Posts tagged "cable service"

One of the projects we decided to tackle this spring in conjunction with painting the exterior of the house was to switch from overhead to underground service for power, phone, and cable.  It’s something we’ve talked about doing pretty much the whole time we’ve lived in the house and we figured it would be good to get the work done in conjunction with painting since we knew the switch over would leave behind plenty of patchy paint and holes to fill.

I feel like I keep sharing the same “before” picture over and over, but here it is again:

Our official "before" picture.

Our official “before” picture.

And here’s one that (kind of) shows the positioning of the telephone pole relative to the house:

The distance from the house to the telephone pole, which is surprisingly difficult to get a good picture of.

This picture is like playing “Where’s waldo?” with a telephone pole – it’s the crooked one with the coil of white wire on it toward the right side of the photo.

We started out with power, phone, and cable coming from the bottom of the ravine, up the hill to a very crooked (and privately owned – ugh) telephone pole and then over to the house.  Power and cable actually attached to the house at the same point (above the power meter) while the phone line ran separately to the corner of the house by the sunroom doors.

The power company pole at the bottom of the ravine.

The power company pole at the bottom of the ravine.

While it would have been great to be able to bury everything all the way down to the power company’s pole at the bottom of the ravine, that would have involved directional boring (rather than trenching) and just didn’t seem worth the effort or money.  Instead, we decided to focus on just the distance from the telephone pole at the top of the ravine to the house.  Initially, we planned to keep the crooked telephone pole, but the more we thought about it (and the more people we talked to), the clearer it became that we should probably replace the telephone pole at the same time.  With the counter weight of the wires heading to the house being removed once we buried them, the electrician and our contact at the power company were concerned the pole would continue to lean toward the ravine and fail sooner rather than later.  So, we decided to just do it all at once.  We signed all of the paperwork with the power company at the end of March and started waiting for our work orders to get to the top of the queue and be processed … which happened a couple of weeks ago.  (Apologies for all of the cell phone, through-a-window pictures!)

Getting ready to dig the hole for the new pole

Getting ready to dig the hole for the new pole

The auger all the way in the ground.

The auger all the way in the ground.

Setting the new pole.

Setting the new pole.

The process started when a pole setting truck from the power company showed up in our driveway with a brand new 30′ telephone pole that was set as close to the old one as possible.  Since the new pole would be supporting the weight of the wires going down to the ravine, but have nothing on the other side to counter-balance it (since we’d be burying everything from the pole to the house), the power company suggested that we install a guy wire to help make the pole more stable.  We were really concerned that the guy wire would take up a ton of space in the yard, making the new pole feel really imposing, so we opted for a “sidewalk guy wire” that goes straight down, parallel to the pole, and anchors to the ground a lot closer to the pole than a traditional one.

The new pole and guy wire.

The new pole and guy wire.

The process of setting the new pole only took a couple of hours and it was pretty interesting to watch.  The truck did all the heavy lifting, from digging the hole for the new pole to lifting and guiding it into position until the “pole foam” was in place to hold it permanently.

Only a couple of days later, the electrician came out to do some pre-work for burying the electrical service.  This included installing the underground meter pedestal outside and doing some other miscellaneous work in the basement (including installing a new outlet for our new tankless water heater so it no longer runs off of an extension cord – woo-hoo!)

The following week, the power company and electrician then came back out to bury the electrical service to the house.  Part of the trench was dug by hand in an attempt to avoid hitting the power lines that run from the house to the garage (which, was unsuccessful, by the way) and the rest was dug with a trencher, which was super efficient, but left quite a mess.

Digging the trench.

Digging the trench.

 The electrician is putting electrical, phone, cable, and conduit in the trench before it is closed up.

The electrician is putting electrical, phone, cable, and conduit in the trench before it is closed up.

With the trench open, the power company laid in the new wires that would provide electricity to the house.  The electrician then threw some dirt on top and added phone, coax, and a conduit that we can use for exterior lighting in the future.  With everything in the trench, they then filled it in, made up the connections for the electrical service on both ends, and took down the old overhead wires.

Again, the whole process was really pretty efficient – it maybe four hours total.

The new electrical meter - now we just have to switch phone and cable over to the newly buried wires.

The new electrical meter – now we just have to switch phone and cable over to the newly buried wires … and clean up the yard.

