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Old 01-07-2022, 01:03 PM
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Default On the Lake

Inspired by (but not wanting to hijack) This Old House of Ours, here is a thread about the house my sister and I just bought.

It was built by the previous owner in 1980, after his kids were grown and just before he retired. His wife developed dementia in this house and he cared for her for about 10 yrs before she passed away about 8 years ago. As he is now 95 years old, his kids moved him into an assisted living facility. When we met him at the closing, the first thing he did was whip out his phone and start showing us pictures of the sunset over the lake. I hate the feeling that we took that away from him, even though it was nothing to do with us.

When we initially came by to look at the house they were in the process of filling a construction dumpster with everything inside. Furniture and all. Not a terrible decision overall since most of the stuff was dated at best, dirty or deteriorating at worst. But when I saw a huge collection of photos and memorabilia in the basement I implored them to leave it behind so I could rummage through it if we ended up buying the house. Short story long, they left it and we bought the house.

As I mentioned elsewhere here the previous owner was a professional photographer for Ford (and Kaiser-Fraser before that) for decades, and a whole bunch of photographic slides were among the things left behind. I have been working on digitizing them. I've completed about 12,500 so far which I estimate to be about half, and so far most of them are personal. There are just as many (if not more) negatives that I will probably scan too. And prints. Many thousands of prints, from small to poster size.

There are also a ton of newspapers, clippings, magazines, postcards, diaries, scrapbooks, and other paraphernalia that make every trip to the basement like an archaeological dig. It's pretty awesome and I'm enjoying the hell out of it, but I haven't decided how best to share it with the world without violating anyone's privacy and/or not doing it justice. I also want to supply any relevant historical organizations with anything they might find interesting.

I'd love to hear any ideas about things I could do with this stuff! Of course I'll share stuff here but there is so much content I'm thinking it might warrant a separate website or blog or something.

The house itself has been another challenge. I probably would have just moved into it as it was because I adapt to squalor pretty easily, but my sister insisted that we needed to get new carpet, paint it, replace all the outlets and light switches, etc. so it has been a huge project for the past couple months. I pulled out all the carpet myself (with a little help from another one of my sisters), replaced all the toilets and bathroom exhaust fans, did all the electrical stuff, and spent a huge amount of time chopping down bushes in the backyard. My sister (with some help from other siblings) did all the painting of the celings, walls, and even the kitchen cabinets. I will post some before and after pictures later.
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Old 01-07-2022, 03:43 PM
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Default Re: On the Lake

I have the same demands as I have of that bey/es thread. Well, hopes. No - dammit - demands!

Interesting stories of renovation surprises and difficulties. Especially if they involve areas which you keep on painting, but they keep on discolouring in horribly suggestive outlines. Or parts of the basement which have strange moulds even though it's completely dry. Or rooms where things just won't seem to stay where you put them, or mysteriously break.

I mean ... 1980 is a very long time ago.
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Old 01-08-2022, 12:40 PM
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Default Re: On the Lake

Ok, you asked for it.

When I was 16 I apprenticed with an electrician on a project to completely re-wire an old house, replacing "knob and tube" and a fuse box with modern wiring and a circuit breaker box. So it's not like I had never replaced switches and outlets before. However a few things I learned during this recent project might help someone in the future:

Things you should do before you start replacing electrical switches and outlets:

0. Obviously be safe. Cut the power, use a non-contact voltage tester and/or multimeter to ensure that you are not working on live power, etc. I am super cautious so I didn't have any shocks, but that meant a lot of running up and down the basement stairs to turn circuit breakers on and off and it gets tempting to test fate. You probably shouldn't do that.

1. Test everything. You will eventually want to know which outlets/switches worked before you started this project, and how they worked. Like did this light switch control the top socket of that outlet, but not the bottom? Did the bottom socket work? Is there more than one switch that controls the same outlet? You will eventually want to know that and it is infinitely more difficult to figure out after you've started replacing things. Take lots of close-up, well-lit, photos from different angles and/or thoroughly document what you see in a box as soon as you open it, because once you start disconnecting wires it can get really hard to figure out what goes where.

2. In the US when one switch controls one outlet or light, that is called a single-pole switch. If two switches control one outlet or light that is called a 3-way switch. If three switches control one outlet or light that is called a 4-way switch. (In the UK these are called 1-way, 2-way, and intermediate. This is the kind of thing you learn when seeking help on YouTube.)

3. Electrical outlets have a "hot" side (on the right) where power comes in, and a "neutral" side, where power goes out, and a "ground". I don't know why this never occurred to me but it hadn't. In a 2-socket outlet there are two screws on either side. Out of the box both screws serve both sockets, so it doesn't matter if you use one or both. However if you break off the little metal tab between the screws, you split the sockets into two separate circuits. This is one of those things you should check before you replace (and throw away) an outlet, because you'll want to know later whether that tab had been broken off (on one or both sides).

4. When an outlet or switch has been packed with insulating foam it can be very difficult (if not impossible) to remove it without tearing it to shreds (see photo). This can make it hard to figure out how said outlet or switch was wired before you began, so this is another reason why it's important to have information at the start about how things worked before you came storming in.

5. The most common electrical components are either 15 or 20 amp, and you want to use whatever matches the number on the circuit breaker. I'm not sure why this matters because I've accidentally used 15a outlets on a 20a circuit (and vice versa) and nothing burned or blew up, but I guess it matters. That being said, you can find 15a components, 20a components, and very conveniently 15/20a components. In my opinion the latter are uglier, but that is a thing you can do if you're not sure which you need or think you might be changing wiring later.

