How to Change Out a 220 Outlet

Remember how my kitchen looked like this the last time I talked about it? Transformed, but still a hot mess. Not a hot mess actually, just a mess. There was a lot still to be done. And one of those things on the to do list was fixing the 220 appliance outlet on the back wall beneath the windows. This was the outlet for the stove.

Not that the house came with a stove. It just looked like this when I bought it and my best guess is there was an older pre-1960s stove next to the stairs on the wall opposite the windows. This guess is based on the grease pattern that was left on the floor and wall there and the fact that there’s another 220 appliance outlet on that wall. The one under the kitchen windows is probably left over from when there was laundry up here. You can see the old dryer vent next to the outlet here below. We removed the vent when we demo’ed this wall down to the studs in February 2018. Yeah this really was the glorious kitchen I fell in love with when I bought the house. Can you believe it?

I wanted to place the stove on this wall because it made the most sense and because I didn’t want anyone falling down the stairs and burning themselves on the stove. Plus, who doesn’t want to look out the window while they cook?

Anyways, the problem with the existing 220 outlet was a) that it was ancient and looked suspicious and b) I’d shorted it pretty badly when I ripped the homasote off this wall during demo and one of the screws holding it to the wall came off inside the outlet. Whoops. Definitely not a safe move. You can see on the back of it that hole near the top where the screw went from inside the outlet and secured it to the wall.

The wiring had been checked by my electricians when they came in October 2017 and it was good to use, but I hadn’t bothered to flip the breaker back on this guy after shorting it. Just in case, I did double check that it was off using an electrical tester before doing anything further.

Then I gathered some supplies. Tea always comes in very helpful during electrical work! I’d picked up a new 220 wall outlet at Home Depot for about $10.

The old outlet had certainly seen better days, and I was excited to switch it out because this change officially meant I would have a working oven! At the time I did this, I hadn’t had a working oven in 6 months and pretty much cooked everything in a toaster over in my dining room. You can see that delightful set up in my February 2018 House Tour!

I unscrewed the screw in the middle of the outlet and loosened the cover. The outlet cover slid up and off the 220 outlet exposing all the guts.

At the bottom of the outlet you can see the screw that came out and shorted it. I’m lucky I’m alive, ya’ll, I do a lot of stupid things. Don’t do that. Turn off your electricity before demoing around it, please.

Now to unattach the wires. This was simple, just unscrew the machine screws connecting them to the outlet and pull them out.

Then I shoved all the wires together, unscrewed the outlet box from the conduit pipe using a pair of pliers, and pulled the old outlet box off the conduit pipe. Now there were just some wires floating there!

I took my new outlet out of it’s box and was very thankful that everything looked nearly identical!

I removed the bottom knockout on the new outlet with a screw driver (super easy: stick screwdriver in slot, twist, and pull) and crossed my fingers it would fit on the old conduit pipe.

I wrangled the wires and stuffed them through the knockout and pulled the little nut over everything. Luckily, it all fit nicely!

Then I used my pliers again to tighten the little nut so the new outlet was secured to the conduit pipe. I made sure that baby wasn’t going anywhere! There was also a screw at the top of the outlet which would have allowed me to attach it to the wall, but since it was secured pretty well to the conduit and my new drywall was 2″ without all the old siding behind it, I ignored this screw.

Now it was time to attach the wires to the outlet. I slid them in one at a time and tightened the machine screws that hold them in place.

Once I was done it looked like this! All the wires in place and ready for a cover plate! I was this close to a real working kitchen again! Woohoo!

The outlet cover snapped on to the outlet and all of a sudden I was done! Now just to get an oven in here and fire it up! All in all this project took less than an hour and used only the simplest tools: pliers, a screw driver. Anyone could do this, and I’m sure it would have cost at least $150 to have an electrician come out to do something this simple. That’s just money in my bank now! Well… I mean… I probably spent that $150 on something like paint soon after, but, still. DIY saves ya moolah!

You better bet I coerced my sister into helping me carry the oven into the kitchen that night and testing the new outlet. It worked! WE COULD COOK AGAIN. I roasted squash and made a mirepoix for butternut squash soup literally 20 minutes after this picture was taken. WOOHOO!!! It was such a relief to be able to use a stove after six months of nothing but toaster oven! I wanted to boil water and fry eggs and sauté veggies! There is nothing like not having a kitchen to make you appreciate all the little things you use a working kitchen for, amiright?