As soon as the power company left, I made calls to Mediacom and AT&T to schedule appointments for them to switch their service over to the new telephone pole and the underground wire that was laid in the trench by the electrician.  Mediacom actually came out right away – after the really frustrating experience we had with them a few weeks back, we met the local field supervisor who told us to work through him when we were ready to switch to underground service, which we did.  And our experience this time was wonderful.  They sent 3 trucks, came when they said they would, completed the work really quickly, and there were no issues or complications.  Really, it was super – and I’m so glad.  We also made an appointment with AT&T, which wound up being delayed to the next day, but the work was completed last Friday and, with their piece complete, we are now, officially, underground for everything … and I can’t tell you how great that feels.

No more overhead wires!!

No more overhead wires!!

The house is still looking a little rough since so much paint came off with the pressure washing and the painters haven’t started working on the front yet, but I’m already forgetting what the house looked like with all of the wires coming in overhead and the mast for the power meter running all the way up to the soffit.  I think this will be one of those projects where we won’t truly appreciate the difference it made until we go back and look at old pictures and notice how much all cables, power meter, etc. stand out.

The last of the exterior wire clean-up is complete!

The last of the exterior wire clean-up is complete!

The new power meter.

The new power meter.

The new (straight!) telephone pole - now we just need to cut the old one down.

The new (straight!) telephone pole – now we just need to cut the old one down.

The house is still (obviously) a work in progress.  Overall, though, we are super thrilled with how smoothly the whole thing went.  My prediction a couple of months ago was that we would be going back and forth with the utility companies for the entire summer before we actually got the right people here with the right equipment to do the work.  I’m so happy to say I was wrong about that!

Now, we’re on to some landscaping work to get grass growing over that trench again … and we also get to cut down the old telephone pole (since it’s privately owned and all).  Sounds like a fun project, right?

Our big home improvement project this spring/summer will be painting the house.  We haven’t been thrilled with the current paint job since we moved in (lots of built up, scaled paint, etc.), but it has really started to fail in the last year or so, so it’s finally time to do something about it.  We actually had the job bid last summer and have been working with the painter through the winter.  They got a head start on some of the storm windows in February and, as of Monday, they’re officially “on-site” whenever the weather cooperates.  Just our luck, though, that really hasn’t been much this week – we’re slated for clouds and rain all week.  Yuck.

Anyway, although we aren’t doing any of the painting work ourselves, we’ve expanded the general project of “painting the house” to include a variety of other things that, along with the new paint, will help to spruce up the outside of the house a bit.  So, here’s a bit of an update on our “to-do” list of projects that are being completed in conjunction with painting the house.

1) New Patio Doors in the Sunroom

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I mentioned the other day that we’ve recently had two new sets of patio doors installed in our sunroom to replace the ones that were failing so badly.  The doors still need to be finished on the inside, but we’re considering this project “complete for the purposes of painting” since there’s no more work needed outside before the painters start working on that section of the house.  Woo-hoo!

 

2) Clean Up the Exterior Phone & Coax Wiring

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Phone and coax wires seem to grow on the outside of our house – and it’s gotten out of hand.  Most of the wires were there when we bought the house, but a few were added by Mediacom when we called them to hook the house up for cable service when we moved in.  I don’t remember why new cabling needed to be added, but it did.  Anyway, with all of the work going into painting the house this year, we figured we should try to get rid of as much of the outside wiring as possible and move it inside.

Over the last year or so, we’ve been working on and off to fish some new wires from the basement and we’ve made some good progress.  Aside from the two new cables that we just ran (very neatly!) for the sunroom and master bedroom (since there was no way to fish those inside), everything on the outside of the house is ready to be removed.  We’re leaving that task to the painters so they can see (and fill) all of the holes left behind.  Is it weird that I’m kind of jealous they will be the ones to complete the super satisfying task of yanking all of that wire off the side of the house?

 

3) Switching from Overhead to Underground Service for All Utilities

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I mentioned a couple of months back that we are planning to bury our electrical, phone, and cable service to the house prior to painting so that we aren’t looking at any of those wires on the front of the house either.  And, as of today, we have an electrician and the power company all lined up to do the work.  We’re just waiting for our work orders to come up next in the queue and the crews to show up and do the work.  Weather dependent, the plan is for the power company to come out and set a new telephone pole sometime next week (we changed our minds from what we were thinking before and decided to just go ahead and do this part at the same time as the rest of the work) and then, if the weather cooperates, they are planning to be back on May 13th to trench from the pole to the house and work with the electrician to bury and re-connect the electrical service.  They’ll also put a conduit in the trench for phone and cable and we’ll call them out after the fact to move their cables to the new pole and then run them through the conduit to the house.  So, I would say the status on this one is “pending”.

 

4) Fixing the Back Railing

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We have a little roof over our back door area with a decorative railing running around the top of it.  The railing has always looked a little crooked and we suspected it would need to be tightened up and maybe have a few pieces replaced in order for it to look crisp and fresh after the new paint goes on.  The picture above is a couple of years old (forgot to take before pictures again … tsk tsk), so just picture it looking a little more crooked and with a little less paint and that’d be about right for where we started.

