Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Knox Hill Project : Weekly Update Part 2

In addition to all the things mentioned yesterday we had the usual yard work leaves,leaves,leaves! It looks like maybe next weekend we will be done with the leaf raking! The mums we planted are still blooming and I planted yet another round of Bulbs. Now up to several hundred bulbs in the ground,I can hardly wait until spring when things start coming up.

If your house is like most old houses it has been through several lighting changes. Our house built in 1871 of course had oil lamps originally. That was followed by the installation of gas lighting, which of course meant running gas pipes throughout the house and that was closely followed by electrical, that new fangled "knob and tube". Probably your house is like mine and at some point your "fuse box' was replaced with breakers and more contemporary grounded romex electrical wiring was put in. However electricians can be a little lazy and although your house may appear to be rewired when you look in the basement, you may still have a run or two here and there that is old wiring. Such was the case with our overhead light in the parlor and dining room. Our house when we bought it still had the original 1920's era lights which were attached to the metal pipe that had originally run the gas to the old gasoliers. Now we have all new wiring run from our breakers to our switch but from the switch to the light? that was 80-90 yrs old. If you started out with gas lights chances are the electrician who did the install of the knob and tube made your life much easier. You do not need to tear out your original plaster ceiling to replace this piece of wiring.
Go to the room above the room with the old wiring. Go to the center of the room and look at your floor. In order to run gas lines the installer typically would remove planks in the floor to run your gas lines. These pipes were notched into the floor.

Go to the center of the room and look for the removable floor pieces. Take a small screwdriver or prybar and carefully lift the flooring. It will usually be held into position with a small nail. Lift up that board and you will find the gas pipe AND the knob and tube wiring.
You can use a sawsall to remove the old gas pipe, Our house no longer has gas service ( total electric) but you should check to see all old lines are first disconnected from the gas supply in the basement, If in doubt you can contact your local utility or a heating/cooling contractor. Even so I recommend that you unscrew the end cap in the gas line several days prior to doing this JUST to be on the safe side so you are absolutely sure nothing but air is in an old pipe. I like to take a air compressor and blow air through the old pipes just to make sure.

Once you remove the pipe it is easy to get to the old knob and tube. REMEMBER any place that a electrical wire runs through a joist you should put a Nail protector ( it is a small piece of metal) over the wire. This protects the wiring should anyone ever put a nail in the floor. You can buy them at your local home supply store , they only cost about a quarter a piece and they are cheap protection for your wiring and are required by code in most municipalities.

Once you run the wiring down the wall to your switch you simply reconnect it according to the manufacturers instructions and you should install a new light fixture box in your ceiling. You now have a properly grounded light fixture . If you are not 'wiring savvy" you can call an electrician to do this repair BUT you can save yourself a ton of money by 0pening up the floor , and removing the old gas lines. Remember electricians charge labor by the minute and any prep work you do means time saved in the long run!

In fact I recommend if you have any questions about the condition of your wiring call an electrician, most offer a flat fee inspection. They will come out inspect your box and wiring and can tell you if things are up to code. If you are spending a ton of money restoring an old house why would you not make sure your wiring is up to snuff?
More Restoration on the next weekly update.

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