A New Electrical Outlet

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Find Your Way
Remodeling a home can sometimes involve strange and challenging things.

Submitted: July 16, 2017

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Submitted: July 16, 2017

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A new Electrical outlet

Short Story True

This is a story of exploration. Exploration of the walls within our home. Our forty plus year old home has seen a lot of changes, and wiring that I made down through the years. We just repainted and rearranged the three back rooms on the main floor and in the process placed a dresser on an inside wall that had no electrical outlet. We wanted to place two lamps on the dresser. I did not like the extension cord running around the wall in plain view. Installation of a forth outlet in the room was required.

The challenge lay in the fact that years ago when we built the home, I enclosed the basement with an in-law apartment. The ceiling is acoustical tile stapled to one-by-fours nailed across the floor joist. The wall for the outlet had to be resting on double joist under the sub floor, but I could not remember. The space I needed to access being blocked with duct work required that I drill a hole down through the two-by-four and subfloor missing the joist. Then feed the wire down through the hole to see where it ended up.

After selecting a location between the wall studs and behind the dresser for an outlet box with expandable flanges to hold it in place, I bought two fast cutting drill bits, a short one and a twelve inch long one. I also bought an eight inch flexible drill extension and a four inch extension. I had to work through the small opening cut for the electrical box as the sheetrock wall had just been repainted. My hand would only just fit in the hole, but the angle and distance would not allow me to reach the bottom of the wall. By shinning a flashlight in the hole I could only see one half of the base two-by-four and one large nail. This let me know that the wall rested on a floor joist. If I drilled straight down I would be drilling down the center of the joist.

On my first attempt I attached the short bit the end of the flexible extension and inserted it into the wall. With one hand in the wall holding the bit in place and bending the extension ninety degrees through the opening, I attached my small battery hand drill and started drilling. When the screw on the end of the bit caught hold in the wood I quickly realized that the bit was designed for slow turning and fast cutting. I continued on with the drill at slow speed until I could feel it hitting a nail. I speed up the drill hoping that I was only hitting the edge of the nail and could get by it.

The bit finely caught on the nail and stalled. I tried to pull the bit out but it was no use. Getting a socket wrench on the end of the extension, I forced the bit to turn. Each half turn hitting the nail again until I must have gotten below it when I hit something else and the bit froze. Applying more pressure it started to turn again I thought. After several minutes of working with the socket, I realized I was not making any headway and pulled everything out of the hole. Except for the bit, which I could not move. I then placed the four inch extension on the bit for leverage and worked for an hour trying to get the bit out. I managed to rock it back and forth in all directions, but it would not turn or come out. I then concluded that the back edge of the bit was caught under the nail. It would have to just remain in the wall. By using a small mirror and flashlight I could see the end of the bit about three inches left of the opening and standing straight up. This was not good I needed to be drilling at a slight angle to miss the joist below.

My opening was twelve inches above the floor, so I took the twelve inch bit, also a fast cutting one with threads on the end to pull the bit into the wood as it turned, and attached the four inch extension. The flexible extension was broken and was spinning when it met resistance. I moved to the right between the lodged bit and the nail I could see and started a new hole at an angle using the ratchet on the outside of the hole. I could drill about four or five inches deep with this setup. All was going well until I hit another nail. This one would not give so I pull the bit out. The end was damage, however it look like it would still cut ok.

I had to be able to see what was going on. After feeding the end of the vacuum cleaner hose down the hole and cleaning out all the saw dust chips I widened the hole slightly where the clamps would slide through and inserted the end of my cell phone that had the camera lens and flash in hopes of taking a picture. I could not turn the phone, only take a picture straight down. I caught the top of the stuck bit, the empty second hole and the large nail head.

Reinserting the long drill bit and aligning it between the last failed hole and the nail head I slowly started the ratchet action again cutting through the two-by-four. After what seemed like a half hour, more like fifteen minutes, I hit another nail. Continuing to ratchet the bit the nail broke or I cut off the edge. The drilling became easier and when it felt like it may be breaking through I pulled it out and vacuumed out the wall again taking another picture.

At the bottom of the five inch deep hole I could see a small black hole. This was great, I missed the joist below. I reinserted the bit and attached my electric drill to clean out and enlarge the hole.

My next step was to insert the electrical cable with the curve facing the furnace room where I hoped to connect it to an existing outlet next to the furnace. I pushed in about ten feet of wire when it hit something. Hoping to force the cable on I continued to push about thirty feet of cable into the small hole.
Now I needed to see if I could find the end at the furnace room. I had promised not to tear out the ceiling below, so it was a long shot to be able to push the cable through. I could not get my head in position to see down the floor joists and could just barely get my hand up between the ducts. By holding my phone by the end with two fingers and pushing the camera button with my third finger I hoped to get a few pictures. 

The wide space between the floor joists showed the cross braces at the halfway point, but no wires. I moved over one joist and found two added joists for the wall above. My hole should be to the left of this.

The second picture from behind another vent pipe showed the top of the return air vent and a better view of the narrow space on each side of the added joists. By adjusting the brightness of the image I could make out a block at the mid-point where the cross braces would normally be. The two solid blocks kept the joists vertical but also blocked my cable.

I had a choice, pull the cable back out or remove one ceiling tile. After measuring the location of the upstairs wall from the right side of the house to the wall inside of the closet opposite the outlet and measuring off the same distance in the basement I determined the correct row of ceiling tiles. The brace, I assumed would be in the center, so I counted of the tiles and picked the one that should be under the blocking brace.

After I studied the tile, trying to remember how it was made and installed, I carefully cut one edge off. The edge that was tucked under the adjacent tile and pulled it down. As it was so old the corners broke off and made a mess.

A twelve inch square opening exposed one side of the two inch brace with a small half inch space on the bottom between the brace and the one-by-four that held the tile. Shining the flashlight into the opening I could see the jumble of electrical cable that I had pushed down the hole. Now if I could just fish it out somehow. I cut a two inch notch in the brace with my saber saw and another notch in the one-by-four. Making a hook out of some wire, I managed to drag the cable closer to the opening. By the time I bent it and forced it through the hole I had cut the insulation on the cable. Untangling the mess of knots and getting it all through the hole took a while. I ended up with a large loop of cable on the basement floor and both ends stuck in the floor. When I forced the cable down the hole, the end went under one of the joists and stuck. I cut the cable where I damaged it and took another picture.

 

I fed the cable under the double joist to the side that was open to the furnace room and proceeded to push and flip the cable forward until it no longer would advance. Going into the furnace room and climbing up on a stool I expected to force my arm up through the narrow space between the ducts to feel for the cable. Looking up, I praised Jesus for helping me, there in plain view was the end of the cable where I could pull it down to the outlet by the furnace. Then back upstairs to pull all the excess cable out leaving the short section that was stuck.

I replaced the ceiling title as best as I could and installed the new electrical box and outlet. Then I tripped the breaker to the furnace, and connected the new wiring. I was proud of the all day job, until my wife noticed the damaged ceiling tile in the basement apartment.


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