Unpacking My Kitchen

What was I thinking?

Yesterday evening, I planned a little get-together with girlfriends to keep me company while I unpacked some (or all?) of my kitchen boxes. I’d packed well over a dozen kitchen boxes during my final months in Arizona and now that my kitchen cabinets and countertops were in, I didn’t see any reason why I shouldn’t start unpacking them and putting things away.

The Backstory

For those of you who don’t know the circumstances under which I left my Arizona home in the spring of 2013, let me give you a tiny bit of backstory. In 2012, while I was away in Washington for work, my husband told me he wanted a divorce and began living with another woman in Scottsdale. When I returned to Arizona, I found the locks changed on my home. I broke in, got the permission of the court to live there without him, and began what would become an extremely ugly divorce battle. My future ex-husband seemed anxious to get me out of the house — which he claimed he wanted to keep — but refused to agree to a reasonable settlement and even pushed back the original court date to delay things.

Meanwhile, other than making a few trips to visit friends and family and start a new job, I was pretty much stuck waiting at home, heartbroken, bored, and angry. I filled my time by packing up things I’d bought throughout the years — things I probably would have left behind if the bastard I’d married had settled. I blogged about this here. (Of course, if you want the dirty details on my divorce ordeal, you might want to read about my upcoming divorce book, tentatively titled Expensive Delusions: A Midlife Crisis Gone Horribly Wrong.)

Anyway, the longer I was stuck waiting, the more I packed. I was finally set free when he agreed to a list of the items I’d leave behind in exchange for me leaving the house. Agreeing to that list was the first — and so far only — reasonable thing he’s done in the past three years.

Nearly two years later, I have dozens of boxes stacked on pallets in my RV garage, waiting to be unpacked in my new home.

Kitchen Unpacking

The kitchen unpacking was the obvious place to start. With the installation of the cabinets, appliances, and countertops, my kitchen is 95% done. All I need to do is finish the flooring (which I’ll likely do today), add the trim, put shelves in my pantry, and get my kitchen sink and dishwasher hooked up (which will be done Monday). I was already using the refrigerator to store some of my food and the stove and microwave to prepare some of my meals. It would be nice to cook with my good pots and pans and eat on my good plates. These were among the first things I packed — the things I knew I wanted with me when I built my new home — and I hadn’t laid eyes on them for well over two years.

I spent most of yesterday laying Pergo in my great room. I was really hoping to get the whole room done before my guests arrived, but by 3:30, I still had the far end of the room and much of the kitchen to do. I spent another half hour cleaning up and starting to bring up boxes. Then I took a shower and prepped to receive my guests.

Great Room
Here’s what my “great room” looked like before I brought up the kitchen boxes. I like to think of this as the calm before the storm.

Although I was hoping to do all of the unpacking and let my friends just keep me company, they dug right in. Soon, the floor was full of empty boxes, wrapping paper, bubble wrap, and unwrapped kitchen items. I was extremely happy to get those every day dishes and pots and pans unwrapped and put away. And pleased to find many of the things I’d forgotten all about — various vases, my canister set, hand-made serving plates, glass mixing bowls, stainless steel measuring cups and spoons — basically everything I’d need in my new kitchen. And even a few things I don’t use often but really like, like my three little teapots, which will look great on the shelves near my window.

I found my immersion blender, which I’d been searching for months ago, in the bottom of the box marked “Last Kitchen Box” — just where I thought it was. That’s also where I found the last bunch of things I packed: two coffee makers, my coffee grinder, a few mugs, and various things I was using right up to the last day I lived in my old home. Some of those things duplicate what I’ve been using while living in my RV; I’ll take the items that are in the best condition for my home and put the duplicates back in the RV.

But I also found things that I can’t believe I packed: a microwave rice cooker I didn’t use in Arizona and won’t likely use here, a sprouts spouter I hadn’t used in at least five years, several tiny milk pitchers, at least ten extremely uninteresting serving plates and bowls — the list goes on and on. There’s the white marble lazy susan that’s heavy and ugly. There’s the glass plates shaped like fish, which I remember once thinking that I had to have and then rarely used. There’s a pair of desert dishes shaped like a bunch of grapes. There’s a pair of very large Starbucks Christmas mugs. There are also duplicates — I can’t believe I packed three cutting boards, even though I know I left at least one or two behind.

