Ramblings from the Gryphon Rose

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

All for one and one for . . . wiring?

So this weekend was more fun and excitement—if by “fun and excitement” you mean “discovering yet another odd, confusing, and generally bass-ackwards feature of your home, as left by the previous owners.”

Last weekend, while my dad was visiting, we went to Home Depot. And bought, among other things, a ceiling fan for the dining room. Finally.

I should explain, for those of you who have never seen our home (and what are you waiting for?). The dining room has a hideously ugly chandelier, all elaborate brass-colored curves and sharp edges, with a ton of droplet-shaped crystals dangling from it. It’s ugly, it puts off a ton of heat, and I’m always bashing my head on it because it hangs so low over the table. We’ve been meaning to replace it, well, since we moved in. But first we needed a replacement. We agreed that a ceiling fan would be best but then we had to be able to get to Home Depot together so we could find one we both liked.
Okay, did that part. Found a really nice Hunter five-blade, brushed metal housing with cherrywood blades. Classy, cool, perfect. Done.

Monday I got around to putting it up. I couldn’t do it earlier in the weekend because I was chained to my desk finishing projects. We also had friends coming over to hang out on Monday, and I warned them they might be drafted into helping with this. They said fine.


Qadgop arrived shortly before three, poor fool, and was put to work right away. We moved the dining room table out of the way, opened the box, inventoried the parts, and got to work.

First step was removing the hideous old light. Done. No problems.

Okay, I lie, that was the second step. First was flipping the breaker downstairs so I didn’t electrocute myself. Also done without a hitch.

Next I examined the spot where the light had been. And here was our stumbling block.

I’d fully expected the problem might be with the box. I had to attach a ceiling plate for the fan and I was afraid there might not be a box, or it might be unstable, or it might not have anything around it where I could screw in the plate. Turns out that wasn’t an issue: the box was rock-solid, the screw mounts clearly visible, and they matched the plate perfectly. Done and done.

No, the problem lay in the wiring.

According to the fan diagram I should have had four wires there: a black, a white, a green (or “bare,” which I’m guessing meant tan) and one more for the wall switch.

Well, I did have four wires, in fact.

Only, three of them were soldered together.


And that’s not even counting the packet of other wires up there, which were all wrapped up together and not connected to anything else. Those I just shoved back out of the way—I don’t even want to know.

So I had four wires but three of them were linked together. Great. I broke off the soldering and now I had four again. Which is what I should have had. Right?

Except, which one was which? Because these were original 1940s wires, which means the cloth casing had lost any hint of color by now. Black, white, green, tan—your guess is as good as mine. All four were the same color now. Grimy.

All we could do was try different combinations. And, after each one, run down, flip the breaker, and test the fan to see if it worked.

Nope, nope, nope, and more nope.

One time, however, the fan did move. But the light didn’t work. So then I swapped the wall switch wire and the green wire, leaving black and white alone—and now the fan didn’t work either. I switched them back—and it still didn’t work. Despite being exactly the same configuration we’d had a few moments before, when it had worked.


Fortunately at this point Ann, Joe, and Ray showed up. And Joe suggested that the three formerly-soldered wires should actually be connected together again. Which meant I was short two wires now. But I tried that, meaning no ground and no light switch.

And that worked.


The rest of the assembly was easy and went smoothly, and the fan looks great, lights beautifully, opens the room nicely, and provides a welcome breeze.

But it took three hours to put together. All because the previous owners are, as is increasingly evident, whackadoodles.

Yes, that’s a technical term.

The rest of the afternoon and evening went fine—we grilled (with a pause for thunderstorms), ate (without pause), and hung out. Much fun. And the weekend in general was good—I got a LOT of work done, took care of a few things around the house (including installing air conditioners in all the bedrooms, and just in time), and got to spent time with my lovely wife and adorable children, plus hung out with friends Friday and Monday.

But that wiring!

I’m afraid to find out what the previous owners did to this place next.


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