Hallway The Victorian House

The Big, Not Fun Project!

I’ve been clearing things out around the house in preparation for some work that’s going to be happening on the first and second floors. Dun-dun-dun (scary movie music cue)… REWIRING.

This stupid rewiring project. It is expensive, messy work, and because we paused after getting to a stopping point on the third floor, it feels like it has taken forever. It has held up tons of other things I’d rather be focusing (and spending money) on. So we’re ripping things out now, the electricians will come in and do their thing – around the holidays, which I can only assume will make this a speedy, uninterrupted process – and then we’ll have to patch and repair and fix and paint and blah, blah, blah.

This is our past, but also, our future. (Whoa, deep.)

Hallway Renovation

The walls won’t be completely opened up, so at least there’s that? Here’s the work to be done…

The Second Floor Hallway
Goodbye, unblemished ceiling. See ya, floor. Hello, studs and subfloor.

We opened and reconfigured the hallway while remodeling last year (photo above) turning the house’s second kitchen into a bedroom/nursery, and we replaced a portion of the flooring when we did that. We had planned to continue down the length of the hall anyway, so we’re timing it to coincide with the home’s rewiring so that hopefully it will lesson the damage to the ceiling on the first floor. The hallway ceiling is either getting Swiss-cheesed or taken out completely in hopes that most of the wires can be fished through for the bedrooms. There are probably still going to be plenty of holes in every single room. But maybe less so?

The Closet
Since we’re already ripping up the floor in the hallway, I figured hey you know what’s fun? Emptying the entire contents of the bedroom closet you and your husband share, pulling up the carpet, fixing the subfloor, and laying hardwood. I mean, let’s make the house feel as chaotic as possible by taking over the room where you sleep! (There’s a pretty noticeable soft spot in the closet floor that is getting worse, just inside the doorway. ADD IT TO THE LIST.)

The Dining Room
The huge pendant light is centered on the room, not on the table. Guess which I’d prefer? The beam (hollow, not original) is probably going to have to come down for access to the junction box, so this seems like a good time to reposition the light. Thinking about adding a couple of sconces in there, maybe. Flanking the windows.

The Double Parlor
The electricians are going to be taking down the light fixtures when they do their work. It would be nice to have something different to replace the matching lights in both rooms rather than putting the same ones back up. I want to add a couple of sconces to the bookshelves, too.

Actually… Lots of Rooms
I should probably have some new light fixtures ready to go for other rooms. Ceiling fans in some bedrooms for sure. Rewire/replace the broken kitchen pendants? Entryway? I’ve been looking at tons of options, trying to come up with a cohesive plan, and pinning, pinning, pinning all along the way.

And the Kitchen
Ooh, boy. The electricians don’t even want to touch the kitchen because they’ll open the walls, damaging the wallpaper, and they need to get up behind the tin ceiling. “Leave it until you renovate it,” they told us. Sounds great in theory, but renovating that kitchen is going to be expensive to really do it right, and I won’t know how much we can afford to do in there until the work in the rest of the house is closer to completion. The wiring is old and crazy in the kitchen and it needs to be addressed at some point, but do we just open all the walls at once and go for it, or approach it more sensitively, trying to minimize damage and keep the existing ceiling/cabinetry/everything intact? Fun stuff.


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  • Kelly
    November 9, 2015 at 1:11 pm

    Knowing what you do now — just the scope of work that this house needs — would you still buy it all over again?

    Projects like this are so fascinating to me … and a bit scary too. Good luck! It will all be worth it in the end.

    • Making it Lovely
      November 9, 2015 at 1:15 pm

      You know, I would! But I would have bid lower. We knew that the layout was funny on the second floor, from when the house was split into apartments, but we didn’t know what a nightmare the utilities would be to straighten out, and that the electrical needed to be replaced. But I love this house and it’s exciting to see it come together bit by bit.

  • Brooke
    November 9, 2015 at 1:16 pm

    I second Kelly’s question above.

    I totally romanticize the idea of projects like your house, but posts like this make me kind of relieved I haven’t tackled this (with three little ones!) because my sanity would certainly be in question. Still, your home is so beautiful and I LOVE to see the choices that you make, and I appreciate that you share how not-easy some of those decisions are in regard to finances and short-term, long-term fixes. Best of luck to you!

    • Making it Lovely
      November 9, 2015 at 1:19 pm

      Yeah, this is definitely a long-term fix. I know it’s important for the safety of our family, bringing the wiring up to date, but it’s not a fun way to spend money. There’s nothing to show for it but damage, it takes tons of time and money, and it pushes off the stuff that’s more fun to work on (and share here).

  • Martha
    November 9, 2015 at 1:57 pm

    I don’t think that you asked for my opinion but here goes…do the kitchen wiring now!! Much better to get all of the electric work done now. And any outlets or fixtures that you choose to add when you do the complete kitchen remodeling will be almost a non issue.

