Old Stone House

Finally Some Progress…

December 7, 2006

Filed under: Basement @ 1:55 pm

light7.jpgSince finishing the electrical, we’ve been waiting a month to start the drywall. The problem is, it has rained every-other-day for a month, and we couldn’t coordinate a delivery date with our friends that didn’t leave the drywall sitting in the driveway for a spell. This logistical nightmare was complicated further by the fact that in order to get the drywall into the basement, we needed to rip out the stairs…

Needless to say we had been climbing the walls for a month…

Yesterday afternoon my father and mother dropped by to visit the grandkids (I suspect they wanted to visit us as well). After exchanging pleasantries, my father, sympathetic to our frustration, suggested that we go get the drywall ‘right now’ and just ‘get it done’. Like Uncle Jesse and Bo Duke, we tore off to the lumberyard (which closed at 5:00pm) in dad’s pickup and loaded up 32 sheets of gypsum. It wasn’t until we arrived home that my father (a shop teacher and restorer of old homes) announced that he wouldn’t be lifting a single sheet of drywall.

“I’ll help guide and steady, but if I carry these things, I’ll be buggered for a week…”

Hence, for the next hour and a half, I carried sheet after sheet of drywall down the side of the house and slid it through a widow where my father steadied it until I could run inside, scurry down the ladder (where the stairs used to be) and catch the sheet of drywall as he dropped it down into the basement. Once in the basement, I would manoeuvre the drywall around the room – 7 foot ceilings and all – and stack it ‘good side’ out at the opposite side of the room. Scurry back up the ladder, run back to the truck and repeat.

With the drywall neatly stacked in the basement we started to sheet the ceiling. Again my father reiterated that he would not be doing the heavy lifting, so for the next hour I hoisted 70lb sheets of drywall above my head and steadied them while my father tacked them in place.

We had dinner, and then the grandparents said their goodbyes. I profusely thanked my father for all of his help – politely hiding my impatience to keep working. No sooner had the truck left the driveway than I returned to the basement.

I wasn’t inspired to lift anymore drywall – my shoulders and arms had made it quite clear they would be doing no more heavy lifting today – but I did have the energy to install the lights!

light21.jpgWe purchased a ‘renovators pack’ of small halogen pot lights for the basement. They’re known as a renovators pack because the lights are designed to be installed after drywall is in place. You simply need to cut a circular hole where the light will be installed, fish the wires out of the ceiling and connect them inside the attached junction box. The entire light assembly then secures itself with spring clips around the perimeter of the hole. Tidy, neat and easy.

Using the map I had drawn a month previous, I measured out where each of the lights would be located, and used my DeWalt rotary tool to cut in the holes. One of the lights landed smack dab in the middle of one of the ceiling straps, but as we had used 2”x3”s for rigidity, I was able to cut out a portion of the stud without incident.

I wired the lights, and popped each assembly into the ceiling. I flipped on the breaker, returned to the light switch, flicked the switch and POP… The breaker blew. I paused for a moment and immediately realised that I had made a mistake with the last light in the set, having marred the connection together as if the lights were wired in series when they were in parallel. I pulled out the last light, fixed the mistake, again flipped the breaker, flicked the switch and nothing happened…

Happily I was standing in the dark so no-one could see the vacant, perplexed expression on my face.

I returned to the breaker panel to see if the breaker had blown again, and it looked as if it had. For the life of me I couldn’t figure out what I had possible done wrong, so on a whim, I pulled out my multimeter and checked the continuity of the breaker. There was none. A few tests later revealed that yes, the breaker had broke.

It was 8:45p.m., so I had enough time to run to the hardware store and purchase a replacement. I grabbed the breaker by its sides and pulled, and three other breakers came with it. Seems that whoever wired this panel used these quad-blocks of breakers exclusively! They weren’t tied breakers, which I would have understood, but rather square blocks of four breakers glued together. Now I had to replace four breakers, not one.

I dashed to the hardware store and went to the breaker section. I couldn’t see anything that would fit and I asked the attendant for some assistance.

“Oh, that’s a Westinghouse breaker – we don’t carry them. You might try the box store at the north end – they’re open till 10.”