I know I got rid of a lot of my things before I moved — the local thrift shop could have opened a whole room with the Jeep-loads of things I dropped by every week — but I definitely packed stuff that should have been given away.

And now it’s here.

On Being a Packrat

My friends and I got through most — but not all — of the kitchen boxes. This morning, I came back upstairs to the crazy mess I’d left the night before. As I sipped my coffee and gazed out the window at the brightening landscape around me, I gave it some serious thought.

Unpacking Mess
Looks like I have a lot of cleaning up to do this morning!

I know I live with a packrat mentality — it’s one of my problems. I think it comes from my early years, back before I was able to afford the things I needed. Back then — especially in college — I became a scavenger, always looking for things I could use in my life. My dorm room was a perfect example, with furniture, lamps, and even a rug that I’d scavenged from the trash area on moving day.

Nice plates, but do I really need them?

Even years later, when I lived in Arizona, I’d often encounter items I thought would be useful and save them. For example, I remember buying frozen crème brûlée that came in very nice flat ceramic plates that had a terra cotta look. I couldn’t see throwing out those plates. So here they are, in my new home, making me wonder what the hell I’m going to do with them.

Even today, it’s hard to pass up an item I can use as is or modify to repurpose for another use. As I type this, there’s a load of eight pallets in the back of my pickup truck. I use them to create things like raised bed planters. I have lumber and scrap metal left over from the construction of my building — I’ll use them to redo my chicken coop this summer. And don’t get me started on the empty wine, cider, and beer bottles — all raw materials for my glass work.

Anyway, last night I’d tried to put away all of the things I packed, but with the clarity that comes after a good night’s sleep, I realize that less is more. It’s time to unload those extra things — the things I should have gotten rid of while packing.

I don’t want to continue my cluttered packrat habits in my new home.

Besides, I have a lot more boxes to unpack.

Construction: Countertop Installation

Two visits, amazing results.

On May 20, 2014, I began blogging about the construction of my new home in Malaga, WA. You can read all of these posts — and see the time-lapse and walkthrough movies that go with many them — by clicking the new home construction tag.

When I designed my new kitchen, countertops were a big question for me. Back in Arizona, I had tile countertops which looked fine and could handle direct contact with hot pots and pans, but lacked a smooth surface for rolling out pie/cookie dough and were a royal pain in the ass to keep clean. (Think white grout.) I knew I wanted an easier to care for surface, but I wasn’t sure what I wanted. The Home Depot kitchen design person helped me make the decision: granite.

Ubatuba granite
The color I chose is called Ubatuba, which is mostly black with greenish gold specks that work well with my cabinet and wall colors.

Granite! I’d always wanted stone countertops but it was just many of the things that were apparently not within the realm of possibility in my old life. Home Depot had a sale going on granite and I really liked one of their “level A” (i.e., least expensive) colors. Why the hell shouldn’t I treat myself to some nice countertops?

She worked up an estimate for the two countertops — main and island — and backsplash on the main island. She included the radius cut I’d need for the end shelf unit. I chose the simplest bevel, which was available at no extra charge. After an initial sticker shock with the final number she came up with, I signed and paid for my purchase.

That was back in January 2015.

Some people might question why I went with Home Depot for my countertops. Simple: I used them for my cabinets and the price was acceptable. Installation was included. I didn’t have to visit a half dozen shops and be told a dozen different things about two dozen different options. I had enough on my plate as general contractor and electrician for the project. I wanted to keep things simple. That was worth maybe spending a little bit more than tracking down two matching pieces of granite, getting them properly cut and delivered to my home, and finding someone with plenty of experience to install them. Home Depot would take care of everything with their vendor so I wouldn’t have to worry about it.

The Template

My project started really coming together in February when the insulation, drywall, and painting was done. (I really need to blog about that one of these days.) I was on a 16-day vacation in Arizona when they were finishing up, but I scheduled the cabinet delivery for soon after my return. I had a shorter trip to California the following week and scheduled the cabinet installation for the day after my return from that trip. When I had a solid date for the cabinet installation, I booked the countertop measurement appointment. They needed the cabinets in place to create their template.

Two installers showed up on Friday, March 13 in a small truck with a bunch of previously used white corrugated plastic, tape, and a glue gun. While I continued working on my electrical system, they busied themselves in my kitchen, measuring spaces and cutting/gluing the plastic into the shape of my future countertops. That would be the template they’d use back in the shop to cut my countertops.

