Dispatches from Maine

Just another person of little note writing about ordinary things. That I reside in Maine is icing on the cake.

22 August 2007

Reconstruction Hornet Battle

No home project is complete without a war against nature and new tools. I love carpet. I love living room carpet most of all. Tandy...not so much with the living room carpet. She is from the hardwood with a throw rug culture. Ultimately, she had the more formidable arsenal: the girls. They ground things into that poor carpet until even I could bear it no longer. Finally, we agreed to rip it out and remodel the living room. Unlike the previously projects this was not scheduled as a "gut and rebuild" operation. There were only three items on the agenda:
  1. Continue the hardwood flooring into the 1960s extension to the living room (only sub-floor back there).
  2. Remove the drop ceiling and either repair or sheetrock over the damaged ceiling.
  3. Replace the lighting over the fireplace and in the ceiling.

The day we removed the drop ceiling we found about a half-dozen "bees" flying around the room. After no small amount of exploration those "bees" were found to be yellow jackets and the half-dozen turned into two nests. We searched for days for the nest finally exposing it, including a creepy "listen to the wall buzz" moment. I am not a huge fan of bees or "bees," but this was just too much. Fortunately, I have braver friends including Adrian the Amateur General Contractor and Steve the English Hornet Handler. They scared me, they amazed me, they made me slightly ill. At one point Steve was pulling out handfuls of the nest with little more than his gloves on. Yikes!

An individual, who shall remain nameless, did me the favor of cutting through a wire in the first floor knob and tube circuit. I have a very, very healthy fear of knob and tube. Left alone it will continue safely for generations, but once you touch it by splicing into it or cutting away sections, all bets are off. My avowed strategy is to gradually remove items from the circuit, capping off that end point in the box until the whole circuit is empty. Then the dead circuit is removed from the panel, ending it for all times. Fortunately, I always take the precaution of shutting off "at risk" circuits in the panel when doing a project. The nameless individual was not showered with sparks as he cut through the wire.

Faced with the need to replace a whole mess of wiring, now that the knob and tube was tampered with, a new tool was clearly required. To fill the need I purchased a 72" drill bit with a 3/4" bit head. This bit is specially designed for running wire and is used by sliding the bit up (to reach the ceiling) or down (to reach the basement) in an outlet box hole in the wall, then drilling through to reach the desired location. There is a tiny hole bored through the bit face, allowing you to slide a piece of the wire through to pull it down to the outlet box hole. We used this tool more often than you can imagine, particularly when we had to run a new line into the hallway for the stairwell light fixture (rendered inoperative by the loss of the knob and tube circuit). In total we used the bit about nine times to help run wire where there we no existing holes. At almost $40, it hurt light mad to pay for it, but the bit came in incredibly handy.

All in all, the project is going very well. We still have sheetrock to hang, walls to scrape and paint and floors to install and refinish. We are, however, making good time with the help of good friends and the promise of good beer after each day's work!

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