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Old 10-18-2010, 08:43 AM   #1
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electrical on a 60 year old house


I've got a 60 year old house with original electrical work that looks like it probably was old fashioned even then...

Anyway, it has a 60A main w/ edison and cartridge fuses in the basement, 2-wire BX and ungrounded receptacles throughout.

Obviously I'm going to have an electrician in to do the actual electric work to start, but I have a few questions in an attempt to understand things better before I have an electrician in... I absolutely have no plans to tell him/her how to do their job, but just like going to the mechanic I'd like to have a base of knowledge so that I can attempt to evaluate whether what they tell me is accurate or not

1)
The main cast iron stack drops down from a bathroom about 7~10 horizontal feet away on the same wall. The stack goes horizontal about a foot above the stab and rides along the basement wall (toward the box) before entering the slab to exit--see the pic.

I believe that a setup like this is not longer code because the pipe could be considered obstructing the space around the box. In the end it's always up to the AHJ to make the decisions, but in general do you think the electrician will need to relocate the service elsewhere to accommodate the code or will something like this fly because they are replacing an older box? We're in MA, and I do of course intend for permits to be pulled where necessary (and I believe this one will absolutely require it).



2)
From the pic, you can see that the backer board (painted similar color to block wall) is fairly small. I'd like it to be a bit over-sized, I'd like it to be about double the current vertical size and an inch or two extra on either horizontal side. This would be so that it can also accommodate a FIOS ONT along with the splitters/boxes for some phone/cable wiring. I'm guessing this is not an issue for the electrician to handle, but can someone describe the best way to mount the backer-board in a situation like this? I was thinking it would be held off the wall by a pair of 2x4's which are secured at their top to the floor joists above, and at the bottom to the block wall through some anchors. Basically I want to ask the electrician how they plan to do it, and know whether their plans are mickey mouse or not vs. a proper way to do it


3)
We are re-doing our kitchen/bath in the same time frame, in the kitchen my plan is abandon/disconnect any existing outlets and install new two or three 20A circuits for the outlets (GFCI's at the start feeding downstream), along w/ new 15 or 20A circuits for the dedicated appliances--disposer, dishwasher, fridge, gas stove. I was planning to leave the lighting alone if possible, or otherwise will add another circuit for that. The walls will remain intact in the kitchen, but cabinets will all be out for a period of time, so fishing/hacking the walls is possible behind the cabs, and the kitchen is over the same unfinished basement space.

Bath will end up with at least two new circuits, one for GFCI outlet, and another for light/fan combo. Bath will be down to studs/joists during the electric/plumbing work.

The house won't be lived in during the work, so having no power in the kitchen/bath for an extended period will not be an issue (only not having power in the house (for central heat) will be an issue).

Is there any appreciable difference between having the service/box done first, or having the kitchen/bath wiring done first (and then loops left for later connection to a new box)? Or is it basically the same either way? If we did the service/box first reconnecting the existing kitchen/bath circuits would probably not be required, so I'd identify and tag the ones that can be left out.

I figure the service upgrade and box can be done anytime, but the kitchen/bath work may need to wait for final layout decisions or some demo, etc.

I am going to try to have all the layout and plans in place, and the cabinets/etc removed before getting the electrician in, but you know how it goes ... sometimes one piece is ready before the other...

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Old 10-18-2010, 09:55 AM   #2
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electrical on a 60 year old house


I don't see a problem with the pipe along the wall. The spot where it actually enters the floor could be an issue, but a slight move to the left woudl clear that up. The sump pit could be a problem, but it looks like you have enough clearance the right.

A new properly sized plywood backer would be installed for the new panel.

There will be no place to connect the new kitchen and bath cable so I would do the panel first.

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Old 10-18-2010, 11:51 AM   #3
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electrical on a 60 year old house


My house is 61 years old. We had a similar situation. We replaced the panel first.

We had an electrician do it before we even closed on the house (it was vacant). Took less than a day, but we had to wait another day or two for the POCO to hook things up. Anyway, it was good to have that done first because then we had consistent power afterwards for tools, heat, etc., and as Joed noted, a place to connect the new cables.

Plus (like most DIYers, I suppose) we found hidden problems when doing other renovations and had to cut some items due to time/money issues. Better to cut or skimp on kitchen appliances or other items than a panel replace.

My two cents,
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Old 10-18-2010, 12:32 PM   #4
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electrical on a 60 year old house


1) That pipe does violate the working space requirement, but it's a sort of thing AHJs will often approve anyway if there is no practical alternative. If you want to know in advance, ask them.

Likely worst case is that you would move the service drop and meter, or install the service disconnect at the meter, and run feeders to a more appropriately located load-side distribution panel with the breakers for ther branch circuits. If you go the latter route most people just take it for granted that the load side panel will be in the basement, but it does not have to be; at my own home I installed it in the rear hallway, at a height providing convenient access to the top breakers for my 5' 2" wife. Same sort of setup in my home office above my garage, where I installed a load side panel on the second floor to control all branch circuits there.

2) In my area the electrician would typically mount a piece of 3/4" plywood to the wall, and would be happy to oversize it if you wish.