Countertop Template
The templates for my kitchen countertops were made of corrugated plastic.

They asked me a few questions and tried halfheartedly to upsell me a fancier bevel, which I didn’t want. Then they advised me to get wooden corbels to support the breakfast bar side of my island countertop, which would overhang 12 inches. They told me the corbels should be 10 x 16 inches in size and that I should mount them with the long side against the wall. They advised me to avoid metal brackets because metal bends and wood doesn’t. I took notes, signed the paperwork they presented, and watched them leave.

Because the countertop company only came to the Wenatchee area once every two weeks from the Seattle area where they’re based, it would be two weeks before my countertops arrived. That was a good thing, mostly because the cabinet company had screwed up and made my lower end cabinet out of the wrong wood. It would need to be replaced. The cabinet folks and Home Depot were already on it. It would arrive in plenty of time before the countertop installation.

The Corbels

Getting wooden corbels the exact size the countertop guys recommended was not easy — at least at first. I worked the web over the weekend and found all kinds of corbels, none of which came very close to the size they suggested.

Then I found ProWoodMarket. This company makes and sells a huge range of wooden brackets, braces, corbels, and other decorative and structural wood pieces. I put in a request for custom corbels and got a response back within an hour. The price was within reason — actually, no more expensive than the non-custom corbels they offered on their site. Unfortunately, to get them on time, I’d have to either put a rush on the order or the shipping or both. I paid a rush fee to get my order to the front of the production line and took my chances on shipping. My order was shipped out the next day via UPS.

I took another trip to California. The package arrived the day I left — I saw it sitting on my doorstep in the view from one of my security cameras. Fortunately, the weather was good that week and I didn’t have to worry about the box getting soaked.

When I got home, I opened the box and was pleasantly surprised by the size and appearance of the corbels. They’d been carved out of cedar and I could see the character of the wood, including tree rings and knots. The color was perfect — I wouldn’t have to stain them. Just a clear coat finish — a woodworking friend suggested tung oil — and they’d last forever.

The trick was to get them installed on the stub wall of my kitchen island. The problem wasn’t finding solid studs to fasten them to — I could see exactly where the studs were because the top of the wall was unfinished and the fasteners I’d used to attach the studs were visible. The problem was lining them up to be level with the countertops — which where slightly taller than the stub wall — and holding them steady while fastening them into place. That took more than two hands. I’d need help.

My friend Bob came to the rescue. He’s off on Fridays and I asked him to come by after breakfast. I made a 6 AM run to Home Depot to buy the right fasteners — 4-1/2 inch super-duty wood screws — and wood buttons to cover the screw holes. He showed up around 8:30 AM and let me make him a cup of coffee while his dog, Skip, played with Penny. Then we got to work.

I have a lot of tools — and seem to be acquiring more every day — but Bob has even more. He brought along his Forstner drill bit set. These bits are perfect for making inset drill holes that would accept a wood button. We marked two places on each corbel to drill holes and Bob did his magic. Then we used my four-foot level to position each corbel against a stub wall stud, level with the cabinet tops. The screws sucked the corbels hard into place. We were done in half an hour.

The corbels after installation on the stub wall. I bought the wrong size wood buttons; need larger ones I’ll get on my next Home Depot run. (And yes, that’s a quiche on the stovetop — the first I baked in my new oven.)

The Installation

Although the installers were supposed to arrive between 8 AM and 11 AM on Friday, March 27, they were late. They called around 10 AM and claimed they were having trouble with their truck. That was disappointing; I’d been trying to get the plumber in that afternoon to plumb my kitchen sink and dishwasher and I knew he didn’t want to come on a Friday afternoon. The countertop delay gave him the excuse he needed to put it off until Monday. It was a good thing, because the countertop guys didn’t actually arrive until after noon.

Carrying Countertop up the Stairs
Here are the installers, carrying up the countertop for my kitchen island. I can only imagine what this piece of stone weighed.

They didn’t waste any time — I might have been their first installation for the day, but I wasn’t their last. One by one, they brought the two pieces of my main countertop in through the front door and up the stairs. (The countertop was more than 12 feet long and couldn’t be created in one piece; there would be a seam in the middle of the sink.) When they laid one piece atop the cabinets near where my sink would go, I saw how perfect the color would go with my cabinets and walls.

