Friday, March 26, 2010

Let’s open up that wall. That should be easy!

The following is an article I submitted to another website as part of an application process to be a "Guest Writer" . I was rejected so I thought I might as well post it as a blog entry.

After much discussion on how to achieve a more open feel to your main living area, you and your better half decide that the easiest way to accomplish this would be to create a large opening in the wall between the kitchen and your formal dining room. Just think how much of a difference that will make, and really, how hard can that be?

You consult your neighbour, the journeyman carpenter, and determine that the wall is not a load bearing wall. You obtain the correct permits from the local building authority, and you’re ready to start first thing Saturday morning.

Up bright and early, you’re ready to start. You mark out the proposed rough opening and start removing wall board beginning at the top. Using a plethora of tools, from a utility knife to a reciprocating saw, the renovation begins! Off comes the drywall in a messy, dusty heap on the floor. Things couldn’t be working out better! Your 60” wide passageway is taking shape right before your eyes, and then, you spot your problem. About 36” off the floor you see a cable running through the studs right across your opening. Upon further inspection you discover an electrical outlet on either side of your opening on the other side of the wall. Now what! What are the options?

After a few calls to several local electrical contractors, and leaving messages for them to call you back, it’s off to the computer room to check online for some answers. You find a great website for electrical help, and learn that as long as you have a reasonable skill level, a healthy respect for electricity, and that your local building authority will issue a Homeowners’ Electrical Permit, there’s no reason that you can’t tackle this project yourself.

Monday morning you get the appropriate permit in place, and on the advice you received online, you first ensure that the power to this particular circuit is switched off at the service entrance panel by turning off the correct breaker, you have checked the outlets on either side of the opening and they are indeed dead. You remove the faceplates and the device screws on each of the receptacles and discover that each receptacle has two 2-wire cables entering each box, and both receptacles have five wires attached to them: two black wires; two white wires; and a bare ground. The cable in the wall opening is running between the two receptacles. Removing the cable will break the circuit so it needs to remain in the equation. The cable has to be disconnected and removed from each of the device boxes. Fortunately the receptacles are only one stud space over from your new opening on either side, so fishing in a new, longer piece of wire between them is not that difficult. Sizing up the situation, you determine that you can run a new, longer cable up and over your new opening with a few simple modifications to the original plan. You reinstall the new cable into both boxes and reconnect all the wires properly, and now the project can move forward as planned!

You’ve learned a valuable lesson. Check for all potential problems that could be encountered, even in the most simple of projects. Look for any clues, such as electrical outlets, or plumbing fixtures beside, above or below the proposed renovation area. This would have allowed you to prepare in advance, and may have affected the entire renovation plan had the issue been a more difficult one to resolve.