Friday, March 30, 2012

This little light o' mine

Buh Bye Ceiling Fan. Your time has come to say goodbye. 

There was nothing wrong with you, you kept us cool in the summer and circulated air in the winter. But let's be honest, you weren't easy on the eyes.  You're being replaced. So sorry we had to do this to you.

We're renovating our living room anyway, and when I found an awesome deal from Lamps Plus  I couldn't help it.  If you check their open box/clearance section you can find some pretty sweet deals on high end designer light fixtures for extremely discounted prices. You'll see the light below.

So the ol' ceiling fan was removed by Joe. Here's a shot of the ceiling box with three copper wires (live, neutral, and ground).

However, the light fixtures (as with all light fixtures we've bought) use aluminum wiring, presumably for cost reasons.

Because of differences in expansion of the two metals, splicing these wires can pose a fire hazard if done incorrectly. Special wire nuts (old ones seen below) with an anti-oxidant inside to reduce corrosion. These nuts aren't cheap, but they're important to reduce the likelihood of fire.

Oh, and one of the fixtures only labeled the live, so we didn't know which wire was neutral and which was the grounding wire.

Fortunately, my multimeter can test for continuity between the wire and the light sockets. Here I'm confirming that the live wire is connected to the metal tab at the base of the socket.

One of the other wires made a circuit when I touched the metal threading of the socket, so this was the neutral wire.

The third wire didn't make a circuit with any part of the light socket, so it was the ground wire. I labeled the wires properly for future reference.

For connecting solid wire (the copper coming out of the ceiling) to stranded wire (the fixture wires), my home wiring book recommends wrapping the stranded wire around the solid wire,

then folding the solid wire over itself.

Then the nut is screwed on (notice the purple aluminum-copper nut, not the cheap orange nut included with the fixture), tugging firmly to make sure it was securely fastened. Then I wrapped the wires/nut with electrical tape and stuffed it up into the ceiling box to keep it out of the way.

Both light fixtures used one or more cables to hang from a metal disc that mounts to the ceiling box, with yards of excess electrical wiring and support cable, just in case you have a 50 foot ceiling. I could have just cut the wires to make it fit, but maybe we'll take these lights with us when we move into a cathedral in the south of France.

The support cables are threaded through an ingenious little spring-loaded mechanism that allows you to push the cables through, but you can't pull them back out unless you depress a little "nipple" to compress the spring and release the internal clamp that holds the cable. So I pulled the cables through to about the length I wanted, then mounted the fixture to the ceiling box. I then pushed the cables to fine-tune and balance.

However, there was just too much wire up there in the ceiling box, so I had to wrap a little of the support cable around the base.

Here is the new and improved fixture. So much better than the light wood ceiling fan don't you think? (Sorry ceiling fan -no hard feelings.)

We love how modern it looks and the circular shape breaks up the all the harsh lines from the fireplace and molding.

Here's one shot with the light off. The shade is a true white linen fabric and there's a plastic disc on the underside so it covers the light bulbs.

We'll have more living room pics for you as the days progress and we get closer to a finished room. We still have to:
1) Build our entertainment center
2) Find some kind of material to decorate the back.
3) Move our Expedit bookcase and fill it with goodies.
4) Bring out the big Poufs my Mom sewed for us (post on that later.)
5) Get some lamps for the entertainment center, maybe I can DIY something.
So stay tuned!

Cathleen & Joe

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Ethernet & cable wiring

As part of our living room remodel, the TV and computer switched sides. Unfortunately, there was no cable outlet by the new TV position, and no phone jack near the new computer position (we still use DSL). Instead of having wires crisscrossing the new laminate flooring, we wanted to try our hand at laying some wire.
First, the coaxial cable (for antenna/satellite/cable). We actually just use an antenna mounted in our attic, which is hooked up to one of the many coaxial lines running through the crawlspace to various rooms. Both cable and satellite have been used by previous owners, so redundant lines abound, only a subset connected. I needed to run one of those lines from the antenna, through a splitter, and to the TV. 
Here's the wall, right under where the TV was mounted. The power outlet is mounted to a wall stud, so the coaxial cable connector could go on the other side of the stud.

The living room wall is shared by the storage area, which has exposed wall studs. This made the job tremendously easier, because I could get right at the stud. From the back side, you can see the electrical box connected to one side of the stud.

So, the cable wall box just needed to go on the other side.

Because I could access the back of the wall, I used a new work box that mounts to the stud with two long nails. I tried to line it up as carefully as possible with the outlet box, but I should have been even more careful (as you will see).

I got to use my Rotozip for the first time in years, with the drywall bit. Following the Rotozip instructions for cutting holes in drywall for boxes, I first plunged the bit at an angle, inside the box boundaries.

I then worked my way to one edge of the box (the bit won't really cut the box). I then pulled the bit out just enough to get over the edge of the box, then pressed it against the outside of the new box while I cut all the way round.

Unfortunately, my "careful eyeballing" from the backside didn't quite line up the two holes. Lesson learned.

