This Really Is Progress…I Promise

Remember how this weekend was supposed to be the big electrical wiring extravaganza at my house, with my brother-in-law Bill and my sister Cathy coming to do my wiring?  Well, after two solid days of very hard work (much more so for Bill than for Cathy and me), there has still not been a single bit of electrical work done.


For those of you who have remodeled old houses, I’m sure you’ll understand this completely.  Once you “lift the hood” on that old house, you realize that a job that should be quite easy* is actually not going to be easy at all because of various obstacles that have to be dealt with before the actual work you intended to do can even start.

*Please note that I’m not saying that electrical work should be easy for me.  But it’s easy for Bill.  🙂

So here’s how this weekend went down.

Bill and Cathy got to the house at about 12:30pm on Saturday (after Bill spent many hours on a plane flying through the night on his return from a business trip in South America), and the first thing Bill did was go through all of the supplies that I had purchased for the electrical wiring job to be sure that I had purchased the right things.  Turns out that because I know absolutely nothing about anything electrical, I had unknowingly purchased the most expensive stuff possible.  Literally, I had spent double, triple, and even quadruple the amount of money necessary on almost every single part I purchased.  So he got on the Home Depot website and looked up everything I needed, part numbers included, so that I could make an exchange and save a bundle of money.

And then quite a bit of time was spent coming up with the actual electrical plan, which required Bill making a diagram/list of circuits and amps and me deciding how I was going to use each outlet, and how much I would use at one time (e.g., would I ever use my blender and food processor at the same time?) so that he could determine what outlet and what switch would go to what circuit, and how many amps were required for that circuit.

Next, we moved everything out of the kitchen (cabinets, fridge, stove, etc.) so that the room would be completely empty.  At that time, I also decided that I wanted to go ahead and remove the old drywall from the fridge/stove wall, so we spent a bit of time removing and cleaning that up.

So finally after about three or so hours, Bill was finally ready to start on the actual electrical work…or so he thought.  He headed up to the attic, made his way over to the kitchen area, and tried to locate all of the old wires that he needed access to.

Well, remember a while back when I conquered my fear and ventured up into the attic to find the wires, and realized that they were hidden by the massive heating ducts?  And then do you remember that I realized that there was one “tunnel” that might allow access, but I was too much of a chicken to try crawling through there?

Turns out that even if I hadn’t been a big ‘ole chicken, and had ventured through the tunnel, I still wouldn’t have been able to get to those wires.  I know this now because Bill is quite fearless, and he’ll venture anywhere in the attic, and no matter what he did he still couldn’t access those darned wires.

So he came out of the attic and said, “So, Kristi, how about let’s expand this project?”  His proposal was to remove the drywall from the kitchen ceiling so that he could do most of the wiring from underneath.

If you’ll remember, that drywall was thin and crumbly in places, and I had gone to great lengths to patch it and save it, but it had to come down.

electrical wiring

And oh my gosh…the mess!!!  It was just about enough to make me hurl.  And I’m not even talking about the drywall and the insulation (which was completely expected).  No, I’m talking about the abundance of “chocolate sprinkles” that was contained within the insulation.  But I did my best to put it out of my mind while we cleaned up and bagged up the debris.

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But then when Bill climbed up on a ladder and into the attic through the kitchen ceiling, and threw a huge dead rat (i.e., the producer of the aforementioned “chocolate sprinkles”) through the joists and onto my kitchen floor, that was just about enough to do me in.  And of course, before he threw it down he was kind enough to warn me by saying, “Kristi, just don’t look at what I’m about to throw down there, okay?”  That was kind of him, but when someone says, “Don’t look!” what’s the first thing you do?  You look!


So that’s about all we got done on Saturday.

Then yesterday morning, they arrived at about 9:00 with a new plan.  Bill thought that even though the drywall was gone, things would be so much easier if those massive heating ducts were removed also.  (I had already stressed the fact that we would NOT be using that old furnace another year.  The thing scares me too much to use for one more winter.)  I mean, not only did the ducts take up a massive amount of room in my attic, but the outgoing duct and the return duct both met, with one right on top of the other, right over my kitchen.

