by Dave Sullivan

Ocean-spray salt corroded the 1940-vintage meter base enough to cause lights to flicker inside the cabin ... so we decided to install a new underground electric service. A new power drop is a major project requiring heave machinery and three work parties. The following photos show some of the work that was done.

March 25-28, 2008

April 26-27, 2008

You can see the old electric meter on the kitchen wall. It would be fun to keep this meter on the cabin after all the other work is done -- if the electric company allows us to do that.

Our first task was to cut through the sidewalk with a concrete-cutting blade on a Skill saw. The hard pan is too hard to dig down and across at the 3-foot level by hand, so the concrete sidewalk needed to go. Later, depending on how people want to landscape, it would be easy enough to replace the sidewalk with a few bags of concrete.

Dave Helton begins by digging with the backhoe next to the cabin.

The new meter base is on the front wall hidden behind the porch's wind screen. Also visible on the sidewalk is the new service connection box. It will be dug into the front lawn so that only about 2-inches appears above the lawn.

A new breaker panel is mounted on the living room wall. Eventually it will be hidden by a wall hanging. Notice that this portion of the beach cabin didn't have any insulation -- which helps explain why the cabin has been so cold in the winter. We will need to install a 100-amp feed from this panel box to the existing panel box above the kitchen countertop.

Dave Sullivan operates the backhoe to dig a 3-foot trench all the way to the road.

For a while, Barb Sullivan sat in the driver's seat and drove the backhoe forward ... while Dave Sullivan operated the bucket from the rear seat. This definitely speeded the operation up.

Dave Helton gets on his hands and knees to inspect the trench ...

A slight mistake with the backhoe snapped the sewer line. So we went to Ace Hardware in Lincoln City to buy replacement line and a couple of rubber couplings. Here, Dave Helton is cutting the sewer line with a hand saw.

We called and had all the underground utilities marked with paint before we started digging. This meant a lot of hand digging ... because we weren't supposed to use anything but a shovel within two feet of existing lines. We found several water lines on the other side of the street near the telephone pole, two telephone lines in the middle of the street, and a Northwest Natural Gas line on our side of the street. If you look carefully in this photo, you will see a TV cable line that is cut in half -- we got a little aggressive with a shovel while digging through the hard pan. Fortunately, when the cable company came to investigate, they said this cable was no longer in use.

This shows the electrical service line in the bottom of the trench.

Dave Helton digs by hand ... and the Ditch Witch is sitting nearby.

Dave Sullivan stands on top of the 3-inch electrical conduit. The main purpose of this shot is to prove the pipe was buried the full 3-feet deep as required by the National Electrical Code.

The Ditch Witch has fallen into its own trench ... and it won't come out easily. We had to buy a Come-Along and winch it upright again by lashing onto a nearby tree.

The top-most part of the 3-inch underground pipes needed to be a full 36-inches below ground. This required a lot of digging.

Two reference pictures. These photos are likely to be useful if a cabin is built on the empty lot. The shovel marks the end of the second 3-inch electrical conduit that crosses the street and heads straight into the vacant lot. Several feet earlier, the first 3-inch electrical conduit turns north and heads toward the existing cabin. You can also see the two white 1-inch conduits for cable and phone lines. The 1-inch conduits are 1-foot less deep ... and they stop a couple of feet short of where the 3-inch conduit stops. We ran these currently unused lines several feet further toward the interior of the vacant lot so it would be easy to find and attach onto them without disturbing the lines going to the cabin.

With all the rain, hail, and snow, the trenches soon were filled with water. We needed to rent a sump pump (which is mostly hidden behind the pipes) to remove enough water to install and glue pipes together.

By Sunday morning, all the major earthmoving had been done, and the backhoe was loaded onto a trailer. The yard is a mess -- that was an unavoidable consequence of moving so much dirt to get the electrical line a full 3-feet deep. The backhoe was heavier than is reasonable to tow with a light Ford Ranger pickup ... and on the way back to Newport, both the pickup and trailer began swaying back-and-forth violently. Fortunately, enough speed dissipated so the swaying stopped before the truck and trailer jack-knifed. Still, this was a very scary incident because we had no control over the vehicles during this process.

Friday morning (March 28, 2008) we awoke to find snow!

Despite the resulting mess, we did try to clean up. You can see Dave Helton here showing his tongue to Barbara and the camera.

The view from our property across the street after laying the 3-inch pipes ... but before laying four 1-inch pipes to hold telephone and cable-TV lines.

This shows the meter base ready for a meter ...

This shows what happened when I removed the sump pump -- the trenches filled almost to the brim. I'm using a 2-by-6 to keep pipes submerged while I shoveled dirt and mud on top of them to fill in the trench.

Dave and Peggy Helton ... and their dog, Smoke, prepare to depart.

July 31 - August 1, 2008

The trench across the road has been covered up ... but it is sloppy with mud. So I ordered 6 yards of crushed rock to cover up the mud.

Nearly all the work on the kitchen panel box has been completed in this picture. Things that changed included:

  • Removing the old service entrance wires and linking this box to the new main service entrance with a 100-amp circuit.

  • Moving the range circuit to the main service panel.

  • Separating the ground and neutral bars.

  • Adding a new 20-amp double-pole breaker to separate the dryer and cadet heater circuits.

All that remains to be done is adding insulation to the wall and buttoning up.

This is one of two piles of rock that I spread by hand ...

Almost done across the street. The 3-inch and 1-inch pipes have been buried, and I've installed the service box where the electrical connections will be made across the street. Only a little more spreading of gravel remains.

The main service panel is now on the front wall. Nearly all wiring has been done in this image. I added insulation to this wall as well.

This shows what the street looked like when I finished on Friday, March 28, 2008. It still looks like a bit of a mess despite spreading new gravel and filling potholes. There just was too much water to get the road bed firm again.

I bought a used heater at the local bargain building supply for $10 or $20.

All done! Everything is back together (except that I haven't mounted the spice rack over the stove. Notice the new light on the front wall. It has a light switch to the right of the service panel. Also, I mounted a thermostat above the light switch. Thus, we now have "set and forget" temperature control in the living room.