Q: We are replacing our old electric drop-in stove with a new dual-fuel slide-in, which features a gas cooktop and an electric oven. We have had the gas installed with no problem, but now have a problem with the electrical wiring. The old stove was wired directly and the new one plugs in, so we had to purchase a plug and a receptacle. The electrical wiring in the home for the stove has three wires: white, black and copper. The electrical box purchased for the range has four ports for connection. When we connected the hot wires and the ground and then turned on the electricity, we did not get power. Does this mean we have to re-wire the home from the circuit breaker to the oven with new wiring, or is there a plug-in box that will accommodate the current wiring? The current circuit is 40 amps — will we need a bigger circuit as well? –Richard and Michaelene P.

A: You’re actually facing a fairly common problem. Older homes typically have three-wire connections for the range, dryer and other 220-volt connections, which was two hot wires and a neutral wire. They lacked a specific ground wire, and instead bonded the ground and neutral together in some manner. Due to changes in the electrical codes some years back, four-wire connections are now required — two hot wires, a neutral wire and a ground wire. Because your original wiring lacks the separate ground and neutral wires — both of which have specific connection points in the range and in the receptacle — the new receptacle lacks the necessary neutral connection to make it live, which is why the range doesn’t work.

There are ways around this using the existing wiring, but they would not meet current electrical codes and are potentially unsafe, not to mention the fact that it would probably void the warranty on the new range. Rather than take those chances, I would strongly recommend that you hire a licensed electrician to run the necessary new wire from the electrical panel to the range location.

As far as the required amperage is concerned, that will be listed on the manufacturer’s specification plate located on the range itself — your instruction manual will show you exactly where. Be sure to determine the amperage prior to doing the wiring, as it may be necessary to upgrade to a larger circuit.

While you’re at it, you might want to consider updating the wiring to your dryer location as well. You’re going to face the same problem should you need to replace your dryer in the future, so while the electrician is there at the house, you might as well be proactive and get that taken care of as well.

Q: What is involved in painting pressure-treated wood around the base of a mailbox post? My HOA threatens to fine me if I don’t paint it. The whole idea of the wood was for it to be natural and be an earth color and not painted because the grass-cutters whip the paint off the mailbox posts in the development and it looks lousy. Not to mention, the wood is being worn away slowly as time goes by. –Gloria O.

A: All you need to do is prime the post with an exterior wood primer that is formulated for use on pressure-treated wood (most of them are), then apply one or two top coats of paint in whatever color you wish. You can get both the paint and the primer at any paint store or home center.

To minimize damage to the post from the string trimmers, I would suggest placing some stones or other decorative protection around the base of the post, or else dig up and remove about 6 inches of grass all around the base of the post and replace it with some white gravel or other decorative material.

Q: How much knowledge do you think I need to have when I want to design my own interior layout and furniture? –Cheng Z.

A: That’s something of a hard question to answer. In my opinion, doing an interior design layout is a combination of equal parts aesthetic vision, common sense and education. I think it’s important that you have a unifying theme that pulls your rooms together, and that can be anything that appeals to your tastes and lifestyle. There are some elements of traffic flow and color coordination to be considered, but you can educate yourself on those things through a visit to your local bookstore or library, as well as some time spent on the Internet.

I would also suggest browsing through some decorator magazines and even watching some of the very good design shows on channels such as HGTV. You’ll quickly get a feel for what you do and don’t like, and from there just trust your instincts.

Remodeling and repair questions? E-mail Paul at paulbianchina@inman.com.


What’s your opinion? Leave your comments below or send a letter to the editor. To contact the writer, click the byline at the top of the story.

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