Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Office build-along, pt. 6

It's been several months since my last update, but I haven't been entirely idle. Book signings, coupled with work and family obligations, not to mention a deep depression following the election, cut in to my available work time. Still, progress is happening, even if it only comes in fits and starts.

When last we spoke, I'd paneled the far wall, and subsequently screwed up on the stain color when trying to conceal the wood putty over the nail holes. Lesson learned. The near wall, as seen in the photo above, proved a little more time-consuming to panel. The reason being an electrical outlet. Now normally this wouldn't be any more problematic than the light switch I dealt with on the far wall. In this case, however, the outlet was located about 12 inches off the floor, just the right height to straddle the top of the cabinet that will form the base of the book shelf. At the old house, the wall sockets were a mere six inches above the floor, meaning I could simply cut a hole in the back of the cabinet and be done with it. No such luck here. I had to relocate the entire outlet about 5 inches higher.

I measured out the move, marked the boundaries with pencil, then sliced through the drywall with my handy utility knife. Sharp, fresh blades cut much easier than dull ones. And beware of slips. A sharp utility knife can easily slice off a finger tip or, you know, leave a deep gash in one's leg. I speak from experience.

Now we have a nice clean hole to work with. Just off to the left, hidden by drywall, is a yellow natural gas pipe that leads to the kitchen on the other side of the wall (our stove is electric, but there's a gas outlet there were we to ever decide we wanted to cook with blue flames). I had no idea it was there before I started cutting, so that's another point in the "proceed with caution" box whenever committing home improvement. Drilling through that gas line would've not been a whole heck of a lot of fun.

Next, the old outlet box needs to go. After turning off the circuit breaker and removing the outlet from the box and disconnecting all the wires, I got in there with a crowbar and brute forced it. Amazingly enough, the nail in the bottom wasn't in very far at all, so it popped right out. The box broke away easily from the top nail, and I was able to extract it with a pair of pliers and some twisting.

Somewhere along the line I realized I wouldn't be able to use the same type of side-nail box for the relocated outlet, not unless I wanted to cut a much bigger hole in the drywall (right where the gas line is) to get a hammer in there. Instead, I opted to cut out a much smaller section of drywall over the wall stud, and use a front-nail box instead. This worked out quite nicely. One thing about me is that I normally figure out work-arounds for various problems that are about 10 times as complicated as the most obvious course of action. Fortunately, this time I figured out the simple solution without the aid of hindsight.

The next step was to reconnect the outlet and secure it in the box so I could restore power to my office. It's not easy working in there with no light or ceiling fan. Or comfortable. Since I closed in the far wall, air circulation is just about nil.

This actually took a couple of days to complete on account of my having to go to work and such, so I put the front plate on the outlet and wedged the drywall pieces I'd cut away earlier into the holes. This is to keep various family cats from climbing into the wall and complicating matters. Don't laugh--I saw this happen growing up.

A more permanent solution to denying cats access to the wall interior involved drywall compound. I removed the outlet face place, trimmed the drywall pieces to fit and inserted them into the openings. Then I covered them with a mesh drywall tape and plastered over them. This is not a well-done drywall patch. Let's be clear about that. It's a fast job. It will be covered, so my primary goal was to just get it done.

Having learned from the light switch on the far wall that the gooey mouse bait works its way into all the cracks, I covered the outlet with duct tape--in this case, a fetching, space print. Then I outlined the edges with the mouse bait goo.

I set the paneling into position and pressed, coming away with a nice, gooey outline of the socket. A couple of measurements later, I'd drawn in the edges of the hole-to-be.

I drilled pilot holes with my drill. I'm not sure the size of the bit I used. It's smaller than a quarter inch, but not by much--3/16 maybe?

Pilot holes drilled in the corners, I then inserted the jig saw blade and sliced open the hole for the outlet.

Hole cut, the panel is ready to attach to the wall. But just in time I remembered that I forgot to show how that was done for the far wall. So I shall rectify that now. The most important thing is to locate the wall studs. Without knowing where those are, you'll just be hammering into drywall, which won't hold anything for very long. There are all sorts of stud finders, but they generally work the same way, beeping and/or lighting up when passing over a stud behind the drywall. Take a pencil and mark the locations--in this case, I marked onto the ceiling, as the paneling will be covering up the wall, and I'll have to remember where the studs are later in this project.

Next, positioned the paneling and nailed it into place with paneling nails (duh) along the top edge against the ceiling, where I know the studs are. Next, needed to nail the lower portions of the paneling to the wall. To do that, I used a plumb bob (essentially, a heavy weight on a string) to map out that wall stud all the way to the floor.

I'm not good at eyeballing these things, so I needed the plumb bob as a guide. I tapped in a paneling nail up near the ceiling and looped the end of the string to it. Then I let the plumb bob settle into an equilibrium with gravity (when you first let it go, it has a tendency to swing and spin around for a bit).

Using the string as a guide, I nailed anchors up and down the paneling, hitting studs every time. Once I'd done this for the entire piece of paneling and it was securely fastened to the wall, I puttied up all the nail holes. And no, I didn't dab "Dark Walnut" stain on them. I try to not repeat mistakes, in favor of inventing entirely new mistakes.

The long and short of it is that the wall outlet fit just right into the hole I cut for it. Attach the face plate, it it blends right in. Strangely enough, in real life the outlet does not appear askew against the edge of the paneling. I'm guessing the wide angle lens I'm using has introduced distortion, because serious, it really isn't that cockeyed!

Coming soon: Vertical bookshelf supports!

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