Have you ever done a quick electrical project? Or would you only trust an electrician with this type of thing? I’ll admit, after the house behind ours caught fire in September 2018, I’ve been a bit more nervous about electrical work, but not so nervous to not do it with careful consultations and triple checks! Are you someone willing to work on this or would you hire it out?

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One Room Challenge: Week Two – Electrical & Drywall

I’m chugging right along with my tiny Master Bathroom renovation. You can check out my plan for the space on the Week One post for my One Room Challenge. One of the first things I needed to do in this space was to actually finish demolishing the homasote that covered the right wall.

Demo is something that is just so satisfying! A few quick hours and you can completely transform the space, every swing of your hammer is progress. So quickly a space can go from this lovely little 70s space…

…to this hot mess. And then you have to clean it all up. Whomp, whomp, whomp. And this stuff gets heavy too! Make sure to use contractors bags rather than normal trash bags since they’re so much stronger and don’t get ruined by the rogue nail! I probably should have removed the plumbing in the bathroom before doing this, but I was hoping to maintain the basic function of this room as long as possible.

It resulted in a whole lot of crazy, but demo’ing this wall allowed me to get a good look at the electrical situation that was going behind it. This house (like most older homes) has a whole lot of secrets hidden in it’s walls. When I opened this space up, I was able to see the new electrical my electricians had installed in the house back in October 2017 and where they’d tied in some older electrical to the new lines. It also exposed some of the willy nilly “structural” supports that were added when some previous owner decided to bump the wall out to fit in the old bathtub in the main bathroom. You can also see the new framing I added to support the original wall location and the backside of my new shower surround.

Once I got my eyes on the electrical I was able to figure out what was going on and replace the existing older wires with new in the locations I wanted. I’d gotten two free light fixtures from my Aunt Stephanie who’s neighbor was replacing some newly installed fixtures after buying their house. Since the original light in this room was above the door, once I’d removed the homasote walls, I could just pull that wire over to the location I wanted my new fixtures. I planned for two sconce fixtures in the space to wash the room with light. Then I could install my medicine cabinet beneath one and a framed picture beneath the other. I also moved an outlet to be next to the light switch for convenience. For the most part, this wiring was already in the walls, I just shifted the locations and switched out any really old wires for new.

Once I’d measured where my new sconces should be I nailed up a horizontal board to hang the far sconce off of and wired up the second sconce to the first.

Simple! Since I needed light to work by in the evenings, I ended up wiring the last sconce in and then hanging it from the grounding wire. Which is probably not the safest idea, but it was very effective and approved by my contractor neighbor. I also had him double check that the electrical all made sense and I wasn’t going to kill myself or burn my house down. He said it looked good, and I breathed a sigh of relief. I’m super nervous about fires now, so it’s nice to have a second pair of eyes. Thanks, Erik!

Then it was time to stuff the wall full of insulation to create more of a sound barrier between the two bathrooms and to keep the bathroom off the kitchen warmer. I just filled in the space and stuffed it all behind the wiring, I tried to make sure it was less compressed than in this picture before I closed up the wall with drywall! Mostly I wanted to keep that main bathroom nice and toasty.

You may have noticed this old fuse box in the picture above. It was the reason the old wall was bumped out only in the lower portion! See how the right wall recesses at the very top in this picture from when I first got the house? The shadow kind of gives it away. I guess the old owners didn’t want to mess with it. I wonder if they put plants or anything on that ledge? That would almost make sense… except the bathroom has a north facing window about 20′ from my neighbors house so it gets no light…. Hmmm… so many questions!!

And even after I had my electricians rewire the main bathroom and tweak this box, it still looked like a mess! The fuses are misleading though, my electricians had switched the wiring to hook into my new circuit breaker, but left these fuses in place… connected to nothing. They used this box as a place to tie all of their wiring together. Which mean it would need to be accessible still. Since one of my sconces was right next to it, I knew that a simple double outlet cover plate would be pretty hidden and allow enough access to this spot. Doesn’t the old wiring look super weird though… I was told it’s not knob and tube, just old.

I knew having an outlet would next to the light switch would be a lot easier to access and prevent me from having to make even more cuts into my beadboard, so I moved it up and placed it right where I wanted it in a new electrical box. Now when I blew dry my hair (which is never) or straightened my hair (once every two years) I’d be prepared! Seriously though… what else do people use bathroom outlets for? Electric toothbrushes?

