Thursday, April 14, 2016

Victorian Farmhouse - Electrical (Day 7)

Before I get into the meat of this post, I have two random "old hardware photos", and a few photos of the foundation work on the exterior.

Here is that other Victorian handle I had seen. It's on the basement door, and it's a different pattern than the other one. This one has a cranked (or offset) handle. You might wonder why there's a rectangular notch in the bottom, and that's because it was cast as both a "right and left" handle. Just flip it over and it's identical for fixing to a different door.

I also re-photographed the lovely handle from the "under stairs closet".

Here's the foundation on the side of the house where the deck was. If you'll recall from one of the last 2 posts, it had been dug out, and all the stones had been cleaned up and prepared for the lime mortar. 95% of this area will eventually be hidden under the deck once it's replaced.

While I was at it, I thought I'd show some of the tree stumps from this small front porch landing.

This VINE grew between two boards to a pretty amazing size. I'd say it was at least an inch and a half trunk by this point.

All the framing under the side door was rotted. I was also surprised to see that the addition is partially on a stone foundation, rather than cement. I'm fairly sure that parts of it are cement, but this section here is stone. The small section of cement on the right was apparently still in good shape (over the stone) so it was left as-is.

I mentioned a while back that there was a HUGE pile of vines, and this is some of it. It looks like just a pile of sticks, but it's actually about a 4 foot high pile of tangled vines.

Most of the work on the farmhouse on days 7 and 8 (April 9th and 10th) was spent on electrical work. As mentioned previously, when this house was first built, it had no electrical, and no plumbing. The house was basically just a stone basement, 2 rooms on the main floor, and 2 bedrooms above. We found no traces of gas lighting, wall brackets, or hanging fixtures (such as hanging kerosene lamps).

The house was first wired for electricity in around 1969 or 1970. The current panel uses fuses (see days 2 & 3 for photos), and the existing wiring is still fine. It's copper with a ground wire, but it has the more brittle cloth type wire coating. While the existing wiring is still good (and a bunch of it will stay) there are many rooms with barely any electrical (one plug per room, no overhead lights, etc).

I'm helping my friends with the installation of the new wiring. When it's done, it will be inspected, and we're putting in an updated panel with circuit breakers. We were hoping to be able to move the electrical panel, or raise it from 100amp to a 200amp service, but costs were going to be much too high, so we're opting to have a more compact panel, and inset it into the wall.

I had started a bit of electrical work on day 6, but we had the wrong electrical boxes (octagonal ceiling boxes) and I had also forgotten that we needed some 3-wire for the 2-way switch in the hallway. With the materials in hand, I got to work early, and passed most of the hallway lighting wires (a separate add-on light fixture in the lower front hallway on a 2-way switch). I also passed the wiring for the office ceiling light, which you can see here. The bare bulb fitting is temporary.

Office's light switch (in progress). Note the use of plaster buttons to help stabilize the lath boards where needed (especially near outlet boxes).

Front hall light fixture partway done.

Front hall switch 1 of 2 (near living room side).

This switch gave us some problems but in the end we got everything working correctly.

Next to the front door were 2 light switches (one for the porch, and one for the staircase light above). Now there are three switches and the third controls the light in the main hall on the first floor (at the base of the stairs just outside the office).

Here's that ridiculous outlet box in the master bedroom.

We discovered the reason why the box didn't fit within the wall. This wall (next to the staircase) is only 1 inch thick. It is barn board tongue-and-groove and it had just wallpaper over it originally (and it now has an added layer of drywall in the bedroom). This box is the second 2-way switch for the staircase light, and we're moving it to the exterior wall next to the window.

Pierre was up in the attic to pull wires. We also followed the old wires to see which ones went where, and how they passed them. Most of the upstairs is all on one breaker (fuse), including the staircase light, master bedroom, and spare room. The only separate circuit upstairs is the bathroom.

The attic is in similar shape to mine. Lots of signs of old water damage, and old hornet nests. Behind Pierre are the remains of the original chimney, which would have come from a wood stove in the living room, up through the ceiling into the spare room, and then up into an elbow and into the chimney. The top of it was removed a while back, and you can see the roofing tin in the top corner (they didn't patch the hole with wood).

The attic of the main house is largely just a big triangular area, but there's a bit of a peak where the gable is (which I didn't photograph). This shows the area over the master bedroom.

Our last little adventure of the way was to take a peek behind the paneling in the kitchen addition. All three of us were THRILLED to find that under ALL the thin plywood, wallpaper, and mac-tac are solid wood tongue-and-groove walls on all four walls!

Hopefully all the mac-tac will come off as easily as this section did (like a big giant piece of masking tape). They still make a nearly identical tongue-and-groove if we need to patch anywhere, but this will look awesome!

I'm excited to see what's under the ceiling panels, but it's possible that the ceiling is also tongue-and-groove. If that's the case, we'll do the walls a different colour to break-up all the stripey effect. The floor is apparently also nice solid wood (under linoleum and plywood).

Lastly, we finally decided that the old grate in the living room ceiling was going to be removed and patched.


After removing the ring and patch:


  1. Most people would knock this house down without hesitation.

    What I so enjoy about your approach is that you are taking the time to learn about the house, and are also valuing what CAN be valued.


    1. It's very sad to think that anyone would want to tear down such a beautiful old house. There isn't much wrong with it. It needs new electrical (not that big of a deal) and cosmetic work which will mostly just be painting, and refinishing the floors.

      Parts of the house, admittedly, would be better if completely rebuilt, but those are limited to the back addition and the detached barn. The detached barn is leaning quite dangerously, and some of the holes and rot in the floor make it unsafe. Still, it does have a lot of charm, and it might be fun to completely disassemble it and put it all back together again.

    2. Ross, just a quick FYI: I had accidentally made a duplicate post from the Farmhouse "part 12.5". The one that got deleted had a comment from you (the other post had more comments). I did get it, and I saw it.

  2. This house looking interesting. I Look forward seeing this after fixing this house.

  3. The renovations look like they are coming along well! I've had my own back porch have a vine grow through the wood, it's quite a sight! Did you decide to keep the old living room grate after patching it? Looking forward to more updates, love the work that has been done!

    Neville @ Electrical Experts