Over my years of remodeling, I’ve occasionally found interesting objects behind quarter-round and baseboard. Usually it’s just junk like paper clips and hair pins but I once found a title for a 1943 Ford pickup truck. Another time I found a half-dime from 1863 or 1868. I haven’t been able to tell for sure which year it is. If it’s one year, it’s supposedly worth about ten or fifteen dollars. If it’s the other, it’s worth about ten times that much.
That’s the closest I’ve come to finding anything behind or underneath the floor trim that could make me rich. What I found this weekend came mighty close to making me angry enough to want to hurt someone.
While remodeling what will become the master bedroom upstairs, I pulled off a piece of the wide baseboard that runs throughout this house. It had covered the point of entry for a live electrical wire. The wire then ran beneath the baseboard and behind the quarter round for a few feet, turned two forty-five degree corners at the left side of the bay window wall and then continued to the outlet on the north wall, beneath the wood and tile apron for the whirlpool tub.
There was no protective conduit, no label, no warning, no indication. Nothing at all to have kept a carpet installer from slicing into the wire with a carpet knife. Nothing at all to have kept a carpenter from driving nails into it while installing or replacing quarter round after the carpet installation. Nothing at all to have kept a remodeler from driving a pry bar into it while removing baseboard or quarter-round.
Even if we forget about the potential shock, the very rare possibility of electrocution and the very real possibility of fire hazard, this thing should never have been done. Simple courtesy precludes it. It’s rude. It’s inconsiderate. And, remembering what we just agreed to forget, it’s dangerous. I’ve never met a homeowner who wanted dangerous wiring in her house. Never met a person who actually desired this kind of surprise.
Yet, I’m suspicious that the homeowner at the time of this sin was probably complicit in it. To save the extra hour of labor it would have taken to have done the installation in a safe and sane manner, he or she approved this. I’ll admit it’s possible that the electrician pulled off the quarter-round, ran the wire and then re-installed the quarter-round without telling the homeowner how the wiring had been done. It’s not likely but it’s possible. It’s also possible that, just like the present case, the installer and owner were one and the same. In either case, neither party observed the Electric Code or the Golden Rule.
And if the Golden Rule doesn’t govern how we install wiring and remodel houses, we probably aren’t wearing it out using it anywhere else, either. Remember folks, gold gets shinier the more you use it. That dullness comes from only talking about it.