More progress has been made in the rewiring of our Victorian, but it has not been going well.
The problems all started when we lost power to the second floor in October, 2014. The electrical system was unsafe and we quickly had the problem repaired, but we discovered active knob and tube in dangerous condition throughout the house. Here’s what I wrote in an update from July of the next year.
“The light above the stove sparked and burned a light bulb in Brandon’s hand as he was changing it out one day, which was more than a little scary. In an unrelated event (I think), we mysteriously lost power to a portion of the second floor. While our electricians were fixing that problem, they found active knob and tube that was missed during our initial house inspection, and thus began the rewiring of the entire place. The bulk of the job is done now, but it was suggested that we wait to finish the rest when we didn’t have a newborn. We agreed and then we were waiting until after we hosted my sister’s bridal shower in the house (which I will share next week), and now we’ll be able to get back to it as soon as we can get back on the electricians’ schedule. A ceiling is coming down, walls are being opened, and the house is going to be in a state of chaos for a while, but I’m looking forward to getting this work done because it has been holding other projects back.”
Work resumed in November, 2015. When we tried to have our electrician back out to continue rewiring the house, we found out he had “left the company,” and we suspect that he may have been fired. We came to realize, after having a new team of electricians out, that we may have gotten screwed because at that point we had spent a lot of money and thought a lot more work had been completed. It’s a sick-to-your-stomach feeling, and I don’t feel great about putting this out there, but that’s the truth of what happened. Turns out “the bulk of the job” having been completed was pretty inaccurate.
The third floor, being farthest from the basement where the electric panels are, is the most difficult part of the house to rewire. The plan was to start there, working down floor by floor, until the whole house had been done. When we paused work the first time (because I was about to give birth and caring for a newborn is hard enough without having workers tearing apart your house everyday), the third floor was supposedly done. The whole house was supposedly 80% finished, which didn’t really sound right since they had only been doing the top level, but OK. Maybe because they had fished new lines up, it would all be easier to go from there? Yeah, no. Turns out the whole level was still on one circuit, meaning that a big portion of the work that we thought had been done had not. WTF.
Even the repairs attempted by that first guy’s team were done poorly. It sounded great, in theory, that one company could handle rewiring the house and fixing things up again after they were done, but after seeing what they did, we told them to stop. They’re electricians, we reasoned. Let’s not judge based on their ability to fix a wall.
You see why we told them to stop “fixing” the holes? We would do it ourselves, or hire somebody who knew what they were doing (and likely at a lower hourly rate).
There was also a new scuttle hole made in the hallway ceiling. They were super proud of the way it turned out.
Bad repairs, the work wasn’t done properly, and so much money was wasted. Brandon is angry about the whole situation; I’m just sad. I love this house, but it is not making it easy on us.
A new team of electricians started in November. They split the third floor up into different circuits, fixing problems along the way, and they rewired the second floor. They found a chase that runs all the way down to the basement, which they used to run new lines up. We had thought that the ceiling in the hallway would have to come down, but instead they ran conduit along the surface and we will have to drop a new drywall ceiling below, keeping as much of the height as we can. Our hallway looks like this right now.
It looked like this when we remodeled the second floor before Calvin was born, so we’re kind of used to this sort of thing by now, but still. It was finished and nice for a little while.
The cheap toggles for the hall lights will be switched out for the reproduction push-button switches we’ve installed elsewhere throughout the house, but they’re a little finicky, so we’ll put them up after the mess of drywalling, patching, sanding, and painting has been finished. The hallway will get sconces, too! It’s all going to look very nice, if you can see past its current condition.
Portions of the house did have newer wiring and therefore escaped with minimal damage, but nearly every room on the second and third floor is in need of at least a little repair. This is the wall in one of the bedrooms, on the other side of those light switches.
The house is still not completely rewired. The second and third floors are done though, as are the outlets on the first floor that were easily accessible from the basement. All of the ceiling fixtures and wall switches on the first floor still need to be done. Our potential kitchen renovation is off the table for now and we’re thinking that we shouldn’t even worry about rewiring it yet because there’s going to be a lot of damage (in a room with wallpaper, beadboard, and a tin ceiling) and it’s going to be expensive. It may be best to finish everything else and apply the money we would spend in the kitchen on a full gut reno, opening up the walls to reconfigure the layout and addressing the wiring then.
We are pausing the electrical work a second time because our finances need time to rebound a bit while we fix the walls and ceilings upstairs. A new ceiling along the entire second floor hallway won’t be cheap, but it will be a lot easier to knock out than the rewiring has been. It all needs to be done sooner rather than later, but the old wiring has been in place for decades and it can sit tight for just a little longer. Up next for us is the One Room Challenge, which I am ridiculously excited about because I need something back in order. I need a break to just concentrate on making something pretty! The closet/dressing room was a nice project — one that I thought was done. And then it turns out that there was an old line feeding the light fixture. Four new holes were made.
Oh, and this person-sized hole on the third floor to access the closet’s ceiling fixture from above. Fun times.
Two floors down. Sort of. One to go.