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Waiting for the Electrician, Or Someone Like Him | Manolo for the Big Girl

Waiting for the Electrician, Or Someone Like Him

Yes, I’m a longtime fan of Firesign Theater. How could I not love a group that poses the musical question How Can You Be In Two Places at Once When You’re Not Anywhere At All?

Anyway.

This has been a somewhat flappy week at Casa Twistie what with discovering we lived in a more than average potential firetrap. Yes, you read that correctly.

You see, we live in the house that Mr. Twistie grew up in. His family moved here in nineteensiftymumble. The house is actually one of the three oldest on the street. They were built to identical plans as rental properties in 1889. Over the years, there have been a lot of upgrades, improvements (you know, like indoor plumbing and stuff like that). Only one house retains its original footprint intact, and all three are now painted entirely differently.

The problem arises because the last person to own this house before Mr. Twistie’s family was a dry wall contractor who thought that made him competent to do any sort of contracting out there, including electrical.

He wasn’t.

As it happens, my kitchen is actually in his additions to the house. A few days ago, I hit one of the switches in the room and lo and behold, I got a HUGE scary spark out of said switch.

This not being how switches are supposed to work, I turned the switch off again and called Mr. Twistie to inform him that that I was calling the electrician. Oh, and to bring dinner home with him because I was NOT cooking in that room until this was sorted out.

Friends, it turns out that my kitchen has been an electrical deathtrap for at least the past forty years and change! Much of the wiring is substandard for more like eighty years ago, and some really, really basic safety precautions were cavalierly ignored back when Mr. Drywall-Contractor decided to wire his own kitchen up.

Who needs a box behind a switch? It’s so much easier and cheaper to simply leave the wires hanging against bare wood! Oh, and let’s thread the wires through the cabinets hanging limply down so that future families will store their pots and pans with the long handles right up against them! After all, Mr. Twistie’s family had lived here for decades. Why would I get down on my knees to see whether there were inadequately insulated wires liberally festooning the back wall of that cupboard I would have to virtually kowtow to see all the way in?

We spent three days getting to know our electrician and his crew much better than we ever expected to do. We will probably spend the next couple of days pulling of switchplates in the parts of the house created by the old owner to see if there is more fiery death lurking in our very sockets.

The good news? I can now use my kitchen again. In fact, being able to cook without sending the house up in flames may be an early birthday present to me… but probably not.

After all, I just got a flyer from the Le Creuset outlet….

8 Responses to “Waiting for the Electrician, Or Someone Like Him”

  1. The gold digger August 21, 2010 at 12:41 pm #

    When I bought my (1922) Memphis bungalow, I had some electrical work done: an outlet on every wall in every room, a phone jack in every room (yes, this was in 2001, BCellphone, although in my defense, there was only one jack in the entire house), under-cabinet lights in the kitchen. All this stuff was put on a new circuit. The electrician also looked at my other wiring and pretty much advised me not to use the old outlets at all unless I had the old wiring replaced. I guess fabric insulation on wires doesn’t last more than 80 years or so.

  2. Jo August 22, 2010 at 12:25 pm #

    How can you be in two places at once when you’re not anywhere at all? I have no idea; we’re all bozos on this bus (which, incidentally, is full of shoes. For industry).

    I had the selfsame problem with Casa Jo when I bought the place. The electrician, on looking at the wiring and the electrical box, said he wouldn’t sleep in the place. So I had the entire place rewired to the tune of five grand (it’s a small house) and things are much, much better now.

    Wiring is the plague. THE PLAGUE!!!

  3. Twistie August 22, 2010 at 2:32 pm #

    @Jo: What has happened to your nose? I just returned from Rome. I’d like an anchovy to go and hold the pizza.
    You’re not wrong about the wiring, either!

    @ the gold digger: no need to justify your electrical choices to me! I still don’t own a cell phone, and in 2001 I was on dial up.

  4. txbunny August 22, 2010 at 6:32 pm #

    As strange as this sounds I always inspect the household electrical panel and behind each electrical outlet in a house before purchasing just for this reason. I also will not purchase any house with aluminum wiring without budgeting a complete re-wiring. Just my inner engineer coming out from time to time.

    Congratulations Miss Twistie on your new and approved wiring. Although I totally agree that a newly wired kitchen just *needs* a new pan or two.

  5. Twistie August 23, 2010 at 1:07 am #

    @txbunny: It might not be common practice, but it sure seems like a good idea! As for the other, I’m trying to decide whether I need a nice, new Le Creuset pan or a second bowl for my KitchenAid stand mixer more… and I’m starting to lean toward that second mixer bowl.

  6. Mrsbug August 23, 2010 at 9:36 am #

    Oh, I feel for you. We have a house from the early 40s and the wiring is still fine (although I try not to think about it too much), but I really want to get it replaced.

    Congrats on getting the work done. I like to DIY myself, but there are some things you really need to know what you’re doing to accomplish well and with safety: drywall, not so much…..electrical? OH HONEY!!

  7. Chicklet August 23, 2010 at 10:53 am #

    This is why I’m hooked on Holmes on Homes. I love to watch Frank the Electrician redo all of the wiring to above code in, like, 45 minutes. Competency is hot, y’all.

  8. txbunny August 23, 2010 at 12:21 pm #

    @Miss Twistie: The 2nd bowl is essential for the Kitchen Aid if you do lots of baking as well as a 2nd whisk and beater paddle. I admit to having 3 bowls and yes I have used all 3 and had to wash to do yet more cooking. I think an extra bowl runs about $40 (at least the last time I bought one).

    @Miss Chicklet: You are so right. Stark raving competence fixing things around the house is so sexy. If it includes a nice personality, a sense of humor, and a gentle soul – oh it is just too much to think about….