While they worked, I stayed out of their way. I had begun laying Pergo in the great room while I waited for them and kept at it, stopping every once in a while to check out their progress and answer questions. They had a lot of small tasks to do, including setting my under-mount kitchen sink in place and drilling the holes for the faucet and soap dispenser. They worked slowly and carefully — a team that obviously knew exactly what they were doing and wasn’t going to let their late start affect the quality of their work.

Installing Countertops
The countertop installers align the two halves of my main kitchen counter.

It took them nearly three hours to do the job. That included laying in the back splashes, setting the stove in place, applying a sealant to the granite, and caulking everything that needed caulking. When they were finished, it looked — well, amazing.

Finished Countertops
I can’t believe how good my kitchen looks now that the countertops have been installed.

They packed up, had me sign a few papers, suggested that I apply granite sealer again, and gave me some advice about not putting hot pots on the stone. I gave them some cash and told them to have dinner on me. Then I watched them drive away.

Brewing Coffee
Another milestone: brewing coffee on the countertop in my new kitchen.

Later, I brought my coffee maker upstairs and set it on the counter. This morning, I brewed my coffee in my new kitchen for the first time.

Tonight is “ladies night” again at my house. It’s a special occasion: Kitchen Box Unpacking. We’ll enjoy some wine and munchies while I unpack the multitude of boxes packed with kitchen things I brought from my old Arizona home. I’ll see what fits in my drawers and cabinets — whatever doesn’t fit or I don’t want anymore, I’ll give out as door prizes to my guests. Should be fun!

On Pilots and the Sacred Trust

A violation of trust, an act of murder.

Like most other frequent airline travelers, I was horrified to learn this morning that the cause of this week’s German Wings airplane crash in the French Alps is most likely the deliberate action of the “co-pilot” (i.e., First Officer), who locked the “pilot” (i.e., Captain) out of the “cockpit” (i.e., flight deck) and put the airplane into a steep descent that ended when it hit a mountain.

The only good thing to note about this is that men, women, and children on board likely never felt a thing as their lives were extinguished, like a candle’s flame between two calloused fingers.

As a pilot, this was more horrific to me. Why? Because the pilot who is responsible violated what I consider a sacred trust.

Let me try to explain. When I fly my helicopter, there is nothing more important to me than my passengers. By climbing aboard my aircraft, whether it’s for a 7-minute “hop ride” around town or a cross-country journey lasting hours, they have proven to me that they trust me with their lives. I don’t take that trust lightly. Maybe I pay closer attention to details, like the wind speed and direction or the way the helicopter lifts off the ground into a hover with their weight distribution. Maybe I fly a little higher, to reduce mechanical turbulence on a windy day and ensure that I’m well outside the “Deadman’s Curve” in the unlikely event of an engine failure. Maybe I keep my bank angle on turns a little flatter and my approaches and departures a little shallower to ensure a smooth flight.

I want my passengers to be not only safe, but comfortable. I want their memories of flying with me to include only the pleasant experiences they have during the flight.

I know a lot of pilots who don’t seem to think this way. Their goal is to impress their passengers with what they consider their flying skill. They want to give “E-Ticket rides.” For some reason, they think this is what their passengers want — and maybe some of them think they do.

But what passengers really want is to get off the aircraft in the same condition they got on it: safe, unharmed — and yes — alive.

And that’s what I call a sacred trust. The passengers trust the pilot to ensure their safety. If the pilot does anything to compromise that safety — whether it’s buzzing a backyard barbecue or diving into a mountain in France — he’s violated that sacred trust.

Pilots who even consider doing dangerous or suicidal things with passengers on board should not be in control of an aircraft.

I’m about to get on this airplane for a flight from CA to WA. Do I need to worry about the mental state of the pilots?

As a pilot, I’m upset that a young German pilot decided to kill himself and the 149 people who trusted him with their lives in such a horrific act. I’m worried about what future passengers will think about their pilots’ mental state of mind. I’m worried that people will use this incident to fuel their fears of flying, to avoid flying altogether. I’m worried that the FAA or airline management or other authorities will enact knee-jerk rules and regulations — like the one that made cockpit doors impregnable — that further burden responsible pilots with tests and paperwork that add to their stress and workload.

