND some excellent videos that explain the products. The D-Link POE Power Injector is very affordable, too– only $38 with free shipping. That’s dirt cheap! Buy.com has loads and loads of things on sale, and not just in networking equipment. They have much more for the electronics geek! πŸ˜€ I love Buy.com. They have excellent customer service, speedy (and oftentimes, free) shipping, and their prices are amazing. The selection grows and grows more all the time. I am definitely going to Buy.com for all our networking needs– plus they have electrical supplies and equipment, too. Not to mention stuff like cookware, apparel, housewares, tools, books, computers, and more.

I’m not quite sure I’ll choose the POE system. It could definitely be useful for places such as an exterior patio or porch, or in place where I don’t have adequate outlets. But I still like the idea of a centralized wired system via cabling. Still… I may get one of those POE gadgets just to try it out, though. πŸ™‚ And it may cure our wireless problems upstairs until I can gut the rooms and add more wiring!

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Protecting Against Power Surges

October 21, 2009

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Well, winters storms are only a few weeks away, and that usually means power outages. Sudden power outages, and power surges, can cause terrible damage to electronics. I have a very high-power (and expensive) computer and monitor that I use for my business. Earlier this year, we had a severe sudden power outage with power surge, and all my computers went ZZZAPPP. Thank God, I had the computers plugged into power strips with surge protectors, but being without Internet service and my computer for several hours was tough! And the sudden shutdown of the computers with a power outage is not good for them.

I bought an uninterruptible power supply battery backup system to protect my computer unit and DSL router and to provide power during outages. Wow! What a difference! We’ve since had several outages, and the APC has performed really well.

The battery backups don’t power your electronics very long, though. I have my router, behemoth computer, and 23″ screen monitor (a big power sucker it is) and am able to have about 15 minutes of battery power until I have to shut things down. Of course, if I didn’t use my big computer and used, say, my laptop on its own battery, the APC unit will last much longer. But the APC gives me enough time to finish up what I am doing and shutdown my computer properly during outages. If you have expensive electronics that you want to protect, check these things out, they are very nice to have! I don’t think they are terribly expensive, especially if you can get one on sale. They are certainly less expensive than a new computer or computer repair!

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