Monday, March 10, 2008

Shades (part 2 "The Pull")

So here we were ready to start pre-wiring the house for automated shades.
The wire arrived on a spool. This was good (easy to pull). It was wooden. This was less good (splinters). It was not true along its radial axis. This was much less good (wobbly retarded spinning cable of headache).

We wanted to use something as an axle for the cable spool to spin around as we uncoiled it. A piece of rebar, mounted on the ladder steps worked pretty well and were off and running.

We started at the northern-most basement window, then ran the middle, and finally the window by the wet-bar. The framing in the basement had enough of a gap between the concrete and the studs to allow us to place the cable behind the studs and avoid most of the drilling. It turned out later that the framers had to cover those gaps by the windows with particle board for the drywall so we had to drill anyway. But at this point we were blissfully unaware.

Pulling the wire off the spool, cutting, and loosely draping the wire was easy. Drilling the holes through the headers or the wall studs wasn't really difficult either and was actually pretty interesting. The tricky part was where we needed to turn a blind corner through studs or drill from the top or bottom where there might be nails.

The greatest contributor to our problems was the tools we had to use. All of my tools are in storage and I borrowed a cordless drill from a friend. It was a 14 volt drill which is good for small or medium jobs but really wasn’t meant for the drilling we needed to do. It did have two batteries, which helped a little with the power drain but the dulled drill bits would drain each battery quickly. We could do many single studs as this allowed the battery to rest. If there were two or more to get through we'd use up a full charge. We found we had to time the holes with the battery charges, keeping one battery charging as long as possible while drilling single stud holes, then having to go back with a full battery to drill the deeper holes.

It says here "Not recommended without Y chromosome."

I had stopped at the Home Depot to pick up some things I figured we’d need. Cable staples, zip-ties, cable lubricant and stuff like that. I also picked up a 20” long ½” auger bit with a nail cutting edge and general kick-ass capabilities. Trust me on this one people, spend the extra money for high quality tools. You’ll save time, make less mistakes, and avoid injury. It took the old drill bit about 20 seconds (with fresh batteries) to gnaw through a single stud. The paddle bit took a little bit longer and if it hit a nail, you might as well go to the DMV, and renew your license.

This thing, however, chewed through six studs in a row in about 20 seconds. It would have been less but I was being extra careful. We had to lay it down when we weren't using it so we wouldn't injure anyone.

You can see the opening behind Mark where we pulled the cable up from the basement. From here it was up and then across the living/dining area and then down to the cabinets. In order to keep from confusing the Guardian people we had to run this cable between the cabinets where it would be buried in drywall and I’d have to cut through the drywall later. This whole secret wiring thing was getting irritating but I was going to get yelled at by the Project Manager later so I figured I'd want to build my case of "No Harm" as much as possible.

Making the work neat and clean was time consuming but pretty satisfying. Our work had to be better than Fulton's low voltage work and I think it was. (Although they did do good work.) There were a couple of times that we realized we had routed the cable through a weird loop that would have made it impossible for the drywall to be hung but in general we had no re-routing issues. For the many recluse that frequent this blog let me tell you, I highly recommend having friends. It makes a job like this a pretty good time.

While running the cable for the basement I started thinking that it really made a lot of sense to have automated shades in the master bedroom. "Made a lot of sense" here means "would be really cool".

I wasn't sure if we'd have enough cable but I knew there would be something left over. Would it be enough to put shades in the master bedroom? At this point we don't know.

If we were going to do this it was important to get this done now before the drywal went up. If we had to do these runs after the house was finished it would require some cuts in the drywall and Barbara would kill me.

Tune in next time for "As The Spool Uncoils"

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