Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Renovating an Older Windsor Home

Replacing a GFCI outlet in an older Windsor home.....What could go wrong??

Recently I got a request to replace an exterior GFCI outlet for a client, sounds simple, right? Well, in an older home, (this particular home was built post WWII as veterans housing), nothing is simple.

Over the years, all sorts of wannabe handymen have been attempting to fix various problems whether they knew how to do so or not.

Well, to begin with, I took the face plate off the outlet & removed it only to find the hot side completely burned with the wires melted off, as seen below.

That should have been my first clue, but I continued to investigate to find out what had happened, I started by going inside the house and removing a small piece of drywall behind the outlet. As soon as I did that & opened the vapour barrier, I knew I was in trouble, the insulation was completely soaked. Now it was time to do a more thorough investigation, after clearing it with the client and informing them of the possible implications. Once the drywall was removed from the inside face of the wall, l discovered that the wall cavity below the window was completely covered with mould. Unless you know what you're doing when dealing with mould, never tackle its removal yourself! Mould remediation is serious business & improper handling can result in all kinds of health implications for you and no........bleach won't bother it, bleach turns it white.

Also, if you look closely at the above picture, you'll notice the interesting wiring configuration. It was installed by puncturing the vapour barrier at every stud and bringing the wire outside the cavity at each one, rather than drilling through the stup (apparently, this electrician forgot to bring a drill). He even went so far as to staple the wire to the stud so it couldnt move, then applied the drywall right over it, pinching the wire between the studs & drywall. Of course, the outlets were installed by simply hacking a hole in the vapour barrier, rendering it completely useless. For a closer look, see below. 

Next it was time to remove the vapour barrier & insulation to see how the structure beneath had fared with all the moisture intrusion.......not so well!! 

As you can see, there was mould everywhere, the exterior sheathing was eaten completely through and the structure itself was infested with carpenter ants. The picture below shows more closely the damage that carpenter ants will cause when presented with moist wood. 

This damage was all caused by the improper installation of the replacement windows above (which were installed without flashing and using butyl caulking around the perimeter, which cracks over time leaving gaps allowing for moisture infiltration. The illustration below shows how the water got in between the window & siding, running down the wall to eventually short out the electrical outlet. 

Subsequently, all the structure below the 8 foot window needed to be removed & replaced, while holding the window up with bracing so it wouldn't move out of position. This was followed with new wiring properly installed, new OSB sheeting to the exterior, new insulation, and a properly installed vapour barrier which sealed the interior electrical outlets, making them airtight, as seen below. 

The 6 mil plastic you see in the above shot is the vapour barrier around the electrical outlets which is later sealed to the rest of the vapour barrier using tuck tape, something not found anywhere in this wall when it was dismantled. The finished vapour barrier installation is seen below. 

On the exterior, the sheeting was replaced followed by the original foam housewrap & then the siding was re-installed....then and only then was the GFCI outlet replaced, which was the object of the original exercise. The following shows the progression outside from start to finish. 

Above, how the wall looked underneath the window after the siding was removed. 

Once the structure had been rebuilt & the new sheeting applied. 

The original housewrap re-installed (it's non-organic so mould & ants can't eat it). 

And, finally, all the siding re-installed and the new GFCI outlet properly installed. Also, new window flashing was manufactured & installed to all the windows which were installed in this addition and they were all subsequently sealed with exterior grade silicone to prevent a further occurrence. 

Above is sown the new flashing installed below the window, this will eliminate the possibility of any future water infiltration. If this had been installed originally, as it should have been, this problem would have been completely avoided.

After the flashing & sealant were installed, the only things left to do were to move back inside & install new drywall, properly finish it, and then prime the repairs followed by new paint to the entire room. 

All told, this simple GFCI installation took four days of aggravation as well as a good deal more expense for the client than expected. So the next time someone asks you to just run in & replace an outlet for them, and you think "easy peasy...15 minutes, in & out". Not so fast! In an older home, it's NEVER what it looks like!

Part of our new look is a completely reworked company website as well as a completely reworked company blog, there are many new pages added as well as bi-weekly articles on the blog to help you plan any projects you have around the house. These articles will be written by me as well as by "guest" bloggers from around the area.

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Thank you, once again for your business and I hope to hear from you again soon!



This article was published by:
Keith McGorlick,
Author, Blogger,
Home Improvement Expert &
President of, Lakeside Interiors
Windsor & Barrie Ontario
In Windsor, call 226-946-9651 or,
In Barrie, call 705-881-4456 or,