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And they were resting right on the areas where wires needed to be run.  So Bill spend all day yesterday up in my very hot attic cutting up the old galvanized ducts into pieces that would fit through the rafters, and basically cleared out the attic.  No more massive ducts, and no more having to climb over them, around them, or try to work underneath them.

While he was working on that, I installed bracing for my kitchen cabinets.  Since the drywall was off of the walls, this was the perfect opportunity to add some reinforcement inside the walls that the cabinets could easily screw into during installation.  That way, I wouldn’t have to try to hit studs, or install some sort of bracing onto the drywall for the cabinets.

bracing for cabinets 1

I did this by cutting pieces of 2″ x 4″ lumber, and installing the pieces about 2 inches from the bottom of the cabinet, and about 2 inches from the top of the cabinet.  And I screwed them into place by toenailing the screws (i.e., inserting the screws at an angle) into the studs.

bracing for cabinets 2

When you have to toenail a screw or a nail, it’s always easier to start with the screw or nail going straight into the board.  With a nail, you want to drive it in about 1/4-inch.  With a screw, you want to drive it in until you feel the teeth really catch.

bracing for cabinets 3

The force the screw or nail over at an angle like this, and then you can drive it in at an angle.

bracing for cabinets 4

Of course, I did one wall with them all going into the front of the lumber as shown above, and then Bill pointed out that if you put the screws into the ends, it not only holds the 2 by 4 in stronger, but it’s not as necessary to sink the screw head into the wood.  If it’s on the front, like I was originally doing, you have to sink the head so that the drywall can sit flush against the wood.

bracing for cabinets 5

And of course, throughout the day, Cathy and I were also on trash pickup duty.  As Bill would throw down insulation and pieces of the ducts, we would haul them out to the trash pile.

So even though I still don’t have any electricity in my kitchen, it was quite a productive weekend.  I have all of the bracing installed for my upper cabinets.

bracing for cabinets 6

I have an attic that is free and clear of ancient massive metal duct work.

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And I have a huge pile of scrap metal on the side of my house.

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The pictures just don’t do this pile of duct work justice.  It’s about 14 feet by 7 feet by 4.5 feet tall.  And all of that came out of my attic.  Just…wow.  I’m so glad to have it out of there!

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So today, the electrical work begins.  For real this time.  🙂

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      1. MONEY!!! To go towards the kitchen remodel! All that scrap metal would be worth something and you could put the money right back into the kitchen. 🙂

  1. Isn’t that just the way things go with remodeling? It’s never how you plann it. However, the great thing is that you have those major obstacles out of your attic and you no longer have to worry about the ominous “tunnel.” Holy cow, that is a HUGE pile of debris! You all have been very productive and I am so thankful you have family to help you.

  2. Wow! Well- like you said- now your attic is free and clear and how awesome is that that all that ducting is gone and new stuff will happen when it does. 😀 Probably feels like a constant 1 step forward, 2 steps back…but this will definitely help with larger steps forward! 😀 Awesome! And well… at least the rat was deceased. 😉

  3. Not sure what scrap metal is worth in your area, but in Wisconsin, scrap metal sells for $360 a ton right now…maybe you could just scrap it! We have “scrappers” near us who actually go around asking if they can clean up piles of garbage in yards and fields in exchange for keeping what they want because they can make quite a profit if there is a considerable amount of metal to sell.

  4. You are AMAZING!!!!! I can’t believe everything you do. I wish I could follow you around for awhile just to soak up all of your knowledge. I can’t wait to see your kitchen finished.

  5. That seems how the remodeling I did at my old house went too. 1 step forward, 3 steps back, but in the end it all worked out for the best like it seems to do for you too.

  6. Just think of the nice new INSULATED ducts you’ll be able to install (and they’re so much easier to work with!).

    As Heidi noted, scrappers would love the old stuff. Or maybe artists and other DIY folks–Freecycle and Craigslist can be a real boon.

    May the work continue apace this week!

  7. If you don’t want to deal with the scrap metal, post it on Craigslist. I bet someone would recycle it or sell for scrap metal. We do that all the time here in California for metal and cardboard, well anything really. One less thing to deal with. How wonderful to have family like you do! Looking forward to your “one step closer”!

