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Distraught - Salvador Dali in a lawn chair.
I'm invisible without 3D glasses.
I am feeling my naivete very keenly right now. I'm getting the "wow, I may have fucked up, and screwed up the life of my partner, lover, and best friend" vibe.

Before we agreed to buy this house, we had a full-fledged inspection done. The house is in spectacular condition except for one thing: most of the wires in the house are ungrounded. This was somewhat to be expected since people didn't start grounding their electrical lines until the 1960's. The current owner didn't even realize this because the house is full of new, three-pronged plugs. But we must have the outlets grounded because of all the computers and home theatre equipment we rely on daily.

The owner told us that an electrician had eye-balled the house and told him that he could probably rewire the whole thing for around $3000. We renegotiated and agreed that the owner will give us $5000 back at closing to help cover closing costs and to pay for the house to be rewired.

I shouldn't have trusted him. It's not that I think he intentionally mislead me, but the estimate could have been old. Or it could have been a "friendly price" that you give to people you wouldn't want to charge full price. I should have called contractors before we signed the contract to make sure that $3000 was normal figure.

Well, no electrical contractor will touch it. The price of copper wire has gone up: like doubled in the past year. Apparently remodeling (unless you're completely gutting the walls and putting up new sheet rock) is one of the most time-consuming and frustrating tasks that an electrician would have to do. It requires fishing wires and cords from the attic down to the outlets. They don't want it. There is so much new construction in the area that they've got all the business they could want, plus some, and much much easier jobs than this small remodeling job. I actually had a couple of guys laugh at me*.

We could pull out of the contract. We'd lose $1000 in earnest money, $500 to Quicken Loans, and $425 that we spent on the inspection.

I still haven't heard back from all of the electricians I called yesterday, so hopefully I can get in touch with someone who is a moonlighter and is happy to have the work. I think if we can get it under $7000, we may be okay. And there are a few other avenues we can consider, but those would require favors from friends/family.

But this slap in the face is making all of the other flaws in the house seem bigger, too. It doesn't have central air (which we'd hoped to fix in about two-to-three years), and it's in Water-freakin'-Valley (it's kinda stuck there).

And in the just-as-bad department, I cried when Jimmy shaved his beard off yesterday. I always try my damnedest not to let it bother me or to show him that I'm bothered. But he looks like a completely different person. It takes me several days to warm back up to him (often after his beard starts to grow back). And I feel so guilty for it; he feels unloved when I shy away from him (who could blame him??). What is wrong with me?

*[Addendum: I only spoke with about six people of the thirty I called yesterday. One guy refused to even bid the project and gave me a $40 hourly rate that would last til the job was finished. While a couple did laugh at me, two others politely declined and were very sweet. They told me I could call them back if I needed advice or had questions, but that the project overall was just not worth their time.]

Tags: ,
music: Aerosmith - "What it Takes" is stuck in my head

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watercamel From: watercamel Date: July 21st, 2006 12:39 pm (UTC) (link)
I'm sorry about the house problems. It is strange that no electricians will do it. Can you ask the owner who he asked?
I am very wary with houses now- we have not had the best luck with repairs but I know other people do well.
If you are not comfortable with the contract, remember that losing $2000 on a bad deal is not nearly as bad as buying a potential money pit- which may not be your case. It seems to me that remodelling cost way more than you expect and may uncover more problems.
But, trust your instincts, not my jaded housing opinions.
Good luck.
lost_angel From: lost_angel Date: July 21st, 2006 01:01 pm (UTC) (link)
I know you've had some seriously rotten luck over the last couple of years, particularly trying to sell the house in Texas (it was Texas, right?).

