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Improvement Project Scope Creep

As I've written about before, there have been plenty of random projects to work on during the pandemic and additional time spent around home. Due to a pretty significant hailstorm last summer, we're going to be replacing every roof on the property and also re-siding the house.

That's not where the scope creep comes into play.

We've been talking about window replacement for the better part of 16 years, and what better time to do this project than when a major siding project comes around? It's a great 'alignment' project where we can button up several items in the same larger project. We've also been looking at having an air sealing/insulation project done for the better part of a decade (since I discovered "the problem" at the top of our stairs). The insulation folks will be here in about two weeks to kick all of this off; the roof will be done before summer's end, and windows and siding will commence shortly thereafter. It's been a minor whirlwind of contractors and communication.

That's also not necessarily where the scope creep comes into play.

As part of this air sealing/insulation/spray foam business, it's best to get a few random projects completed (especially those involving ceiling or exterior wall access). One of those projects is to cut in a ceiling fan box in our living room, where no overhead fixture has ever been installed. Lamps work just fine for lighting in this space, but it'd be nice to have some additional airflow (though properly operating windows will also help address this). As the area where the ceiling box will be installed will be sealed up, getting this in place before the insulation job is priority. As Past Me put in additional conduit runs when we gutted the bathroom 15 years ago, I even have an easy path through walls to run the requisite wiring. Past Me never saw this particular project coming, but Current Me is most pleased with Past Me's foresight. There will be a dedicated circuit/home run for this addition, which means more basement wire routing.

This ceiling fan box project is part of the scope creep.

Last year I did a lot of wiring work in the basement, specifically in that I ran several new circuits throughout part of the space to accommodate a mini workshop/work space, including our home canning setup/extra electric range. This work is neatly tucked away in the joist spaces and encapsulated in EMT conduit where exposed. While I had been drilling holes for the wire runs, I also re-routed much of the existing wiring that'd been bolted in (read: not original to the house) over the years, since these runs were stapled to the joist undersides, which really involved pulling the wire all the way back to the panel(s) and re-pulling through holes to their destinations. I'd "corrected" a few other issues in the process, and had completed about 2/3 of the existing exposed wiring in that project. It's not a fun job, especially the runs that require extracting the wires from the panel and then re-installing. Lots of overhead work, but to be honest the hole drilling in 75-year old pine joists is the worst (though it smells the best). Those joists are some beasts—you don't see construction lumber like that anymore.

Since the new circuit/home run will wind up over in a section of the basement I'd not included in last year's [re-]wiring project, I'm left staring at the last third of the exposed wiring, knowing that it'll just be Better to get that done as well. Time to bust out the drill.

This is most definitely scope creep.

While I'm at it, though, I wanted to upgrade and replace some of the lighting in the basement. And more specifically, tie all of the basement lights into the primary switch (which has an indicator light in our kitchen). The basement lights were originally wired as one circuit, but for some reason only about half of them were wired to the primary switch. Other areas were part of the same circuit but independently switched. So I worked through reverse-engineering the 75-year old wiring (thankfully all exposed) and tied them all together in this process, even those areas which are still switched "independently." The lighting improvements are dramatic for the work spaces and the fact it's all controlled by the "primary" basement light switch means no need to second- or triple-guessing if a light was left on in that one random corner...

Scope creep: yeah, you betcha!

Some of this basement lighting required new wiring, so it also backed up the hole drilling and "let's finish this last third" project. Over the course of several days (a couple hours here and there in the evenings), all of the exposed wiring has now been neatly re-run and tucked away in the joist spaces. Interestingly, all that's left to complete is actually pulling the wire (once the boxes are cut in) for the new switch and ceiling fan.

When working on this set of projects, I realized that only five circuits (of about 30 total) still use original wiring. One of these I protected with a combination arc-fault circuit breaker (CAFCI) a year or two ago because of the risk (albeit very low) of electrical arcing/fires. Now it's time to install CAFCI and CAFCI/GFCI breakers on the remaining four original wire circuits as an additional safeguard against electrical fires (and closer adherence to current electrical code).

This all encapsulates scope creep...and all part of the 'simple' act of "let's install a ceiling fan box in the living room before the spray foam folks show up."

I'm super glad to be essentially done with the wiring projects. It's been a lot of replacement and expansion over the years, but it's made for a much safer environment than it was when we moved in some sixteen years ago.

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