Posts Tagged 'K&T'

Finally the Ceiling I Wanted

flat ceilingI can’t remember how long ago we did the addition on the house – maybe 28 years ago. As I’ve mentioned before, when I requested a skylight, it never occurred to me that it did not come with a slanted ceiling automatically. Instead I’ve had a shaft going up to the roof, letting in light and air (the window can be opened). It hasn’t been bad, or a problem, it was just not what I had envisioned. After we all agreed to slope the ceiling, it was almost a matter of minutes before all the extraneous boards were removed, and the proper supports to satisfy the engineer were installed. I wish I knew how to take photos that would convey the slope, but you will have to make do with what I have. As happened with the widened doorway, freeing the skylight from the shaft has already made a HUGE difference in the room, even with only rough boards. I now also have a beam that WILL be noticeable when all is finished, but I am already planning to hang flower baskets from the beam. That may NOT be a good idea unless I put in fake plants, because I tend to water my plants until it runs out the bottom, and I will also have a brand new floor under those plants. I’m open to suggestions because I’m fairly certain a beam like that is calling for something creative or funky.

I ask questions when the workmen are here, hoping to learn more about how things work, what other people do when renovating old houses. sloped ceilingI was pondering putting in a new electric skylight but we all agreed that making it a power window (and shade) would be adding one more potential headache. I’m not sure what to do about a shade up there. I have a suspicion that now the window is freed from the shaft, there may be a lot more heat than even I will like (I have a very high tolerance for hot weather). That is one of those things that can be addressed at a later time. Still on my list of “things I’d like to accomplish this year” is the replacement of all of the upstairs windows. I can think about the skylight at that time too. Also a new front door. I really want a new front door, too. 🙂 The window people usually do doors as well. Again – that’s something for the fall. I figure maybe October/November time frame to replace the windows. It would be nice to have more energy efficient windows come the cold weather.

I believe that I have mentioned my dislike for the knob & tube wiring in our house. The K&T struck again. We knew that the dining room chandelier was down the line from the kitchen K&T. skylight with high hatsThe electrician had come up with an ingenious solution for getting the dining room back online once we replaced the kitchen K&T. I’m going to spare you the photos and diagrams that would explain this, because – spoiler alert!! – we didn’t do that anyway. I’m sharing it so you can truly appreciate the nuances of replacing K&T. By the way, 3 knowledgeable folk have told me that K&T is SAFER than the current approach. I have NOT understood their explanations but they have all assured me this is so, and they are people who would know. The explanations for why insurance companies won’t insure homes with K&T make as little sense to me as do the explanations for why K&T is safer, but we do what needs to be done to get the permits from the township.

The plan was to take the new up-to-code wiring from the kitchen and run it up the wall to the ceiling, where it would hang a left and go into the breakfast room area. At THAT point it would hang a right and go outside the house, secured to the siding by tubing. I was told that there would be no problem with this if/when we replace the siding. Once the new wire was in line with the dining room chandelier, it would hang a right and head back into the house in the ceiling. They would take down the chandelier and hook it to the new wiring. If all went well, and if they had a clear sight line through the ceiling, they would even send the new wires straight through the ceiling to the sun room, where they would put the ceiling fan/light on the new wiring. You remember the new fan in the sun room, right? That’s what started all of this a year ago. 🙂

Well, the best laid plans and all of that. When they went to replace the K&T in the kitchen, they discovered that the hot wire and the neutral wire did NOT go in the same direction in the dining room. dining room ceiling PLEASE, do NOT ask me to explain what that means. The hot wire went up the wall, hung a left, went down to the switch in the dining room and then up to the chandelier. The neutral wire did not accompany the hot wire on this venture. No, apparently the neutral wire went straight across the dining room and somehow met up with the hot wire near or at the chandelier. In other words – we couldn’t redirect as planned because we wouldn’t have all of the parts available.

The electricians were very apologetic and sorry and, to be fair, as unhappy as I was, but for different reasons, I’m sure. They needed to cut open the dining room ceiling to figure out where the neutral wire was exactly. We discussed all the permutations and as long as they were cutting open the ceiling in the dining room, we agreed to take the new wiring all the way to the sun room and get that done properly as well. That meant a hole in the ceiling and wall of the sun room. This is where again, they know what they are talking about and I imagine something else. That happened in the breakfast room when they said they’d “open the ceiling” and I didn’t realize I was going to lose the whole ceiling and get to beams. That worked out well for me, however. I was imagining the same “rip it all the way open” approach in my dining room as well. Nothing like that. They marked out sections to cut, hoping that they’d hit gold in the first one or two sections.

sunroom ceilingThey covered everything in the dining room with plastic, hung a big plastic sheet between the dining room and the living room, and proceeded to cut away. As you can see in the pictures, the openings are NOT very large (well, not compared to what I was imagining). It just means more painting at the end of the job to get the dining room and sun room cleaned up. In the meantime, I am almost completely free of K&T on the first floor!!!! The front hall light (and I suspect therefore the front porch light) and a few wall sockets are the only K&T left on the first floor. I’m hoping that when we go to deal with them, it will be a non-event. I hope. Please.

