Conscious Aging: This Old House

Old houses are hilarious when you go to make what should be a simple repair, which is no surprise to me. Jerry and I owned a 1929 Tudor in Rochester, NY, and doing anything electrical or with plumbing there was never simple and never inexpensive. Sara’s house here in Seattle is about the same vintage. The doorbell hasn’t worked since I moved in, and it didn’t work for the four or so years Sara lived here either. Didn’t seem to bother her, but I wanted to get it fixed. Hence the purchase of the Ring video doorbell from Amazon, which I thought would be pretty snazzy, being able to see on my phone who was at the front door.

The first inkling that the matter would be more complicated than expected was the literature that came with the Ring, which announced that the device would use my existing door chime. That meant finding the existing door chime, along with the wiring between the bell and the chime and the transformer in between that should have been providing power. The electrician and I looked hither and yon, until I finally tucked into a storage closet just off the new kitchen. “Nah,” said the electrician. “They’d never have put the chime in there.”

Sure enough, it was in there, high up above the door jamb.

These pics illustrate two critical elements of the problem. The third complicating element was that fishing a new wire through the wall to the actual doorbell was going to have a minimal chance of success due to the way they did wiring in houses of this vintage. Old houses, as I said, are hilarious and nothing is ever as simple as it seems.

You can take one look and know that ancient chime was never going to work. You can also get that the draggly wiring in the basement, parts of which had been spliced by an earlier owner, needed to be replaced. To my great good fortune, the one bit of wire that wasn’t going to be able to be replaced worked when spliced to the new wire.

I now have a functioning doorbell, which rings on my phone although not in the house. The chime is older than Methuselah, and cannot be made to create sound. On the advice of the electrician, it will simply be left hanging on the wall.  We’re not going to touch it or the dodgy wires connected to it. I also, courtesy of the electrician, have motion-activated flood lights in my back yard which are to deter the raccoons. I’m hoping my neighbors aren’t unduly unsettled by a blast of light in the middle of the night — which will go off after twelve seconds but come back on if the raccoon returns.

I have a good new electrician to add to my list of people I can call upon for house issues. All in all, a successful day.

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