Monday, October 15, 2007

The Great Wiring Project, part 3

The Great Wiring Project, part 1
The Great Wiring Project, part 2

There is this usual dilemma - whether to run just the wires, or run the conduit. Given the fact that a) the opportunity presented itself and b) I know I would be able to utilize all the paths the conduit offers and not simply show it off to my friends, the decision was made to run the conduit.

Oh boy.

Remember, at the very beginning I said forget elegant? My particular problem (which is the more likely to happen to you the more owners it had) was caused by the fact the house's been remodeled. As a result, observations on one part of the structure were absolutely not applicable to another. To add insult to injury, the addition was partly a hack job (imagine my surprise when I uncovered a 4x4 beam in the middle of a wall... On top on two 2x4s... Turned out, there was a door before...)

There was a phrase in a book on wiring I read, "Be prepared to drill a few exploratory holes". Actually, that was a euphemism. They probably meant "Be prepared to tear the walls down".

Would the process be easier if I decided to run wires? Not really. It would only be easier if I was familiar with the building blueprints and was doing work on the same floor plan for the umpteenth time. For a case of a single DIY work, no, it wouldn't have been.

One reason why it wouldn't have been possible to even piggyback and/or replace existing wiring while running wires (as opposed to conduit) is that existing wiring is stapled down to studs very tightly and it either doesn't move at all, or any part that is thicker than the actual cable you're trying to piggyback will invariably get stuck at the first staple you meet.

Another one is that insulation offers a formidable obstacle. It is not really possible to guess where the fish tape is going (and those words about "non-curling" fish tape are a joke, too).

A word about fish tapes and cables - give it a LOT of padding. A run from the left side of a 14 ft wide room to the right side, up and over the ceiling, took whopping 35 feet of conduit - so had I bought a 25ft fish tape, I'd be kicking myself in the butt right now. Fortunately, I've bought a 50ft one - but now I'm not even sure *that* would be sufficient (the project is far from over). Crossing my fingers for now.

Back to conduits...

Rigid plastic conduit is a joy to work with (I've used 1/2" for single cable runs, 3/4" for double cable runs and 1" for the trunk). Flexible plastic conduit (there are several color coded varieties, out of which I've seen high voltage blue and low voltage orange) is surprisingly rigid at times - and don't let it spring in your hands and knock you on the forehead (ask me how I know). Did I mention wear goggles at all times?

Snap-on connectors for the flexible plastic conduit are, in fact, one-time use - it's a pain to disconnect one once you snapped it on. I've used threaded ones to connect conduit to the boxes, just to save myself some aggravation in case if I ever have to disconnect one.

Boxes. There's not much difference between cutting a smaller hole and using an existing work box, or cutting a bigger hole and using a new work box. If you want to route the conduit to existing wall plate, second option is unavoidable - unless the box can be taken out. I decided to use new work boxes everywhere (except one really simple run) - there's lots of holes to patch already anyway, a few extra doesn't make much difference, but makes the general quality of installation much more enjoyable.

The Great Wiring Project, part 1
The Great Wiring Project, part 2
(to be continued)

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