Scary Electrical

Let me start by saying that the electrical situation in the house is, in a word, scary. We have two 100-amp service lines coming in with separate breakers for the first and second floor units. This seems fairly normal. However, the basement was finished into an illegal apartment. When they did this, or maybe just in the course of doing all of the other terrible things, they spliced into the main for the upstairs unit before the breaker, added some wires, and wrapped it up (poorly) with electrical tape, like some sort of gift that is also a fire hazard. Of course nothing is labelled, and strung together, taped, patched, and generally awful wiring pervades the house. We have the old fabric-wrapped wire, lengths of live wire less than a couple of feet long spliced in at each end in the laundry room, draped over water pipes.

The house is a hundred and fifteen years old. When it was built, electricity was still something for expositions and rich people, which is why the house still has gas light fixtures here and there and a place where the wood stove used to sit. It was eventually electrified, of course, though it was done –shall we say– “sparingly”. There are two outlets in the kitchen, and just one in every other room upstairs, except for the tiny front bedroom which has none at all.

Unfortunately, the two outlets in the kitchen are positioned as far as possible from where the cabinet and counters were and will be again. There’s no outlet for the stove, no electric for a dishwasher or range hood, and no outlet for the kitchen counter, where we might want, say, a toaster. We’re not even sure where we’ll plug in the microwave, and we’re slightly concerned that when we do find a place, making popcorn will burn the house down.

All of this brings us to one of the myriad projects underway in the kitchen: adding an outlet. As luck would have it, there’s an outlet on the opposite side of the wall in the bathroom. We replaced the existing outlet with a GFCI (because, duh, it’s a bathroom). We need to get some spacers so that it will sit flush with the tile in the bathroom because at the moment it’s sunk three-eights of an inch into the wall.

Bathroom outlet

The challenge was that the opposite side of the wall in the kitchen is tiled, and cutting through the tile proved to be more difficult than expected. For starters, I didn’t own a Dremel. I tried using a drill, a jigsaw, and a trim router, but without the right bit, blade, or bit the results were less than stellar. I managed to grind off all the teeth on the jigsaw bit, but eventually I got a decent outlet-sized hole in the wall. Not long after, Sarah’s dad returned from Home Depot with a Dremel.

Cutting the tile

The Dremel quickly straightened out the hole and made it usable. We got the wire connected to the GFCI in the bathroom and ran it out of the wall in the kitchen. For the time being that’s as far as we’ve gotten, because we need to patch in a line for the range hood and the dishwasher. We’re not sure yet if the dishwasher will fit next to the stove or if we need to put it on the wall to the left. That will determine where we need to run the wire.

Kitchen outlet hole

We also tried to put an outlet behind the stove, but the tile there is different and proved quite resilient to my efforts. I decided that we can just plug the stove into the counter outlet. It isn’t permanent, after all, and it doesn’t need to be perfect. As usual, what seemed like a small project took much longer than expected and the result –aside from the new hole in the wall with a wire sticking out of it– was an impressive mess of tools in the kitchen.

Kitchen mess

If nothing else, you can see the new peel-and-stick tile Sarah and Meg put down, as well as the no-longer-crazy plumbing that Sarah’s dad helped me straighten out.


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2 Responses to Kitchen Outlet

  1. Regarding the spacer needed for the outlet…Try looping a small piece of 12 gauge wire along the two screws of the outlet that go into the box a few times. That should bump the outlet out a bit so that it sits flush with the tile.

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