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Upgrade Me

Well, this weekend I was hearing Beyonce singing in my ears (no she didn’t really come by to say “S’up girlfriend”, although that would have super coolio). It was just that her song kept playing around in my mind. You know that one call “Upgrade Me”? You wanna know why?! Cuz over the weekend Dude and I were working on upgrading the electrical at the house.

Now, I’m sure I said before that the existing electrical throughout the house is pretty good. The electrical in the garage was probably done around the 1940’s and the electrical in the house was done around the 1970’s or 1980’s and Dude said that it was done well so we aren’t going to mess with it. What we do need, however, are some more lines run with some new plugs and switches. We need to bring the living room up to the 22nd century cuz before a week ago it had no electrical in it. Also, we are running lines to have more lights, plugs and switches in the bedrooms and also internet throughout the house.

The biggest deal ever, though, and the biggest “upgrade me” part is the new electrical panel that Dude is installing.

Remember this piece of work?

Well, now, wait for it…….wait for it…..BAM! We have this beauty!

How awesome is this?! Awesome, right?! Dude says we will have the best residential electrical in all of France. I think he just might be right.

So this past weekend this is what came to pass chez moi since it was cold, rainy and dreary outside and we needed to accomplish some more projects inside.

The panel was actually hung on the wall a couple of weeks ago, but didn’t have any lines running to it. We were still working off all the old stuff in the house. So this weekend we busted out all the neutrals, hots and grounds and put them together and ran those puppies through the flex we had put in WAYYYYYYY back in the summer when we had thought we would have already finished this project by now.

Well, the first run of wire went pretty well. We were able to get all the wire (we ran 7 circuits, which is 14 wires plus grounds) down into the flex and ran from the small electrical box in our room down into the garage and to the new electrical panel.  This run is going to be for the electrical in the living room, some of the plugs, lights and switches in our room and some electrical for the kitchen.

Now our panel looks like it has just had open heart surgery with all those wires hanging out. I think when this panel is done and it has about a bazillion wires in it, I will crown him with the name of Loqutus (all your Star Trek-The Next Generation fans will get that).

Check out our make-shift wire roller. I have no idea how the electricians here run their wire! We had to invent something and even then, it was a big pain in the butt!

From the little electrical box in our room, Dude ran the wire over to the living room (remember the tracking we did last weekend) and now, Viola, we have some electrical for all our future needs.

The new main electrical panel in the garage is going to be a beast and Dude says he will have it all dialed in so that we can have the lights and the hot water tank and the heater on timers (that will be a big help since in our house we have a teenager who knows no meaning of costs savings). I swear Tinki will leave every light on in the house, turn the heat up full blast and drain the hot water tank all in one day!

After the first successful run, we decided to make another from the kitchen (starting at a new plug for the washing machine) and going to the main electrical panel. It started out with me putting a string with a piece of trash bag on the end of it into the flex run where the wires were going to go. Then Dude took the vacuum cleaner and sucked it down the hole so we had something to put the wire on to pull it back up through the flex. This bunch of neutrals, hots and grounds wasn’t as big ( 2 circuits which is 4 wires plus grounds) and the flex line was only 20mm in diameter.

Dude attached all the wires to the green line in the garage and I went up to the kitchen and pulled on the string to get the wire to go through the flex while he was down in the garage pushing the wire into the flex. All was good until we came to a nasty bend in the flex and then the wires just wouldn’t budge. I went to the garage to grab some gloves thinking this would help me in pulling the string with the wires since the green string was a bit hard to hold onto. Well, not so good an idea cuz I ended up pulling too hard and tugging the flex up and I did this

Yup, I cracked the dry wall where the plug was going to be. Boy was Dude pissed cuz now he had to cut another hole in the dry wall to relocate the plug (new plug shown in the picture just above my mess up) and then he was going to have to do a dry wall patch. Also, we had to give up running this line cuz it just wasn’t working out.

So now we had to go back to our little, blue electrical box, take it out of the wall (we just put it in last week to replace the orange one), cut the flex line and re-run it through the bedroom as a stub-out. This proved to be really arduous since it already had all these wires sticking out from the run we had just done. Taking the box out, cutting the flex and subbing out was not in the grand scheme of things. Dude was so pissed off that I thought he was gonna walk out and leave me (seriously it was bad), but then he came to his senses, realized that I was the best thing that had ever happened to him and finished the job.

With the box back on the wall, we tried it again with the little green string, the piece of trash and the vacuum and voila, it worked, second electrical run complete.

Now it was time to go and check out the new DSL/CAT 6 box to be installed, this is for internet and phone which has 10 runs and 2 main DSL lines. Dude decided that he wanted to put our internet and phone into a box (remember this one with the Rasta Flag) and have it on the garage wall. So we had to run the pipe (you know that stupid PVC junk cuz they don’t like metal pipe here) and have it go around the wall of the garage and out the back door for the telephone and internet and then come down the wall and into the box. So here is what it looked like after melting PVC with a hand-held blow torch to bend it (system-D, cuz we didn’t have a PVC blanket to do this) and smelling that delicious, blue, PVC glue.

Not bad for two people who have been sniffing glue, huh?!

And look, the lines were run for this one, too!

We are just waiting for the façade to get done (of course) before we can run the new phone line outside, but it looks so much neater than this

which is what we had before and we kept hitting it with our head when we wanted to go out the back door! Now it’s all nice and professional looking.

Now, back to the main electrical panel. Dude got all into putting in the new breakers and making it all look nice and neat. Of course, the whole time he was doing this he was complaining about the stupid French electrical.

