Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Coal Dust & Electricity

I can't imagine a time where entire cities ran on coal. All the steam boilers, smelters, and fireplaces being shoveled full of this burning black rock. Everything, everywhere all dusty and sooty. The city still essentially runs on coal, it is just burned in a central location far away where no one has to think about it and piped in as nice clean electricity. Anyway, to my point.. Old houses used coal fireplaces for warmth. That translates into today as lots of coal dust and soot pouring out of all the demo areas. I've got the upstairs quarantined pretty well, so fortunately it isn't an issue. I just had hoped that I would be rid of the stuff once I finished wallowing in it under the house. Guess not.
Buzzsaws great grandpa was a coal dog

So far we've made a big mess upstairs and slowly removed the floor.

Floors are overrated
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle though! Here is the floor all stacked up pretty and nice. It still needs to be cleaned up some more, but it is a start. We will be able to patch the master with this and some other rough flooring spots in the house.

Old heart pine flooring like this isn't cheap either! All cleaned up, this stuff can retail for around $4/sqft, so you're looking at about 1k worth of flooring material. Big props to The Axe for her crazy nail pulling efforts. 

I found a fun little surprise under the floor. Guess what the red light means...
I love hidden surprises!
Knob and tube wiring has gotten a bad rap over the years. It was actually a pretty good system. It only started to have problems when introduced to rodents, insulation, and time. Rodents chew through the insulation, exposing bare electrical wire. Insulation, if placed around the old knob and tube wiring, contributes to overheating and that causes the insulation around the wire to fail, crack, and fall off... exposing the bare electrical wire. If you throw father time into the mix then you have yourself a nice house fire! The same things can happen to newer electrical wiring if not installed correctly. Moral of the story, expect to find knob and tube in an old house. Also, don't rely on a home inspector to find things like this. They cannot see through walls... yet. My advice is to study up,  walk through your inspection with your home inspector,  and ask questions if you have concerns. 

My stuff is in pretty good shape, but it still has to be ripped out according to code. Also, I've seen evidence that someone has tried to hide the fact that the knob and tube was still being energized. The guilty party cut it a little over a foot back from the electrical boxes and tied it into some newer wire (no junction box, of course) which was then put back into the box and wired up to the fixture. That is why I didn't notice it when I rewired some fixtures earlier on. For shame, person/contractor who took this shortcut, for shame. Renovating these old houses isn't easy, but that doesn't excuse shortcuts and shoddy work. The bad news, this stuff runs to most of the overhead lights in the house. Yay....


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