Most of all, I’m angry about the half-informed media coverage and their “experts,” jumping to conclusions and exploring crazy conspiracy theories, grasping for someone to blame, instilling fears in viewers and listeners and readers.


Let’s get this straight: it’s all about a pilot who betrayed his passengers’ sacred trust.

This is not just suicide by airplane. This pilot committed murder, pure and simple. In doing so, he sullied the reputation of other professional pilots who take their responsibilities as a pilot seriously.

And that’s what upsets me most of all.

28-Feb-15 Update:Pilot Who Downed Airliner Vowed ‘To Do Something’ To Be Remembered” might shed some additional light on his state of mind.

Construction: Pergo Installation Time-lapse

A task I thoroughly enjoyed!

On May 20, 2014, I began blogging about the construction of my new home in Malaga, WA. You can read all of these posts — and see the time-lapse and walkthrough movies that go with many them — by clicking the new home construction tag.

I got a pleasant surprise yesterday: I actually had fun installing the Pergo laminate wood flooring in my bedroom.

The job was remarkably easy once I got the hang of it. I started on the far left end of the room, positioned a piece about 1/8 inch from the wall, and slipped the tongue at the top into the groove of the previous piece at about a 30° to 45° angle. Then I gently rocked it up and down until is snapped down into place. The next piece went pretty much the same way, but also required me to bring the left edge against the right edge of the previous piece and make sure that snapped, too.

Cutting was the most challenging part. Although most cuts were simple straight cuts I did on my miter saw, I did occasionally have to cut around door openings and the like. In some cases, I had to draw pictures of the final piece with measurements. I know that sounds weird, but Pergo pieces can only be installed in one direction and if you screw up a cut, chances are that piece will be unusable as intended. If you’re lucky you can use it for something else. But if you do something seriously dumb — like cut off both ends — the piece becomes garbage. I screwed up two pieces during this installation, which I don’t think is that bad, considering it was my first full room.

Floor Installation
Here’s what the floor looked like when I took my lunch break. I was almost done!

As I worked, I found myself thinking about the sign I’d seen in Lowe’s offering installation at a sale price of 99¢/square foot. I can’t believe people would pay that when it’s so easy to do yourself. Yes, having the right tools does make the job easier — I had a miter saw, a table saw, a special pull bar designed for floating floor installations, and a rubber mallet — but even a battery-powered circular saw with a good blade would have been enough. The way I see it, I had a rewarding DIY day, got to play with my power tools, and saved $288.

If you want to see the narrated time-lapse video, here it is. I figure that if you deduct the amount of time for the two breaks I took while working, I probably put about five hours total into this job. I’m looking forward to finishing up in the living room and hallway — probably next week when the kitchen is done.

Construction: Electrical Finish

It’s mostly in my hands.

On May 20, 2014, I began blogging about the construction of my new home in Malaga, WA. You can read all of these posts — and see the time-lapse and walkthrough movies that go with many them — by clicking the new home construction tag.

I don’t know about other parts of the country or world, but in Washington State, where I live, an owner/builder can get a permit to do all of her electrical work. In an effort to save money, take a hands-on approach to the construction of my new home, and keep myself out of trouble during slow winter months, I chose this option and became my own electrician. I’ve been blogging about this for the past few months; I have links to specific posts in this one.

Like the plumbing work, which I blogged about over the weekend, electrical work has multiple parts. Back in September, I brought the power into the building. I guess that would be considered ground work. The rough-in stage would be getting the wires into the device boxes throughout my home and bringing the home runs down to the circuit panel; I did that in December and January. The final stage, finish, consists of attaching the ends of the home runs to circuits in the circuit panel and then putting devices on every device box in the home.

When I say devices, I’m referring to the electrical components you interact with: outlet receptacles to plug things into, light switches to control lights and outlets, and fixtures such as lights and smoke detectors. Every device on a circuit needs to be wired property before you turn on the circuit. The more devices you have, the longer it takes.

I know I joked about the vast number of outlets I have in my home, saying “You can never have too many outlets.” Well, when I started wiring them myself, I realized that you can.

