Thursday, October 31, 2013

To Walk the Night

With Samhain approaching, its time to embrace darker days.

Fortunately for the [unfortunate] inhabitants of the Occupy site, we embrace darkness all year round. November coming fire be damned.

'Tis the season for witchcraft, mischief and haunted houses.   But for a truly horrifying experience, there is not substitute for the wiring in my basement

Photo from my basement, taken last night. These guys didn't even offer me a beer.

After wiring that three-way switch, its time to do a bit of basement clean up.  Some people have skeletons in their closest, but I have skeletons in my basement.  In fact, its more like a mass grave.

Let's confront these demons head on.

We begin by popping open the electric panel.

Scared yet?

Oh boy

What we have here is a new panel, and all the old BX cables that splice in with the knob and tube [K+T] set to the side in a junction box.   The big black wires are the 100A service coming in from the meter.

Circuit #1 used to power all overhead lighting upstairs.  Its been cut and out of service, I just have not removed it from the panel.  The tricky thing with this K+T wiring is that the neutrals are shared.  And its not as if anything is labeled. The wires are all independent runs, sheathed inside some cloth. No colors, no nothing.  In fact, the hot wire could go upstairs in the front of the house and juice a receptacle, then just catch a ride back on any neutral that is close by.. which may take a ride down the back of the house.  My point is: its not like modern wiring at all.  You can never be too sure what is going on as the hots and neutrals are not side by side.  And ground wires?  forget it... What are those anyway?

K+T servicing and running past this switch box on foyer.  Who's hot? Who's neutral? Who's out of service??   Who the f*** knows.

I have a number of absolutely filthy junction boxes in the basement.  You know, the ones that that when you unscrew the covers, you get one of these

I'm not joking.

I'll just come clean with you: I've spent hours looking at the electricity downstairs.  I'm baffled that it even works, at all.  The dead ends that go nowhere, the live wires hooked up via guitar strings, dirty splices everywhere... the list is endless.  (I actually took those pictures in those links above, and I must have pushed it out of my mind, because those photos are shocking!)

Anyway, I have no choice but to dig in... gittin it like Dale Jr.

Let's see if I can make some cuts

Always a Hail Mary moment. *SNIP*

An interesting way of "grounding" a wire.  "How 'bout I just wrap this here wire around this cloth, and call it day"

Tough situation beyond this point.  Circuit #1 shares a BX cable with live circuit #3, as they are 3-wire cables.  I can't just rip out the BX until circuit#3 is dead.  Let's just chase a label.

BX w/ Circuits #1 & #3, labeled
Now we can pull #1 from the panel, and chase that through the junction box.  This involves a lot of wire-jiggling: the junction box is jammed.

Wire nut identified and labeled, you can see why this might take a bit of time

With old circuit #1 officially dead, let's put in something fresh.  How does some grounded Romex sound?

Pullin' wire
Let's remove the old porcelain fixture with the receptacle that powers the washer. Classic K+T smoke and mirror show

Beginning to have my doubts, but let's push on.

Probably in between these photos I spend a few hours documenting, as best I could, every circuit in my basement.  It wasn't totally possible, but I have a much better understanding of what is happening... I think.  I I traced a labeled almost every wire in the entire basement.  The "shared neutrals" aspect of this is challenging to say the least.

Beginning to label an out of control JB

Example of a BX cable that I'm stuck with. 8:dead, 10 lives on.

Anyway, let's give up the ghost.. on to installing that new circuit.

I'm going to mount a new junction box on the side of the joist right next to this
Voila! Power in, looped in old grounded cloth Romex for living room (black on right). I also put in a grounded, tamper proof receptacle up there now.

Tied into the panel

The intent of this box is multifaceted
1) A general purpose junction, close to the panel, for whatever I need to stuff in there.  I'm anticipating some temporary wiring. One of my personal favorites
2) A switch let for the T8 fixture I have over the utility sink.  We have to manually plug that in now, and by "plug in" I mean plug into an extension cord.  In the future, I hope to wire this fixture into the main switch at the top of the stairs (currently circuit #5.. probably worth an entire post/rant).  That ain't happening right now, but it will at some point in the future.
3) A junction for new circuit #1.  I intend to power the living room on new circuit #1.  This is what we are wiring right now.

View of new box, when facing washer and utility sink.

Looking 180 degrees away from the new double gang box. Run some romex to a new receptacle upstairs.  You can see at the lower right a jack-in-the-box style junction box... that's where we are heading.

Straighten her our with some staples, to give illusion that there was actually a professional here.

Run right by the jack-in-the-box, and we'll run right next to that, *ahem*, small hole the "plumbers" hacked through  the floor

New receptacle on foyer wall, wired. You gotta love new work boxes.  Its like (1/10)*misery.

Bing!  Probably not the final placement of that lamp.

There you go folks-- one more light to fight the coming darkness of Samhain. 

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