Getting Your Wires Crossed

Author: James Jackson
Illustration: Mike Del Rizzo
Published: April May 2020
beginners journey
beginners journey

You know that wire protruding from the wall, that you have no idea what it does? Well, don’t snip it off.

Have you ever found a strange wire sticking out of a wall of your home and decided to just go ahead and cut it? Home improvement tip No. don’t do that, and here’s why.

My wife and I bought our home about seven years ago, but the kitchen has always been poorly organized. It’s a galley kitchen in a 950-square-foot home from the early 1950s, meaning it’s long and narrow.

It worked fine when it was just my wife and I living there, and it was even manageable after we had our first child, but by the time our second child came along in early 2018 and started sitting in a high chair at the table, it was getting quite cramped.

One Saturday this fall, when my wife was with our oldest daughter at swimming lessons and our youngest was napping, I took it upon myself to switch the table and the fridge around. Under the new alignment, the stove, dishwasher and fridge were all in a row against one wall, while the table was the sole item against the opposite wall.

The switch was an instant improvement. We could all sit around the table at once instead of being crammed in the corner, and the flow of the room was much better.

The switch also brought a strange discovery, however. A thin, brown wire came out of the wall where the fridge once stood. It was about 6′ up from the ground, then re-entered the wall just above the baseboard. I could pull it about an inch or two out of the wall before it became tight.

I had no idea what it was for, but it was just a few feet from the old phone jack that we never use and so I figured it was the phone cord that went to the upstairs bedrooms.

I grabbed a pair of kitchen shears and *snip* *snip* the wire was gone.

Fast forward to about 3 a.m. the next morning. I had to make a visit to the bathroom and I noticed the house was much chillier than normal. When I got back to bed, my wife nudged my shoulder and asked me to turn the furnace up a few notches.

I shuffled into the living room and saw the thermostat was indicating the house was just 13° celsius. I turned it up a few notches, but the furnace failed to click on.

Confused, I tried turning on the air conditioner, but it too refused to turn on.

I gave up and went back to bed. “What’s wrong?” Becky asked.

“I don’t know,” I replied, frustrated. About ten minutes later though, it hit me. The wire I’d cut connected the battery-operated thermostat with the furnace, telling it when to switch on and off.

So, a $500 bill later to replace the wire and relocate it inside the wall, I’ve learned a valuable lesson – never cut strange wires if you aren’t certain what they’re for.


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