Holes

As Mark continues to install the living room ceiling, I continue to cut holes for the overhead lighting. The holes are 6½ inches in diameter and they always straddle a joint between two ceiling pieces. For each light I measure its exact location from the exterior wall, center it in the ceiling bay, draw a circle with a compass, and cut it out using a jigsaw.

We tried to secure the electrical cables well away from the hole locations before the ceiling went up. In some places we secured them too well: I couldn’t reach the cable stubs after I cut my hole and had to yank them out with the fishtape. And we failed in at least one place, as my jigsaw cut right through the two cables intended for that location. No safety issue here (none of the cables are live), but we’ll have to strip the cables shorter when we wire that fixture, and if there’s not enough left we may need to string a new cable entirely. Ah well, experience comes from bad judgment.

Looking down at a newly-filled hole in the basement.
Looking down at a newly-filled hole in the basement.

This team doesn’t only make holes; we also fill them in. Hans and Mark filled a nasty hole in the basement to give that floor a smooth surface for the first time in its history. You may recall the jackhammer exploits of D.D. about a month ago, when he removed an erratic boulder around which the original basement was built. Using crushed-up rubble from that job, along with seven 80-pound bags of Quikrete, we placed our patch level with the surrounding floor and left the new concrete to set. Now it’s far more comfortable walking around the basement… though I still have to duck.

Another look at the new basement slab. Ceiling height down here maxes out around six feet.
Another look at the new basement slab. Ceiling height down here maxes out around six feet.

Over My Head

Wiring is complete for the overhead lights in Bob’s living room. But we can’t install all the fixtures yet. I’ll explain shortly.

I made up three circuits for the living room ceiling. One switch will control the lights on the south side of the room, illuminating a new L-sectional sofa. A second switch will control the lights on the north side, a more open space visible from the kitchen through the stair landing. And a third switch will shed light on the wet bar Bob plans to install on the west wall.

The lighting is low-voltage, using 14-2 cable with no grounding wire. Each circuit includes a “home run” back to the barnboard-clad basement stair nook, which will house a transformer. I stubbed out cable ends at the rough location of each light, giving myself plenty of slack, and I made up each converter box with wire nuts. Later, as Hans and Mark installed more of the ceiling, I measured the precise light locations, cut holes with a jigsaw (making sure the cables were taped up out of harm’s way), and let the converters hang through.

Converter boxes hanging down, awaiting lights.
Converter boxes hanging down, awaiting lights.

The light fixtures themselves came with the converters, and we have the right number of them. So why not install them? Wrong color! Bob ordered white fixtures to match the ceiling and trim, but 17 out of 20 packages were mislabeled and contained satin-nickel fixtures rather than white. Worse, the two colors connect to their converter boxes differently. That means I might have to take down all the boxes and make them up again for the proper connection when the correct white fixtures come. Fortunately, the lighting company’s customer service seems pretty responsive.

The white fixture on the right is correct. The satin nickel (aka grey) fixtures need to come down.
The white fixture on the right is correct. The satin nickel (aka grey) fixtures need to come down.

While those technical difficulties get resolved, we have an array of wall projects to take care of upstairs. Stay tuned.

Light Up My Life

In Terry’s absence, Colin and I can still manage a few tasks by ourselves. One of the simplest – and most fun – is interior lighting. The kitchen now boasts wall sconces, flush-mount ceiling fixtures, and a gorgeous chandelier centered over where the dining table will go. Without a table under it, the chandelier appears to hang dangerously low. I think there’s an optical illusion going on here, exacerbated by the high ceiling and my own height, because the drop is actually pretty standard. We can always raise it later.

One wall sconce, four flush-mounts, and a chandelier.
One wall sconce, four flush-mounts, and a chandelier.

Today we added closet lights and bathroom fans. The closet lights provide near-instant gratification because it only takes about 15 minutes to install one. It’s a fluorescent bulb system similar to the industrial lights in the Barn, but it’s less than half the length (2 or 3 feet long depending on the closet size) and comes pre-wired. And we stubbed out electrical cables in each closet before closing up the walls. So today I just popped a plastic Romex connector in the back of the fixture, threaded the electrical cable through, screwed the fixture in place above the closet door, connected like wires with the provided wire nuts, and snapped on the cover followed by the bulb. Then I hit the switch and Let There Be Light.

Photographed with the light off so you can see the fixture. It works, trust me.
Photographed with the light off so you can see the fixture. It works, trust me.

Together Colin and I did 7 or 8 closet lights this way. Colin took care of the upstairs bathroom fans, which required slightly more fussing and electrical know-how.

Terry did find a few hours this week to give us his expertise, and he spent most of it prepping and trimming the exterior. South side of the house is complete: Terry finished all the siding, J-channels, soffit, and aluminum fascia. I helped him screw in two “boxes” on the east gable end. Access was a challenge in the southeast corner, so he set up his two longest ladders, fully extended, on each side of the corner. Then we took turns supporting the box’s weight and operating the screw gun.

Two gable-end boxes installed on a bluebird winter day.
Two gable-end boxes installed on a bluebird winter day.

The three of us all pray for below-freezing temperatures and heaps of snow during this unpredictable month. (Tuesday/Wednesday looks promising!) But if the weather is ever unkind for skiing, at least we can finish the siding.