Here was some of his complaints; why is this so small, how do they expect you to work in this thing, everything is too close together, why do they run it like this cuz it makes no sense, why do they have so many extra wires, how the heck do they expect you to fit it all in there when you have to use all this dumb car flex, there aren’t enough rungs, this parafoudre thingy is weird, why did they do the grounding this way, why when you buy the LeGrand panel do you have to pay insane prices for the accessories cuz they don’t come with the panel ( like spending 200€ for the panel and it comes with nothing and finding out you have to buy the gulottes separately, all the breakers separately, the parafoundre separately, the breaker for the parafoudre separately, the screws to screw the gulottes into the panel separately, etc….etc.. etc..

Yes, folks, my Sunday night consisted of me saying either “I don’t know” or “Cuz it’s France”.  Anyway, by the end of the night last night we managed to get a fair amount done.

Now what we have is sooooooo much better than this. Don’t you think?!

If you want to see more photos of our electrical job they appear on Flickr. To get there just click on the “More Photos” option under Photos on Flickr.

French Wiring Makes No Sense To Me

I found out today that I don’t like running flex. I already said I hated to hang drywall studs and rails, well I hate flex, too. They have the dumbest stuff here. Everything electrical is run on this stuff that you would put only in your car in the states. What’s more, you can’t pull it through the studs because it gets stuck! We spent so much time finishing up the master bedroom and kitchen that the day was passing us by. Dude and I still hadn’t had time to figure out what we were going to do with the kitchen.

See, all our cabinets are going to be put in later, after we move in, but in order to run the electrical you have to plan out what you want so you have all the lights, plugs and switches in the right areas. I’m having a huge issue with the kitchen because I absolutely HATE everything that France is throwing at me in the way of cabinetry. It’s all this modern junk that just won’t work in my ancient style house. I definitely want to be modernized, but I don’t want it to LOOK all modernized. This is a problem and Dude keeps harping at me to hurry up and figure it out.

Well, I told him that I knew what I DIDN’T want, did that help? He said, “No!” So he ran the all the lines according to what he thought is should be and I guess we will just have to work around it and find something that will work for us. I can do that……I think.

Once the flex was all run in both the master bedroom and the kitchen we got to run the phone lines. So now I felt all professional and stuff. I was really getting my construction on these past few weeks and learning a lot. I had no problem with the learning aspect. The problem that both Dude and I were having was that everything we did was taking too long. We had to do things and then REDO them a bunch of times because some of the materials were just crap, some of the things we wanted just weren’t working out and of course, there was only the two of us. If Extreme Home Makeover were here, they could have busted this job out in no time. Unfortunately, they aren’t in France. We just had to keep making do.

The phone wires had to be fished through the two rooms and then all the way through one of the flex lines down into the garage and across the ceiling of the garage to the other side where the main panel was going to be. What a pain! Luckily Dude has this awesome item called Fish Tape.

This thing is the bomb and he brought it from the states. They don’t have it here. Tant pis for the French, seriously. He was able to put the Fish Tape into the end of the flex and send it all the way up the “autoroute” to the master bedroom. This is where he attached all the phone wires. While he was in the master bedroom, I was in the garage pulling on the Fish Tape which was bringing all the wires down to me. This worked like a dream and there is no way we would have gotten those phone wires through that stupid little flex they have here without it. Thank goodness for some great inventions and Dude’s insight to bringing it with us!

Next was the hanging the drywall in the kitchen. This went okay, the problem came after we hung the drywall. With the wall closed up, we couldn’t see where we placed all the flex for the electrical. They have the stupidest system here! They don’t have electrical boxes that hang on the studs and then you run everything and THEN you hang the drywall. Oh…NO…. They do it all backwards and crazy. First you run the flex, then you close up the walls with drywall, then you have to play hide and go seek to find your flex runs, then you guess where the holes for the boxes are going to be, then you cut the holes in the drywall and hope you found the right spot (cuz that’s where the boxes sit-not screwed down to the studs like they should be!), then you have to try and find your flex lines to put them in the boxes and then you run your wire.

Now I am not an electrician, but this is the stupidest, time wasting, piece of junk that I have ever heard! It’s all backwards. Luckily for us, Dude told me to take pictures of the wall before we covered it with drywall or we would have never remembered where we ran the lines! How lame is that??? What would we have done if I was not so snap happy???!! We would have had to tear out all the drywall, is what we would have done. Then Dude and I would have been in the paper the next day cuz we would have jumped from our third story window out of total frustration for the construction stupidity that goes on here.

Well, thanks to my photos, we figured out where to cut the holes for the electrical boxes, but then we still had to fish around blindly to find the flex to put into the box! Another problem… the holes for the boxes were so small that we couldn’t get our hands in them to find our flex! Dude was sooooooo pissed by now, cuz he is an electrician by trade and knows how it should be to make life easy and the job to flow, and this was not the way. We were battling with another time wasting issue. Also, you can’t cut the holes in the drywall any bigger to reach your hand in them cuz then your stupid little box won’t fit! Ahhhhhhhh!

So now because we couldn’t find our flex lines we had to invent a tool to drop into the holes to grab the flex and pull it out. Then when going to put the flex into these rinky dink boxes, there was no way for the flex to stay put. It just hangs in there ready to fall out of the box at any moment! There is no such thing here as flex connectors to keep it in! That is a safety hazard right there, folks. If my house was made out of wood, every night my prayers would start with, “Dear Lord, please don’t let the flex fall out of the electrical boxes and catch this house on fire…..” I am dead serious about that, too.

So, once again, after using what we learned from MacGyver and wasting away more hours, we finally finished the ONE wall we had to do in the kitchen.

All the while, I am hearing Father Time ticking away and now we have only two weeks before the big moving day and a house that is nowhere near being finished 😦

If you want to see the photos of our house renovation , they appear on Flickr. To get there just click on the “More Photos” option under Photos on Flickr.

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