9.24.2006

Ohmygod!

Thehousecouldhavetotallyburneddown!

We were ahead of the game, people. It was only Saturday morning and we were down to 2 loads of laundry. One load to go in the dryer and one load to go in the washer. This was a frickin miracle. And the other loads were already folded and put away!

So, Kristin goes downstairs and puts the load in the dryer and the last load in the washer. Then she pushes the start button on the dryer. Everything goes dark. Whole basement, lights out.

This happens a lot. We blow the breaker. The entire basement is on one breaker. But it's been happening more and more often. I'll be downstairs, washer running, dryer running (it's a gas dryer, so it's not on a 220, just a regular 110) TV on, dvd running, and the iron going as I watch TV and iron while the laundry finishes. If the big chest freezer kicks on while all this is going on the breaker'll blow. Sigh. Go upstairs and flip the breaker again... go downstairs and try again.

Yes. I was worried. I've been worried about this house's wiring since we bought it. The house was built in the 20's and remodeled in the 50's and the wiring is a mixture of original 1920's era knob and tube patched (often with a ton of ancient electrical tape) to the green (no diferentiation between hot and neutral, no ground) wires from the 50's. Scary, yeah. Every room we've redone we've redone the wiring on.

Except we only half did the laundry room. See the house had never had a washer or dryer before. The old woman who lived there used a crank washing tub and lines, until she got too old and then her kids sent her laundry out (we assume). So when we moved in and bought a new washer and dryer (we hadn't noticed that there were no hook-ups before we bought) my dad had to come out and wire us some plugs and rig us some plumbing... that was right at the same time that we built the bathroom downstairs, and we ran a new circuit and breaker for the downstairs bathroom, but for some reason, instead of hooking the washer/dryer to the new circuit, we just added it to the basement circuit. Dumb? Maybe. Maybe not. If we hadn't done that then we wouldn't have just found this recent problem. But if we hadn't done that maybe this recent problem wouldn't have been a problem? Eh. My head hurts. Back to the story.

So, the power goes out on Kristin and she comes up and checks the breaker. Breaker's not flipped. So she calls to me and tells me what's up and I go downstairs to check the ground fault circuit interruptor on the outlet that the washer and dryer are plugged into. There's just no power to the thing, it hasn't been tripped either, there's just no power. But there's power everywhere else in the basement... weird. So I call my dad. He says it sounds like there's a short, but where? He's busy, but he agrees to come out and help me find it.

Last night when he and Mom arrived (after eating and socializing -- remember, we had planned a bbq that night) we went downstairs to check it out. We followed the wires to the junction box where we had originally gotten power. And then looking, looking, looking -- deep into the basement ceiling, we notice that instead of that wire running straight back to the breaker box, it runs to ANOTHER junction box. But to get to that junction box we have to tear down the paneling (cardboard, I tell you, made. of. cardboard) that makes up the basement ceiling. So we do, and reveal...

A RAT'S NEST! Of wires, that is. No real rats. Just scary, scary, SCARY wiring.

Ok, this is what they did. They broke like every wiring law known to man. The 220 to the furnace? There's wires spliced off it like arteries, no wire nuts, no junction boxes there, and who the hell KNOWS where those splices lead to? Just wires going off in weird directions. Then there's an outlet wired into the ceiling. Covered by the panelling, by the way, that's got a cord plugged into it... and we have NO IDEA where that cord runs... But the junction box in question? The current problem we were tracing? A MESS. There're all these wires like snakes. It was a mass of meltie electrical tape. Pull off the electrical tape (all the lights flickering with each tug) and there was a screw and bolt, with two wires strung through it and the bolt clamped down, to make some sort of connection, and then multiple other wires just WRAPPED around the screw and TAPED there! Including the wire that led to the junction box that we got our power from! Sorry for the overuse of exclamation points, but I found the whole thing a little alarming!

