I Amaze Myself Sometimes: Electricity.

Monday, November 30, 2015

I may be darn exhausted sitting here writing this but man, with weak wibbly arms I am patting myself on the back.  And am in awe of what I accomplished.

I don't mean to sound conceited or pompous, braggy, or smug as what I just wrapped up doing, anyone can do.**  I merely can't believe that I did it.  Me.  I.

So remember how we were having trouble with our garage?  The power kept going out?  I had installed that spiffy new light fixture on the exterior, then it rained, and a couple days later bam no power.  We'd flip the breaker, it'd stay on but then ehhhhh, *plink,* shut off.

Well, the breaker got so mad at us messin' about with it, it finally said, "hey, screw y'alls, I'mma done."  So it's been well over a week and a half of manually opening and closing the garage.  I know, again, #firstworldproblems, but heh, it's irritating.  The biggest problem:  the garage was unlocked; anyone could drive by, roll it up, steal, and roll away.

Why am I retelling you all about this?  Because I rewired a temporary fix.  Special thanks to a generosity of hint-giving.

Lemme back up though.

Last I left you I mentioned I was going to rewire the new light fixture.  So I did that.  Picked up some outdoor wire nuts,* took the fixture down.  Undid all the wiring.  Trimmed away more siding (yikes!) so the fixture would sit as flush as possible.  Rewired.  Super snugged that thing on as best I could and ran a bead of clear caulk all the way around.

Flip the breaker, everything is good.

I knew it wasn't me though.  I did suspect maybe the socket could be bad.  But regardless....

Two days later:  rain.  Lots o' rain.  Pop, there went the breaker.  Ugh.  I text Mike, "hey babe, it's gotta be the underground line -- the rain, no power."  I got a NSFW one word response.  I think he still thought it was my wiring.

Eventually I remembered that there was a light switch hidden in the garage that controlled all the power distribution within it.  So I ran a lil' test.  I shut off that switch, flipped the breaker.  Waited.  Went back downstairs:  tripped.

So that settled it for me.  Somewhere between that switch and the breaker is the problem.  I.e., the underground wire.  Sigh.  Alas.  Sob.

One day I came home, followed Finn down the gangway for some reason or another when I glanced at the box where the power comes out of the house for the garage.  Huh.  That damn caulk looks all cracked.

Who on earth makes this terrible crappy caulk??! And who the heck buys it and why?!?!
I push the siding back, away.  Holy crap, holy gaps.

Holy bejebus gaps batman!
Seriously.  Palm to forehead.  This flipper.  Suuuhhhhhh-uhuhuhuhuh-cks.

Maybe rain streaming down the house seeps into this box and causes the short.  I check the temp on my phone, dammit 41 degrees and rain ahead.

Aw jeez, not caulking weather!
Grab the caulk anyway, grab my hair dryer, fill in as best I can, try to cure it best I can but it's too cold.  I cover the thing with a plastic bag and hope for the best.

Messiest caulk job ever.  And yeah, ten days later it's still tacky sticky wet.
At this point I've tried everything within my power (ah ha, power, electrical pun) short (ah ha, another pun) of calling an electrician.

More rain came to pass and now it's totally dead.  Dead dead dead.  "Don't even touch me," the breaker snarls, "I am dead."  Yes, inanimate objects are speaking to me now.

I'm at my electrical comfort level line in the sand so Mike's coworker shares the name of his electrician.  I call her (Yes! Her! Very cool.) up, Diane, she says she'll come take a look.

She's been a union electrician for twenty eight years, it's her job to laugh at people in her head, speculate on silly humans making things silly worse.  I ran though all the things above.  She's skeptical.  Totally fine.

She takes apart the switch, I flip the breaker, nothing.  She opens up a few other things, flip breaker, nothing.  She opens up the box on the house, a sh*t ton of water gushes out (so I wasn't wrong there, yeesch), she disconnects all the rusty wires, I flip breaker, bingo -- power.

The rusted out wire nuts she clipped off the rusty wires.  Niiiiiiice.  Thumbs up.
Ok.  Good.  Progress!

After a bit more sleuthing she agrees with me, it's the underground wire.  She limits her gigs to repair work; digging an 18" deep ditch or running new power overhead, not her thing.  Totally fine.

I have redeemed myself enough with her though that she not only tells me how to install an outdoor outlet using that same box as the receptacle but tells me generally how to route a temporary garage fix.

She doesn't charge me as she didn't fix the garage and she feels that's fair.  Despite her mild protestations, I give her a bottle of wine as she could have spent that time elsewhere or getting paid instead.

I hem.  I haw.  I text Mike.  "Should I?"  I get this in response:  "Sure???"

