A Widening Gyre

This person is (or was) an ass.

This person is (or was) an ass.

My staircase project is spiraling out of control. After uncovering a live wire buried in plaster right where I need to secure the new landing and turn on the stairs, I had to make some exploratory cuts in the ceiling to trace the line (so I can abandon that no-longer necessary hall light). But that same circuit powers the first-floor hall light (the one I’m taking out), the two front rooms on my second floor, and my bedroom, which is in the middle of the house.

So with the ceiling already cut open and in need of eventual repair, well, why not run new grounded electric to the room that will be my study? (I’d prefer a dedicated line for my computer and its peripherals.) And if I’m doing that, might as well also fish a new line up for the other front room and my bedroom.

To trace those lines, I had to start taking up floorboards – not a big deal, because some hack made enough crappy cuts years ago that it was pretty easy (in most cases) to see where it had been removed before. And pre-cracked.

It seems that hack might have lived a lot longer ago than I thought; there’s still live knob and tube in the floors. Or the hack left the knob and tube and simply added some new wiring, because there is also some abandoned knob and tube, and a hydra-like collection of circa 1950s Romex. There are also a lot a cobwebs.

I hate the color red.

I hate the color red.

What fresh hell is this?

What fresh hell is this?

So, in order to most efficiently and inexpensively (for future projects) put the staircase back to rights, I first have to run new electric to three rooms (and I might as well add a plug in the second-floor hall while I’m at it).

While investigating the wiring path to my bedroom, I discovered that what I thought was a chase for the third floor HVAC vents is in fact only partially that; it’s about twice as wide as it needs to be…and I could, with things torn up anyway, pretty easily reroute that HVAC in a less obtrusive manner — might as well; the walls will already need patching.

So, to build a landing and two steps, I am running electric, pulling up floorboards (then putting them back, of course), moving ductwork and patching plaster. All on the floor above.

Redoing the bath ought to be easy by comparison…If I ever get to it. That will be a total gut job – it’s much easier to rebuild if first you can destroy.

Sigh.

Sigh.

 

 

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About fitz

Editor & content director for Popular Woodworking, ABD PhD focused on early modern drama, freelance content and copy editor/writer, ailurophile
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26 Responses to A Widening Gyre

  1. Ben Lowery says:

    Reminds me of this:

  2. I feel for you. My house may not be as old, but I am going through many of the same things.
    I might be done in 10 years. about the time I move.

    • fitz says:

      I’m not planning to ever move again. But they might be carrying me out of here feet first sooner than I expected …

      • Ward Shrake says:

        Hang in there. You already know it, but take your time and be safe. Celebrate each such find-and-fix / individual upgrade more than you had initially planned to: it helps to make it all feel worth the time and effort necessary, to deal with each new Hidden Horror.

        Having helped a licensed electrician to totally pull out every wire (including low voltage, like phone, etc.) during a multi-year renovation of a house of about that same age, and having replaced it all with much better quality stuff, throughout, I can say that the project eventually ends. Feels like it won’t, at the time; but it does. And eventually, it feels well worth it. I’m not in any hurry to do anywhere near that much prolonged crawl space work, again! … but looking back, I’m darn glad all that scary old knob-and-tube stuff is gone; along with all of the other hair-raising stuff we were finding as we went. For instance, the only electrical outlet that appeared to be grounded, on one of those simple three-lamp testers, turned out to have a drywall screw through the semi-old (1980s?) style Romex which was shorting neutral and ground together. We went even more nuts with extra nail plates, after seeing that! Getting rid of all the formerly-hidden scariness, in itself, makes a person feel oodles better … eventually. Meanwhile: “slow and steady wins the race”.

      • I said that once…four houses ago! That said, from the photos I’ve seen your new home is well worth the investment. Good luck, and enjoy!

  3. steverennells says:

    You have far more patience and/or bourbon than I.

  4. jmwagle86 says:

    I think you are doing the right thing. I know it doesn’t help much to say it, but one day you will be glad you made the repairs. (it won’t be real soon though, hang in there)

    • fitz says:

      I kinda knew what I was getting into…what I can’t remember right now is why 🙂

      • JC says:

        Because you love to do the right thing and do it right, mon ami. You have kindred spirits about you urging you onward. We are all counting on you and cherish the eventual outcome–your home put right. Bravo, Fitz. Make it two fingers tonight.

        P.S. I steal from Ms. Parker every chance I get as well.

      • neitsdelf says:

        Have you ever watched Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House with Cary Grant and Myrna Loy? He had the opposite problem–he knew why, just not what he was getting into. And the last scene resoundingly affirms the why of it.

  5. Perseverance, dear my [lady],
    Keeps honor bright; to have done is to hang
    Quite out of fashion, like a rusty mail,
    In monumental mockery.

  6. tombuhl says:

    Good thing you don’t have to work for a living otherwise you’d not have time for these adventures.

  7. Good God woman. The wires in the duct work would send me over the edge. Good luck and stay grounded.

  8. It might be two steps forward and one step back, but you’re still one step closer to your destination.

  9. KampWood says:

    If you give a moose a muffin…

  10. John Wolf says:

    I moved some drop ceiling tiles about a year after I moved here to find out why the florescent lights in the kitchen no longer worked. After knocking some holes in walls and ceilings to look at other circuits, I pulled the meter off of the house and went back to oil lamps. I learned a lot more about wiring than I really wanted to over the following month. My subsequent marriage was not helped by my knowing beyond the shadow of a doubt that if I tried to do ANYTHING to the house, it would go horribly wrong beyond my wildest nightmares. The repair during which I had to jack up the front of the house and replace everything but the new standing seam roof finished it off (the marriage, not the house). The timber framed barn, woodlot and fields are wonderful, if you were wondering why I’m still here.

  11. Donna Hill says:

    OMG! You’ve contracted the “while I’m at it disease!” Take it from me, there is no cure for that when you have a beautiful old house like yours. Wishing you a speedy recovery!🤒🤕😷

  12. Brian Clites says:

    You should do it up @lostartpress style and have a weekend renovation blast. Just think of how much faster it would go with a crew of 10 paid in doughnuts, beer, and your always-squeaky-clean jokes 😁

    • fitz says:

      If I had any mass destruction to do, I would. But most of this is a piece here, a piece there, and hard to do with multiple bodies.

  13. cstandley2014 says:

    double sigh

  14. neitsdelf says:

    Apropos of the picture–I love that the carpenter(?) who installed that board thought that the bigger the nail, the closer to the edge of the board it should go.

    • fitz says:

      Oh…I don’t think “carpenter” is the term I’d use.

      I’m eager to get the floors refinished, but of course I can’t do that until all the other stuff is addressed. It’ll be a long wait!

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