Cottage Archaeology

Adventures in rehabbing a 50-something cottage.

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Name: Mike Yuhas
Location: Wisconsin, Land o' Cows, United States

Editor emeritus pro tem

Friday, August 10, 2007


Well, not literally, but potentially. Today let's look at some of the interesting electrical oddities we've found.

First on the agenda is a previous owner's idea on where a switch was to have been positioned. We uncovered this unfollowed guidance when we ripped the blue paneling out of the blue room.

Next is a glimpse of how some of the outlets in the kitchen were fed. This is a combination light switch and wall outlet in the living room, as seen from the kitchen side.

Note how the old rubber/cloth insulated wire is suspended in mid-air, not secured to the box. I wonder what would happen if that wire were to jiggle around against the sharp metal box hole edge. Ya think maybe it could rub away the insulation on the hot and neutral? Maybe cause a short? The BX armored cable looks reasonable enough... but take a look at the Romex. It enters the box through an ordinary hole and, like that old wire, isn't secured or clamped. Look at how it's routed toward its load: rather than heading through a hole in the stud, someone merely cut a notch in the drywall for the wire to loop across. To make matters worse, the wire is only 14 gauge, and the outlets it's connected to are not GFCIs.

At least it is stapled to that bit of lumber, within a couple inches of the box.

The idea of wires hanging in mid-air apparently didn't concern anyone:

This rat's nest was found in the header, such as it was, above the sliding closet doors in the pink room. My pre-apprentice experience with house wiring tells me several things are wrong with this picture. First, the junction was not enclosed in an accessible box. Second, the wires were just hanging there. Third, wire nuts weren't used, electrical tape was. It's a disaster waiting to happen. (To be fair, these wires were actually resting on the thin piece of wood holding the track for the sliding doors. The track was attached to that hunk o'lumber by long screws. Of course, the screws were long enough to puncture through the wood and come perilously close to the wire.)

(There was another piece of unused wire hanging down from another hole in this same header. The end was covered with electrical tape. I gave it a pull, but it didn't budge. Since it was going to be excess anyway, and since I was using the reciprocating saw to destroy some nearby wall, I used it to cut through the wire, which it did like butter. Bad move. Luckily the circuit breaker tripped just after the first sparks flew.)

People's Exhibit 4 - another rat's nest:

This Rube Goldberg-esque affair is in the blue room, and takes the prize for cheapest iteration of unsafe electrical junctions. Can't do much but slap your palm against your forehead on this.

It should come as no surprise that none of the outlets I've found are properly grounded. That will all be changed when we wire this joint the right way!


Bergie said...

Mike, please tell my you're hiring an electrician!


August 16, 2007 4:04 PM  
Anonymous said...

Wow- looks like the remodeling we have been doing on our house since 1994. Every year or so we have a new phase. Hang in there and enjoy. It will be worth every sweaty brow when your done! Di

August 29, 2007 3:35 PM  
larry olsen said...

Are you sure that the electricians who did the wiring werent burt and ernie? lsl

September 1, 2007 11:00 AM  

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