6. You should know the difference between cable and wire. Wire is a conductor, cable is usually two or more wires in a sheath. The thickness of wire is measured in gauges, and in my house most (all?) of the wire is 14 gauge, and most of the cables are either 14-2 or 14-3 (that's 14 gauge with 3 or 4 wires respectively). In my house almost all of the 14-2 cable has a black wire, a white wire, and a copper wire (for ground), and the 14-3 has a black wire, a red wire, a white wire, and a copper wire. I used to believe black=hot and white=neutral, but that is not always the case. You will want to take note of how many cables come into a box and which ones are connected to what. It isn't enough to note that black is connected to this screw and white to that one. If you have multiple cables coming into the box, which black? Which white? This turns out to matter.

7. Sometimes multiple light switches in a box can be on separate circuits, so make sure to use your non-contact voltage detector to ensure that there is no flowing juice in a box before you start working on it even if you believe you have cut the power.

8. Beware false positives/negatives from your non-contact voltage tester. I do not know how this is possible, but I kept getting a hot signal from an outlet that should not have been hot and it stopped when I unplugged the extension cord running through the room about 18 inches from the wall. This happened with two separate outlets and it cost me a lot of time. When the non-contact voltage detector is beeping like crazy but the multimeter shows no voltage it can be very disconcerting.

Anyway I could probably say more about my adventures with electricity but I'll stop here for now. Tune in to future episodes to hear about toilets, exhaust fans, and pulling up carpet. Oh my!


shredded_outlet.jpg
Sometimes you wake up and choose violence

one_crazy_switch.jpg
When a simple switch isn't a simple switch
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Old 01-16-2022, 01:48 PM
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Default Re: On the Lake

When the house was inspected it was revealed that the exhaust fan w/ heater in the master bathroom vented directly into the attic instead of outside. This led to my replacing the exhaust fan with one that was slightly larger and preparing to vent it outside. Unfortunately the snow hit before I could get on the roof so I may have to wait until the thaw for that part of the project. I decided along the way to replace the exhaust fan in the other full bathroom as well, and found that it too vents into the attic. So that's two holes I get to cut in the roof! I'm actually looking forward to that, if not to getting back in that cramped, hot, gross attic crawl space.

I decided to buy a timer switch for the exhaust fan so I wouldn't have to remember to turn off the fan after 30 minutes (or whatever) and learned the hard way that there are (at least) two types of timer switches out there. Those that require a neutral wire and those that don't. Of course I bought one that doesn't, and learned that modern fans such as the one I bought are so energy efficient that they don't leak enough back to the switch to power it--which is what switches that don't require a neutral depend on. Unfortunately the hunt for a switch that will work with my fan has only led me (so far) to switches that are >$50 and I'm just not yet willing to pay that. Maybe next week.

I probably don't need to add, but will anyway, that the post above where I talk about all the right ways to approach a home wiring project was born from having gotten all of those things exactly wrong in my own efforts. Ever since I posted that I've been troubled that someone might think I was preaching from a place of unearned opinion.
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Old 02-19-2022, 12:27 AM
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Default Re: On the Lake

I mentioned in the OP that the previous owner of the house was a photographer and left a whole bunch of photos, slides, etc. in the basement at my request. Shortly after we closed the owner's son (who had coordinated the sale) texted me and said that his Dad was actually really upset about the loss of all his slides and could he come and get them back. I said of course and we set about arranging a time to meet.

At some point I mentioned that it was too bad because I had hoped to digitize all the slides and give copies to his Dad, and after I assured him that I knew what a huge project that would be he said he would talk to his Dad and get back to me. The next day he texted and said his Dad loved the idea. So, as I mentioned earlier I set about scanning the slides.

When I had finished about 10k slides (around mid-November) I texted the son and asked how it would be easiest to go about sharing the images with his Dad because I realized it was going to take me a lot longer to get through them all and I wanted him to have a chance to see some as I continued to work. He said he would have to ask his "more tech-savvy daughter" and get back to me, but that's the last time I heard from him.

I found out yesterday (by scanning the obituaries) that the owner passed away about a month ago, sadly before he ever got to see some of the many thousands of photos I scanned; some of which I'm sure he hadn't seen in decades. I'm a little bummed I didn't try harder to get pictures to him but I was also a bit afraid that he would be unhappy with the quality. I had to color correct quite a lot of them because time had made them all red.

Most recently I've been putting stacks of prints on a wire rack in a plastic bucket with water in it to humidify them, then flattening them out. I have probably done this to hundreds or thousands of prints. I also bought a copy stand and an LED "light table" that I can use to take scans of negatives and prints, and I'll post more about that (with photos) later.
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Old 02-19-2022, 02:29 PM
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Default Re: On the Lake

vm:

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Old 02-19-2022, 09:21 PM
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Default Re: On the Lake

Can confirm. The differences are subtle but they're there if you look for them. Like the world where the box cutter is in the kitchen vs. the world where the box cutter is in the office.
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Old 02-20-2022, 08:38 PM
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Default Re: On the Lake

Quote:
Originally Posted by viscousmemories View Post
Most recently I've been putting stacks of prints on a wire rack in a plastic bucket with water in it to humidify them, then flattening them out. I have probably done this to hundreds or thousands of prints. I also bought a copy stand and an LED "light table" that I can use to take scans of negatives and prints, and I'll post more about that (with photos) later.
Iím not quite sure how you might want to go about culling them down, but I know thereís a decent amount of photographers, especially the older film ones, that would absolutely love to see a presentation of these.

Related, I also donít know how you might host them online in a non expensive manner but I bet there is a smaller, nerdier group of people that would love to dig through these like a treasure trove, hunting for the gems that spark their fancy, especially with you doing the hard digitizing work.
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