RSS Feed

Summer Projects – ON or OFF – Which Way Does It Go?


First on our the list of remodeling chores to do this summer was to tackle those outdated antique electrical outlets and switches. Oh my! Fifty-seven years ago when this house was built there were not as many electrical appliances as we are accustomed to today. Hence – No – and I mean NO – NONE – ZILCH!!! electrical outlets in the bathrooms! There were some on the light fixture above the medicine cabinet, but in one bathroom that had been replaced and I don’t think you can find those kind anymore. They are ugly anyway! The other bathroom has the original fixture with the outlets on it but they are all two-prong. You can use cheaters – and I have quite a few of those – but with the bigger plugs on hair dryers and such there is not room to plug in the cord because of the angle they are set at.

In the other rooms there is only one electrical outlet per wall –  if that many. I have quite a few extension surge protectors too! The kitchen has only two outlets and is all on one circuit. We had to run wiring through conduit on the outside of the house (Concrete walls and no crawl space in the attic)  to put the dishwasher in so it could be on its own circuit. To save an outlet for my microwave – which will be installed in a few weeks, I hope 🙂 – we had to plug the fridge in around the corner in the living room. Very small corner – just a dividing wall and not even noticeable. Where there’s a will, there’s a way!

About those switches…all labeled ON and OFF on the toggle. I guess back then there was a need for directions on your light switch? Surely not! After counting all the switches and outlets and making a run to Lowes for the supplies we began the work. It was still daylight, but all the electricity had to be turned off so I got elected to hold the flashlight. Of course the first switch didn’t work and we realized we had gotten the wrong kind. Something about it being a two way switch and we had three of those. We wired a single switch to test it and YES there was light! Yay! Another trip to Lowes to get the right stuff and work began again.

I think I was being very patient. By now it was dark outside and we really did need a keeper of the flashlight! The beam of light only slipped off the target a few hundred times. It wasn’t a very exciting job and I had to watch Harry painstakingly rewiring those switches and bending that wire just right to get it to connect to the new connectors – I sound like I know what I’m talking about, right? I’m learning. The longer I watched, the more I thought I could get that done a little bit faster! Maybe twist that wire differently, hold my mouth just right, something…anything to make the task go faster. I don’t think he was trying to win a race! After three more switches we stopped for the night.

The next afternoon I decided to try my hand at the rewiring since he was not home. One hour later I had three switches done with the plates on and that was with no one holding the flashlight for me! When he walked in the door I showed him what I had done and he said, “Those are the single switches and they are easier to do because the wiring is not as thick on them.” Oh well, I thought I had done a great job and probably saved us a lot of time. I patted myself on the back!

After three days, three trips to Lowes, and countless “Why is that light over there? This is where I need it.” comments with lots of expletives, the switches were finally done, all the plates on, and the electrical outlets in the kitchen and living room completed.  How much longer would it have taken if I hadn’t done those three easy switches?  🙂 The outlets in the bedrooms will be there when we get to them. Furniture will have to be moved and flashlight held. Maybe that will be a winter project or maybe I will tackle those myself!

With all this  antique electricity and no grounded outlets we probably should have the whole place rewired, but I don’t even want to think about the cost of that. I can stand doing a little bit at a time and putting up with some grumbling. It is nice to look at these new switches though. Big difference huh? Andrew’s room – my favorite room in the house! The paint color that is.

Before -ON - OFF DSC01535

Yes, we’ve been trying to get a few things done on the house this summer. In the last month we have accomplished quite a lot… and there is a story and a project behind it all!

Excerpt from the next installment of ‘Summer Projects’.   Stay Tuned!

“I think someone was in a hurry when they built this house because the porcelain towel racks are not centered in either bathroom! What were they thinking?”



About Elle Knowles

Elle Knowles lives in the Florida Panhandle with her husband and off-at-college-most-of-the-time son. She has four daughters, one son, and eleven beautiful grandchildren. 'Crossing the Line' is her first novel. The sequel 'What Line' is a work in progress. Recently published is Coffee-Drunk Or Blind - a nonfiction story of homesteading in the Alaska wilderness with her parents and four siblings, told through letters by her mother and remembered accounts from the family.

6 responses »

  1. Your old switches remind me of my aunt and uncle’s house when I was growing up.


  2. This building still has post and tube wiring in it. The building itself is now 113 years old. It’s been upgraded some – but there are still some two prong outlets around that I have no desire to replace.

    That said, I am handy with electrical stuff. To do outlets and switches all you need is a philips head screwdriver, a flat head screwdriver and a pair of needle nose pliers. And perhaps a little 150 grit sandpaper.

    Take the old switch/outlet out. Clean off the ends of the wire. For screw terminal, pre-bend the wire using the shaft of the screwdriver and the pair of pliers. Slip over the retaining screw and tighten down.

    And those switches – they call 2 way. Pretty easy to hookup. And it can be all sorts of fun if you wire it just so.


  3. It must have been more artistic to leave them uncentered. A creative persons brain!




I only have one rule - Leave me your thoughts! ;)

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: