Things you find in old houses (electrical repair)

Replaced a light switch in my friends' house in San Francisco yesterday. House built in the '20s, in what I call "storybook" style (stucco, fake half-timbering).
Switch started to come out easily enough: got the top screw out OK, saw that the rather large switch was partially plastered over and stuffed into the barely-large-enough box (this was a big old-school ceramic switch). But the bottom screw just wouldn't come out. Tried to find the slot to clean the paint out of it, but couldn't seem to find it no matter how much I scraped. Dang, looks like there is no slot. WTF???
Turned out to be a NAIL, which I managed to get out after prying under the head with a screwdriver, then getting a claw hammer in to pull it out. Minimal cracking to the plaster which will be patched later. Oddly, I was able to get both screws of the new switch in w/no problem.
My friends' electrician friend (real electrician, license and all) who came over later said he has seen this a lot. First time I had, though.
This was obviously done when the house was built. Just wondering what would possess an electrician in those days to drive a nail instead of using a screw?
--
Found--the gene that causes belief in genetic determinism

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
David Nebenzahl wrote: ...

Dropped the screw, didn't have a replacement. Then again, there's nothing to say it wasn't done later, either.
--
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
David Nebenzahl wrote:

ran out of screws? I dunno.
I do know that I have a box of NOS "spec grade" switches that's pretty darn old; they predate the requirement for a grounding screw on the frame. They have the screws included and they are retained by little cardboard discs (similar to the plastic squares used today) so I'm not sure just how far back you'd have to go to run into a switch that didn't come with permanently retained screws.
nate
--
replace "roosters" with "cox" to reply.
http://members.cox.net/njnagel
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Certain things don't change over time. Guy just wanted to Get 'er Dun.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

snip
Before re-carpeting my own home I decided to remove the doors to trim for clearance, as the floors were all vct. The first one was in the hallway, since I was there to turn on the A/C. I picked up my battery drill, opened the utility room door and found both hinges fastened with three 1 1/2" roofing nails. Earlier that year I had replaced that hall light switch and found the old clicky one fastened to the paneling cutout with wood screws, and NO box.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
\\

Now THAT is some detective work!
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
snipped-for-privacy@invalid.com wrote:

What's even more horrid is that it took the victim WEEKS to die!
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

HomeOwnersHub.com is a website for homeowners and building and maintenance pros. It is not affiliated with any of the manufacturers or service providers discussed here. All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.