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Wednesday, February 1, 2012

There Are Four Lights!

Home ownership, oh joy.

Over the years, I’ve talked about how I came to be a homeowner. My wife and I actually chose our house over many others. She even sacrificed a wonderful split level with an awesome back yard because she thought it would be too much. I didn’t even get to see the house, because if I had, I would have been begging us to get it. Unfortunately, with the taxes, we would have been one of the unfortunates who lost their homes to foreclosure. Still, when I think back at how much we’ve had to do or will do in order to get our house to where we are happy with it, it probably would have been worth the extra burden.

To this day, I find stupid things that make me scratch my head at what the previous owners were thinking when they did it.

There is the switch that does nothing.

Ahhh, memories.

OK, so the light above the vanity has bugged me for about three years. It’s this brass looking metal frame with fat based candelabra bulbs. There is no real ventilation in the bathroom because they bricked up the window in order to put in a wrap around shower. They painted the ceiling with only a flat coat of white paint that rubs off when you clean it. This was possibly a cosmetic necessity in order to prep the house for sale. Honestly, these folks did the bare minimum to make the house look decent. The sad truth is the half inch thick of old paint that has built up on one of the bedroom walls because they continually repainted instead of sanding or stripping.

Now, because of the lack of ventilation and crappy paint, mold started to grow on the ceiling and the metal light box began to rust. Additionally, every year, a bulb stops working. I don’t mean the bulb burns out. I mean the actual socket stops working. So, after three years, only one light was still functional on the set. Time for a change. Besides, the previous owners thought it was somewhat cute and fun to paint bugs and alligators and spiders on the horrendous lily pad wallpaper in the bathroom. Seriously, when guests would come over for the first time we’d tell them it’s a game to see if you can find all the bugs and stuff. Of course, they would have to open up the medicine cabinet to see the ladybug lounging poolside.

For Christmas, I got my wife a new vanity light. After Christmas, my father-in-law helped me install it. That’s when the fun began.

First off, there must have been no light above the sink. Why? The box was put into the wall and the light was over top of wallpaper. Not only that… the box was attached to a stud three inches behind the inside edge of the drywall, with nails. Who the hell does that?

Now, before we could do anything we had to burn a day because the light was missing three of the four shades. Turns out it was a return to stock item that nobody bothered to inspect before taping up and putting back on the shelf. So, one day gone on that trip.

After ripping out the old fixture and wiring up the new one, I couldn’t get the damn thing attached to the box because the bolts were not long enough to reach the holes. So, we had to wait until my father-in-law was able to grab a few things from work to aid in our task.

After a few days, he brought over a few shims and some nuts to try and brace up the mounting bracket as well as keep the screws from sinking too far into the electrical box causing my ire over the fixture not being able to be screwed down.

I would like to take this opportunity to address how hard it is to do any kind of electrical work if you do not have small hands. Also, if you only have two hands, it’s hard as hell to hold a large fixture and try to wire it up when it’s above your head. The bathroom isn’t that big and I only have step ladder. My father-in-law couldn’t really lend a hand to hold onto things while my banana hands tried to put on wire nuts or wrap ground wires around itty bitty screws. That’s why little people would make great electricians, plumbers, and general handymen. I could maybe call one over to replace the batteries in my daughter’s toys. Those little screws on the back of toys are the worst.

Anyway, after straining and working hard to get at least three threads deep on the little spherical shaped nut (Don’t go there, I know how that sounded) on the support bolt, we added a light bulb and turned the bastard on and… nothing!

What?!?!? What the ‘eff? We already burnt a day returning the damn thing because it was missing shades, now the stupid thing won’t light up! Oh, my head. I give up. Where’s my obligatory puppy that I kick? Two weeks later, after much debate and inserting contacts in near darkness that is my bathroom with only one working ceiling light, my Father-in-law brought more stuff over and we waited until this last weekend where we said, “We’re hanging this bitch!” He brought self tapping screws, a punch, and some wooden blocks over.

Now, the plan was to use the punch to put a small divot into the nail head so I could get in there with a drill and remove the electrical box from the stud. Then we’d screw a block or two to the stud and then put the electrical box onto those blocks, bringing it almost flush with the front edge of the drywall.

Because we eventually plan on repainting the bathroom, with more than a flat coat, I figured it might be nice to get rid of the wallpaper around the area where the new fixture will go in order to minimize the chance I’ll have to pull that bitch back off the wall later. I bought a Wagner Wallpaper Steamerfor $50 on Amazon. Truly, an awesome buy. I highly recommend getting one.

Fill it up with water, wait till it starts to steam, place it on the wallpaper, and give it a few minutes.  Then, just use a putty knife to peel away the paper.  Easy, peasy, lemon squeezy. 

Before we even tried to hook up the light, I suggested that we somehow test it to make sure it worked, since it didn’t the last time. I found an old lamp in the garage and cut the power cord. We then wired up the light, giving it a sort of bench test.

I kept thinking of this after every failure.

And the four lights have two separate wiring circuits. So, if we test the one side and it works… and we test the other side and it works… one would think that if we made a complete circuit connecting them all together, it should work, right? Nope. We had to combine all the white wires and all the black wires together. That’s not so bad but the wire nuts they give you in the box are not exactly made to hold three wire ends. So, we used bigger and better wire nuts and the sonofabitch works like a dream!

And it only took three weeks to hang the bastard.

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