Archive | September 2014

A Comedy of (Electrical) Errors

So, once upon a time I decided to take power from the house out to the shed.  Should be fairly simple, I thought.  There was an existing plug on the outside of the house near the front, so I hooked up a cable (inside wire!) to that and ran it to the back of the house, added a plug there, then continued on, burying it (unprotected) in the ground, out to the shed.  Once there, I installed a switch, a light box, a motion sensor light, then another motion sensor light.  Everything’s been working fine.

Until I needed to shore up the end of the patio.  Never figured out how to protect the end of it, how to keep the sand from moving and the blocks with it.  I’m fortunate to have a son-in-law who’s a red seal carpenter, so I called Shaun over for some advice.  He said to dig a trench and pour a concrete footing, securing the end row of bricks with adhesive to the footing.  Armed with a plan, some bags of instant concrete, a wheel barrow, water hose and shovel, I start my project, all the while mumbling to myself, “Remember the wire. Remember the wire!”


You know, of course, what happened!  To my chagrin, I hit the underground cable and shaved off the top plastic covering, exposing the bare wires inside.  Now what?  I don’t want to rewire the whole thing, do I?  Of course not.  Just slather a half roll of black electrical tape over it and bury it in the footing!  No problem.  Carry on, Clair!

Well, I finished the footing, with the help of my lovely wife, Rachel, a true Jill of all trades!  I’m serious, I’d still be under the truck trying to figure out how to change a U-Joint if it hadn’t been for her.  “Bang here,” says she, and, Voila! it came loose!

Problem is, trying to use the plug caused the GFI switch to flip every time.  Shoot.  Moisture must be getting in and shorting it out.  Now I really have to rewire.  Fortunately, my brother-in-law is a builder, so I called Ed over for some advice.  “To do this to code, you really should take the power from inside, drilling through the wall and, using the proper outside wire, bury it in conduit!”  Cool, I can do that!

Now, I know what you’re thinking.  With all those skilled folks you’re related to, why not consult with them first?  Yeah, yeah, yeah.

OK, so starting at the shed, I hooked up the new wire, pushed it into the first length of conduit, etc, etc, till I reached the house where I added an elbow and ran the conduit (with wire safely inside) up the side of the house with lots of extra, all ready to connect to the new wire exiting the house.  A trench was dug to receive the whole thing.

Next, I measured where to drill out from the inside and, using my new $34, twelve inch long drill bit, I started into the plaster and studs and promptly got stopped at the stucco wire.  Why won’t it just go through, I thought to myself.  Check the package on the new drill bit: wood drill.  Now the bit is dull and useless to me.  So, off to my neighbor, Victor, who loaned me his beautiful hammer drill and bits.  Soon I’m through the wall and…oh boy!  I emerged about a foot from my awaiting conduit/wire assembly!  No worries, I have a spare elbow, I’ll just use that and everything’ll be just fine.


Now, to connect the two wires, I need a junction box (that’s making it to code!).  No problemo.  Got that hooked up and prepared to cut the overly long conduit to size.  Two heads would have served me better than the one I have, because it was taking me longer than any other cut to get through the plastic pipe.  To my horror I realized I’d cut through my wire, as well, again!  All right, fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice and I throw the hack saw down really, really hard!

OK, I’m resourceful, I’m smart, figure it out.  All’s well that ends well, because I had just enough wire and conduit to add a plug, which I had wanted anyway.  So, the end result: it looks pretty good, except that in the picture, it looks like…well…here’s what Shawna said about it: “It looks like you ran electrical to your planter…flowers don’t grow like that, Clair!  No wonder Rachel is in charge of the garden.”