Posts Tagged ‘electrical box’

A Little Electrical Gerrymandering

May 9, 2017

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I removed a wall-mounted light fixture in a powder room and discovered this.

This is not really dangerous (depending on what’s inside the wall, that is), (and it’s been up for 20 years), but I doubt that it would pass code.

Several things are amiss… First and foremost, there is supposed to be an electrical box here. That’s a plastic or metal box. And all electrical connections are supposed to be made inside that box. In this case, the connection was made somewhere inside the wall.

The connection in this case is between the home’s wiring (either 12 ga. or 14 ga.) and the stranded wiring used by light fixtures. Somewhere along the line, someone fished some stranded wire through the wall, and made a connection somewhere inside the wall, and any cuts in the drywall were hidden, perhaps by the wall-mounted mirror.

So when I installed the new light fixture, there were not the usual 14 ga. wires to connect to, but instead stranded wires.

It’s a little unorthodox, not up to code, but not all that uncommon, and probably not dangerous.

All went well, the bulbs light up, and we expect no house fires. 🙂

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Electrical Box Placement Throwing A Wrench in Wallpaper Job

January 25, 2017
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Here is a double-sink vanity in a master bathroom (Photo 1). For this post, we are focusing on the right sink and light fixture. In Photo 2, the original light fixture has been removed. It was a “bar” type fixture, meaning that it had a backplate and front cover that were rectangular (bar) shaped, and you can see the outline of that by the different paint color in the Photo 2.

In Photo 2, you also see the electrical box in the wall that supplies power to this light fixture. It is not centered over the sink. That was OK, because the original light fixture was centered over the vanity, not over the individual sink. The electrical box was not centered over the sink. This could be because there is a stud in the way, or because it was centered over a previous, pre-remodel sink that was situated differently, or because the electrician was lazy.

Either way, it didn’t matter, because an extra length of electrical wire was added, and the bar fixture was long enough that it could be moved horizontally to the desired position over the sink, and it was perfectly centered and looked wonderful.

The problem came when my clients, new owners of this ’50’s era, mid century modern ranch style home, wanted to install an updated, sleeker light fixture Photo 3). This new fixture has a canopy (front plate) that is plenty large enough to cover the electrical box. But it is NOT large enough to cover a trip horizontally across the wall to a point centered over the sink.

Which is another way of saying that if this new light fixture is positioned over the sink, as the homeowners want, it will not cover the electrical box, and the electrical box will show. And plus, the connections will not meet safety codes.

This leaves the owners in the hapless position of either living with the new light fixture slightly off-center over their sink. OR they can have the electrical box moved to exactly centered over the sink.

This is sometimes more easily said than done. There may be a wall stud in the way that prevents repositioning the electrical box. If the box can’t be moved, and the electrician elects to run a wire along or through the wall, there will be cut-up Sheetrock, and patches and possibly humps in the wall. Lots more complications that electricians and Sheetrockers know that I don’t.

And it caused the homeowner to have a delay in the installation of their dream wallpaper. I can’t hang wallpaper until the box is moved and the wall is repaired. And more cost top to pay the electrician – on top of the new wallpaper, new towel bars and light fixtures, and labor to install all of this.

Probably the worst part is having the wallpaper install scheduled, then not being able to move forward, and then having to scramble to find a qualified guy who can get the lights positioned correctly, and all with a quick turn-around, so the wallpaper install can happen within a reasonable time of the original install date.

Moral of the Story: If you are going to change light fixtures (or any fixtues), it’s a good idea to do this before the new wallpaper goes up.

Signs of a Humid Room

March 4, 2016
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The Great Enemy of wallpaper is humidity. That is why some papers are not a good choice in some bathrooms. I particularly dislike solid-vinyl material on a paper backing, as they tend to absorb moisture and expand and curl and delaminate (vinyl detaches from the paper backing). You can see this happening in the top two photos.

The third photo is harder to see, but it is a shot of where I have removed the light fixture and you see the electrical box where the wires are connected inside the wall. Humidity has caused the screws on either side to rust and corrode. And the strap is completely rusted. (A strap is the metal bar that crosses the box and to which the light fixture is attached via a threaded nipple. In this picture, the screw on the right has been removed and the strap is the dark metal bar in a vertical position.)

What is intriguing is that humidity is present not just in the bathroom itself, which would be attributed to hot showers and poor ventilation, but also behind the wallpaper and inside the wall, sufficient enough to cause rusting inside the electrical box.

This is a 1930’s era home that was constructed with shiplap wood and lathe and plaster. It has been updated with modern air conditioning, but still has the original walls and wiring, and ventilation is probably not as adequate as it should be. There is no vent exhaust fan in this bathroom, either, so humidity from a hot shower would just hang out in the room until it dissipates over time.

Wallpapering Around a Wall-Mounted Light Fixture

January 29, 2016
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Wallpaper looks much better when it goes behind switch plates, light fixtures, etc. Here is what it looks like after I have removed the fixture. You are looking at the electrical box, and the safely-capped wires inside it. The white holes on either side are where the screws that hold the fixture to the wall go.

The second photo shows you what it looks like with the light put back in place.

This material is a woven grasscloth, and has a texture that homeowners are loving right now.

A Little Creative Wiring

January 6, 2016
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I am working in powder room in an expensive home in a brand new subdivision in far northwest Houston, built by a big-name tract home builder. I have removed the wall-mounted light fixture and found this … The horizontal bar is the mounting bracket for the light fixture, and the round tube is the nipple that holds the fixture in place. No on to the electrical wiring …

Electrical connections are supposed to be enclosed in a plastic or metal electrical box. As you can see, there is no box in sight.

The wires were fished through the wall and pulled through a hole, sans box, and then connected to the light fixture.

The other problem is, the wires you are seeing are not the 12 or 14 ga. AWG copper wires that carry the household current that the light fixture is supposed to be hard wired to. Instead, thinner braided wire has been used to make connections somewhere inside the wall, hopefully inside a proper box, and then pulled through the wall and connected to the light fixture. You might also notice that these wires are silver (aluminum?) instead of copper.

At least there is a ground wire.

I suppose the electrician did this so he could center the light fixture over the sink. The subdivision may be outside any incorporated city limits, so possibly there are no governing building codes. Either way, I doubt this would pass code in Houston, or any city with an attnetive Building Inspector.

Handyman’s Work Not Quite Up to Snuff

March 17, 2015

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Digital ImageDigital ImageThe homeowner had a guy remove two medicine cabinets from two bathrooms in her house. He patched the hole with a piece of plywood (usually they use drywall, but I guess this is OK, too), and then spread joint compound over the junctions. It didn’t look like he used tape to bridge the joined areas, so there’s a possibility that a crack will develop at the joints. He also neglected to sand everything smooth.

I hate it when workers tell the homeowner that the walls are “ready for wallpaper,” and then leave them with a mess like this, while they run to the bank to cash their check. The average homeowner has no clue that all these bumps and ridges will show under the new paper, or that cracks can develop all around the new patch.

This is the second time in two weeks that I’ve had to refloat another guy’s work. Today, between the two bathrooms, I guess I spent at minimum an hour, refloating, drying, and then sanding the areas smooth. I also had to patch around the area where a light fixture had been removed, and gaping holes were left where the toggle bolts had been yanked out of the Sheetrock, and where the electrical box had been moved.

Oh, yeah – and wasn’t he supposed to remove the wallpaper, before “fixing” the Sheetrock??

The last pic is how it looked after I finished floating, sanding, and priming. There will be no bumps under MY wallpaper!