At the outset of this project, I expected it to be painful. I expected to fight with my husband, bleed a few times, and mourn my enthusiasm. Those things haven’t happened much yet. Until this week. A week ago, I thought I’d have lights in a day or two. A week ago.
Instead, I’ve spent a week fighting with the electrician every day. The main issue, essentially, was communication. He said certain things were going to be okay at the start of the job. I think partially because my dad runs a fairly reputable construction company and he wanted to build that relationship. I also think perhaps he underestimated the amount of work it would be. There may also be elements of gender at play.
When I said I would be reusing antique light fixtures he didn’t process that as actuall old light fixtures that had been rewired. It seems like he expected new light fixtures in shiny boxes that looked old. Once he got to our house and saw the fixtures I had he said as much. At least a half dozen times. I wish I was exaggerating.
The issue with antique light fixtures which had been rewired is that they lack a sticker on them which says the maximum wattage you can put in them. Apparently this sticker is very important.
Another thing I’ve learned is that antique light fixtures were built for gas lights, which with wires and things makes them very tricky to install without tangling the wires, cutting them, and potentially starting a fire. I did not go through all this pain of new electrical just to start a fire with a light fixture. In this case, I took myself to Menards and bought a $4 light fixture, tossed the provided piece of glass, extended the drop on it using the drop pipe from the antique fixture, connected the glass and solved the issue.
In the instance of my other two, sticker less fixtures; well, I’m taking a gamble on my electrical inspector not being a huge ass about things and letting the antiques live another day. He can, apparently, force me to take them down before he passes out final electrical inspection.
Getting to this point of having fixtures which hang from the ceiling and turn on took a week. A week in which I talked to him every day. Multiple times. And ultimately, refused to budge, tried to pull my own electrical permit and threatened to fire him and not pay the remainder of my bill.
This has been the hardest part of our renovation — getting a man I paid to do his job. The only part of the renovation so far that has made me cry. Not the part where I took out a chimney. Not the part when I took a rusty nail to my butt. Not when I stood on a ladder two stories off the ground to paint a nice straight paint line. And not the part where I rattled my brain around with a jackhammer. I cried because after a week I still couldn’t get this guy to do the job he was being paid to do.
I would love to post a happy-go-lucky missive about how easy this all was and how nice of an experience I had working with a contractor. It’s just not the truth. It was painful and frustrating in a way I struggle to process. I am exhausted and still mad and honestly, the small spark of joy I felt when I flipped the switch and the chandelier turned on and it was gorgeous was still tempered with naseau from stress and the lingering threat of the inspector might make me take it down.
So, we have lights. And they are lovely. And I’m terribly fond of them. But it’s kind of a bitter victory.
DIY life is relatively easy, General Contractor life is not. But for now, there are lights.