Tag Archives: Improvements

Flipping Switches

Sometimes it’s the littlest things- like having to wiggle a switch just right to get the damn light on when you’re trying to haul laundry up a dark and slippery staircase- that make you curse your house. “Period details” are charming, 20s-era light switches encrusted with 80-some years of paint and dust are not.

Original Switch

Luckily, swapping out switches is cheap, quick, and painless (provided you have the good sense to turn off the circuit breaker first).

But what if you don’t know which breaker to flip? Because maybe the only legible notation on your panel refers to a water feature that you don’t have? Well then! What a convenient time to take on the task of labeling your panel (and the tertiary chore of resetting every electric clock in the house!). Most efficient way to do this? No idea. Adam and I chose to put on a trial-and-error light show and it was super fun. We’re really looking forward to playing the same game with the outlets. Electrical diagraming is tedious, and our wiring isn’t logical, but I know that getting organized now is scoring me major points with my future self.

Labeled Switch Plates

For extra credit, I’ve put the breaker number on the back of each switch plate. The switch plates, by the way, are old but new to the house. I tossed out a mish-mash of plastic and shiny brass greek key covers and replaced them with patinated and period-appropriate pretties that look like they’ve been there all along. I love, love, love them. When I get around to switching out the screws, I’ll have a few square inches of perfection in every room.

Vintage Switch Plates, Modern Switches

There we go. A perfect combination of vintage aesthetic and modern convenience. And no more cussing.

This is about the only instantly gratifying task on our electrical punch list. While a former owner modernized the kitchen and bathroom wiring (and we thank them for it), the rest of the house is powered with the original knob and tube. I’ve inspected it carefully, and I don’t have major safety concerns (the clusters of 3-prong adaptors and tangles of extension cords hiding behind my couch pose a far bigger risk), but an upgrade would be a complement to our house and its value.

I’m confident enough in my own competence that I’ve pondered taking this on myself, but oh, blah… I’m not sure that I want to devote precious weekend time to stapling romex to our basement ceiling and fishing wires up through plaster walls. Saving money will always be a priority for us house-rich cash-poor new homeowners, but a competitive bid from a licensed electrician might win me over in the end.┬áMy time is valuable too, and I prefer to spend it on projects that I can show off to admiring guests and blog readers. Herringbone tile floor, upholstered wingback chairs, and a faux-finished ceiling? Prepare to be impressed by my handiwork. House innards? Not so much. It’s difficult to talk people into a tour of your unfinished basement. But we’ll see. After all, you just read a 500 word blog post on light switches…