Tag Archives: building codes

Let There Be Light!

19 Jul

Our friendly neighborhood electrician came over yesterday morning and spent most of the day working on the lights in the living room. The ceiling light presented some problems beyond those caused by trying to work with your hands over your head. As I mentioned in my post on June 26th, the wires had been clipped quite short, which left very little to attach the new fixture. In addition, the ground and the live wires had been switched around. (I swear, Laurel and Hardy had a hand in the construction of this place!) It took several tries and a blown fuse (yes, a fuse!) to get the light working – finally.

There were also two outlets that had gone dead. They are on opposite sides of the same wall, and went dead at the same time, so we all – The Squire, the electrician, and I – assumed the mice had chewed through the wires. Oh, joy. Meditating on this revolting development, The Squire remembered that he and my dad had installed those two outlets, and they were also fed from the fuse box in the corner, with the wires coming down from the ceiling.  All of the fuses looked fine, but because he is the “do the obvious first” type, The Squire replaced all of the fuses in the box, and lo! and behold, the lights came on. So easy. Yeesh.

We were also informed that according to today’s code, you are not supposed to have electric outlets above hot water baseboard heat pipes. Huh?  Where are you supposed to put them?  I can see not putting them on, say, the floor where they would get water in them. But why not above them?

This would mean that there would be no outlets in the living room at all, and the only one in our bedroom would be the one behind and under the bed, where the table lamps are plugged in. There would be one in the dining room, and one in the den – on the wall opposite the computer. And unless we wanted to put an outlet over the tub, there is no place suitable place in the bathroom at all.

“Don’t look at me. I’d didn’t make ’em, and I don’t understand ’em, but those are today’s rules. I don’t know nuttin’ about what you guys have here now.”

And the electrician picked up his tools and departed.

Sitting in the Dark

26 Jun

A few days ago I posted about the general frustration of not being able to turn on any of the fluorescent lights in the house.  The Squire finally admitted it was a problem, and wandered off in the general direction of Home Depot, and instead of fluorescent bulbs, came home with two ceiling lights, which can only be described as a glass boob with a bronze nipple.

Do not ask me to explain this.

Our house is best described as “accumulated, not built”.  The main section was built around 1935, and each successive owner has added other bits as needed. The ceilings on the second floor are so low that I can touch them by raising my fist over my head.  When we bought the house all of the ceiling lights upstairs were the type that hung down about six inches (enough space for the light bulbs)and had a flat square glass shade. Several years ago a friend of ours was changing his clothes, pulling his T-shirt over his head, and hit the light fixture in the TV room, breaking the shade and needing thirteen stitches in his hand. We immediately replaced that fixture with a “boob”. The light in the guestroom is directly over the bed, so we didn’t bother to change it at the time.

However, instead of getting new fluorescent bulbs (which he claims he forgot) The Squire purchased two new matching fixtures for the TV and guest rooms (They are actually one large room, separated by bookcases.) and planned on moving the original fixture into the living room, which still had one of those square glass jobs.  Actually, it all made sense, except for the part about the fluorescent bulbs. However, this is the same man who, when it was 105-F, forgot he’d been sent to pick up a window a/c unit, so I can only say it did not surprise me.

Changing out the lights upstairs was no problem, but the living room was another can of worms entirely.

This part of the house – living room and our bedroom above – was probably built during WWII, and while building codes have changed, I highly doubt this wiring was ever up to snuff. First of all, there is still a fuse box in that section of the house, and it was installed upside down.  (Clue number one.) The fuse for the overhead light also controls the outlet beside the fireplace, which is fine, but we discovered that now the lights in our bedroom, which is directly overhead,  don’t work either. (Clue number two.)

When The Squire removed the old fixture he discovered that the electric tape is so old it is made of fabric, impregnated with rubber. OK, this is wartime America, so we’ll give that a pass, but the wires are so short there is nothing to which he can attach the new fixture. It looks almost as if once the original light was installed, the wires were snipped off short, rather than wrapped or otherwise insulated. (Clue number three.)  Although he is perfectly capable of handling most wiring problems, this is such a mess he doesn’t want to tangle with it, and having loose, un-insulated wires sticking out means he is even reluctant to replace the fuse, for fear the wires might touch, and start a fire.

We really need to find somebody who can get this fixed and won’t report us to the county.  We have a friend who is a licensed electrician, and he has promised to come see what can be done, but unfortunately he’s not particularly reliable. Our grandson might be able to handle this, but his schedule is just horrible, so not much hope there.

In the meantime, we are sitting in the dark.