Category: electrical

Forward to the Past

My very first DIY project at Brooklyn Row House was wiring the place for CAT5 ethernet. I decided to do this even before I had an inkling of what I intended to do with the place, or even where my office, bedroom and computers would eventually be located. In retrospect, if I’d guessed back then I would have been dead wrong. Streaming media was still pretty much of a pipe dream in 1999 but I knew it was coming Real Soon and I wanted to be ready for it. I needed a wire soffit between the three floors for cables

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Some DIYer I turned out to be

During the heating season — from late October until April — I run a large humidifier 24/7. It’s something I’ve done since music school. I had a 115 year-old Czech flat-back double bass that didn’t like steam heat. By the time spring arrived I would have spent anywhere from $300 to $1000 at the luthier getting glue joints fixed, new cracks repaired, the sound post reset and so forth. Running a big honkin’ humidifier was a lot cheaper and the bonus was learning that it was healthier for people too. The humidifier, a six gallon Bemis, is located in the

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The Death of the CFL

I’m really getting fed up with the false lifetime claims of Compact Fluorescent Lighting manufacturers. On average, I’ve been seeing these bulbs fail at half their published life spans. Maybe we need a class action suit to force companies to publish the MTBF (Mean Time Between Failure) hours for these bulbs in the real world. The issue isn’t with fluorescent technology. In my last home, an industrial loft that was previously a paper bag factory, I took possession of two dozen large fluorescent ceiling fixtures. I could tell from the dust on those bulbs that they were already years old.

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Con Ed resolution

Catching up on the recent fun at BrooklynRowHouse, I’ve finally got my electrical back. My electrician strapped the panel so I didn’t have a half-dark house but I couldn’t run any 220v appliances, including my Delta table saw. That brought the woodworking in the bedroom reno to a dead stop. The stories about the fried feeder line are here and here. I was very concerned that my saw and clothes dryer could be out of commission for months. My neighbor had the same problem and it took Con Ed four months to fix it. That’s why I was surprised that

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T’weeks

Every so often I just don’t have an appropriate photo from my camera roll for one of these articles.  A pic of my desk lamp not working doesn’t really say anything and I can’t take a photo of my burned out feeder cable under the street. So I scrounge. Like now. I was surprised at 8:45am this morning when the Con Ed truck pulled up just as I was walking out the door with the pooches. If you read my last post, I lost one leg of power to my house yesterday. The electrician I called pronounced one of the

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Blackout bummer

No, not another citywide blackout, thank Bob!  I’ve lived through two of those and two was enough. I was checking my email today when my computers and monitor suddenly shut down. The music went quiet in the living room downstairs as well. But I could hear the radio playing in the shop downstairs. It took me five seconds to figure out what happened. People a block away probably heard me yell, “NOOOOoooo!!” This has happened to other houses on the block. The underground feeder cables into these houses are old. Add a bunch of melting snow and road salt like

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The Mystery of the Ducts To Nowhere

(Or “Why A Duct?”, with a tip o’ the hat to the Marx Bros) This house has ancient, single-pipe steam heating. From what I’ve been able to determine from digging in these walls over the past seven years is that it’s always had steam heating. Nothing interesting there. What’s baffling is why the house also has ancient metal air ducting buried inside the walls. I discovered this shortly after I moved here when I ripped down the basement ceiling and found three vertical ducts to nowhere. Over the past hundred years, various plumbers and electricians had used them for service

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Rule #1: don’t kill yourself

Work here has come to a halt for a little while. Several weeks ago I was working on our community dog run, shoveling wet wood chips like a teenager on dexadrine. I woke up the next morning with tendonitis in my right elbow. My next door neighbor is a chiropractor and told me to knock off the room renovation for two or three weeks to let it heal. I forged ahead as did my elbow pain. This morning I woke up feeling like I’d fractured the base of my thumb at the wrist. Back to Dr Joe, who reminded me

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Al Bundy, Home Renovation

A few days ago, Jeannie from House In Progress referred a woman from a new ABC reality show to me. From the email it sounded like she was looking for folks who had gone way over their heads on a home improvement project and needed 911 from the professionals to bail them out. I told her that this was my fourth major construction project in 25 years and that I wasn’t (*harumph*) a rookie at this stuff. I politely declined. But the next day I wondered if I wasn’t exactly the sort of Al Bundy cartoon character she wanted. After

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The Borg

Shortly after I moved to Brooklyn, one of the largest local independent home improvement centers closed, Mars Lumber. It’s now an Outback Steak House. The attitude at Mars was gruff and impatient but there were always professional trades people hanging around to give good advice. Mars fell victim to NYC’s first Home Depot store on Hamilton Avenue. Home Depot was bright, clean, well stocked and the people were friendly. Good riddance to Mars. But then a funny thing happened. The Hamilton Avenue Home Depot took an abrupt nose dive. The quality of the help was the first casualty. The bright,

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    Welcome to Brooklyn Row House

    This blog is about the challenges of renovating an old (1903) Brooklyn, New York row house.

    My last major renovation project was the master bedroom, most of which is about finish carpentry. You’ll find other completed home improvement projects in the Projects submenu at the top of this page.

    I’m not a professional builder and don’t pretend to be. I’m just an experienced amateur raised in a family of committed DIYers. I try to closely follow local and national building codes but don’t mistake anything on this site to be professional or even accurate advice! Your mileage may and definitely will vary.

    This is the third iteration of BrooklynRowHouse.com, from scratch-built to Drupal and now Wordpress. I hope you enjoy your time here.