Adventures in Loft-land

Well, Casa Zaba has been at the mercy of my tender d-i-y ministrations. Compared to two weeks ago, it now has: * 14 more RJ45/Cat5 wiring ports from loft-patch-panel to old and new studies * two adjacent holes in the turns-out-to-be-wooden coving in the room next door to the new study (oops) * a battle-proven 30A MCB * slightly less dust and mayhap glass-fibre shards in the loft, moved to my lungs and working clothes instead * a stage dressing-room-style row of golfball lights either side of the bathroom mirror * three sheets of 9.5mm plasterboard which need to go back to Wickes
So, we're moving my wife's study from the downstairs was-a-garage is-now-a- den-with-ceiling-sloping-from-3.5m-to-2.2 (conversion done by previous owners, reasonable but could do with a couple of Veluxen for more light and better insulation), allowing that to become the teens' den&music-creation room, to the upstairs bedroom next to my existing study (hers gets the double window, meaning nicer view). Den has 4 RJ45 ports, and is termination point for Home Highway line. So, as the new office will need all 3 HH lines (ISDN for net access, two analogue lines for fax and voice-out) plus the conventional line for "incoming" calls, and at least 1 honest Ethernet link needed to have that office's hub/switch talk to the rest of the house, we'll need 5 right now (unless we use port doublers for the phone lines, ugh) and we're only mostly sure where the desk and fax machine will be, so we'll put 6 ports at that end of the wall and 4 the other. That's 10 of the 14: the other 4 being in the old office/den, where there are "only" 4 right now which would be all used carrying the telephony up to the loft patch panel and down to 4 in the new office, and since I left the draw wire in from the last time it'll be easy enough to add another 4. After all, we can't leave the teens without Ethernet, can we...
No drama with the 4 new cables to the den (except being tired resulting in attaching them to the *end* rather than the middle of the deliberately double-length draw wire, so no draw wire left for any later pull now, bugrit. Still, it wasn't *that* hard putting it in in the first place...). No drama with the 4 to the inner corner of the new study: route is down through the airing cupboard with the hot water tank, so visble just about all the way. Cut them too short to run with the others, mind, so had to put in new cable-tie bases to let them take a more direct route through the loft.
Dropping the other 6 to the corner near the outside wall produced the fetching holes in the coving of the room next door, though. Y'see, it's a 20-yr old timber-frame house, pretty well built. I needed a new power point in that corner, and there's a power point already on the other side of that wall in my office, so we carefully cut a power-point-back-box-sized hole in the plasterboard in the new office, find the back of the existing power point where we expected it to be, sitting on a little noggin. Having expected to put all 10 data cables down the airing cupboard and to then run 6 in minitrunking along the top of the skirting to the far corner, with the ugliness and handcut almost-mitres and possible over-sharp bends in the route, I thought "Ah! Cavity! If there are no noggins in the way I could drop the 6 data cables straight down from the loft and avoid the ugly surface-run trunking!". Probe up with wide steel tape measure shows no obstructions. Drill small hole up through edge of ceiling, put bit of stiff wire through to show position in loft. Worm/crawl over to edge of loft (note: newish house, shallow roof pitch, about 6ins of fibreglass insulation with waxed paper overlay - 4in batts laid between joists, then 2in thicknesses run in long lengths crossways); so working at edge of loft is a bitch (especially when you're shaped more like David Brent - http://www.bbc.co.uk/comedy/theoffice/characters/profile_david.shtml - than Gareth Keenan - http://www.bbc.co.uk/comedy/theoffice/characters/profile_gareth.shtml ). Consequently, working with the auger to put a couple of 20mm holes through the plasterboard and expected timber-at-top-of-cavity-whatever-that-bit's-called with the fibreglass insulation not pulled quite all the way back and the length-of-extended-forefinger calculated to hit the center of the cavity... didn't. Oh, it felt quite plausible going down: grind through plasterboard (cheap auger bit, and resharpenable by hand anyway), hit wood, good, drill, drill, hmm, pretty thick bit of wood here, ah, now we're through: will 20mm take 6 Cat5 cables? no, put another hole just next door, pb, wood, again thickish, aah, now we're through, great. Crawl back out. Check in new office: good, haven't come through on this side! Check in room next door (my office). Bugrit. Never knew that coving stuff was wooden - assumed it was plaster. My, what fetching ragged holes I've made as we burst through. That'll be fun to patch. Ho hum, crawl back to edge of roof, pull insulation back properly so I can *see* what I'm doing - all is clear now, the cramped and unsighted working conditions meant I was fully *two* fingerlengths along from the trial hole, rather than just one.
