It’s electric!

The biggest component of the remodel that we decided to take on ourselves (and by “we”/”our” here, I mean Joe and his dad), was the electrical work.


Joe’s dad was once an industrial electrician and is a super handy guy. Joe got out stacks and stacks of books on electrical wiring and whatnot from the library — and he even appeared to read them in preparation for wiring the nursery. Our home was built in 1920 and still has some knob and tube wiring that they had to navigate along with putting in the new stuff.

He was pretty nervous about applying for a permit because he heard they test you, but he designed a super snazzy room diagram/plan and sailed right through. Then it was on to implementing the plans.


In case anyone else is considering a project like this, I asked Joe to share a few things he’s learned in the process:

  • Check out guides to residential wiring from the library. The one he used the most was done by the tool company Black & Decker. He also looked up the Des Moines code, which is pretty much the National Electric Code, but the permit and code center on the city website has some good resources.
  • Rough out a plan on paper first, but then make sure it looks legit to show the inspector. Joe used InDesign to create his diagram of how the wiring would work, basing his rendering off our contractor’s CAD drawings of the room and using the same wiring diagram symbols suggested in his books.
  • Remember that when you start a project like this, especially in an older house, you’ll find weird things. Our main goal with the new room was to keep everything separate from pre-existing wiring, both to help with the inspection and make sure it was as safe as possible.
  • Cornstarch (yes, from the pantry) can help as a lubricant for pulling wire through the conduit.
  • Labeling wires and adding nail strike protectors in places where wires run too close to the end of studs are a few details that can show an inspector you know what the heck you’re doing.
  • Joe really liked this online guide to get an idea of things to keep in mind when doing residential wiring.


    Joe wanted me to make sure to note that the wires look messy because he returned them to the box, ready for drywall. I was too late to capture them in their pre-inspection glory.

  • This isn’t a DIY to take lightly. (Pun not intended.) Even with a dad who knew what he was doing, the project seemed overwhelming at first. Joe lost a lot of sleep over this, but we also saved like $3,000 because he was willing to study up and put in the effort.

I think the wiring was basically Joe’s right of passage into fatherhood. He was pretty stressed about the process and didn’t have the option of asking for an epidural or anything. But in the end, I think he emerged learning a lot from his dad. I’m super-impressed with what they accomplished over two weekends. And guess what? They passed the inspection!

The electrical inspection happened at the same time as the building inspection, which did have a bad news moment. (What remodel project doesn’t?) Apparently our windows, which we are totally in love with, aren’t big enough. Even though there are four of them, and they are gorgeous, Des Moines city code dictates that the egress has to basically accommodate a manatee. So. The contractors will be removing the windows and replacing them with probably three larger ones. We got the wooden fancy ones for half off because they were left over from one of our contractor’s other projects, so our replacement windows probably won’t be as high quality. Bummer sausage. I’m sure they’ll be fine, but it’s maybe little bit like test-driving a Mercedes and driving home in a VW. I mean, we totally drive a Passat, but once you’ve sampled the upgrade…

Insulation also went in this week, thanks to some handy friends coming over to pitch in.I wish I had gotten them all wearing their tool belts, but I was busy hanging out, watching The Mindy Project with Arin while our husbands sweated it out putting everything up. Hooray for no longer hemorrhaging heat out of the new room!


Batter up, drywall. Then, paint. Does anyone know how to go about matching exterior paint on a house?


Also, house-hunters, check out Joe’s sister and brother’s historic house for sale in Des Moines’ Union Park. We spend a lot of time there, and it’s comfortable, full of character, close to the park/bike trails, and has a big garage and fun party patio backyard. It’s a lovely home and once they sell theirs, they plan to move closer to us, so spread the word!


Filed under At home

5 responses to “It’s electric!

  1. RE III

    Where does one find this “bummer sausage”?

  2. Pingback: Making room: Our bright, book-filled nursery | BS in the Midwest

  3. Pingback: Emmett’s room on AT | BS in the Midwest

  4. Pingback: Making Room for one: Little Sanchez-Jayjack Nursery | The Moon & The Honey

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