Prepping for the Job

My home consists of mostly 15 and 20 amp circuits. Although I wanted to use 20 amp throughout, I soon realized that working with the thicker 12 gauge (as opposed to 14 gauge) wire would destroy my girly fingers. The main drawback to having a mix of circuit types is the fact that the device rating must match the amperage. So I couldn’t use a 15 amp rated receptacle or switch on a 20 amp circuit. That meant buying a bunch of each type and carefully matching them as I worked my way from room to room, wiring devices.

Wring Cart
Here’s my wiring cart as it looked during the rough-in stage.

I set up a rolling cart to make the chore easier. The cart came from a school surplus sale I attended last year. It’s an old media cart with three shelves. On top, I laid out my electrical tools: pliers, wire cutters, wire strippers, screwdrivers, electric screwdrivers, bits, utility knife, hammer, drywall cutter (obtained near the end of the process), etc. Below that, in bins, I laid out 15 amp and 20 amp receptacles and switches, as well as a wide variety of switch plates and wire nuts. At the very bottom of the cart, I had a box of wire pieces I could use to create pigtails, as well as a small box for wire trimmings I could recycle. A garbage pail attached to the cart made it easy to keep my worksite neat and clean. I even had hooks I could use to attach my stepladder. I’d wheel the cart from room to room as I worked, keeping my tools nearby. I also wore kneepads and had a gardening pad to further cushion my knees when I did work near the floor.

I bought just about everything at Home Depot; not only did I get a 5% discount on every purchase, but they have an outstanding return policy that encourages people to buy far more than what they think they need and simply return the excess. In the beginning, I just bought huge quantities of everything I thought I might need. I was at Home Depot nearly every day and really got to know the staff. (It’s gotten to the point where they ask me how my project is going when they see me and I show off photos to them.) As the work progressed, I’d return some items and pick up others. Just the other day, I was so close to finishing that I took an inventory of what I still needed, compared it to what I had on hand, and made a “final” return/purchase trip. I have some spares left in case something needs to be replaced, but I don’t have bins full of devices anymore.

Getting the Job Done

I went room by room, trying hard to do one full circuit at a time so I could power it up and test it. The first circuit I completed upstairs was for my living room lights. That was only six devices. I then did the circuit for outlets on the south side of my great room — another five devices, including one outside on the deck. After that, I wired devices as I needed to, completing both kitchen circuits, the range circuit, the dishwasher circuit, the laundry room circuit, and the dryer and water heater circuits.

Things slowed down after that. I had some traveling to do, including an unscheduled trip to California, and that broke my momentum. A friend helped me install my ceiling fans, which hang 13 feet above the floor. I waited for deck fixtures to arrive, realized they weren’t quite right, and had to return them. Then I waited for the replacements to arrive. I tried (and failed) to install the track lighting in the hallway by myself. (It really needs two people to hang.) I wired all the devices I could but still found myself waiting for missing devices or another pair of hands to finish off the circuits.

How It’s Done

The difficulty of the actual work varied depending on the device(s) that needed to be wired. The easiest were the single gang boxes for outlets and switches. One or two sets of wires come into the box and you attach their ends to a device, screw the device into the wall, and screw on a cover plate. Done. I averaged about 10 minutes per outlet throughout my home.

Before the Walls
Originally, the bathroom switch box had only three devices; I had to swap in a bigger box to accommodate the switch for the exhaust fan.

After Drywall
With the drywall in place, it’s hard to see where the wires go.

Connected Switches
The switches are connected and ready to screw back into the box. This can be difficult with a lot of thick wires in the box.

Finished switches
The finished box. Well, finished until I open it back up for a little rewiring.

Other boxes were more complex. For example, the box shown here is for my bathroom. It has six sets of wires coming into it: source of power (home run), vanity light, exhaust fan, sconces, and two outlets. The box needed to be wired with one GFCI outlet that the other two outlets needed to be wired into for GFCI protection as well as three switches for the three other devices. Although it was pretty easy to see where the wires came from when there wasn’t any drywall (top image), it became a little tougher once the walls were on (second image). Fortunately, an electrician friend had advised me to mark wires as “load,” giving me a clue on how I needed to connect the wires. I wired the outlet and switches (third image), then screwed them into the box and put on a switch plate (bottom image).

Later, after I’d installed the light sconces and the circuit was done, I flipped the circuit breaker to test my work. I was disappointed to discover that it wasn’t quite right — I’d mismarked the “load” wires and had connected the sconces as a load and a switch to an outlet. The result: when the circuit was powered up, the sconces came on and could not be turned off; their switch powered the outlet on the west wall. Oops. I’ll be opening that box and rewiring the outlet and far right switch later today. So far, this is the only one I’ve messed up, so I think I’m doing okay.