And finally, it was time for drywall! I bought one sheet of drywall for $15 from Home Depot for this project. I knew it would take care of this wall and I could use scraps from the bathroom and the kitchen to cover up the wall with the door. You can also see here where the old wall was when I bought the house, with the top of the wall niched back. Such an odd arrangement. I filled in a little bit of plaster to help even out the back wall here. Since I was covering everything up with beadboard, I knew exacts didn’t much matter.

And thank god for beadboard, because trying to smooth out all these drywall pieces patched together would have been no fun at all!

Meanwhile, that wasn’t the only thing that needed to be patched either! The former space in the bumped out wall had holes in the floor as well as in the old wall where the plumbing for the original bathtub from the other bathroom had been. I patched these in the same way I patched in the floor in the main bathroom using scrap wood and some clamps. You can also see where I’d slapped a coat of primer on the subfloor after removing most of the peel and stick tiles at one point. It was so much “nicer” this way. Hahaha! Since the peel and stick tiles were coming off and sliding around anyways, there was all sorts of gunk beneath them. Covering it all up with concrete board and tile was going to be amazing!

Now, I can’t say this space was looking a whole lot better yet. But progress is progress, and the middle makes no sense! At least I had the lighting in and the space was suddenly bright and ready for the big transformative touches! I still needed to remove the sink and address the left wall, but everything else was ready for beadboard!

So Week Two is now wrapped up and it’s now on to tiling for Week Three! It’s my second tiling project after the main bathroom, so fingers crossed all goes well. I have just baaaaarely enough tile left over from my parents’ bathroom renovation to complete the floors in here! Soon this little room is going to be looking completely different from when I bought the house. Hopefully, more authentic feeling with more storage and function and much, much prettier to boot!

Boy will I be excited when this is finally done! It’s a pain storing all my bathroom stuff in my bedroom and to encapsulate all the old gross with clean and new is going to feel so amazing.

Definitely check out some of the other participants in the One Room Challenge. There’s a ton of amazing talent out there, it’s so fun to join in for the first time!

Bathroom Progress – Plumbing and Electrical!

After demo’ing the main bathroom at Berrybrier I’d been ping ponging between my house and my cousin Kristen’s basement for showers and sleeping. In the midst of all the other chaos going on at Berrybrier: the new roof, electrical work, the extremely invasive floor rehab, and the exterior painting fiasco, the bathroom plumbing was completed! I hired a plumber to do the rough in plumbing only, figuring it couldn’t be all that hard to install the fixtures so I might as well do that part myself. Also, I’m cheap frugal.

The rough in was no small job though! It involved new toilet, sink, and shower locations as well as running new pex lines from the main house inline. He also installed a shower surround which is part of my grand scheme to eventually demo this and flip the location of this shower to the other side, giving me a master bathroom. (There’s a floor plan here if you want to see how that could work.) But that’s a project for years out. For now, My crazytown bathroom seriously needed a new floor plan! See how the wall is recessed starting at the mirror? When they installed a larger bathtub, they stole 10″ of space from the room behind it and moved the plumbing back. There was an electrical fuse box at the top of the wall though, so they left that part in its original location. They didn’t build a proper new wall though, so it was a bit of a nightmare of sistered in framing pieces all crazy. The mirror makes the bump back a little difficult to see, but if you stare hard enough at the below it comes together, especially once you notice the mirror is crooked!

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Before the plumber could install the shower surround I had to rebuild this wall and make it more stable. It wasn’t structural, but I didn’t trust the existing hobnobbed-together framing. I chose to reframe the wall at the original location, removing ten inches from this main bathroom and gaining the original 10 inches in the half bathroom off my bedroom that desperately needed some extra space. I also needed to fur out the wall on the right side of this bathroomto hug in the shower surround which was 48″ wide since bathroom was 52″wide. I psyched myself up about reframing this wall for several days, talked about it a bunch with Erik (my contractor next door neighbor who saves me from my own stupidity), and rented a framing nail gun and air compressor from the local Tool Lending Library.

The electricians had begun working on the house this week and when I got home the night I planned to frame the wall… the electricity was off in the house. Arg! I was mad, because there was no way I could frame a wall in the dark without any electricity. No!! I needed to get the wall built that night so the plumber could install the shower surround onto it the next day! This is why renovation is stressful! You’re juggling about ten different schedules.