I plan on calling the seller today and getting him to give me the contact information of the guy who promised to do it for $3000.
stephaneyney From: stephaneyney Date: July 21st, 2006 02:02 pm (UTC) (link)
Wow, I am so sorry. That's the feeling I had (though it pales in comparison to your current problem) when I bought my car and they told me that they could work on any problem with the car at the dealership...turns out no one at the dealership who works on cars knows how to deal with a Saturn.
wyldkyss From: wyldkyss Date: July 21st, 2006 03:00 pm (UTC) (link)
Just FYI, having lived in houses with no grounding for a few years... our computers are all hooked up through backup power supplies/surges that protect them, and we just unplug the entertainment center in bad weather :P
lost_angel From: lost_angel Date: July 21st, 2006 03:11 pm (UTC) (link)
::nod nod:: Thank you for the reassurance. I know that the house is livable, but I'd still feel so much safer if we were able to get it done. But I suppose in the meantime, we'll just have to make do and start saving, or do it ourselves slowly.
wyldkyss From: wyldkyss Date: July 21st, 2006 03:29 pm (UTC) (link)
Yeah, I figure there's the definite "But I want to buy a house that WORKS!" feeling, and that's understandable.
alcamar From: alcamar Date: July 21st, 2006 03:30 pm (UTC) (link)
*nods* I was surprised when my dad told me that my mom's house was not grounded through most of the house. I know we had big tv, computer, etc. Not much, but a few things in the house, and nothing major happened to them.

And then, my dad's new house, which is grounded, had lightning strike(not sure where), and still fried like 5+ components.
From: navydave Date: July 21st, 2006 04:21 pm (UTC) (link)

Another option.

I think you should consider NOT rewiring the whole house.
You only really need them to be where the major computer centers and home theatre system will be. Running a couple wires to two or three locations will be vastly less expensive and serve the goal of protecting your high dollar components just as well.
Granted, you'll still be ungrounded for the rest of the house... but you know it's been there and been just fine that way for a great many years. With a little reading and a bit of effort you could do it yourselves for just those few outlets. My parents ran several new GFCI's in their own house not long ago. It might not be the most legal of solutions... but it's a pretty straight forward project.
lost_angel From: lost_angel Date: July 21st, 2006 04:29 pm (UTC) (link)

Re: Another option.

I just talked to Jessica about this a moment ago, but I'll post it here to make sure you get it, also.

One of the reasons that a few people gave yesterday when they declined the job altogether was that the job just wasn't big enough, even if I was getting the entire house rewired. They didn't think that it would be worth the time and frustration if it was only one residential building.

This means that if I were to decrease the size of the job by only rewiring a portion of the house, even fewer of those contractors would turn it down. However, rewiring only a portion of the house may mean that we may be able to do it ourselves or find some guy who moonlights to do it. However, that means making some contacts.

I agree that we probably don't need to do the entire house. It certainly gives us another couple of options.
havoknkaos From: havoknkaos Date: July 21st, 2006 05:05 pm (UTC) (link)
I know I'm Mr. Libertarian, but... do it yourself. Start with the computer room; it'll take you a few hours, but eletrical wiring in homes is really simple, and you'll learn quite a bit, too. If you have any questions, just call me. There's no legal problems - building codes always allow the owner of the home to do the work without a license, and you shouldn't need a permit to rework one room.

Alternatively, if you can wait until after Sept. 1, I'll consider the job for $1k, as long as you guys can put me up for a week. :) If any inspectors come knocking, tell them you're doing the work yourself, everything will be peachy. You'll have to buy materials, but really, we're talking about a grounding wire and an 8 ft rebar - especially if the outlets are already configured for a ground plug.

Use the cash to get central air before you melt.
lost_angel From: lost_angel Date: July 21st, 2006 06:31 pm (UTC) (link)
Hell, we'd give you a place to stay regardless, but certainly we'd love the help!

And luckily the window AC units are fairly new (within three years old) and thermostat controlled.