Wiring light fixtures was a bit of a pain because it required not only doing the wiring, but installing a bracket that would hold the fixture in place. The bracket styles varied from one fixture type to another. The picture-based instructions were either incomplete or inaccurate almost every time, so there was a lot of guesswork and trial-and-error involved. Here’s an example using one of my bathroom sconces.

Sconce Installation Step 1 Sconce Installation Step 2
Installing a bathroom sconce. Start with a fixture box with wires (left). Connect the wires to the fixture support — in this case, a metal plate (right).

Sconce Installation Step 3 Sconce Installation Step 4
Fasten the plate to the wall (left) and then fasten the fixture cover — in this case, a glass shade — to the plate (right).

Although installation of the first six fixtures went remarkably well, I’ve since learned that not all fixtures come with the hardware you need to get the job done. The bathroom sconces, for example, came with duplicate parts but were missing vital screws — some idiot at the factory had packed the wrong parts. Fortunately, I had screws to do the job — 8-32 size. (I quickly learned what size screws are needed for different components of a device and began stocking up on extra parts.) This bit me again just yesterday when I tried to wire the motion-sensor lights outside each garage bay — they came with three pairs of screws that the designers apparently thought would do the job, but none of them were long enough. Another trip to the hardware store before I can finish.

Tools Make the Job Easier

SmartDriverWhen I couldn’t find a cheap replacement for the battery charger, I simply bought the same drill, which came with a new charger.

Having two battery operated screwdrivers really helped. I had bought one of them years ago but its charger was zapped in a power surge back in 2013. I realized that it was only a few dollars more to buy a replacement drill with a new charger than just the charger. But why throw out the old drill? They take turns getting charged. I keep a different bit in each drill and reach for the one I need as I work.

My electrician friend, Tom, also gave me a handy tool for tightening winged wire nuts. It fits onto my screwdriver like a drill bit and really does the job well. It’s all about tools.

Like a dearly departed wise man used to say, “Any job is easy if you have the right tools.” I can vouch for that.

What’s Left and Ladder Woes

At this point, I’m nearly done. Here’s my list of devices still needing wiring:

  • 3 garage entrance fixtures (need screws)
  • 4 garage ceiling outlets (need to man up and climb the ladder)
  • 1 outside entrance fixture (need to man up and climb the ladder)
  • 1 inside entrance ceiling fixture (need to man up and climb the ladder)
  • 1 deck outlet (no excuse; this should be done)
  • 6 deck fixtures (need 2 fixtures and need to man up and climb the ladder)
  • 1 smoke detector (need to man up and climb the ladder)
  • 3 sets of track lighting (help is coming on Friday for the cost of a rib dinner)

As you can see, I have a bit of an issue with ladders.

The problem isn’t having ladders. I have ladders out the wazoo. First of all, the drywall guys apparently took my 5-foot aluminum ladder, which is extremely easy for me to move around and left me their 6-foot fiberglas ladder, which is a better ladder but much heavier. And, of course, I already have a 6-foot fiberglas ladder, so now I have two. I also have an 8-foot aluminum ladder I bought for preflighting my helicopter. A friend loaned me his 10-foot fiberglas ladder, which is great except I can’t move it on my own. Another friend loaned me his extension ladder which was moved out to my deck by the drywall guys and will likely remain there until my friend comes to retrieve it — I can’t lift the damn thing. Oh, and for outdoor work, I have a 10-foot orchard ladder I bought two years ago.

Out on the deck, the 5-foot MIA ladder would be perfect — except I don’t have a deck yet and I’m working on 2 x 8 sheets of plywood 10 feet off the ground. It’s scary. I really have to work my way up to doing it. The key is to not look down. I worked on one of the more difficult-to-reach fixtures last week only to discover that the fixture wouldn’t fit in the damn box. After consulting my electrician friend, we decided that the best course of action was to buy a different fixture. That’s on my list of things to do.

In any case, the end of my electrical work is near. I expect to have it all done by this coming weekend. Then on to the next challenge — rails around my loft that are needed to pass inspection for my certificate of occupancy. You can bet I’ll blog about that soon, too.