Speaking of things at Berrybrier that were in obvious need of immediate attention, during my first walk through the electrical at this place scared me! I went into the purchase of the house knowing that I would be dumping several grand (not a small number!) into updating the dangerous wiring! I snapped this picture with my phone at the initial walk through in order to have photographic evidence of my nightmares. I don’t know exactly what’s going on in this picture, but from what I can tell, there are three fuse boxes here and there are not enough fuses to power this house.
I became quite acquainted with these fuse boxes as between refinishing the floors in the kitchen and the roof/dormer addition we blew a fuse every few days before the electricians could get in here. I also found out that the oven was on the same fuse as the dryer so the two could not be run at the same time! Needless to say, this wiring was very concerning!
The other terrifying thing with the electrical was the hot mess that was the exposed wiring in the basement. Things were spliced together all over the place by some previous DIY-er without much thought to safety or fire prevention. I had dreams of plugging in a vacuum and burning the house down, which just really makes you feel at home in a new place.
You could tell at some point, a previous owner had updated the knob and tube wiring to a modified mid-century DIY version of wiring. I couldn’t tell if that was reassuring or concerning when the electricians told me that. What I did know is I needed to get things rewired around here asap!
The thing about updating electrical is in order to pull the permit, the city gets to force you to do a few other updates as well. But they sure don’t pay for those additional requirements! One of the things they required as part of the electrical permit was updating and moving the electrical meter to bring it closer to the front of the house. Originally the meter was on the driveway side of the house near the between the master bedroom and bathroom windows. Since the electrical came from a pole on the street though, the wires had to snake along the entire edge of the house under the eaves. It looked about as lovely as the spliced wires in the basement, though the electricians assured me it was far more safe. Which was not reassuring at all, really.
With the bathroom demo’ed, the electricians were able to come in and whip up brand new wiring in there as well as cleaning up everything in the basement and installing the new electrical meter. Moving the wires from the street was the first thing they tackled, it was a big change! Since the wires came from the pole on the opposite side of the house from the driveway, they originally snaked across the entire house before they could creep along the eaves. It was not my favorite look.
The city, however, authorized new wiring that would come from the wires that snake through the big walnut tree by the end of the driveway. This meant it could be far more streamlined with a straight shot to the driveway! They added a new pole that jutted through the new roof and installed a new meter. One unfortunate thing about this new location is how dang close the meter is to the front door. Now it’s one of the first things you see on the house and it’s not a location I could dictate at all. This shot below was nabbed before the city came to change the wires to the new entry point, but you can see the new wiring. Now although there are no more wires running along the eaves, in order to get the entry to the circuit box squared away they had to run a conduit pipe halfway down the house. This is because the front half of the house only has a crawl space (no full basement).
Electrical is time consuming too! The guys came out for 3 full days plus one half day to get this all worked out. They updated me daily on all the terrifying discoveries they made – like the wiring to the garage was through a 1950’s extension cord hidden in the poured concrete behind the house and spliced into other interior wiring (AHHHH!!!). My team was super nice, but it took more handholding than I would have thought. In an ideal world, I would have been there to answer questions and generally more available to the electricians. It all worked out in the end, but it could have saved me some hole patching. Ha!
Now, electrical work is not all that pretty or exciting; it’s one of those hidden things that makes your house tick though! The final product cost me a pretty penny, so appreciate some afters okay?! First, check out how light and bright my basement is with some cheap lights picked up at the Restore! It’s so bright, my picture turned out truly horrendous from the blow out.
This is a huge improvement over the dark dismal space the basement started out as when I bought the house though! Let’s start a competition for worst photo in this post, shall we? Entering this guy below — which while blurry and taken on an iPhone — shows how dark it was in this space before. The only lights were pull-cord, single bulbs scattered haphazardly throughout. You had to walk halfway down the stairs just to get to the first pull cord light! Now you flip a switch at the top of the stairs and a small sconce and the three big lights above come on, lighting up the whole space!
And that crazy batch of wires above? That area is totally cleaned up now! There’s still an electrical box here, but the wires and crazy fuse box on fuse box are gone! The wire in this picture is actually cable wiring that’s been cut and needs to be removed (again on my to-do list).
All the wires that were spliced together all terrifying and dangerous in the basement ceiling are now rewired and organized too. The ceiling is looking much more colorful and much safer now!
All these wires lead to the best part of the electrical work too! Look at this new circuit box, y’all! Not only is it labeled, but if something blows, I just have to flip a switch rather than going all the way to the store and buying a new fuse. It’s so amazing to have this and to be able to confidently turn off the electrical if I need to replace a light fixture or update an outlet. It’s a huge relief and it has a much larger capacity! No fuses have been blown since the electrical was upgraded.
Speaking of safety, the last upgrade at Berrybrier was adding a grounding wire to the house! Yup, nothing was grounded before. Yikes! Now this copper wire goes from the circuit box through the ceiling to the ground outside. It’s a vast improvement for safety!
At this point, anyone reading this who’s had to do any electrical work before is counting the numbers in there head. Yes, this cost thousands of dollars, but this was money well spent, that I allotted for this even before deciding to purchase. There is nothing scarier than fire hazards in the home and old houses go up like kindling. The peace of mind I now have is priceless! But the electrical work was not at all! I spent about $8,500 on this project. This included:
- updating and cleaning up all the dangerous basement wiring
- adding new GFCI outlet, sconce, ceiling fan to bathroom
- moving city electrical meter and rewiring all house electrical to new location
- adding a new 200amp circuit breaker
- adding new fan boxes in the upstairs bedrooms
- replacing outlets in the upstairs bedrooms
- installation of grounding
- installing new grounded 30amp circuit for dryer
- adding a sconce and 3 new light fixtures in basement, removing old fixtures
- disconnecting power to garage and removing wiring between house and garage
- adding a whole house surge protector
- installing a dedicated grounded outlet for the fridge
- Adding two outlets and an overhead light to the new dormer
- adding new ceiling fixture at the top of the stair well with a switch be the bedrooms and a remote switch at the bottom of the stairs
- Plus $200 – $300 in electrical permits pulled from the city
It did not include the installation of any of the fixtures which would have been another $1000 dollars, a bullet I wouldn’t have wanted to take even if it was $250. I don’t mind installing new lights, the electricians were shocked by that! They were also nervous about the liability of me installing my own fixtures, so definitely discuss this at length with your electrician before they start (I did not and it was confusing). Berrybrier isn’t burning down anytime soon though! This place is no longer a fire hazard! Which is a good thing since I came home last week to my sister blowtorch in hand toasting homemade marshmallow fluff on a s’mores cake she made! That’s enough fire danger for me!
2 thoughts on “Light It Up, Up, Up! Light It Up, Up, Up! (But please, not on Fire!)”
Holy Smokes! If you’ll pardon that expression….
Good thing you’re young and brave.
Extent and stress of all that work is much appreciated here.
It was absolutely crazy at the time and super stressful having so many people working on the house (dormer, electrical, roof, plumbing, exterior painters) all at once, but I’m so glad I powered through! Thanks for reading along!