  8. So what are you using for heat this winter? New furnace and ducting run while the ceiling is open? You are lucky to have a brother-in-law that is so handy. I can’t wait for the finish product. You go Girl!!

  9. Sounds like a weekend well spent, Kristi. Getting rid of that patched ceiling and duct work was a good thing.

  10. Good morning! You had a very productive weekend! Too bad Bill did not know he had to make a shopping list and schematic of the electrical plan, could have gotten that out of the way on the long flight from South America! The attic looks fab and clean, doesn’t that make you feel wonderful? Put lots of traps up there just in case anyone else tries to take up residence. Get the kind that exterminators use, they last for months. We have a contract and they come quarterly and do our basement, garage and foundation, since we are out in the country. We do have a tendency to get cellar dwellers. Anyway…..the good news is you are ready to push on AND now you can consider the possibility of something other than dry wall on the ceiling. Wood, metal tiles, lots of interesting things. I know this sounds crazy, but now that the attic is cleaned out how about one of those do it yourself sky lights and a glass block ceiling. It would be like daytime all the time in your kitchen. Crazy thought, although I have seen them in show houses and they had second floors above them. That was scary, walking across a glass block floor! Looks like you will be ending April and welcoming May with a bang. Best of luck, can’t wait to see what comes next. Remember to give yourself some ME time. You deserve it. All the best. Mary Anne

    1. I was thinking the same thing about the traps and making sure to get rid of any ‘leftover’ critters. You might also want to check your foundation and close up any holes/cracks that rodents/snakes could get in. Believe me, they don’t need much room. Looks like you accomplished a lot!

  11. Thought of you this weekend as I drove through Waco on my way to Dallas. I’m not jealous of your weekend, even if I spent 24 hours with a stomach bug after a 6 hour drive…

  12. Hi Kristi….. SOOOOO glad you cleaned out all that duct work….. I too was not happy with it all “Hanging over your head”. 😀 Now you have a clear space sans critters to work your magic…… Hugs, Pat

  13. I thought about you and your “Kitchen Kronicles” ALL.DARNED.WEEKEND. – wondering how it was going and hoping you wouldn’t run in to too many roadblocks.

    Question please Madam: do you need to get a permit for all this new electrical and heating work or will Bill be able to just zippety do da through?

  14. Wow, even though it wasn’t planned it must feel so good to clean out the attic know that its safe!! What an awesome brother in law you have!!

  15. Only one rat! When I tore down my basement ceiling I can’t tell you how many DEAD MICE came out. YUCK. I know just how you feel. Tore out my kitchen even though I couldn’t replace yet because of all the droppings underneath the cabinets. EUWWWWW. Old houses are interesting for sure.

    Looks great and will be so easy to put in that new furnace and duct work now.

  16. Kristi, you must have the best brother and sister in law in the WHOLE WORLD! I hope you buy them a nice Christmas gift. Truly enjoy your updates, have a wonderful week.

  17. Kristi, back when you were patching that kitchen ceiling, I was cringing. I just knew at some later point all that mess was going to come down on your lovely new kitchen. I am so glad you are rid of the contaminated insulation, which was probably asbestos. What a wonderful thing for you to have a new slate to start on. It is also possible that you could not install new ductwork with that old ductwork in the way. How relieved I am that you took care of that mess right now. Please tell your brother-in-love that he now has many new fans!

  18. Oh wow! Chocolate sprinkles are never a good thing! I’m just glad that “Willy Wonka”, aka rat boy, was already dead! It’s great that y’all got so much done and can now move forward! This is quite an accomplishment and things may not seem like it at times, but they are really moving along quickly! I can’t believe how much you’ve accomplished in such a short amount of time! You’re a dynamo! Hugs, Leena

  19. Wow! That was disgusting, LOL! But a win-win-win in the end. The electrical work will go so much better/smoother now and you can get the furnace installed up front rather than risking having to redo parts of your kitchen remodel due to miscalculations. Love all of your plans for these two rooms and i know it’s going to be terrific in the end.

  20. Bill is a SUPER BIL! What a guy he is to help you out so much. And sister Cathy too! What would we do without family?

