This blog reports events and interesting tidbits from Rensselaer, Indiana and the surrounding area.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

My Christmas letter part 1

This is the time of the year to send and receive Christmas cards and letters. Over twenty years ago I began to send Christmas letters, partly to let friends and relatives know what we were doing and partly to keep a record of what happened during the year.

2012 did not have any big events (births, deaths, and weddings) for us. It was pretty quiet, so I decided to write about the home improvements that we made during the year. Actually, the big one, rewiring almost all the house, began in 2011.

I live in a house that is a century old, and most of the wiring seems to have been installed when the house was built. Here is a picture of some wiring that is in the ceiling. It what is called knob and tube wiring. The two wires needed to make a circuit are kept completely separate. When they run through studs, as these wires are doing, they run through ceramic tubes, hence the tube part of the name.
 Rewiring requires new wires be installed, and sometimes that can be done by threading the wires through the  hollow spaces in walls using long fiberglass rods. However, sometimes it is necessary to cut holes in the plaster to get access. The picture above was taken using one such hole. The picture below shows a big one that was needed to connect a wall switch with an overhead light.
 Our rewiring was done by Valade Electric. Alan Valade was able to use time between other jobs to work on my house, so the process took many weeks, but he did an excellent job. The hole in the ceiling was patched after all the electrical work was done by Walter's Plastering & Drywall. Instead of trying to replace the old wooden lath, he put up a metal mesh that holds the plaster much better. The repaired sections are superior to the original work.
 The wiring in the second floor mostly came down from the attic, and Mr Valade did not want to work with the fiberglass and other insulation that was there. Midwest Contractor Services, a local company, took out the old insulation.
 It was rather colorful. I put it in about 30 years ago. I do not remember why it came in two colors.
 With the insulation gone, the old wiring was easy to see. Below you can see both knobs and tubes.
 I came to respect the old ways of doing things. This wiring lasted a century. How many other things last a century? Will the new ways of wiring last as long? What will happen to the plastics used in modern wiring over the next hundred years? Some of the insulation on the old wiring deteriorated, but because the wires were never in contact and because they were guided by the ceramic knobs and tubes, they still functioned even if the wire insulation had problems.

Below you can see what the new wiring looked like. Now we have three-pronged outlets and we do not need to keep trying to find adapters when we have three-pronged plugs. Plus we have more outlets--the people a century ago did not foresee how many things would run on electricity.
 When all the wiring was finished, Midwest Contractors came back and blew in insulation. I hope I never have a reason to go up there, because it will not be easy to get around.


Gene said...

This blog entry was quite interesting to me. My dad (Bill Chambers) installed a lot of Rensselaer's Knob 'n' 'Tube electric wiring, much of it in the farm houses owned by Elmer Biggs in the 1940's -- before that he installed this kind of wiring in the new barracks being built North of Rensselaer in FDR's CCC Camps.

Thanks for the memories.

Anonymous said...

We still have some knob and tubes wiring on our first floor. Fritz Eshleman years ago said not to bother changing it even though we have lots of newer wiring.