I stormed around the outside of the house ripping off the old cable cords the painters had refused to remove and pulling the lattice off the front porch rail. I could see Erik who was working on his house peering out his dining room window at the crazy lady yanking off the lattice in a bit of a rage nextdoor . He knew my plan was to reframe the wall that night.  I finished ripping off the lattice and went inside my house where I’d left my phone. I picked it up and read a text from Erik, “I thought you were building that wall tonight?” Simultaneously I heard a knock on the kitchen door. I opened it and there stool Erik, toolbelt on and drill in hand. “I came to help frame the wall!”

“I don’t have any electricity! I can’t do this in the dark!” I said. He didn’t falter, “Let me go get my battery powered light!” Within a few minutes, the whole bathroom was lit up by a surprisingly small light. But then my rented air compressor didn’t get to a strong enough pressure. Erik went and got his air compressor, but that didn’t work either. Maybe it was the nail gun itself? Or the fact that we were running it off of an extension cord that ran from Erik’s garage, over the fence between our houses, and through my backdoor?

So with that off the table, we turned to screws and his impact driver. But then he said I’d bought the wrong kind of screws and ran over to his house where he had better ones. And then he cut all the 2x4s with his circular saw using his foot as a stand in about 2 seconds. Then after watching me drive in one screw, he said, “Why don’t I do the next one? I’d let you continue, but I think we both want to finish this tonight…” And then my neighbor built me a wall while I stood outside the bathroom and watched. So… he’s a nice guy.

I don’t even have a picture of my newly framed walls because it was crazy dark the night the wall got built and the next day the plumber arrived to install the new water lines and my new shower surround right in front of it. So if you look closely at the picture below you can tell which 2x4s look newer and those are the ones that make the new walls.

Berrybrier | Shower surround.jpg

The plumber even put in blocking for my new sink as well as getting the necessary new pipes for my new plumbing locations. He also reworked the vent pipes and an outside gutter that was draining into my sewer line. I didn’t quite expect butt ends of copper pipe to be the rough-in plumbing, but I put “figuring out how to cut pipe and install water shut off valves” on my list of things to stress about later. Overall, I paid him $1178 to move all this around which was a pretty good deal for this extent of work. I’ve heard of people being charged more than that just to move a toilet! I’m lucky to have basement/crawl space access to all the pipes, allowing for an easier install.Berrybrier | Plumbing Rough In.jpg

You can see in the picture of that the shower pan was full of water too! It had to stay that way until the plumbing inspection, which of course was two weeks out. It got pretty gross!

Berrybrier | Plugged Drain.jpg

And because, literally nothing goes smoothly during renovation, when – two weeks later – the inspector came through, he walked into the house and saw some coats, vacated the house, and failed the inspection. Apparently although the Portland Bureau of Development Services states in numerous places online and in pamphlets that inspectors can review unoccupied residences without a representative of the owner, by “occupied” they really mean is there can be no personal belongings on site. At the time I was living at my cousin Kristen’s, but I hadn’t removed all my personal belongings from the house! I called the Bureau and begged them to reschedule my inspection without a two week wait. Luckily, they understood my interpretation of their rule and rescheduled the inspection for two days later, provided a representative of the owner was on site.

My angel cousin Kristen volunteered to wait at the house for the inspection since she typically worked from home on that day. The inspection sheet was supposed to come out at 8:00 that morning and provide a 3 hour block of time when the inspection would take place. I checked at 8:00am. I wasn’t on the list! I called the Bureau in a panic. Every day I didn’t get an inspection was another day I couldn’t live at my house!

Again, I lucked out and got a very sweet member of the scheduling department who told me my previous help had gone through 4 out of 5 steps to schedule my inspection, but failed to actually schedule it. However, they were able to squeeze me on the existing job list that day! Woohoo! So the inspection happened and it passed on the condition I open a mechanical permit for my new vent fan.

Then the electricians went in and installed the boxes and wires for a new sconce, can light, and vent fan! All of a sudden the room was coming together! I was so excited to be able to take the reins and start knocking out the rest of the work in this room myself!

Berrybrier | Sconce Location.jpg

And with that I was one step closer to having a bathroom! Wouldn’t it be nice to shower in my own house again?