  • Marcee ... ILLINOIS
    November 9, 2015 at 2:10 pm

    Hi Nicole. For sure I wanted to ask the same question as Kelly’s. Of course you would still want and love the house!! I know you by now! Our family are not strangers to these “invisible” repairs/rehabs/replacements, etc. It’s been ongoing for years. No, we did not expect it to go on forever. But, when you buy a 105 year old home, that’s the way it is. Running out of $$$ is common. Ha! We often look at each other in bewilderment wondering why oh why a homeowner, repair persons, etc., would do such dumb things to a house. In the meantime, things are good. Next year, more “things” to do. So once again, we are pretty ready for another winter. Best of Nicole.

  • Ryan
    November 9, 2015 at 2:17 pm

    I would also vote for doing the kitchen wiring now. Even if you’re putting of the total kitchen remodel for years, you should have an idea of what it will look like and need for lighting and outlets. We’re preparing for a whole house rewire (if i can find an electrician) because like you said, it’s holding everything else up.

    If nothing else, this electrical job can put the kitchen on its own set of breakers and add any outlets that you might be lacking for your temporary kitchen remodel.

  • Stephanie
    November 9, 2015 at 3:48 pm

    Would you mind getting to that soft spot in the floor next? I have two in my house and I’m… worried. I want to see what happens when you take care of yours… it might set my mind at ease that it’s not so bad (or the opposite…. grrr). But I did have a contractor who was working in our house when we moved in say “Eh, these are fine. They happen, nothing to worry about.” I’m hoping he really was right. I’m not convinced though..

  • judy
    November 9, 2015 at 7:03 pm

    I’m relieved when you accept the repairing of the wounds and illnesses of your aging houses. I know it’s stressful to be investing so much in function as opposed to Lovely but what choice do we have except the new builds…and I have noticed at a few open houses we popped into out of curiosity that they are very often (even at many $$$$) built with lots of Builder Basic. Yes they have granite and stainless and fancy bathrooms but its the lower quality of all those amenities and yet they are priced as though it’s the best. I’ll take a grand old House any day-but I have shed a tear or two at the state of our checkbook.

  • Sarah
    November 10, 2015 at 12:29 am

    We had our house 95% rewired a few years ago. (Some knob and tube in very tricky spots still remains.) My best advice is to discuss solutions with the electricians as much as possible (which I’m sure you’re already doing, but maybe this will be helpful to someone else). The last thing I wanted to do at that time was learn about electrical, but understanding all the issues in detail (and the various solutions we were presented with) allowed us to question some approaches and actually come up with alternate ideas for routing conduit which saved us a lot of wall repair. That’s not to say our electricians weren’t skilled — they were — it was more a matter of there being multiple ways to solve our particular issues, some less obvious than others.

    The following year we had our plumbing lines updated and there was major wall damage in a few rooms. I really questioned if our plaster walls could ever look the same, but you’d never guess they were heavily damaged by how good they look now. So there is hope!

  • cd
    November 10, 2015 at 11:25 am

    So what’s the budget for your rewire? We bought a fixer (a younger house compared to yours, an older house by most standards) and it is much smaller than yours and it cost us about $8k. I’d love to see a post that really gets down to brass-tacks, as it were, about budgeting and financing this sort of project.

  • Danielle
    November 10, 2015 at 2:50 pm

    cd, my husband and I flip houses. We just finished a house of an age with Nicole’s and, I’m assuming, similar GLA (over 100 years old, 3500 sq. ft.). A total electrical re-wiring of that house was 16K.

    Nicole, I know you probably don’t want to hear this, but in my last house, I too had a light fixture that was centered on the room moved to be centered on our table. I thought it would look better. It didn’t. And it bothered me til the day we moved out!

  • Antonia
    November 12, 2015 at 12:03 pm

    This post was great. As an old house owner, it’s so interesting to watch you go through the nitty-gritty process of updating this kind of stuff.

  • lara jane
    November 16, 2015 at 2:12 am

    I, too, vote for getting it all over with at once. May as well live in chaos for awhile and then put everything back together (including your sanity!) so you won’t have to think about it again!

    As for the lights — and the kitchen down the road — please, please save all fixtures and cabinets (ditto any doors or windows your remove or replace) in your basement or attic for future owners. Those things are part of the fabric of that house, and while you need it to work for you and your family today, someone sometime will wish them back and they (and your beautiful old home) will be so thankful you kept them!
    (With love from someone who compulsively searches for 125+ year old light fixtures and and (once-) built-in cabinets)

  • Lacey
    November 22, 2015 at 5:00 pm

    We had old electrical and were able to install a Lutron system, instead of having to rip everything out and start from scratch. This is because the switches turn on and off the fixtures via radio wave instead of hard wiring. Not sure if this will work in any area of your home, but does save lots of time, money, and wall damage. Good luck!

  • The Spring 2016 One Room Challenge – Making it Lovely
    April 1, 2016 at 10:37 am

    […] projects in this house have been held up by the rewiring process, and I’ll have a post for you next week all about the status of the electrical work. […]

  • Setbacks in Rewiring Our 1892 Victorian House – Making it Lovely
    April 4, 2016 at 2:37 pm

    […] 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 innacurrate. […]