I Really Hate Encountering Unexpected Situations I Don’t Understand
I am very comfortable working with electrical systems. And I thought I’d be fine with some “easy” outlet and switch replacements.
I didn’t know what the situation would be until I peeked at the wiring, and I really didn’t anticipate what I’d find. That’s why I wired replacement outlets as in exactly the same manner as the existing devices.
No, I didn’t think it was proper to wire 5 conductors to an outlet, but I didn’t want to start doing things differently without fully understanding why it was done that way. It took me perhaps too much thinking and sketching things out to understand what all those wires did.
Try to change too much at once, and mistakes are more likely, or at least harder to track. I was trying to be cautious.
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It’s really a lack of experience. Experience in dealing with different scenarios, situations, and outcomes, that’s the only thing that could have helped. No amount of planning can substitute.
To put it simply, I didn’t expect there to be some many unknowns to investigate, and it unsettles me that some of those unknowns remain unresolved despite my best efforts to sort them out.
I know what current codes say about conductors in boxes, and how switches should be wired, but that doesn’t sufficiently prepare for dealing with decades-olds wiring decisions.
I Assumed Things Would Be Nicer, Neater, and Correct
The electricians that worked on our recent renovations did excellent work, and they didn’t give me much to complain about.
But whoever worked on the house before we bought it… they sure left a mess.
I expected existing wiring to be different, and closer to modern wiring standards. I guess that’s my lack of experience talking.
Some Towns and Cities WILL Give Permits to Homeowners and Inspect Their Work
I remember reading that only licensed electricians can get permits for electrical work. But after someone left a comment advising of otherwise, I looked into it, and found that my city will issue permits. When I called to check, I think they said the cost would be $50-70.
You might not want or need a permit when changing one device, but it seemed like it would be a good idea for certain things. If I move or add any outlets in the future, I’ll likely do this, to get a second set of eyes on my work. But, that will likely be after an electrician checks and corrects the current device wiring.
I am Stubborn About Hiring Others to Do Work I Feel I Could (in Theory) Do Myself
It has taken me over a YEAR to get to the outlet behind the TV. I had the power strip plugged into a nearby wall outlet, because I didn’t want it plugged into the outlet reporting a reversed hot and neutral fault.
In August of 2016, I asked about tamper-resistant outlets, saying:
I’m about to embark on an outlet-replacement spree.
Why the delays? First, our breaker panel hasn’t been mapped out yet. The last I checked, a lot of the labels were wrong. It’s quiet at night, but I didn’t want to risk resetting my wife’s alarm clock, or something like that. Second, I can’t do any kind of electrical work if my kids are around. They like to watch me work, and sometimes want to “work just like Daddy.”
And really, there’s just always so much to do.
I probably should have called the electrician a lot sooner. Maybe I got the impression they weren’t interested in the job?
Despite my initial uncertainties, I am confident that I can replace each and every receptacle and switch, and maybe some light fixtures that we’ve been meaning to replace. And I’m sure I can do it right. Eventually.
And after the advice I was given about permits and inspections for homeowners, I’d get the work inspected just to be sure.
But how long would that take?
I mentioned in the other post how many other misc. issues I know of and have been meaning to fix or have an electrician fix. What happens the next time I hit a surprise? Research, questions, more research, and probably a lot more time. Not to mention anxiety.
I spoke to my contractor today, wanting his opinion about getting a permit to do all the outlets and switches myself. He knows me well, and I trust his judgement. Some of the outlets need to be replaced to correct problems, or due to wear, and some of the switches for cosmetic reasons and others for functionality.
He reminded me that electricians will be better equipped to handle the surprises that would surely drive me batty. I’ll come up against something I wasn’t prepared for (such as painted wires or an over-capacity box), and it’ll hit me like a roadblock. An experienced electrician, on the other hand, will look at something and just know what needs to be done.
I like doing things myself. And I like to think of myself as cautious and competent.
But I also have too many things on my plate. This has been on my to-do list for over a YEAR. There is no shortage of other things that also need my attention.
There are too many home, personal, and ToolGuyd-related projects that I haven’t gotten to yet. That’s a discussion I have avoided posting about. The short story? My daughter is not yet in nursery school. My wife had to take a day off so I could work on some things, with the outlets and light switch at the top of my list.
Why am I being so stubborn? Do I fear that it’s as if I’m saying I can’t do the work myself? Am I worried about disappointing all of you somehow?
As I make this decision, I try to remind myself that I wouldn’t just be hiring the electrician to do work I could do in theory, I’d be paying for their expertise, experience and knowledge.
Once everything is checked, corrected, and replaced, I’ll feel a lot more confident if the need to replace an outlet or light switch arises. It’s just looking like it will be too time-consuming and stressful to check every device and box myself, and to correct, check, and replace everything myself. I’d question everything that doesn’t look “standard.”
What other decades-old mistakes or shortcuts will turn up?
I think that calling in a pro is the right decision. I don’t want replacement of the other outlets and switches to take another year, or any more nights trying to figure out how to correct things. I’m not so worried about causing new problems, but what if there’s a big problem that I somehow miss?
You Guys ROCK!
Okay, so I already knew this one. =)
Google is my first stop when I want to learn about something, and you guys only come second because I like to be a little better informed before I ask others for help or advise.
You guys ROCK. Thank you – everyone – for the great advice in your comments and emails!!
I am always learning, and am grateful for your honesty, insight, and willingness to help. I am especially appreciative that nobody made me feel bad for asking questions.