Seriously, let us know when you're coming into town.
havoknkaos From: havoknkaos Date: July 21st, 2006 07:47 pm (UTC) (link)
well, yermie pretty much laid out the finer points, below - that's really all there is to it. I'd be coming in for that reason, to help out, but I say after Sept 1 because that's when my vacation time is available. Being I'm on probation until then at work, I don't feel like pushing my luck (especially after taking a sick day a couple of weeks back and being told that I could do it again, because they need me so badly, or I'd be let go. Logic drives that argument, I'm sure.)
yermie From: yermie Date: July 21st, 2006 06:56 pm (UTC) (link)
As was mentioned above, do it yourself. Especially if all you're doing is running an additional ground wire, rather than pulling out the existing wiring.

Go to the local home depot / lowe's / building material supply store, get a spool of 14 gauge (preferably green) solid core wire, and (if necessary) some grounded plugs, some electrical tape, and some screwdrivers / pliers /wire stripper (or, a pocket knife can work for this...). Also, you'll need a grounding rod (rebar works), a grounding clamp (standard automotive hose clamp works for this, if you don't want to / can't afford the real thing), and some wire twist nuts. If you want to make it look really nice, you can get some electrical junction boxes (the roundish ones), but that's optional.

Somewhere outside (relatively accessible, near the meter, etc), drive the rebar into the ground, leaving about 6-8 inches aboveground. This is your ground point. You'll be running a wire to here from your junction point. If you're really worried about it, you can run , but it should be completely unnecesary.

In the attic (or crawlspace under the house, if applicable), start running wires. Depending on the size of the house, and the # of wires you're running, you may want to run a line to each room from the main junction, and to the outlets from that junction.

From there, it's just an issue of running wires down through the walls, and into the boxes. A dremel type tool can come in handy, as you'll probably need to cut the backs out of the boxes (turn off the breaker to that outlet first, or sparks could fly... :)

So, though tedious, it's rather simple.

yermie From: yermie Date: July 21st, 2006 06:59 pm (UTC) (link)


Something I forgot to ask...

Are there solid copper wires in the house, or copper clad aluminum? The reason I ask is, there are different types of outlets for the different style wires. So, check before you buy...
lost_angel From: lost_angel Date: July 21st, 2006 08:36 pm (UTC) (link)

Re: Addendum

All very wonderful advice. There is crawlspace under the house and the attic is completely open as far as I know.

However, neither Jimmy nor I are in the physical condition to be able to do it. I might be able to get into the attic (very difficult access), but Jimmy certainly couldn't. I coud also perhaps overcome my fear and wedge myself into the crawlspace. I'd have to get a lot of nookie as a reward though. Seriously.

We have friends that we could possibly pay to do it (navydave, alcamar or havoknkaos) but that's all highly dependent on their willingness to be used.

The reason we were considering getting the whole house redone was not only because of the lack of grounding in the majority of the house, but many of the junction boxes are missing, and we wanted to switch from a fuse box to a circuit breaker.

However, knowing that we are capable of rewiring it ourselves makes me a little less apprehensive. Since some of the house is grounded, I'm assuming that the ground/rebar/whatever is already present somewhere and we just have to find it to add the new grounding wires to it (rather than having a second bar sticking out of the ground).

I'm going to show your comments to someone else who may understand them better. You explained yourself very well, but I'd like some local confirmation that I understood you properly.

Thanks, Trey, for the very useful directions.
yermie From: yermie Date: July 21st, 2006 10:24 pm (UTC) (link)

Re: Addendum

just noticed a typo in my post... "If you're really worried about it, you can run ,..." should have been "you can run 2..." or two... or II or the integer between 1 and 3...

And of course, if you have any questions, ask away.... I'm not a licensed electrician, but I play one on TV I stayed at a Holiday Inn Express last night I do know a few, and I started out in electrical engineering (before losing my sanity, and finding it again in computer engineering....) Plus, I have family who are licensed, so if need be, I can always relay any questions to them... (the joys of having a huge extended family)

16 Voices in a Chorus | Lift Your Voice Aloft