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The Cat’s Out of the Bag

September 7, 2007

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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. ;)

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.

http://www.expertvillage.com/videos/materials-install-phone-jack.htm

http://www.swhowto.com/index.htm

http://www.telephonesystems.com/services/wire_phone_jack.cfm

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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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

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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

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

Attic with Flash

yuk.

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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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Procrastination

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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Updates:

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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Why My Electricity Won’t Work

July 31, 2007

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I’ve run into some problems with the electricity in our house. Actually, we’ve had numerous problem with the electric here, for years. Only two of the four bedroom lights work. Various outlet receptacles are faulty. We’ve tolerated the situation for years, but I think we will have to do something drastic now. Quickly.

After we tried to replace a mouse-chewed wire, we lost half the electricity to our upstairs, all of our bathroom, 3/4 of the Kitchen, and the Laundry Room lights and outlet. I tried replacing the wire, but the circuit keeps shorting. So I am exploring why. I pulled down the Living Room ceiling today, and discovered a junction box with 100-year old wiring. That is still in use. And it’s in bad shape.

Here’s why our electricity won’t work:

Bad Knob Wiring 1

Here’s a close up of the handywork.

Close Up

More photos of the Living Room ceiling:

Bad Knob Wiring 3

Bad Knob Wiring 2

This is the moment I can either laugh or cry. I can be so very very happy I found this before a fire started. We have a lot of electronics in the house (and growing all the time). It is a miracle the house still stands after all these years.

I could cry because this means that, on top of redoing the Living Room, I have to rewire half the upstairs and the Kitchen, Dining Room, and Laundry Room now. And school and winter is coming. Ohhhh Lord….

Also, they had cut a substantial chunk out of a beam that had been (note the use of the phrase “had been”) supporting the upstairs bedroom flooring. The beam had failed to point of cracking and dropping. I will have to sister the beam to prevent more structural failure.

Of interest is today’s daily devotional by Dr. D. James Kennedy. I have it as my home page. Taking a break from my demolition, feeling a bit panicky about the situation, I took a break to check email. Today’s devotional is so fitting.

Have you ever faced a daunting task, one that looked not even remotely feasible? At times like this, God, who can do the impossible, wants us to have faith in His presence and in His ability to see us through.

…The ancient Israelites serve as an excellent example of what not to do under pressure. Faced with an overwhelming task, they failed to respond in faith.

…When circumstances overwhelm you and the task at hand is daunting, place your full faith in God and trust that He will deliver you into your promised land.

I’ll take this one step at a time, yes I will. For now, I am planning a new circuit map to restore electricity to the house. I think I’d better finish the Living Room first before attacking the Kitchen. The kids will need a station to do their schoolwork, and the Dining Room is pretty cramped now as it is.

One very positive note is that I will be removing that awful drop ceiling from the Kitchen!

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