I raced through traffic and arrived at the Home Depot. I the showed the attendant the breaker and he told me they didn’t carry them, and that I could likely get a replacement at the local electrician’s center – but that they were closed, and they would have to special order it. He then proceeded to tell me how I should really re-wire the house and buy a new panel to avoid these problems in the future. I told him that wasn’t friggin’ likely, so he recommended that I go across the street to the RONA.

I arrived at the RONA and again spoke to the attendant. He took one look at the breaker.

“Oh, Westinghouse. They were bought out by Cutler-Hammer. Here, this should do.”

He handed me four 15amp breakers with the exact same pin configuration. I thanked him profusely, making sure to mention he was the only person who actually helped me, and I raced back home.

I deftly inserted the new breakers, turned them on, flipped the light switch, and nothing happened…

Disgusted, I resigned myself to the fact that the nights work was done, and I would continue tomorrow with a fresh head. I trudged upstairs, and out of habit flicked the light switch to the basement.

The lights turned on.

I raced back downstairs and flipped the light switch on and off repeatedly and everything worked. I turned on the lights, raced back upstairs, flipped the switch, and the lights turned off, went back downstairs, flipped the switch and nothing happened.

“What the hell is going on!”

Through the process of elimination, I soon came to realise that the $45 3-way dimmer at the base of the stairs was blown. It no longer worked. I replaced it with a 3-way I had lying around and everything worked perfectly. I could only conclude that when I popped the breaker, I wrecked both the 3-way switch and the breaker.

Midnight arrived and I trudged to bed. Shoulders aching, arms throbbing, $120 poorer, frustrated and tired, I was grumpy and emotionally spent. On the bright side, we had made great progress…




  1. I am sure you have no children, or if you do they are deprived of your energy…then again it seems boundless! Thank you for the blow by blow, it makes everyone else’s stories more foundational. Keep going, and show us your pics when done! By the way, basements are not my thing. Men seem to understand them and need them more than women. But I do have a question for you: how do I insulate the walls in this old stonehouse without losing the depth given to the old windows. Know what I mean? (They are nice and deep already. Added timber-framing for insulation would ruin the walls like siding does to windows on the outside.) Again, good job on this very cool website & layout. The sepia and decorative elements make it captivating!

    Comment by Suekiyaki — February 20, 2008 @ 4:27 pm

  2. Thanks Suekiyaki!

    Yes, we have children – and the only ones deprived on energy are my wife and I! To be honest we’ve almost finished the basement, and I stopped documenting it – only because that aforementioned energy had to come from somewhere – so we stole it from blogging!.

    As for the insulating question – if (IF) there is adequate space between your interior walls and your stone, you can have insulation blown into the cavities. 3″ diameter holes are cut into the walls and the insulation is blow into the cavities. This is not an option for us as the cavity is a little less then 2″. We have focused on air-tightness as our best defence, and have included lots of localized heating.

    I promise we’ll do more updates… just need to find the energy! 😉

    All the best – keep in touch – love meeting people with stone houses!

    Comment by Oldstonehouse — February 28, 2008 @ 9:27 am

  3. WOW! That was one heck of a work day. I had to chuckle about your Dad. He’s just like mine. Willing to help by motivating me to the supplier and then always ready with suggestions on doing the work. I would have given up in frustration after replacing the breaker. Lucky your habit of flicking the switch pointed you to the 3-way dimmer. Your blogs are funny too. I really enjoy knowing it’s not “just me”. I call my former home owner “Bob the Builder” Robert actually did a lot of “damage” to the old homestead through “renovations”. Everytime I get into something, I find his fingerprints and backtrace what he thought he was doing. I really cringed when seeing the bay window vinyl siding job on the 1890’s brick but the price was right for the house and I bought it. That was 10 years ago and like you, I’m doing what I can in balancing time/money. Money/time. 1-room at a time.
    it’s only 2-1/2 story, 6-bedroom, 3-bathroom. (2) rooms are complete and my saga continues.

    Good luck with your old stone home.


    Comment by Jackie Lobuglio — August 3, 2010 @ 3:33 pm

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