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Old 08-12-2010, 09:07 AM   #1
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safety near house power line conduit


Hi,
I'm in the process of removing paint on the south side of our house before priming & painting. A big conduit holding the house power lines runs along the top corner where the exterior wall meet the soffit. The paint under and on the conduit is flaking in spots but I'm feeling a bit cautious about getting it off especially using power tools. Logically I know that it shouldn't be dangerous but I need some reassurance.

To get the paint off the rest of the house, I've used my heat gun (low temp @ 500 degrees has worked best to remove paint), palm sander, and detail sander (a Dremel Multimax).

It's dang awkward working up against the soffits and scraping & sanding the paint off the conduit by hand looks to be a miserable job. It doesn't help that this is the side of our raised ranch with the highest elevation and so the conduit is roughly 18' off the ground which means I need to use my aluminum extension ladder. I'm normally A-OK about heights but I admit I have a little bit of a phobia about that conduit.

I would like to use my heat gun but only if I don't get zapped in the process. How should I approach clearing the paint off of the conduit?

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Old 08-12-2010, 09:17 AM   #2
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safety near house power line conduit


I assume this conduit is metal and not PVC, correct?

You won't get "zapped" by using a heat gun. Altho you have to be VERY careful with that aluminum ladder near the weatherhead since there are open conductors and splices that might not be insulated very well. Don't touch those wires.

You will be fine with sanders and scrapers on this pipe (provided it's metal). As for the heat gun, I've never used one for paint removal and I am not sure how hot you need to get the material. The only concern I would have with using it is to not heat the pipe too hot, you wouldn't want to melt the insulation off the conductors inside the pipe. If what you are doing only requires a quick heating that won't make the pipe too hot, I wouldn't worry about a thing.

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Old 08-12-2010, 11:01 AM   #3
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Yes, it's a metal conduit. Logically I know it must be safe since there's been work done right against it, including two window replacements and soffit maintenance.

I'm using the heat gun on the low setting (500 degrees F) and only need to heat the paint briefly to be able to scrape it off. Looking at it, I suspect the paint gun wouldn't be as useful on the conduit as a wire brush or maybe a wire brush bit on a drill.

Your post did make me think of where the wires enter the conduit (The service head is on the roof, the wires run down through the eaves and then turn into go into the conduit. Because there's a loop in the wires, there's more exterior wall behind it than behind the conduit. How does one prep & paint behind those wires? It doesn't help that that spot on the wall is a little tricky to get to due to it's location & various obstacles (downspout, transition to front brick facade, and a chain link fence).
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Old 08-12-2010, 11:16 AM   #4
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How does one prep & paint behind those wires?
VERY carefully, only touching one wire at a time, and on a fiberglass ladder.

Depending on the original installation, the splices might only have a bit of electrical tape wrapped around them. You must be careful. Hopefully there is some way to tie them up to keep them away from your work area without having to continually grab them to move out of the way.

I hate giving this type of advice to a DIYer because I really don't know the condition of the conductors. They might be perfectly safe, or they might be old and the insulation rotted. These conductors are unfused and can cause a massive arc flash.
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Old 08-12-2010, 04:59 PM   #5
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safety near house power line conduit


I'm a idiot or at least not totally observant. I took another look at the service head & conduit and see that there's no exposed service wires under the eaves but instead it's all enclosed in conduit. The wires I noticed next to the conduit have nothing to do with the house power but are for the cable TV/Internet and (defunct) phone. Whew. I'm nowhere near as scared of phone or cable/internet wires compared to house service wires.
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Old 08-12-2010, 05:03 PM   #6
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I'm a idiot or at least not totally observant. I took another look at the service head & conduit and see that there's no exposed service wires under the eaves but instead it's all enclosed in conduit. The wires I noticed next to the conduit have nothing to do with the house power but are for the cable TV/Internet and (defunct) phone. Whew. I'm nowhere near as scared of phone or cable/internet wires compared to house service wires.
Good, that makes a lot more sense. I was wondering why you'd have open conductors running along the house, but I've seen stranger things.

Just don't get the pipe too hot and you'll be ok.
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Old 08-12-2010, 09:24 PM   #7
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I hope this isn't a pre-1978 house with lead paint. All that sanding and a heat gun....... http://www.epa.gov/lead/pubs/regulation.htm

Be safe, Gary
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Old 08-13-2010, 09:44 AM   #8
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I hope this isn't a pre-1978 house with lead paint. All that sanding and a heat gun....... http://www.epa.gov/lead/pubs/regulation.htm

Be safe, Gary
It's a 1967 raised ranch and, yep, we've tested all the previous layers of paint several times and no lead. I'm glad, mainly because I don't want lead poisoning, but also, as I understand the law in NY, pretty much any kind of work on surfaces with lead paint requires the full hazmat treatment (respirators, suits, tenting, etc.). Earlier this spring we had a new window put in on the other end of the house and the workers had to test the paint before proceeding. If we had lead paint, the cost to install that little window would've been huge (at least 3 times the actual cost).

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