The electrician who wired our house did a sub-par job to say the least – or maybe it was the meddling of previous owners. Heaven forbid we should slander anyone unnecessarily. Regardless, over the course of the last year, we discovered that some of the receptacles and switches that weren't working – a heater in the second bedroom, the bathroom fan – were either wired incorrectly or not at all. It was a simple matter to correct those faults, and we pretty much got everything working without any trips to the ER.
Well, maybe we got a little cocky.
There was one 3-way switch that never really worked properly, and after successfully fixing the bathroom fan, Mel got it into his head that he was going to fix that switch.
Well, it turns out the junction box on our main floor, where the power for that broken 3-way comes in, is a very busy junction box indeed. And given that 3-way switches are already complicated to start with, it didn't take long before efforts to fix the switch turned into a desperate hope just to put things back the way they started.
Things got out of hand, and this was on a Sunday evening when the sun was going down. We toiled together in the last of the dying light but to no avail. We had to leave the power off in that junction box and wait for the next opportunity to fix the mess.
The situation didn't get any better over the following week either. We grabbed a volt meter and started trying to sort out the mess, but with work and evening appointments interfering, our wiring skills weren’t strong enough to finish the job. Finally, Saturday we woke up and took a fresh approach – wiring everything individually and making sure we knew what each set of wires was for. Once we had that info, the job got easier, but there were still hitches, and we almost gave up. But after a very timely 'Eureka!' moment, we realized our mistakes and got it all working again – including the 3-way switch that started the problem.
Not sure this captures just how much of a headache the wiring mess became. By the end we were ready to pull out our hair. But there is an up-side. Now we have a much better understanding, not only of how wiring works, but more importantly, how it works in our house.
Of course, with every up there’s also a down. Turns out the initial problem with the 3-way switch was caused by a broken switch. A trip to the hardware store and $3 could have solved in 20 minutes what it took us a week to do.
Oh well. What doesn’t kill us…