Anyway, we decided to have the same guy who installed our patio doors take a look at the railing to see if he’d be able to make up any new pieces to replace the ones with too much rot to be salvaged.  So, on the few nice days that we’ve had over the last week or so, he’s been working to re-build the railing and also to complete some repairs to the roof over the porch.

I’d definitely label this one as “in process”.  With any luck, the weather will start cooperating soon so this part of the project can be wrapped up, too.

 

5) Fence Around the Trash Cans

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Next on our list is figuring out something different for the fence that corrals the trash cans on the deck side of the house.  It’s way bigger than it needs to be and the style just really doesn’t go with the house.  So, we’re thinking we’d like to come up with something different here.  Before painting, though, we’re planning to just take down the existing fence and use the area for a while with the trash cans loose to see what we think about putting up a new fence.  If we do put a new one up, it’ll likely be something that’s more flat on top and not so big.  We’ll see.

Anyway, taking down the existing fence is on the list for this weekend.

 

6) Window Boxes

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We have some window boxes on the front of the house under the kitchen windows.  (The picture above is a couple of years old, but you get the idea.)  I love the idea of having window boxes there, but the ones we have have always bugged me.  They seem too small for the size of the windows and I really don’t love that they are just the plastic ones from the home center stuck on a couple of oversized brackets.  They don’t stand out so much now, but, once the house gets painted, they really won’t match and I’m thinking they’ll turn into a bit of an eye-sore.

Anyway, our plan is to order some new composite ones that are hopefully sized a little better for the house.  Our plan is to make installation easy and just re-use the same brackets if we can.  Right now, I’m liking these and I think the scale would be right for the windows, but it looks like they may be a hair too deep for the current brackets.  Ug.

 

7) Finalizing Paint Colors

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So, last, but definitely not least, we need to make a final decision on paint colors.  For trim, the decision was made when we picked the exterior color for the new patio doors, so we’ll be going with the Sherwin Williams color match to Andersen Sandtone.  The body color, though, is not so easy.  We had originally planned on Benjamin Moore Glacier White, but it’s such a light color that it completely washes out next to the trim, especially in bright sunlight.

So, we’ve been working with a lady at the local Sherwin Williams store for help identifying some good alternatives.  Right now, we’re down to Benjamin Moore Classic Gray (which is a little more gray) and Sherwin Williams White Duck (which is a little warmer).  Both are deeper colors than the Glacier White that we started with and hold their own better next to the trim color.  We think we prefer the Classic Gray color, but the sample quart that we bought looks really peachy when we put it on the house (even though there is no red or yellow tint in it).  We think it’s just because it’s next to/over the bright blue-y white that’s currently on the house, but we’re going to have the painters tint just one gallon and paint a few pieces of siding so we can be sure it looks good (in a non-peachy way) before giving the final go ahead.

Anyway, although I really want to say we know our paint colors for sure, this one’s still a work in progress, too.

 

So, there you have it.  Now, we’re just crossing our fingers that this week will be the last super rainy, wet week we have this spring so we can start making some progress on all things paint related again!

In this area, our choices for television providers are Mediacom cable or satellite (Dish, Direct TV).  And we’ve always been Mediacom customers just because we’ve been reluctant to mount a dish on the house.  After every interaction with Mediacom, though, I think we’re stupid for letting that keep us from trying something different … and last week was no exception.

Since we are getting ready to have the house painted soon and we are planning to clean up the crazy mess of phone and cable wires running on the outside of our house at the same time, we figured we’d better get everything ready so that the vast majority of the cables could be taken off when the house is being prepped for paint.

Just to give you an idea, here is one of several areas where the exterior phone/cable wiring has gotten a little out of hand. Yuck.

Uck.  An abundance of "exterior wiring" for phone and cable.

Anyway, we’ve actually done a lot over the last year or so to fish new phone, ethernet, and coax wires in the house (more on that later), so most of the wires on the outside (including all of them in the picture above) are no longer in use and can just be removed.  The exception to that was the coax running to the television in our sunroom and also to the television in our bedroom.  Since both of these rooms were long ago converted from porches to living space and there’s no basement, etc., fishing wires inside the house is pretty much impossible.  So, we decided we would make an exception for these two locations and very neatly install two new, short runs from the basement (where cable enters the house) to those rooms.  No splitters outside, we’d paint the cables to match the house, they’d be tucked behind gutters and along roof lines … you get the idea.

