Suburban Archeologist

Posted in DIY with tags lawn , electrical -

Not an interesting update for those that are looking for news on my adorable and smart children, but something I’m documenting for posterity, and for my own purposes.

We do quite a lot of home improvement. I’ve always been the type that likes to try something on my own before calling a professional in to do it correctly and quickly. Last weekend, a couple of long running “curiosity” type projects finally had some major movement, which, since I’m kind of a dork, made me pretty excited!

The easier of the projects was trying to get my outdoor outlet working. We have an outlet just outside of our patio door. Now that our new deck is completed and usable, getting that outlet working has become a higher priority. I had gone through and borrowed some equipment to try to trace the wire from the outside to wherever it was in the house. I talked to an electrician and searched the web and tried all of their suggestions, checking the closest outlets, looking for a tripped GFCI, etc, but none of it was correct. So this weekend I got into the crawl space below the house, measured where the cable would approximately be running, and located a dead wire that went through the floor plate right at that location. I traced that wire underneath the house and found that it actually went back upstairs right beneath the main floor bathroom. That reminded me that there was a blank electrical box in that bathroom also with a dead wire that we simply covered up with a wall plate and left it alone. Mystery “solved,” somewhat. It made sense, anyway. That outlet, when it would have actually been there, would have been a GFCI, which then would have protected the outdoor outlet. Of course, I still couldn’t find the source of power for that wire run, so I was no closer to solving that part of it, but at least I had connected two mysteries into one.

To address this particular issue, I simply cut the wire going to the outside and re-connected it to a live wire that I found just dangling in the crawl space. that’s right, a live wire, unterminated, dangling in the crawl space. So I figure at least I’m a little safer than I was before, even though I now have a dead wire dangling in the crawl space…

The other mystery was a little more complicated. We have a sprinkler/irrigation system for our yard, as all homes with grass do in the high desert. The front has always worked adequately, but the back yard has only ever partially worked, to the point that I have lots of dirt back there. Try as we might, we were never able to locate the valve box for the back yard, knowing that there must be one since there were three different “zones” back there, two of which had trouble getting water. Last year I even hired a guy to fix everything up, and after several days he gave up trying to find that backyard valve box. Our best guess was that it was somehow buried in the back yard somewhere.

This past summer when we were doing the new deck, I uncovered a supply line run that went in the general direction of where the water comes out of the house for the sprinkler system. So this weekend I started following that line, digging it up in places, where I found a break in the line! That in itself was exciting because it could mean that I had found where the troubled water line was struggling to supply water to that zone! But there was a bigger surprise for me as I tried to unearth the line, I hit something solid, well formed, and hollow. I started moving dirt off of it, and found it was roughly valve box size. I had located the missing valve box! I was amusing myself while doing it, imagining myself as Indiana Jones uncovering the entrance to the crypt where the map to the Ark of the Covenant was hidden. I was even playing the theme music in my head.

There was no happy ending to this one, however. I don’t know much about irrigation, so the best I’ve done now is to give me the opportunity to spend some more money to have the sprinkler guy come back and fix the back yard irrigation for me. But I still do sort of feel like Indiana Jones…

Written by Brandon Grady
Later article
The Epic of the Flex
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