The deities of d-i-y, M*rphy and S*d by name, having had their bit of fun for now, relent and allow the length of PVC flex dropped from the now-correctly positioned hole above the cavity to come neatly through and be immediately fishable through the hole for the new socket. Who says they're unrelenting? As that nice Mr Cleese has it in Clockwise (?), "It's not the despair. I can stand the despair. It's the hope"... If they made *every* job a nightmare, we'd all of us just give up; no, they have to string us along, lulling us into hope, and *then* hit us with the slapstick plank of pride and the banana skin of hubris.
Oh, the "battle-proving" of the 30A MCB? Well, you see, the socket in my office was, as I'd hoped, on the ring; so extending the ring to include the new socket just meant running the two existing feeds to each of the old and new sockets, and joining them with a short new bit of cable. What could be simpler? Feeding that short new bit of cable was a tiny bit more awkward than planned, because of the noggin on which the existing socket sat, so I'd pulled it through with a little stiff drawwire. Got impatient unwrapping the stretched PVC insulating tape joining draw wire to new cable and sliced through it rather than untaping it. Stupidly, in doing this I nicked the live conductor (but didn't see that), further along than the ends I'd strip and wire in to the socket. So, when I folded the conductors back into the metal back box, where more natural for the live conductor to choose to bend than at the nick in the insulation? Now it's resting firmly against the earthed backbox (well-earthed, since you ask: I've an explicit earthing strap here, not relying merely on conduct through the mounting screws). So, downstairs to the fusebox, plug the MCB back in, push the little button - ooh, pretty little blue flash. Embarassment. Examine back box: hmm, one area's a little darker, greyer, even (you might say) smokier than the rest. And so's this here new-cable's bit of Red wire. Aha, an 'ole in its insulation. Bugrit, must've nicked it when cutting away that temporary securing tape. Wot a silly sod. And I *had* considered quickly measuring the resistance between the three terminals on the newly-extended ring, but didn't. 'Course, I did *after* fixing the fault: stable door, horse, ...
'Course, fiddling about in the backbox was made all the more fun by the *git* who invented the Adjustable Lug. Y'know, those galvanised boxes often have one fixed lug to screw the faceplate screws into, and one which slides up and down, "to allow fine adjustment to the horizontality of the faceplate". More like, to cause endless frustration in fitting the plate in the first place. You can *guarantee* that it'll be on the unsighted side of the work, if there's any awkwardness in access at all; that the faceplate screws provided will be just long enough to reach the lug, so they can push it *back* just far enough to stop the threads engaging; and they'll corrode away in time leading in at least one illustrated case where a fire resulted from the heating through a not-low-enough-resistance-to-blow- the-fuse from a live-to-earth fault just like the one I'd caused on this occasion. All so that first-fix can be a little more sloppy in horizontal alignmnet. Sigh. One of the circles of hell needs reserving for the genius who brought us the Adjustable Lug, I feel... Along with the mutton-head who, when disconnecting the second lighting point in our bedroom wot I also revived during this session of loft work, decided not to just push the tape-wrapped cable back into the void, but to cut it off: leaving it about 2cm too short to reach the ceiling rose it used to pick up a switched feed from, making it necessary to put in a new junction box to take the place of the wiring in the back of the rose. Deep joy.
Oh, a third group of residents for that circle of hell: whichever bunch of ninnies who couldn't agree what guage of bolts to settle on for 19inch rack nuts. The best trick of all is to supply the caged nuts in sizes which look similar, but which you only realise as you hold the retired-from-HP hub with one hand and the bought-a-while-ago patch panel with the other, while screwing the bolts in place with the driver held in the mouth (or related contortions) that they're in fact *different* gaugues: a moment's Google suggests at least 4 "standard" sizes - M5, M6 in Metrick land, and 10-32 and 12-24 over in the Land Of The Free. Ah, standards: "the great thing is there are so many to choose from"... Still, the 14 * 8 * 2 = 224 punchdown connections all seemed to work fine - nothing cross-wired or unconnected, one two-wires-in-one-slot spotted by visual inspection after subconcious prompting of the "did I do that one quite right" variety. Must try to borrow a Pentascanner or moral equivalent from work to check them over with more than the simple continuity-and-pairing my own tester does; with some lines being intended for telephony rather than 100BaseT I should be able to cope if a couple got kinked, bent, folded, mutilated or stapled by some mysterious force into being marginal as data-grade carriers (though I was careful to be nice and gentle, smoothing out incipient tangles or loops, no oversharp turns and the like, only gentle restraint/guidance from cable ties rather than pull'em tight as hell...)