3) Typically in my rehab projects we replace the panel first, for example it's nice to have plenty of temporary power to run table saws, etc.
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Old 10-18-2010, 12:35 PM   #5
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electrical on a 60 year old house


Thanks for the input guys---

joed--I assume by "slight move left" you meant the sewer pipe? That's definately not in the budget , the perpendicular wall to the right may be a better choice as long as it's possible to drop the power down in a conduit around the bend

RST--we haven't closed yet, I'd LOVE to be able to do some work before closing, or even get in again for measurements for cabinets, etc... but unfortuantely for me one the current owners is still living out of one of the rooms... and anyway, I'd definately feel odd about doing any work before the closing just out of fear something might go wrong w/ the closing.

I like your advice about panel first, I'd really like to get that squared ASAP because it requires the power company, etc.

What probably will happen is that I'll contact electricians about whether they would appreciably charge less for the overall job if it could all at once vs. segmented into service vs. kitchen/bath.

Having worked as a wire-puller / grunt for an electrician in high school and college I can safely say that the work we need done, and the access that will be available, is pretty much a puller's dream condition... the only way it would be better is if there were conduit already in place between all the boxes.

BTW, for the sake of saying it in case someone notices, I just noticed that I left out that a 15A circuit for the over range microwave.
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Old 10-18-2010, 12:41 PM   #6
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electrical on a 60 year old house


In MA you are allowed to do your own electric according to the State
Town by Town results vary
I am doing all my own work with the exception of burying the main service feed
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Old 10-18-2010, 01:01 PM   #7
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electrical on a 60 year old house


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Originally Posted by Scuba_Dave View Post
In MA you are allowed to do your own electric according to the State
Town by Town results vary
I am doing all my own work with the exception of burying the main service feed
My new town specifically forbids homeowners from doing any of their own work on electric, this 1 of the 4-5 bullets a the bottom of the electrical permit fee schedule:

-
Homeowners are not allowed to do electrical work in their home, they must hire licensed electrician.



Blanket statements like this make me ... they just invite the homeowner to break the law and skirt the permit system--so if I have a broken switch or outlet, or want to change out a light fixture, I'm supposed to file for a permit and hire an electrician?

If I were doing this myself I'd probably use armored cable, metal boxes and cut up the dry wall around them so I can secure to studs or blocking, but if I'm hiring it out then I'm probably going to end up with romex and plastic old-work boxes w/ ears because that's the only way to make it fit in the budget.

My preference would be to run all the new boxes/feeds myself to the kitchen and bath, then hire an electrician to do the service/load center, a quick check of my work, and then final hookups. It would save me at hundreds (if not thousands) in labor for what is essencially repetative grunt work...

Not to mention that the town has a fairly ridiculous fee schedule that involves increasing the permit cost on a per-outlet basis... I'd like to have a double gang box with two duplex outlets per location, but they want more money for the addition permitting then it will cost me in materials!
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Old 10-18-2010, 02:42 PM   #8
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electrical on a 60 year old house


Quote:
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My new town specifically forbids homeowners from doing any of their own work on electric, this 1 of the 4-5 bullets a the bottom of the electrical permit fee schedule:

-
Homeowners are not allowed to do electrical work in their home, they must hire licensed electrician.



Blanket statements like this make me ... they just invite the homeowner to break the law and skirt the permit system--so if I have a broken switch or outlet, or want to change out a light fixture, I'm supposed to file for a permit and hire an electrician?
Agreed. This is such an unjust and unreasonable regulation that I can't believe graft wasn't involved.
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Old 10-18-2010, 04:15 PM   #9
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electrical on a 60 year old house


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Agreed. This is such an unjust and unreasonable regulation that I can't believe graft wasn't involved.
...don't get me started

I want to avoid a permit b*tch-fest, so this is the last I will say off-top...

...They have the same language for plumbing as well... they want $22 for replacement of up to 3 "fixtures"... so basically if I want to replace a faucet in my own house in addition to the cost of the replacement faucet (and our 6.25% sales tax), I also apparently have to pay $22 to the town for a permit, plus whatever minimum charge a plumber wants, say $60-100... and if I don't, if I just replace it myself, then I am technically in violation of the law
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Old 10-18-2010, 04:26 PM   #10
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electrical on a 60 year old house


you need to be concerned about the height of the box/panel as well. The highest breaker cannot be above (please correct me guys if I'm wrong, just to lazy to look it up this second) 6' 7" above the floor in the uppermost position of the breaker.
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Old 10-18-2010, 11:07 PM   #11
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electrical on a 60 year old house


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Originally Posted by bubbler View Post
Thanks for the input guys---

RST--we haven't closed yet, I'd LOVE to be able to do some work before...

What probably will happen is that I'll contact electricians about whether they would appreciably charge less for the overall job if it could all at once vs. segmented into service vs. kitchen/bath...
Makes sense to me!! Our home inspector mostly pointed out electrical issues - overstuffed panel and service drop too low (though he missed some serious problems elsewhere!). Plus, HUD/FHA wouldn't finance without GFCIs in the kitchen and bath. So since the electrician was already going to be doing a bunch of things, we had him replace the panel with larger one and picked up part of that expense (because he would've had to install a sub panel anyway).

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...BTW, for the sake of saying it in case someone notices, I just noticed that I left out that a 15A circuit for the over range microwave.
If you didn't see it already, there is a sticky on this forum that outlines specific requirements for kitchens and baths.

Also, your town's stance on electrical permits is actually worse than mine! I will stop complaining... while here you are supposed to pull a permit for any electrical or plumbing, permit fees are reasonable, at least. (For the rare times when people actually people do pull permits...).

Robert

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