Anyway, coaxial cable was run up from the crawlspace, into the storage area via a hole I drilled in a beam, then through the new box. I then installed a new screw-on connector, following these instructions.

First, the outer plastic insulation needed to be cut off (not damaging the braiding or the inner sheath). I folded back both the braiding and sheath, then cut away enough of the inner plastic to reveal the signal wire.

 I screwed the connector onto the cable, and done!

I connected the newly-run cable to a coaxial faceplate (basically a female-female coaxial connector inserted into a plastic cover), then screwed it on.

From up close, ground level, you can notice that they're not in line, but it's not obvious from far away, and you can barely notice when they're covered by an entertainment center.

Feeling cocksure, I embarked on solving our internet problem. My solution was, instead of running new telephone wire to hook up the DSL modem by the computer, why not run ethernet cable from the phone line to the computer? Here's the phone jack, exposed. I just needed to drill a second hole from the crawl space, up through a support beam, right under the phone jack. I could see where the phone wires were running, so was confident I knew where I was.

D'oh! I done goofed. This is the flooring on the other side of the wall, in our dining room. I over-estimated the thickness of the wall, and which beams under the house were under the living room vs. the dining room.

Now, if you look in ANY home improvement book, the first step is to drill a pilot hole, near the wall (where it will be covered by trim), so you can stick a coat hanger or some other marker down so you know where you are with certainty. Apparently, it's a really good idea. Well done, professionals! You know what you are doing, and I am a doofus. (I had to replace some planks of laminate flooring; it's good to keep the extras around).

Since my first hole had missed ever-so-slightly, I needed to drill another hole (preferably between the walls, not through another floor). This time, I used a pilot hole to see where to go, and made a nice, neat hole up from the crawl space. I already had the trim off in the dining room, I could cut into the drywall covered by the base molding to give myself more access to the inter-wall space.

I used fish tape (long metal tape with a hook on the end, wrapped in that blue plastic circle) to pull the ethernet cable up from the crawlspace.

As it turns out, a support beam runs along the bottom 8" of our living room floor along this wall, so drilling a new hole all the way up to the telephone box was basically impossible. Instead, I made a hole underneath to run the ethernet cable, which will then be covered by a faceplate mounted directly to the wooden beam.

Here's the ethernet cable, under the phone jack. I tied it to a pair of pliers so it doesn't slip back down the hole after all my hard work!

I was much more careful running the ethernet cable up the other side, making good use of the drywall portion covered by base molding. You can see I made a fairly large hole to give myself workspace, and drilled a pilot hole right at the edge of the wall. You can also see a teensy bit of the ethernet cable peeking through, running up to the cable box.

I pulled up the ethernet cable with the fish tape using a two-step process: first bringing it up through my hacked-up hole (above), then up to the wall box.

After all the cable was run, the trim needed to be put back (AGAIN!), so out comes the pneumatic nailer, my bestest friend. Note goggles and gloves, both good ideas.


Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Sewing 101

I've begun a new adventure in my life that involves a lot of learning and definitely a lot of practice. I took up sewing at my local community college. It's a 24 hour class broken up into 8 weeks. I had my first class this week. Boy am I already overwhelmed!  We were handed a big packet of information, I'm assuming I have to read it. LOL. So finding the time between raising three kids, maintaining a household, yard, and this blog, I  hope I can find a little time to fit this fun new skill into my life.  I've always wanted to learn how to sew throw pillows and drapes for my house, but starting out in sewing class requires that I be able to sew a skirt.  I've always been able to pick a fabric for a pillow that will look good on a couch, but never have I been good at picking fabric that will look good on my butt!  Sorry to be so direct, but picking fabric for your body is completely foreign to me. This is where I would love to have some experience with fashion or wish I had spent more time reading fashion blogs, reading fashion magazines or watching Project Runway. ANYTHING would be helpful at this point. To be honest I've always tried to pick clothes that look good on my body, not clothes that necessarily have a pretty fabric. Plus for most of my life I've chosen neutral colors to wear on my body, like black, white, or gray.  But now that I'm making a custom skirt to fit my body, I want something special. But I am told I can't pick a stripe, sheer, knit, or plaid fabric. I guess they are harder to start out with.  And to be completely honest, I do like wearing skirts, but only a few truly flatter my figure. I'm 5'7" so my height is the perfect height for sewing patterns I am told, but my proportions are not exactly proportional! I've always been okay with my bust, my hips, legs, etc., but after having three kids, let's just say I focus a lot of energy at the gym on my mid-section. I'm happy with my progress on getting back in shape, but I'm not there yet. I have a bit more work to do, and a bit more time is needed to settle into my new Mommy shape.  For my sewing project, I think I will choose a pencil skirt, simply because it's always been the most flattering.  Although these skirts are very inspirational to me.

Seen here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

Wish me luck as I tackle this new machine in my house, called a sewing machine and hopefully come out in eight weeks with something I can wear in public. :)

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