The project grows

103      Sheila made the decision to pull up the carpet, "in the rest of the house" I knew that the job was about to expand. If we were going to pull up carpet it also made sense to paint the walls. If we were going to paint the walls it also made sense to call an electrician and have him check out the house and install a few new plug-ins. Having been built in the 1950s house was built for a 1950s level of electrical needs. At that time, one electrical plug-in on each wall in a room seem like the most anyone would ever need. After all, what do you have the plug-in? A lamp? Maybe even the television if your family was rich? In the 1950s, many people in Arkansas did not have televisions and some of my friends in the 1960s did not have electricity or running water. In fact, for a period of time my parents didn't have running water in our home.

104      In the 1950s, electrical outlets in the house were typically two prong outlets without a ground wire. Who needed a ground wire? Any electrician knew you only needed two wires to conduct an electrical circuit hot wire bringing in the power from outside and the ground wire to give the electricity somewhere to go and you used it. That's a bit of an oversimplification but it's basically correct. Modern electrical appliances including televisions, computers, bathroom and kitchen appliances, and anything that has an electronic brain needs to be plugged into a three-pronged circuit. The third prong is essentially a spare ground. If the regular ground wire becomes short-circuited with the hot wire the electricity can be carried away from the computer or other appliance by the ground wire. This is particularly useful if you're holding a laptop computer in your lap and your house gets struck by lightning. It allows the surge of power to be carried away from you the ground wire instead of having it jump out of your computer into your hands or stomach and find its way to the earth.

105      When we began remodeling the house there were two or three 3 prong outlets in the house. “They are both dummies,” the electrician told me. When I was child the typical solution to plugging in a three-pronged appliance was to use an adapter which had only two prongs. No one bothered to use the third wire which came out of the adapter and attach it to a grounded wire. The whole purpose of the adapter was to simply change a 3-prong plug in into a 2-prong.

106      “I would like to have at least one 3-prong outlet in each room," I told electrician. I also ordered the safer grounded outlets for the kitchen and the bathroom. I would have preferred to have them in all the rooms but I knew that we could live with at least one in each room and changing out all the outlets in the house would've been more expensive.

The power supply

107      I had always been bothered by the low hanging wire in the backyard behind the house. More than once I had been carrying a ladder or something else like a shovel and bumped against the low hanging 220 volt power supply wire coming into the house. This would be an excellent way to become electrocuted especially if you are carrying an aluminum ladder which I had been. Had the insulation on the wire been broken I probably wouldn't be writing this book that would be 6 feet under somewhere Mountain Home. From the pole in the backyard electrical supply came in under the eaves on the back of the house so that the wire was hanging low enough I could have jumped up and touched it. I had always considered extremely dangerous and I suggested to Sheila that we remedy the problem.

108      Old houses originally were supplied with a 50 amp service. After all, in the 1930s few people in Arkansas had air-conditioning, refrigerators, or electric heaters. This house had been built with a 100 amp service which was adequate for an air conditioner and electric heating since the two systems did not operate simultaneously. But I knew that 200 amp service had become standard in the 1970s. With the need for improved more powerful electrical service and the need to take care of the low hanging wire in the background I recommended that we put the electrical power underground through the backyard. As long as we were going to the trouble of rewiring some of the house and upgrading the service I thought it would be a good time to install underground utilities. This would prove wise a few months later when we were without power for four days because of an ice storm. The fact our power was underground meant that when power was restored in the neighborhood we almost immediately have electricity again.

“What are we going to do with all this stuff?”

109      Very quickly Christine's possessions in the house created a huge pile on the living room. We had emptied the back two bedrooms and the third was still filled to the gills. If we were going to rip out the carpet throughout the house all that stuff needed to go somewhere. We decided to rent storage space. At first, we were still living in Flippin so it would be a few months before we rented the house across the street with a rent-with-option-to-buy agreement. My pickup truck continued to come in handy as we loaded everything and hauled it off for storage. In the early fall, we would give away a few dressers and miscellaneous items to the Chinese students and also gave some to Sheila sister, Teresa, if she wanted anything. In short, we emptied out the house.

110     Now we had space to work. Over the next several weeks the electrician went to work, we dug a ditch for the power line and installed the new power, we stripped the floors bare to the hardwood and refinished them, and work your way into the remaining two rooms, the kitchen and the laundry room. By now we had decided to paint everything and it only seemed logical to put down new flooring in the kitchen and laundry room. The laundry room also got some shelving and Sheila decided to spend some money for some new curtains. The old shades and curtains were 30 to 40 years old and well worn. It was time to spruce up the place.

111      "When are we going to build the wheelchair ramp?" Josh and the other workers would tease us sometimes. The bathroom tub and commode came out as did the sink and all new facilities were installed including a handicap accessible shower. After all, the goal was to make the house accessible by wheelchair and with everything out the rooms look bigger than before.

Adding new space

112      Tomorrow's blog