The bathroom lights? More fun with cables-in-cavities. The right-hand side one went fine, as I'd cut a hole for the new pushbutton dimmer switch, so could put a small mirror in to see what went on there (extra uses for the sighting mirror on a Silva compass ;-) and could fish the new lighting cables through it and across a little way to the small hole for the RH fitting. The LH side of the mirror was, of course, two studs further along, and with no handy large hole it was a case of fishing the new cable through the 2cm? diameter hole I'd just cut for this cable. Previously, Mungo's FAQ technique of feeding a tape measure through the hole to make a loop in t'cavity, drop the cable, pull back the tape had worked a treat. This time - with my son as the tape operative, with me callling instructions from the loft above - it was tantalisingly close to working, but repeatedly banjaxed by the tape tangling or other misfortunes. Finally managed to make enough contact with a partly-bent coathanger to get the jaws of fine-nosed pliers around the little git (the cable, not the son, who'd tried his patient best!). The supplementary bonding wire was fun, too: down by the floor there's an existing bonding point round the sink's cold water feed, so we'll use that, right? Drop a 2.5mmsq single-core flex (it'll be Mechanically Protected in the cavity) and away we go. Drop. Hmm, mirror shows a noggin in the way. But it has a cutaway we could get through! Strong magnet on a string in the cavity, strong magnet on the outside, guide it, guide it, bugrit. In retrospect, if you try this, make the thing inside the cavity be a lump of *unmagnetised* steel: there are too many attractive nails, plaster-beadings, and the like lurking within yer average cavity which your inside magnet will find much more worth clinging to than the weak (inverse-sqaure law applies!) pull of its complementary magnet some 15-20mm of pboard+skim away. Resolution? Well, t'other side of this bottom section is only a built-in wardrobe, so we'll go through the pboard on the other side too, then come in again at the height of the dimmer switch hole where our friendly draw wire awaits.
'Course, the lights I'd put in - IKEA MUSIK - had no provision for earthing, being labelled as "Suitable For Bathroom Use" on account of their style and an unimpressive IP21 rating. The back of these is plastic, and the markings include the square-in-square logo to signify "double insulated" or Class II as we're supposed to call it now. But the front and sides are dominated by a wraparound chromed pressed steel section, which I cannot see as anything other than an Extraneous Conductive Part. So (voiding any right to take them back) I drilled a little 'ole towards the top of each, crimped a ring connector onto some silicone-insulated green-and-yellow single-core I Just Happen To Have, attached it with a bolt, nut, and shakeproof washer, and connected the new supply cable's CPC (i.e. "earth wire") to that, while bonding the CPCs of the two fittings and the supply to the switch up at the new junction box in the loft just above the bathroom. My friend the OSG tells me it's OK both to use the CPCs as bonding conductors, and to do the bonding "close" to the bathroom, so I reckon I'm on the side of the angels here. (And don't ask how Mechanically Protected the back of the built-in wardrobe is...)
Oh, and the plasterboard? *Major* contribution from my wife was to find a local plasterer willing to do one Saturday's work PVA-and-skimming the relatively subtle but still unwelcome Artex in her new office and the lad's bedroom next door (to make a day's work of it; Later we'll get the rest of the house de-Artexed this way too). So, the "screw some plasterboard over the Artex and fill in the gaps between the boards and at the edges" job I'd just bought the three sheets of board for has Gone Away, in favour of a neater and smoother-finish job than I'd've managed. Hallelujah! See, there are many advantages to living out in yokel-land rather'n in or around the Bigge Smoke; and finding tradesmen at relatively short notice (fingers crossed, hasn't actually done the job yet!) is one of them. No, you *can't* have his contact details; I want him to have time free at relatively short notice again, thank you very much!)
Aah, the joys of time off work. Lessons learnt? Well, measure-twice, cut-once, and *use* the measurement; don't rush; experience still allows dumb mistakes to slip through; knives and mains cables don't mix well; S*d and M*rphy will always win. Oh, and IKEA *do* stock 25W SES golfball lamps as well as 40W; and for extra fun, they're in two different opalescences (part-pearl, which is naff for the fittings I got, and fully-whited-inside, which looks just right) with no indication on the packaging that I noticed as to which is which. Just as well it's on the route between home and work; still have to face the hordes at Sale time, though. Now it's back to saving the Internet for 2004 (with one hand, while painting and fitting-out the new office for my wife with the other).
Happy new year to all - Stefek
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On 5 Jan 2004 15:04:13 GMT, snipped-for-privacy@hp.com wrote:

