September 11, 2009

The New Hearth - A Detour

One of the things tearing down fireplace revealed, was some of the home's original wiring. Behind that fireplace wall is the wiring for the light switch in our bedroom (see Floor Plan if you need to visualize how these things fit together). It was still knob and tube (K&T).

Some of the wiring had been upgraded over the years. A circuit breaker box had long since replaced the fuse box and much of the wiring had been updated to accommodate modern appliances, the HVAC system, and of course the addition.

While we were waiting for the mortar on the hearth to cure it seemed a perfect time to replace the old wiring. The ceramic knobs....

A knob, of the knob & tube wiring system.... served to anchor the wiring. The ceramic tubes ...

A tube, of the knob & tube wiring system.... enabled it to pass through joists and studs.

What Dan discovered, was that the upgrades were all done only to the wall outlets. The ceiling fixtures were all still K&T. The wiring for the outlets is all in the crawlspace. The wiring for all the ceiling fixtures is all in the attic.

Replacing the old meant new wires and new junction boxes.

Wiring in the attic - out with the old & in with the new.
Old ceramic switch box.As he puts in the new, he has been removing the old. The holes left by the tubes are convenient to run the new wire through.

He also replaced the switch in our bedroom. The photo on the left is of the original one. Actually, it still works fine, we just wanted a different color switch. It's box is ceramic, as were the wire nuts we found in some of the ceiling fixtures.

At the time of this writing, he's about half done. The worst part was wiring the front porch light, because there wasn't much room in the porch part of the attic to work in. Not to mention that there is no flooring anywhere in the attic, it's all joists and insulation. The rest of it should take another day.

Fortunately, this is a once in a lifetime job. Good thing too, considering all the crawling around in the dusty, hot attic Dan has to do. But this will finish it out, so that all the electrical wiring will be up to code. Obviously, it will be a relief to get it done.

Next up - starting to lay the brick wall - click here.

The New Hearth - A Detour text & photos are copyright
September 2009 by Leigh at


Michelle said...

Your DH deserves a hero's supper for all that dirty work! But a safer home is wonderful payback. What a blessing to have a handy husband!


I was neat to see all the old electrical components. Your lucky your hubby knows what to do, I can only imagine what that would have cost otherwise. I'm so looking forward to your next fireplace post, it's been really interesting and informative.

Woolly Bits said...

when I see this - I am glad that electrics aren't my job in the house:)) I can deal with all kinds of gadgets, but wiring is something I wouldn't touch! when we bought this cottage there was only a single bulb in 2 of the rooms, no plugs or other electrics! but then a lot of the irish countryside only got connected to the e-net in the late fifties or even later!

Theresa said...

Oh what a BEAR of a job replacing the old wiring. At least he can get to it. We had a lot of it in an old house in New England, all behind horse hair plaster that we just couldn't stand to rip out. We replaced where we could, snaked and such, but it was a quite the job.
It is truly a blessing to have the know-how to do it yourself, although sometimes I'll bet it's a bane!

bspinner said...

Good wire is so important. We almost lost our last home to faulty wiring. We were so lucky to have an experienced fireman who figured out the problem and what to do about it. This is no thanks to the prevous owner.

Dorothy said...

This is one of the reasons why it's a good idea to take your house apart and look at it properly ;)

Somethings are the same the world over. When we moved into our house we had the same problem, and, what is worse, new cable patched onto old 1930's cable on which the insulation was crumbling and falling off!

Dawn said...

Hmmm, those pictures make me wonder what's behind my walls...besides bugs and creepy crawlies. :-)

I am glad your husband knows how to fix things like that.

When it comes to home repairs my hubby is clueless on them so it always costs us an arm and leg to get someone out to fix things for us.

Have a good weekend!


Renee Nefe said...

yes your DH deserves something really special for all that hard attic work. My dh keeps meaning to put some flooring in our atic so that we can use more of it for storage, but just hasn't had the time for it yet.

I'm so glad you were able to get your wiring up to code. Much safer now.

Kathy said...

Ralph always says that house projects take three times the money and twice as long due mostly to these little "finds" when you start remodeling.
I love your commentary on the work and can hardly wait to see the finished project.

Robin said...

I love your house. What charm it has. I totally understand the rewiring. We are going to rewire our house as it was a very scary mismatched cobbled together mess.

Leigh said...

Ya'll, a handy DH is indeed a blessing. If he wasn't knowledgeable about electrical systems and willing to do this, there is no way we could have afforded to have hired an electrician to do it (and there's no way I would have done it!) For starters, our attic is almost impossible to get in to (via a tiny opening in my narrow, high ceilinged closet. To get to the attic I have to take all my clothes down and remove the shelving), and then getting to the various wires required some real acrobatics. DH says no one would have been willing to do all that crawling around and probably would have wanted to tear all the walls down!

We've rewired 3 of the light switches so far, and between the two of us have been able to pull the wiring through (DH taped the new onto the old and I pulled it down to the new switch.)

Now DH is on the road for the week, so it's only half finished. The only down side to this is that I only have overhead lights in half the house! Ah well, it's all part of the adventure. And Kathy, tell Ralph he's right! *lol

Marie said...

You all have been very busy!!! Thanks so much for visiting my blog again, I made a follow up comment on yours..have a wonderfu lday!

Julie said...

Its a lot of work but in the end it will be a much safer home!

Leigh said...

Maries Cottage, thank you for visiting, and thank you for answering my question!

Julie, sometimes I wish we'd built a new home like you did!