  21. While the attic is empty and easy to access,,,,put up “plywood flooring” up there for storage. Now that the attic has been cleaned out – the scary part is gone, and the lovely storage that you will have at your dispense, is astounding! You don’t have to use the entire area up there, just put down enough to store containers of items that don’t get used on a regular basis. Things like holiday decorations or the like – it helps out a great deal when you don’t have a basement for sure!
    Good luck with the rest of the project!

    1. So true C.B., I bought and put down two more sheets recently and want to put down more! We have 18 gallon Rubbermaid containers stacked 3 high, some we have had 20 years! Every once in a while I empty one or more out but this storage keeps our closets neat and functional.

  22. All because you wanted to hang your new light fixture Matt got you! Just think how much healthier you will be breathing now! All that yuck gone and clean new ducts!

  23. Now that you have the ceiling all open you could vault it. I have it done in my bathroom and I love the way it makes a small space seem so much bigger. Your more than halfway there, project add-on?

  24. I so needed this post today. I usually save your blog until the last thing I read because it is my favorite and I love anticipating what you have been up to next. But, today was a long bad day at work so I read it on my way home. Yes in my car, during Atlanta traffic, praying for red lights so I could read the next paragraph. I laughed as I pictured ‘chocolate sprinkles’ falling on your head and dead rats flying through the air. Your brother-in-love (as someone else called him) is a prince and sister Cathy is princess. You are one lucky woman to have such a close knit and handy family. Thanks for the pick me up.

    Oh yea…you made a lot of progress this weekend…congrats. And, I concur with a couple of the other posts…sell the ducking for scrap metal and put down flooring in your attic for storage.

  25. So glad all that is behind you now. A skylight would be nice. I am so proud of all you do and thankful that you have a large family that is not afraid of work.

  26. Ewww, a rat, huh? I searched the picture but gladly did not find it. lol! I agree with everyone else, sell those vents to the scrap metal folks. $$ to fund the renovation…or at least to buy new duct work. I like the idea someone had of making a vault ceiling, or maybe a sun light. A friend of mine put one in her kitchen and it adds so much light! Good luck and stay safe. Can’t wait to see the next steps…

  27. Another Kristi Adventure! LOL! It is a lot of work for sure, but how satisfying to know that all that crud is gone and the attic is now cleared of the old ductwork. I agree with the others that your brother-in-law is a prince. Your sister knew what she was doing when she married him! It is wonderful to have supportive family.

    Oh, yeah, and SELL that ductwork. Scrap metal is worth a pretty penny and you could probably get enough to make it worth the effort.

    OUT with the old , IN with the new!

  28. I hesitate to ask but… does this mean the rest of your ceilings will have to be done like this too? Is there evidence of “chocolate sprinkles” in other attic areas? Please tell us y’all wore face masks and protective clothing when dealing with all that bio-hazard. Your sore arm is quite enough. We don’t want your lungs, or any other parts, damaged. You are like the friend we never get to see in person but visit by phone and other media all the time and we want you safe and healthy.

    Oh, Matt, what you have wrought with that one very lovely light fixture. 😉

  29. Hey there! This is totally off topic but I know you’re really good at blog work and wondered if you might have some insight into what my post is about today. To sum it up I just realized that I lost a ton of my email subscriptions and I don’t know why. Any ideas??


    1. It’s apparently due to Yahoo having changed some technical things – AOL followed – and presumably others will soon be doing the same.

      Rhoda of Southern Hospitality blog has seemed to find an answer: “Some of you have been having problems getting my email subscriptions and I think I have it fixed now. Apparently some mail accounts changed some settings and wouldn’t let feeds go out with a personal email attached, so I changed it to my blog email address (which I have through my host service) and I hope all is well now.”

      Hope this helps!

  30. Wow! That was a lot of work. So thankful that you have an amazing BIL and sister to help. You needed it. I am also thankful that you pulled down the ceiling and got rid of the duct work. I believe this will make going forward easier and I would think that air quality will be improved with all the old feces covered insulation gone. Great job Kristi! Hope you can get some money out of the duct work. Every little bit helps!