Electrical roulette

We are always amazed as we repair and replace stuff in our old house.  Amazed and terrified in most cases.  Take, for example, the outside lights we replaced a few weeks ago.  They were junky looking lights and one had stopped working.  They looked ancient so we figured it wasn’t worth trying to fix them up.  Up I climb on my ladder and off comes the set screw holding it all together.  My jaw dropped as I lowered the light from the box holding the light in the wall.  Both lights were connected to regular 12 gauge wire by telephone wire (24 gauge).  In case you are not familiar, 12 gauge wire is a pretty typical size wire for running electricity through a house.  On the other hand, I used to play with 24 gauge telephone wire as a kid when I wanted to mess with flashlight batteries and tiny gizmos.  Twelve gauge wire is rated for a maximum of 25 Amps in free air, or 20 Amps as part of a 3 conductor cable (i.e. typical household usage).  Telephone wire is not rated at all for household current.

Ok, I know, I am going on and on.  I just can’t imagine what would make someone decide to connect an obviously very skinny wire (diameter of 0.0201 inches) to a very not-skinny wire (diameter of 0.0808 inches…4 times the diameter of the other).  Even if you know little about electricity, I would think one would at least pause for a moment upon seeing such a difference.  Check this out for a graphic

Fortunately my house didn’t burn down.  I don’t know how previous owners didn’t have problems aside from the fact that the lights were probably rarely used because of their location.  As we work through the issues in this money-pit adventure of home ownership, I shudder to think of what else lies in wait for us.

Anyone else see crazy stuff in your house and wonder how you survive?

6 thoughts on “Electrical roulette

  1. We live in an 1890’s farm house that displays similar rigging. Like you, when something like this is discovered, I wonder how a fire did not start – and thankful that it did not. *shivers*

  2. I’m not sure of why our house hasn’t burnt down either. I can’t think of a single time when I’ve torn any drywall out when I haven’t found some electrical nightmare behind it. Our state now has laws stating that any new wiring must be inspected by certified inspectors. I think that is a good thing.

  3. Ah, the joys of home ownership! Years ago when we bought our farm it had an old farm house that was built in the late 1800’s. Electricity was an after thought I’m sure. All of the electrical wiring was on the outside of the house. You could see the wiring tacked up to the side of the house on the outside where it would go into each room for the one plug in for each room! Yes, I said one (1) plug in for each room! lol I’ll have to admit I miss the old house. Lived in that death trap for a year and a half before we built the house of our dreams. Needless to say, I have more plug ins in one room than I had in the entire old farm house! lol

  4. We lived in an old house for years, and would find things like that periodically. About 8 years ago, the ceiling started to fall in on one of the additions that we had. At that point, we tore the thing down and built our new home from scratch. By ourselves. We now know that it was done right, and don’t have to wonder what we’ll find when we need to fix something.

  5. A friend of mine just told me about your blog and I saw this post and had to comment. We bought my husband’s great-grandparents’ farmhouse back into the family last spring. The place had been renovated but not really taken care of; when we tore up the floor in the parlor we found that 2/3 of the beam running the length of the front of the house had been destroyed by termites! It was a pile of shards when it was removed…so for who knows how long, the old clapboard siding had been holding the place up!

Comments are closed.