<excellent story snippage>
Thanks for that, Stefek. All of a sudden my trials and tribulations with the alcove cupboards and related doors in the living room seem lightweight by comparison :o)) I was with you all the way on the cabling and the wiring! -- cheers,
witchy/binarydinosaurs
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<<snip>>
Bloody 'ell, thought *I* was having fun ;p

Same to you and everyone else in D(estroy)-I-Y land ;)
--
Jet
(Five rooms completed in 2003, whoopee ;))
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In uk.d-i-y, I wrote:

our resident LAN wiring guru, after promising to take better care of it than my own most delicate bodyparts, etc. etc. I'm happy (to the point of smugness) to report that all 28 of the Cat5/5e runs rate a decent PASS according to the Pentascanner. Because it's only a house, all the runs are quite short in datacom-cabling terms - all are around the 15m mark. So, although the powersum NEXT measurements are not massively inspiring, just "decent enough" (an average of 37 dB, worst one 33.4dB), and the return loss averages at 16dB with a couple as poor as 12dB, the shortness of the runs means that there's so little attenuation that the ACR (moral equivalent of signal-to-noise ratio) is massively overspec. Dunno if we'll ever run Gigabit (1000BaseT) over these links, but they're certainly good for 100BaseT.
Results saved away in spreadsheet (the Pentascanner is kind enough to dump the test results in comma-separated value format; sadly, unless you load up the proprietary Windows-only software, the columns are not handily identified - had to decode what-was-what from the nicely-formatted output of the same data!) for a time when I'm bored enough to want to analyse them...
Happy days - Stefek
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On 15 Jan 2004 21:03:12 GMT, snipped-for-privacy@hp.com wrote:

Personally I think it was a fluke.......

.andy
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On 16 Jan 2004 09:23:21 GMT, snipped-for-privacy@hp.com wrote:

very good :-)
.andy
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would be robin myself. I'd have to scope it out, and detect chronic subtle problems. Still, at least in a loft you've a good chance of hearing the first martindale of spring. Thurlby trouble if I don't. And I might hear Ray call too.
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ObDIY: ... and if you can't make any of this telly 'quipment work, you can consider yourself a bit of a wayne kerr.
--
Andy




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Andy Hall wrote:

Yes, a Fluke Pentascanner.... ;)
D
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