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ID these please! Hole in wall yields 3 surprises...


jnewbs's Avatar
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11-10-12, 12:52 PM   #1  
ID these please! Hole in wall yields 3 surprises...

Hello, All. I am knocking a down about a 7 foot portion of a load bearing wall in my house to open up the area between two rooms. I checked as well as I could from the basement to see what was in my way, and the only thing I could see was some air return vents in the floor. To one side of the gap is a duct that runs up the wall, and the same on the other side. So I identified the 5 spaces between studs that I could open up. I used a wireless volt sensor to check that no electrical was running through there, and then went to work with a knife cutting out drywall.
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Which brings me to the three surprises that I found (enlarged shots below):
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Red box - Some wires that my volt sensor swears don't have electricity running through them, if I am interpreting it correctly. Basically it beeps like crazy if I hold it near an electrical outlet, or near a wire behind a closet that I know runs to the electrical outlet, but is as silent as the grave when near these wires. They aren't labeled, or anything helpful like that. No writing at all. I'm thinking perhaps they are phone lines or something? Is there a way for me to figure it out?
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Yellow box - The air return vents in the floor lined up with the spaces in the studs where these metal sheaths were. I didn't think about it, but it looks like air was running down from the second floor, through the wall, and into the air return that way. My question here is - if I put a header in here and block that off, what consequences am I facing? There are still air returns open all over the first floor, and other ones in the second floor at the other end of the house. I think this would close off perhaps 2-3 bedrooms' air return vents.

Blue box - The one looks like trouble. It's a grey conduit, that looks to my untrained eyes like it should be hiding electrical wires. However the volt sensor is quiet on this score as well. It doesn't look large enough to transport water or waste water, and also its location doesn't fit that scenario. Any thoughts on what it might be, and how I should find out and/or move it out of the way?
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Thanks for your help! I am a rookie in this stuff and may have bitten off more than I can chew considering I Have no idea what these three items are or how I should treat them.

John

 
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XSleeper's Avatar
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11-10-12, 01:26 PM   #2  
Grey wire is probably phone. Looks too small to be Cat-5. Small beige wires look like security. Closing off cold air return will screw up the ventilation in all the effected rooms above, especially if any of the doors are closed. This will affect the temperature in those rooms since the air handling will be unbalanced. It will cause more draw from other cold air returns, increasing their velocity and perhaps increasing noise. The conduit could have electrical in it, or it could be empty- for future use- such as for running ethernet or similar. Only way to know for sure it to trace it. Find out what's directly above and below it in either the basement, attic or wall receptacles in line with it.

 
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11-10-12, 01:32 PM   #3  
Non contact testers like you are using are crap. You can't rely on them to tell you anything. Sure looks like conduit. Can't you see it from the basement. Is there a floor above with a subpanel?


I can explain it to you, but I can't understand it for you.

 
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11-10-12, 02:07 PM   #4  
I did look in the basement, and saw that the Conduit ends above the ceiling panels and IS empty, so good call on that.

Also the grey wires are cut off in the basement ceiling, just hanging limp and loose. Not sure what they ever went to.

The beige wires go to this thing in the basement next to the breaker box. As you can see there are about a million of them. Unfortunately I have no clue what this thing is:

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And I am aware that the no contact sensors are less than ideal. However, how else am I supposed to know what's going on behind the drywall if I am not the one that built the house?

 
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11-10-12, 02:35 PM   #5  
Looks like a telephone network board.


I can explain it to you, but I can't understand it for you.


Last edited by ray2047; 11-10-12 at 05:42 PM.
 
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11-10-12, 04:06 PM   #6  
Ray is correct. That is a telephone network board. The good news is that you can move and splice the phone wires if they are still in use. Beige would probably be old style ma bell four wire. Red, green, black and yellow. Easy to find and easy to splice. It looks your return line will be your toughest issue. You may have to consider installing a return line thru a closet to get to the second floor.

 
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11-10-12, 04:47 PM   #7  
We don't use or plan to use those phone lines - no repercussions to cutting them off?

Also does anyone have an idea of how I should go about rerouting the cold air returns? They don't go straight up the wall cavity through the second floor - if I look up through them I see plywood sheeting, likely the flooring above. The cold air return pathway is redirected somehow.

Thanks for all your help !
John

 
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11-10-12, 04:53 PM   #8  
Not to repeat myself but you may have to consider installing a return line thru a closet to get to the second floor.You've got to find a clear shot up. We can't help you much with that without actually being there.

Yes...disconnect the wires from the network board. They should just pull off the silver terminals.

 
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11-10-12, 05:15 PM   #9  
Ah, I've got you. I thought that return line was referring to the phone wiring somehow. Thanks for clarifying.

 
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11-10-12, 05:45 PM   #10  
You would need to reach your arm up into the floor and feel which way the cold air return goes, since if it doesn't continue straight up a 2nd story wall, it must turn and go one way or the other between the floor joists until it reaches an interior wall partition. This will help you determine which cold air returns will be affected. As mentioned, it will screw up your ventilation- and depending on how much other return air there is possibly choke the system- unless you find an alternative route for the cold air returns.

 
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11-10-12, 08:10 PM   #11  
Red box - Some wires that my volt sensor swears don't have electricity running through them, if I am interpreting it correctly.
The gray pair looks like twin coax, and the two beige cables are old phone wiring.

Yellow box - The air return vents in the floor lined up with the spaces in the studs where these metal sheaths were. I didn't think about it, but it looks like air was running down from the second floor, through the wall, and into the air return that way. My question here is - if I put a header in here and block that off, what consequences am I facing? There are still air returns open all over the first floor, and other ones in the second floor at the other end of the house. I think this would close off perhaps 2-3 bedrooms' air return vents.
You can install return air grilles in the doors or the walls, down low, to restore flow to the affected rooms.

 
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11-11-12, 06:56 AM   #12  
A bit off topic but somebody put a lot of forethought into that house. The "66" block with dedicated home run wiring is a phone man or alarm guy's dream. And just imagine the joy of showing up to a wiring job and discovering that spare empty basement to attic conduit.

 
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11-11-12, 07:38 AM   #13  
The gray wires look to me to be speaker wires. Have the same pair running throughout my house. Would be in line with pre-wiring a house for all possibilities.

 
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