Sunday, March 24, 2013

Nineteenth Century Cobwebs

Running romex for wiring is an interesting process.  The romex itself is easy to work with - it's sheathed in heavy plastic/rubber, easily cut but strong enough that it can be pulled and tugged through studs and around obstructions.   It shouldn't be as hard as it sometimes is.

Yesterday, I was working on rewiring the second floor bathroom of the Delaney House.  When the Delaney house was built, some time around 1870, there was no running water in the house, and the house itself was just four rooms.  At some point in the next 20 years, a shed addition was added to the back of the house, containing all the water for the house (a kitchen pantry with the sink, and a bathroom).

In the original part of the house, the ceilings are 11 feet high, with an ample attic space above it.  But in the shed, the ceilings are just 8 feet high, and the space between the ceiling joists and the underside of the roof is quite small.  In order to run the romex, I have had to climb up onto the ceiling joists, then pull myself along on top of the joists.  It's not just pulling the romex through - it also involves drilling holes for the romex to pass through, cutting out openings for light fixtures, and dealing with upgrading the space.  The shed was probably built in the 1880s or 90s, so, as one can imagine, the space between the roof and the ceiling joists is nothing short of filthy.  Ancient cobwebs are coated thickly with dust, and it all sticks to me as I crawl along.  Each time I come out, I basically could use a shower and a change of clothes. So going up there, multiple times, leaves me coated with dirt and sweat and grime.

It's lovely.  And yet there are moments, even in the roof of the shed addition, when I find pleasure.  Crawling over the joists, I came across a full cedar shingle.  The shed originally had a shingle roof (now long since gone), and there, lying in the dust on top of the bathroom ceiling, I noticed a square.  Picking it up, it turned out to be a shingle from the original roofing job of the house. Obviously, some nineteenth century builder dropped the shingle and ignored it, and it lay there, for the next 130 years.  One side was almost black from the dust, but the side that was facing down looks almost new.  The grain of the wood is tight, and that shingle probably could be used on a roof and would last for many years.

And in the meantime, the house is progressing.  The bathroom will have 3 outlets: two by the sink, and one at the opposite end of the room by the window. There will be lights over the sink, in the middle of the room, and over the sink in the foyer space outside the bathroom.  

When we lifted the house, we also raised the shed slightly to level the floor.  So the floors are level and the "shed" now feels like a permanent part of the house.  The back wall has been rebuilt, the rotted studs removed and replaced, the wall insulated, and a shear wall added to give the house the seismic strength it needs.  I'm filthy, but the house is coming along.

Today, I'll spend some more time in the space between the roof and ceiling.  I also hope to work on finishing the wiring to the front bedroom and the hallway.  I'll go up into the attic to rewire the light over the stairs, which will now operate from a wall switch.

Tom is working on building a fence along the driveway.  We're planning a low fence to be neighborly and yet to provide some separation between the houses.  After that, we hope to get Dan working on the front of the house, and then get Dale to finish the painting.  From the outside, it should appear that the project is done.

No comments:

Post a Comment