This was totally a project we could have (should have) done ourselves, but we needed to focus on other things this weekend and we were trying to get everything wrapped up before yesterday (when the painters started) so we wouldn’t be holding them up.  So, we called Mediacom to run the new cable on the outside of the house, thinking it would be nice to not have to worry about this part of the project.

On Friday, two guys came out and worked on running 2 new cables (for the sunroom and master bedroom).  They were here for 2 1/2 hours.  In those 2 1/2 hours, they:

1) Pulled new cable through an existing hole into the master bedroom closet.  (There was already cable coming in here that had been previously disconnected from a splitter outside, so they just connected the new wire to the old one and pulled it through.)

Pile of new cable in master closet.

2) Connected another new length of cable to the existing one going in to the sunroom TV (not sure what was going on with the extra slack there).

New cable connections for sunroom & master bedroom.

3) Piled the other ends of both cables outside, near the location in the foundation where we had asked them to drill a hole and run the wire into the basement so that it could be connected to the 8-way splitter that we are using for the entire house.  They left us a huge amount of cable – way more than we would ever need.  (The pile of cable is behind that bush, next to the step.  Sorry for the crappy picture!)

Piles of cable left outside.

4) Loosely tacked the wires to the house in a couple of spots.

A couple of tacks on the new cable.

At this point, I agreed to all of their excuses for why they couldn’t complete the work (leaving two cable connections that worked when they got there in a non-functioning status) just so they would leave.  In case anyone is interested, their complaints/excuses for not finishing included:

  • Not being sure if they had a masonry bit to drill through the foundation (I told them they could go through the siding just above the foundation).
  • Not wanting to drill into the basement because there is some electrical nearby and they might take our power out while drilling the hole.  (Yes, there are some power wires in the vicinity, but, no, not something that would be a concern for most people operating a drill.)
  • Wanting to install a splitter on the outside of the house (rather than running the cables to the basement) to avoid causing signal degradation (although they couldn’t explain how adding a splitter outside would be better).
  • Wanting to install a splitter on the outside of the house (rather than running the cables to the basement) to avoid causing problems with our internet service (but they couldn’t explain why having the cables come from the basement would cause problems with our cable internet – especially since the connection to the cable modem wasn’t changing with any of this).
  • Wishing that my husband was home so they could explain to him why a splitter outside would be better.  (Notice a theme?)
  • Commenting that my husband must be in IT (actually, we both are) since only IT guys would make a request to run the cable inside rather than use a splitter on the side of the house.  (Really?)

Anyway, after 2 1/2 hours of fielding complaints/excuses about every 15 minutes and re-explaining what we wanted, the goal of the project, and why we did not need a splitter outside about 5 times, they finally wore me out and I agreed it was fine for them to leave the work incomplete and just go.

So, this Saturday, when we had hoped to not be dealing with this, Chad drilled holes into the foundation, cut the cables to a proper length and put ends on them, routed them to the panel in the basement, and plugged them in.  He also cleaned up and secured all of the cabling Mediacom ran on the outside of the house and finished running the cable through the closet to the bedroom TV.

The two new cables leave the house just above that first row of siding.  A lot of the remaining cables will get cleaned up when the service entrance is buried in a few weeks.

The two new cables leave the house just above that first row of siding.

The new cables are connected to the coax splitter in the bottom of the panel.

The new cables are connected to the coax splitter in the bottom of the panel.

The mess of wires outside the sunroom is all cleaned up.

The mess of wires outside the sunroom is all cleaned up.

In the end, everything is done the way we wanted it, but we also had to do most of it ourselves.  The part Mediacom did seriously should have taken one person no more than 30 minutes, including the time to dig out and put away the ladder and tools.  It was a totally frustrating experience on so many levels  and definitely another lesson in doing the work ourselves if we want it done right – even for simple jobs like this one.  I’d like to say this is the first experience we’ve had like this with Mediacom, but it’s really not – we had so many troubles with them the time a tree fell on the line and we needed it raised back up to the pole a few years back.  It was all the same kind of crap then too – so many excuses and so much inefficiency.

We aren’t sure yet what the charge will be for their visit (or if we will even be charged) – the guys at our house last week said some customers are charged and some aren’t (what?).  If we get a bill for their work, though, I’m planning to give customer service a call to see if we can negotiate a discount for a job not even half done.

My major concern now, though, is that we will be calling their maintenance crew again soon to switch our house from overhead to underground service when we bury the electrical, phone, and cable service in just a couple of weeks.  If this last visit is any indication of how that request will go, something tells me we will be working with them on this for the rest of the summer, at least.  Stay tuned – here’s hoping I’m wrong!

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