So the good news is all of that got done. We had our rough electrical and plumbing inspections last week and passed. I love how we pass the electrical with the wires all hanging down in the basement. aliens in the basementJim and I do need to go down there for laundry, and some other supplies, and we’ll need to empty out all of the STUFF we have stored there for the congregational rummage sale. Yay – we can bring our donations now!!! But we will have to weave our way through the alien life forces that have emerged from the basement ceiling and have congregated around the foot of the stairs.

We’ve started Week #6 and we are making progress. The next thing to be done is to get past the building inspection. I think I understood that means that all the holes around the wires need to be fire-stopped (plugged with fire-retardant material). And I *think* we may get the insulation put in before that too. But our township seems to only inspect on Wednesdays so despite the fire-stopping being completed, I doubt much will happen for another week or more, since the next Wednesday is July 4th. I rather doubt any inspectors will be here on July 4th. But once we pass this point now we start ADDING things instead of REMOVING things. We get walls, then a floor, and then appliances, and then cabinets…. It’s really happening!
approvals

Two Steps Forward

IMG_8525One step back, but then forward again. Which means that progress is being made. Let’s deal with the most important gains first.

WC, although still extremely angry, has relented sufficiently to allow us to see her during daylight hours. I’ve found her secondary hiding spot (in the office under a table behind a box) as opposed to the primary spot under our bed. She has even deigned to come and eat in the food room 2 out of 3 days. For breakfast that is. She’s still not convinced it’s safe to eat there for dinner. And that means that we are still serving her dinner in whichever room is her safe zone at the time – bedroom or office. Yes she has us VERY well trained.

IMG_8524GC and BC appear to be fine. BC is happy if we are upstairs with her. GC is happy as long as she gets fed and petted. Last night we were tossing rolling toys for BC to chase up and down the hall. I thought for one fleeting moment there GC might actually run, too. Hah! 🙂 They are eating, complaining, playing, providing output and in general they seem to be adjusting. I’m not going to say any of us LIKE this setup as a permanent option, but it really gives me peace of mind during the day when doors are open all over and there is a lot of noise.

This week has been about plumbing and electricity. I knew something happened with the plumbing on Tuesday while I was out. You can’t fool ME, experienced homeowner that I am. Version 2I turned on the faucet and there was that familiar spitting air-in-the-line action that we all know from water being turned off. Wednesday I actually met 2 of the plumbers. They drained the radiators. Sigh, I spent thousands of dollars in March to put in a new boiler, which necessitates draining and refilling. Had I but known then what I know now, I could have done the radiator work then. More importantly, they removed the pipes that used to be behind some cabinets. This is EXTREMELY exciting because removing those pipes enables us to widen the doorway between the kitchen and the breakfast room by about 21 inches. Of course I have no “before” photo that shows clearly the limited sight line from the kitchen to the breakfast room, but the ‘after’ picture thrills me. Anyone reading this who has been in the rooms will see immediately the difference the wider doorway makes. I think it pulls the 2 rooms together to make them feel much more like one room. The other thing you can see in the ‘before’ photo I did post is the horrible ugly wall paper that we lived with for 6 years before we did the addition. I circled it so you wouldn’t miss it, and drew an arrow to show what got removed to make the larger passageway.

Today I was expecting the plumbers back but no, it was the electricians. When I finally left my desk to go say hello, not only were the electricians here but Manny was here as well. IMG_8527We were chatting in the breakfast room and I mentioned that had I realized that they’d be ripping out everything in the ceilings, I’d have asked to have them change my breakfast room ceiling to a sloped ceiling (vaulted?). This is something that escaped me when we did the addition. I thought that by asking for a skylight, I’d get that sloped ceiling automatically. Not the case. Anyway, Manny is supposed to ask Don for an estimate. Manny, Eli (the electrician) and I all think it would look fantastic. 🙂 And most importantly for me – would let in a LOT more light. I’m all about light as you can tell from the bay windows and the multiple banks of lights in the kitchen. I haven’t actually run this new idea by my husband yet….. Even if Don okays it, it might not happen. Apparently my husband does NOT like garbage disposals in the sink, so that idea was abandoned. I hope he likes sloped ceilings.

