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Feb 21 2004

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Here little fishy …

About a year ago we got rid of the old stereo and bought a new one (along with a new TV) (of course, ‘got rid of’ is a bit of an overstatement … it’s actually piled in the dining room, need th really ‘get rid’ of it soon) … the new stereo has 6 speakers and Dolby 5.1 (which, btw, I recently found means that there are 5 regular speakers and 1 subwoofer).

The wiring for the three front speakers and subwoofer aren’t really a problem … but the two satelite ‘surround’ speakers were. The wires had to go from one side of the family room to the other. Lacking a basement under the family room (it’s on a slab), we just laid the wires on the floor. Obvious hazard, someone is bound to trip (and break the stereo and/or speakers).

I explored many different alternatives for the wires …

  • Run the wires along the baseboard … can’t do that, it would have to go in front of the fireplace
  • run the wires along the edge of the ceiling? Naw, too noticable. I could pain the wires, but they have a tendency to move.
  • What about different wire? I’ve seen various vendors for ultra-flat wire. It’s paper thin (wide though) and you are supposed to be able to paint over it. No, I’m told the sound quality is not good.
  • What about wireless speakers? No, the speaker connectors are wrong and the sound quality isn’t good either.

I bounced the idea off Brad (a co-worker, former manager) and he suggested running the speakers in the ceiling. As long as the joists run parallel to the direction I want to run the wires, I shouldn’t have a problem.

Ok, I can do this (I think). I get my stud finder and make sure that the joists are running the way I want them to. They are!

I go to Home Depot and buy a 25′ wire fish. My plan is to drill a smallish hole in the ceiling above the wet bar (where it won’t be all that noticable if the project goes bad). Run the fish across the room and have Ginny listen for the scraping of the fish on the ceiling. She hears it actually going down the oposite wall. Ok, this is a good sign.

I drill another hole in the other side of the room (measuring the approximate distance instead of eye-balling it… this is Ginny’s idea … goes to show that two minds are better than one). There’s a good bit of insulation right above the hole … so I’m not sure we’ll actually be able to find the fish.

We try anyway without luck. Hmm… I wonder if I can get the fish to run the other direction?

Try that … but it seems to get hung up on something. Not sure what though.

I’m just about to give up … ’cause I’m really not good at this kind of thing as it gets later in the evening. But I decide to give it one more shot from the other (original) side of the room. I figured that pushing the fish up through the insulation might have pushed it away enough.

So I run the fish across the room again from the wet-bar side. This time Ginny’s watching the hole in the ceiling. As I wiggle the fish back and forth she sees something moving (gets a bit of dust on her face too, I think). It’s the fish!

I stop moving the fish and she runs down to get a needle nose pliers and a screw driver.

As she’s holding the fish tape in place, I slowly pull it back so we can find the end. I hope and pray that I don’t pull it too fast and she misses it.

Finally she captures the end of the fish! She pulls it through the hole and there is much rejoicing (and smooching).

The rest is pretty easy … attach the the wires though the end of the fish (taping very securely) and pull the fish back.

And BEHOLD no wiress on the floor and the speakers work perfectly!

Now all I have to do is buy some speaker outlet plates to attach the wiress too in the ceiling and it will look like a somewhat professional job. I’m going to invest in a Rotozip also so I can cut the bigger holes in the ceiling easier. I’m pretty good at installing low-voltage utility boxes, so that shouldn’t be a problem.

Ginny has an account of the project too.

House projects are a particular sore spot with me … for some reason, the tasks that seem quite straight forward and simple end up being (or getting) far more complex than they started out.

In the old condo we wanted to re-cauk the tub because the old cauk looked lousy. When we pulled the old cauk off, tiles and bits of wall came with it.

Turns out the cracks in the grout were letting water from the shower through and had bascially rotted all the drywall the tiles were attached to.

So, not only did we have to re-cauk … we also had to replace the tiles and the drywall (with concrete board). After the we re-tiled half the bathroom, we decided to paint it. This should be simple enough.

Well, we painted the bathroom and Ginny decided to paint the door also. When all the painting was done, I hung the hardware back up on the wall. As I was going out of the bathroom to put my tools away, I accidentily knocked into the door with my drill. This put a huge gouge in the door (it was a paper thin hollow core door).

I went over to Home Depot to investigate doors.

The doors themselves were not very expensive (~ $20) so that wasn’t going to be a problem. I noticed that they had a Exterior door installation service, so I asked if they had an Interior door installation service. The guy behind the service desk looked at me incredulously and said “Can’t you install it yourself?”

Well, I had never installed a door before … and asked if it was easy. He said “Sure, no problem”. Told me what I had to buy and sent me on my way.

I took the stuff back home and setup in the garage. I spend about 2 hours trying to figure out the best way to do it. I take the old door down so I can make sure everything is exact.

After that two hours I had made only a few pencil marks and started to try and carve out the receses for the hinge plates.

It was then I decided that installing a door is “no problem” for someone who has been professionally trained and has experience. For a duffer like me, it was “major problem”.

Luckily, the next day at work I mentioned my problem to Teddi, the office manager, and she says that her husband is a retired carpenter. I ask her if he would be interested in a small job. She calls him and indicates that he would. $20 / hour. He thinks it will take 2-3 hours. DEAL!

The next Saturday, Jim comes out and spends 3 hours installing the door. He had to take the door up and down twice and then use a wood-plane to shave the door into shape.

This was $60 well spent. Jim did a fantastic job and there is NO WAY I would have been able to do it myself.

Lots of projects seem to the same way … so I’m quite leary of trying to attempt them. Only when there is very little chance of a major screwup occuring do I risk it. For everything else I call the pros.

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