Pembroke Cottage Electrical Challenges

One of the greatest challenges with owning an early 1900’s home is improvement. When one decorates, one often starts on a project only to discover that it leads to ten more.

Pembroke Cottage is no exception. Built at the turn of the last century by the local “ice delivery man”, this home was heated by coal and illuminated by gaslights. One does not straightforwardly change out light fixtures here: the key is to find fixtures that can be accommodated by the electrical box, which is often installed in the same opening where the gas pipes ran throughout the house. I am quite certain it is not up to code. If truth be told, the wiring might have been installed initially in the 1930’s and then (judging by the characteristics of the wires) updated in the 1960’s. Hence, any project involving electrical becomes a horrendous.

Case in point: changing the hall light bulb. One would normally unscrew the “burned out” bulb and replace it with a new one. Our hall light bulb has been in its socket since Nixon was president. The metal base has actually fused with the socket metal itself (in part due to the location of the bathroom in relation to the hall fixture.) Better Half was unable to remove the remaining “screw” part of the old bulb from the ghastly 1960’s ceiling fixture. We shall have to replace the entire fixture (hurray!) with a stylish 1930’s style product.

Reinstating the fixture should not be a problem as Better Half and I both enjoy electrical work. The problem will lie in what is under the current fixture. Is it a standard electrical box or a bodged-together wiring job entangled with an old gaslight pipe? Time will tell; I have no intention of taking the old fixture down today.

Another decorating/electrical nightmare lurks in our both our dining room and kitchen. The previous owners mounted a cheap drop ceiling replete with florescent light fixtures – grizzly things that belong in a shop or garage. We intend to remove the drop ceiling and install tin tiles but we have no idea what the electrical boxes look like. Would a chandelier be possible? I would very much welcome having a nine-foot ceiling back in both these rooms instead of the crappy seven-foot (lowered) one.

Better Half and I reviewed our Spring Projects list after I competed hanging new drapes in the bedroom this afternoon. We need to paint our hall and the remaining two bedrooms upstairs (old walls soak up paint like a sponge), as well as finish my office (hang boarder, take care of mold damage caused by a faulty flashing on the roof - flashing must be repaired as well – repair wall where mold was), rip up carpets to expose the hard wood floors in all three bedrooms, bleach down basement etc. The Honey Do list is never-ending when you are trying to restore an antique home. We will eventually sand down and stain/varnish all the wood trim in the house. We must sand down our back deck and reseal it this season. There are trees to plant, flower beds to tend out front, a yard to landscape in the back, a dog run to contrast – my God, I should quit while I’m ahead.

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