Dad said that what had happened is that when Kristin started the dryer, it pulled so much power along that line that the loop finally slipped off the nut and thus the power went out. BUT, that whole box had been getting SO HOT from the friction of the current, that the electical tape and some of the insulating plastic had MELTED. This, just millimeters away from our cardboard paneling, in our HOUSE that we've spent so much money and time fixing up!

We should have had the fucking house rewired. Anyway, Dad's coming back this afternoon and we're rewiring that junction box and diverting the power from the laundry room to the new circuit we ran for the bathroom. We probably should have done that in the first place, but if we did, then the power wouldn't have gone out, but that box would have still been there, smoldering, unnoticed. We're going to make it safe, but how many other little wiring "surprises" are waiting for us? And where do all those splices go? And what about that outlet and cord?

I want the house rewired. The whole thing. But we don't have the money for that right now. Especially since we have a dinosaur of a furnace from the 50's (really, the thing is HUGE and GREEN) that's going to need to be replaced soon, and we're up to our eyeballs in debt, and my job is shaky and Kristin's in school...

Just repeat with me...
The House will not burn down
The house will not burn down
the house will not burn down
the house will not burn down

Posted by Trista @ 11:54 AM

Read or Post a Comment

The House will not burn down
The house will not burn down
the house will not burn down
the house will not burn down

Okay, now do me a favor, and install a couple of smoke detectors.

I love old houses. But, dang, they can be scary!

Posted by Blogger zilla @ 7:55 PM #
 

holy shit!
& phew.

that would have freaked me out- big time!

Posted by Blogger Calliope @ 5:58 AM #
 

The house will not burn down!
The house will not burn down!
The house will not burn down!

Aiiiiiiiiiieeeeeeee. How scary.

It reminds me of when we remodelled my house in one of the older neighbhorhoods in DC. The previous remodel had been in the early 80s and was a lovely example of crackhead design (http://www.inshaw.com/blog/2004/09/elements-of-crackhead-design.html)

In our case, the worst example was the "insulation" of the stove electrical outlet. It was crumpled NEWSPAPER. Yes, our stove backed into the wall in front of an electrical outlet stuffed with loosely crumpled newspaper.

And the house did not burn down.

Therefore neither will yours.

Posted by Anonymous Liza @ 8:57 AM #
 

The house will not burn down.
The house will not burn down.
The house will not burn down.
The house will not burn down.

And add a carbon monoxide detector to those smoke dectors!!

Posted by Blogger Faith @ 9:10 AM #
 

The house will not burn down.

But just in case, do you have a fire extinguisher... maybe even two...?

I should add that I am a very paranoid person when it comes to these sorts of things, primarily because my mother is a risk manager and I now work in safety/risk management... Over the years, I have learned that a little bit of caution ahead of time really does go a long way.

And so do a couple of fire extinguishers.

Posted by Anonymous Molly @ 9:24 AM #
 

Ok, we DO have smoke detectors. Just not one in that particular room. I mean, I HAVE one for that room, I just haven't put it up yet. But there ARE smoke detectors in the bedrooms and the room with the fireplace and the upstairs hallway...

And there's a carbon monoxide detector in the basement the correct distance from the furnace.

And a fire extinguisher in the basement and one in the kitchen.

AND I know that the best way to stop an electrical fire is to first cut the power.

BUT, how many times do you expect your ceiling to just randomly burst into flames? I'm just saying that I had a nightmare where I realized it's a good thing I put all the cute pictures of Julia on flickr...

Posted by Blogger Trista @ 10:33 AM #
 

OK, no joke? GO INTO DEBT and get your house re-wired.

Your safety is WAY more important than a bit of extra monthly payments.

Seriously.

I'm a registered fire guard for theatre, and let me tell you some of the SCARY SHIT I've seen.

PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE get your house re-wired.

now.

OK, off my soapbox.

Think of Julia.

xo,
S

Posted by Blogger Shelli @ 11:34 AM #
 
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