"Maybe I'll wait for you to help me tomorrow."  Radio silence.

Hem.  Haw.  Pace.  Plot out how to achieve the task.  Run through all the steps in my head.  Should I?  Can I??  Hem haw pace plot.  Rinse, repeat.

Awww, jeez louise, just f' it, omg.  I can no longer handle the garage not working, neither Mike nor I are gonna get out there and dig an eighteen inch deep trench some thirty feet long or so in this damp cold, jam wire through two short runs of conduit if we can find the ends underground, no, it'll wait 'til spring...Ugh, dammit!!

Menards....on a holiday weekend Saturday no less.

"How was your Thanksgiving weekend?"  "Oh fine.  I painted a room and re-ran power to my garage."   "Uhhh...."

I buy one hundred feet of bury-able wire* and a faucet cover.*

Back home I open the switch up, disconnect.

Da' switch.
Twist and tape new wire to old wire.  Open the box at the bottom.

Switch and box below.
Start pushing and yanking through.  Which is rough as that's pretty well my arm span.  Heh.

Old wire and new wire taped together in a blurry dark photo.  Not like I was able to turn on a light ya know.
Open the elbow thingie out on the deck.  Push wire through.  Freak dog out.

Elbow outside by the deck.
Go back in garage, push-yank until I've got all one hundred feet through.  Omg.  Yes.  100 feet.  Getting that wire through was the hardest, most time consuming, and most exhausting part.

I figure I can stash the remaining balance of unneeded wire under the deck 'til spring when a trench can be dug and we can use this same new wire.  Hence why I ran it all and didn't trim.  Did not want to buy more then push-yank all over again.  Uhhh, no thank you.

My wire stash, man.
Anywhoooo.  Ok.

Open the box at the house.

The electrician disconnected everything out of general safety-ness even though the breaker was off.
Wrap new wire around conduit several times so it doesn't get yanked out if tripped on, zip tie it.  Poke hole in faucet cover.  Thread new wire through.  Yes, this is my own crazy-person-thinking invention.  Wire new wires to wires coming out of house.  Get metal cover sorta back on-ish enough-ish.

Attach plastic ring that normally goes over a hose spigot to conduit with a zip tie.

Carefully trim away foam where needed, push cover over box, pull faucet cover tie as tight as I can.  Use electrical tape to cover cracks, holes, whatever.  Sorta cover-ish with plastic bag as best I can.

I am wiped.  Take deep breath.  Curse Father Time.

Flip breaker.  On.  It stays on.

Holy sh*tballs, it's ON.  I take a picture of the garage door opener all lit up, text it to Diane saying thank you.  She writes back, "lol, you're smarter than the average bear."

Holy bejebus, it's on!  It's ON!!
Test garage door opener.  I nearly collapse -- it's on.  It works!!  Wow.  Omg.  Omg omg omg.  Ok.  Fingers crossed it stays this way and no moisture gets into the box on the house.  I will be watching that damn thing like a freakin' hawk.

Major tripping hazard of wire running through yard.  Keeping a sharp eye on running amok gi-ganto dog ensues.
Best tip I could ever share for any DIY'er, or want-to-be DIY'er, or any homeowner?  Learn.  Learn how to do things and understand how your house works. 

BUT.  That being said, the second best tip ever for any DIY'er, want-to-be, or homeowner?  Know your limits.  Do not ever hesitate to seek help.  Keep your house and yourself (selves) safe above all else.

Bonus:  if, at the very least, you understand how your house works, a basic understanding of how things function, you are then able to speak intelligently with repair people therefore they will not be able to rip you off.  See?  See?  Twofold win there.

Ok?  Ok.  Now get out there and learn.  I'm going to stand in the dining room window with my garage remote now, watch it open and close several times until the tears of joy subside.

**Disclaimer:  Electricity is dangerous.  It can hurt you.  It can kill you.  Bad wiring can burn your house down.  It's best to hire a qualified, licensed electrician if you don't know how to wire things.  Do not attempt to wire anything without the proper knowledge.  Do not ever take wiring advice from me.  And do not blow your house up.

*The outdoor wire nuts, wire, and faucet covers are Amazon affiliate links.  Mwah, thanks!  Please see the "boring stuff" tab above for more info.


  1. I wonder if there's some version of a cable staple that you could use in the yard to hold the wire down. Even croquet hoops pounded down over the top of it might help with the trip hazard.

    1. Yea there are and that's a great idea! I might even have some in the garage. Thanks for the great idea!

  2. Thanks for sharing that information with us really informative.. Keep posting and I'm waiting for your upcoming response..Thanks
    24/7 electrician


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