Monday, March 23, 2009

Chuck the Writer Avoids a House Wiring Mishap

Yes, I'm still working on my "Bob Vila meets Reddy Kilowatt" phase, so I went to Home Depot and picked up another set of lighted switches, as well as a ceiling light to replace a crappy-looking single-bulb fixture in my hallway. I was ble to sap out the switch with no trouble, but when I disassembled the fixture from my wall, I got the shock of my life.

No, not THAT kind of shock. I did have the circuit breaker off, so that wasn't an issue.

I did discover, however, that the wiring in the ceiling had become old and brittle; the rubbery casing that sheathed the copper wire had become brittle and crumbly. The casing fluttered to the floor, leaving some very exposed and dangerous wires in its wake.

So what did I do?

Real simple. I admitted to myself that I was entering territory that no Home Depot "1-2-3 Wiring" book would explain comfortably, so I called an electrical repairman.

He showed up about an hour later, chastised me for doing my own electrical work ("Do you know we have to study electric wiring for five years before we can even be certified?"), and then he looked at the ceiling, with the exposed wires - and immediately changed his tone. "It's a good thing you saw this," he said, "because in old houses like this, we come across a lot of deteriorating wire - especially if the light source, like a ceiling light, is too close to the ceiling itself, the heat actually causes the wire casing to harden up and break."

Since the circuit for the ceiling light would only affect a couple of bedroom lights, and not an important appliance like the refrigerator, we agreed to have him come back Monday, rather than have him work Saturday hours (and me having to pay Saturday rates).

Monday morning, right on time, another repairman showed up. He had already been briefed on the situation, he went up to the attic, replaced the wiring and the ceiling light housing, then he and I put the light fixture together. Two compact-florescent lights later, I turned on the circuit breaker, and the hallway lit up.

With light from the bulbs - not that "other" kind of lighting.

Honestly, while I'm not thrilled for getting chastised about doing my own work around the house, I am glad that when a situation arose that was outside of my comfort zone, I was able to make the right choice and call in a professional.

Plus, when my wife gets back from her trip, I think she'll really enjoy the new light fixture in the hallway.

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