The last few days at the house I’ve spent a lot of time in the attic. The wiring is a bit… custom. Despite a bunch of breakers in the electrical box for the upstairs, only four circuits are actually used for everything. We haven’t figured out what the rest are for yet. Fortunately, in one of those rare positives of the house, all of the electric for the upstairs is really easy to get to because it’s all run in the attic in the flexible conduit. Now, that’s not to say that there isn’t ancient fabric-wrapped wiring inside the conduit, because there is, but I’ll take easy-to-get-to wiring any day. First I mapped out where everything went.

Wiring diagram

If you can’t tell from my crappy sketch, the exciting part is where the one wire goes to the kitchen ceiling to the bathroom outlet and the bathroom light, then to the office ceiling, then to the office outlet and the living room outlet. Oh, and when we put those outlets in the kitchen, they were off of the bathroom outlet. That’s all one circuit, and we both have power-hungry desktop computers and a laser printer. Clearly I needed to do something about it or we’d be tripping the circuit constantly, if not burning the house down. That meant spending more time in the attic.

Original electrical

This isn’t being used, but I wanted to share it anyway. This is the bare wire on porcelain insulators from when the house was originally wired. Because the house has remnants of gas lighting, we think it was electrified after it was built, but this wiring means all the flexible conduit stuff was a retrofit done years later. Before I get to my wiring escapades, I have one more attic discovery to share.

Zombie rat

Sarah was in the attic when I found this guy above the bathroom. He’s well on his way to decomposed, but was so stiff that I could stand him up and pose him for a quick photo. Sorry if you’re squeamish, but I was laughing like a little kid when I took this picture.

Anyway, back to the wiring. I disconnected the office from the bathroom. There was a line running from a box at the back of the attic all the way to the front of the house where it went to a blanked outlet. The box in the attic also went to an outlet in the kitchen. We turned off that circuit and I cut the line. Imagine my surprise when sparks came out as I cut the conduit! Whoops! An investigation of the box revealed three wire cable run from the basement. Basically there were two separate circuits coming into the box and splitting up, one to each outlet, and sharing a neutral. I swapped the two, which put the kitchen outlet on the same circuit as another outlet in the kitchen. That left me with a dedicated circuit for the office. I got that hooked up and ran the living room outlet off the living room fan.

High quality wiring

I thought everything was done, or at least, once I’d resolved a short in the kitchen ceiling fan receptacle and a mis-wiring of the bathroom light switch, until I came to the bedroom. You may remember this picture from when we took down the drop ceiling in the bedroom and disconnected the track lighting.

Ceiling receptacle

Well when I went to put the ceiling fan into the bedroom I realized that the receptacle was only a half-inch deep, and the way the fan mounted I needed a receptacle with a bit more depth. So we picked one up on one of our frequent trips to the hardware store. The problem was that the original receptacle was directly over a ceiling joist and nailed into it, while the deeper-set receptacle mounted to the side of it. No problem, just cut the hole a couple of inches bigger on one side and it’s all set. Well, I got into a bit of a hurry and grabbed the reciprocating saw, which would have been fine except that it’s plaster and lath, not drywall.

Ceiling problem

Crap. So I managed to get the new receptacle installed and the wiring connected, but now we need to patch up the ceiling before I can install the fan. Oh well, we’ll get there. Did I mention that cutting the hole caused a rain of dust, rat turds, and random ceiling debris? Onto the new carpet that Sarah just installed? Fun stuff. At least we’re almost ready to move in.

 

2 Responses to Attic Electric

  1. This is a big deja vue – the rat I mean 😉
    (well, the electrical too – but the rat is more fun).

    Was that the only dead rate you have found to date? After the third (and I think it was the last one) I almost decided to start a collection…

  2. Matt says:

    Well we got one in a trap in the basement, after that guy in the attic I did a sweep and found three more. I just found a couple in the basement ceiling as well. None as well preserved as this guy, though.

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