We’re making some progress on the rewiring. The electrician was out this weekend to do some work, but was rather late both days so he didn’t get all that much work done. Actually, only a two lights — in the nook and entry — got rewired (and the nook light had already been wired, he just put up the light fixture in place of the temporary light fixture). We’re still without light in the kitchen. I had hoped the kitchen would finally be finished, and the work would move on to the dining room. So, before he arrived, I cut out holes in the dining room for the new outlets and removed the old outlets. Such optimism! Removing the old outlets is much nastier than cutting in new ones. In our place, the outlets are surrounded by and screwed into wood. Not wall studs, but just wood. It makes it very difficult to remove the outlets, and then there’s the task of removing the wood that’s in the way of putting in a new box.

With plaster walls attached to metal lath, there really isn’t a way to figure out where the wall studs are before going into the wall. After hitting one stud on my first new outlet, I figured out that I could make a small hole and feel around for obstructions before cutting out the entire outlet hole and then looking. Clever! (Some things come pretty slowly to me, like tying shoes). On all the new holes (except the first) I managed to miss wall studs by only an inch or two. It is nice though to know where they are, so if we want to put up shelves, we know where to attach them.

Lots of chiseling and wire snipping later, we’ve got a start.
Running the wire is also a pain, but not nearly as bad as the kitchen wire was. (The kitchen wire had to be run up from the basement to outlets at counter height, whereas the dining room outlets are all close to the ground). I had to drill a lot of holes in the joists in the basement to run the wire through. I had a drill bit designed for the purpose, but it didn’t do the job all too well. I had a ‘Speedbore’ which also didn’t do such a great job. Finally I bought a monstrous-looking bit designed for wood and metal, which really ate through the wood. Our problem I think might be that the wood is so old and tough, a normal wood boring bit might not be tough enough, having been designed for fresher wood.

Pictured: my beloved Bosch drill, holding the super bit that works. On the left is a thin, foot-long bit I used to drill downwards from inside the outlet holes so I could locate where exactly in the basement to drill upwards to run the wire. Second from left is the typical wood-boring bit. Second from the right is the Speedbore Max’ bit.

In my aggravation while doing all this (grumbling “It’s not my job!” most of the time — this is why we hired an electrician in the first place) I ripped out the old knobs and tubes that were just sitting there empty in the basement. It looks like they even had special double-headed nails to hold the suckers in.

The knob-and-tube, which once ran the entire length of the basement, is nearly gone. There’s more in the attic, but that’s on its way out too. And, of course, its buddy, the cracking cloth-covered romex which circled the basement but now circles the waste bin.
The plan is to have the dining room and living room done this weekend. So, I’ve got to cut out the living room outlets. The living room had one plug on the plug circuit, while the rest are on the lighting circuit. That room will be more challenging since the existing wires don’t run up from the basement like all the other rooms, but instead run down from the attic, even to the outlets. I avoid the attic if I can, since there’s no floor up there, but lots of nasty insulation. Got a feeling I’ll be spending some serious time up there soon.

We made one design change this week. The electrician pushed us to get white outlets and switches, which is fine. But now we think they might look too strange in the living and dining rooms, where they have always been brown. Brown goes with the woodwork too. So I bought a slew of brown outlets and a few switches, heavy-duty ones, and they cost no more than the white variety. We strayed from the brown since he told us they cost more and were so hard to find. Not at all, one just has to look at the dusty bin on the very bottom of the receptacle display at Lowe’s. Now we can reuse our patterned brown switch and outlet covers. We should have enough left over from the entire house to do both front rooms. The bedrooms, kitchen and bath will all have white plugs and switches, which is fine. Hooray for brown!