Thursday, February 11, 2010

Small Victories

The electrical wiring in our house has become my enemy. Whoever did the wiring was not terrible, but was by no means excellent. They took a lot of short cuts, ran crazy wires all over the place and did a TERRIBLE job mounting the boxes. Pretty much it looks like they used a hammer and just punched a hole in the sheet rock and tore the hole to about the right size with their hands. Annoying.

Also whenever I open up an outlet I find just a crazy mass of wires with no real rhyme or reason. Several of the switches in our house are so crazy old and have been painted over so many times I'm amazed that they still work!!

So when the power went out on Saturday we decided to do some electrical work. :) Micheal started working on the ceiling fan and I started switching out the light/outlet combo in the guest bathroom.


(I cheated, this is actually the light/outlet combo from the MBR, but they're the same.)

I cautiously removed the faceplate and found this...

Looks scary doesn't it?

I always make sure to take a picture of the wire setup before I disassemble so that if it doesn't work I can go back to the picture to see what it looked like when it did work. As I removed wires from each outlet I tagged them with color coded sticky tabs (I know you love that Bridget!) so I could remember which wires were attached to the switches.

I added a level of complication by choosing to do a stacked light and full outlet vs the outlet/light combo that was originally there. I'm going to refrain from posting my "how-to" until I get my dad to approve my electrical methods. Some lessons I learned though are:

1. Even though there are 5 wires running into your box not all of them have active electricity running through them. You need to determine which one is bringing the power to the box (which one is "hot".)

2. Getting all of the wires into the box is a process that needs to start at the very beginning. As you start connecting things you need to think about the wires and how the can be folded back into the box. Pushing everything in at the end is not going to work.

3. The sides of the two receptacles cannot touch - it causes a mini-explosion! Use electrical tape to cover the exposed sides that might touch each other.

4. Drawing a diagram of how everything should fit together is very helpful. You can quickly get bogged down in the wires once you dive in.

5. If you elect to insert the wire into the back of the outlet versus hooking it over the screw it can be difficult to remove if you need to change anything. You need to twist it out like a screw instead of pulling it out.

Once you've got all that done and everything is hooked up right you get a beautiful new switch plate! (Ignore the scuffed wall and ugly trim, those have not yet been addressed.)

***DISCLAIMER*** Working with electricity is tricky business, F2F does not condone working with electricity without any pre-existing knowledge of how to do this safely. If you do not feel comfortable or experienced enough to do electrical work consult a professional. Fortunately I have one on call at all times. :)

And here is a sneak preview of the fan process!!


Ashley said...

Very nice! I wish I was brave enough to play with wires.

Kari said...

Fortunately my dad is a retired master electrician so I grew up around wires! Just take a picture and make sure to turn off the breaker!