IMG_8528 (1)The “one step back” came as I ate lunch. Eating my salad, reading the paper, and the lights went out. They were cutting knob and tube wires. YAY!!!!! It’s a small price to pay – no light in the dining room – if it means getting rid of the K&T. 🙂 Eli and Chris just left but they restored power to the dining room lights and outlets. We even tested the TV – which works. Of course I still can’t work the TV properly because sometime since the superbowl cable tv has dropped off the menu at the bottom of the screen. There is now some convoluted routine to get from netflix to cable and back again, but don’t ask me to do it. That’s DEFINITELY a step back but NOT one I can attribute to the renovation.

I was going to go stare at my beautiful wide opening between the rooms and smile. But as I typed this I heard a forlorn beeping coming at regular intervals. I’m hoping it’s the microwave. Or the coffee pot. Or something easily silenced.

Knob and Tube Wiring

IMG_8493In the last few years of my home-ownership, I have discovered 2 things I would change if I could go back in time and make different decisions. The first mistake, that seemed absolutely correct at the time, was putting down that horrible black ground cover underneath the mulch that was all around my deck. Why was there mulch all around my deck? Because my deck is several feet off the ground, and I envisioned active children climbing about and falling. I wanted a nice soft cushion (or comparatively soft) in case of someone falling off the railing. (Always plan for the worst-case scenario.) The irony is that the mulch disintegrated, became dirt, became weeds, became a few inches deep of landscaping I don’t want. I tried to plant a morning glory and could not figure out why I could not dig more deeply. Upon closer inspection I found the black fabric. I had to take a scissors and hack away at it to create an opening wide enough for the plant and dig down so the roots could extend. I’ve hit the same issue with everything else I have tried to plant in the back. I will NEVER use black fabric again.

IMG_8507I was born in an old town – here since before 1776. My parents’ house was not that old, but it wasn’t new. It must have been built back in the 1930s or so. At that time gas lights were out and the new fangled electricity was in. And you got your electricity through your house with knob and tube wiring. We never had an issue with electricity in that house. Over time my father had the main panel upgraded from those little round glass thingies (fuses?) to circuit breakers, added a subpanel, but all of that was hooked to the K&T and everything was fine. We bought our house in the same town over 30 years ago and knew that there was K&T. Our homeowners insurance company knew there was K&T and we got insurance with no problem. We too have upgraded our panel, added a subpanel, rewired to modern standards whenever we had any electrical work done, but the core of the original house still has K&T. Even in places where we bypassed the K&T it was often left in place, disconnected, because of the mess and inconvenience of removing it. Let me also point out that the core of the house has plaster walls, not sheet rock. That’s just how things were done in those days.

Flash forward to selling our parents’ house 3 years ago. We learned then that we would have to rip apart the (plaster) walls and remove and replace all of the K&T because any new homeowner would not be able to get insurance on the house with K&T in existence. Yes, read that again. A perfectly working, reliable electrical system that never failed is uninsurable. I think one estimate we got was $10k to do the work. We couldn’t even find anyone to call us back with a solid estimate.

IMG_8508Asbestos. Did I forget to tell you about asbestos? All the hot water pipes way back when were wrapped in asbestos. When I was a teenager having parties in the basement, Daddy had wrapped red tape around the white asbestos so that people would not hit their heads (it was a low ceiling). My father, may his memory be for a blessing, was oh so smart. Daddy (wrongfully) removed most of the asbestos in HIS house by cutting it off himself (wearing a little cloth face mask) and bagging it up and tossing it in the garbage. But there was still some left. When we bought OUR house, of course there was asbestos. I’d grown up with asbestos, so what. At that time an ACCEPTED TREATMENT was to wrap the pipes with something such as heavy-duty aluminum foil, sealing them up completely. My husband donned his little respirator and dutifully wrapped every single pipe he could reach, wrapping them with the heavy-duty foil and miles of duct tape. We can’t sell the house with that either.

IMG_8504Knowing all this now, I’d have ripped apart my house before I moved in, and upgraded all the electrical (which I couldn’t have afforded – not the electrical part, not the repairing the ripped apart walls and ceilings) and had the asbestos removed “by professionals”. Maybe I’d have even removed the zillion layers of flooring you can see under the kitchen radiator. Of course all the horrible wallpaper would have been dealt with then too. As it stands now, I plan to burn my house to the ground before I’m ready to sell. Then no one can give me grief about my pipes, my electricity, my probably-not-current-grade water pipes and I can just sell a plot of land. It will cut down on a lot of inspections. And think how easy it will be to til that plot and rip up the stupid black fabric if there is no house in the way.

We all have fantasies……


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