Electrical Installations and some minor surgery 1


Is anyone at home wondering how we are running wires through the block walls in our building?  When I first learned that this home would be built with solid blocks, I wondered how they could possibly run electrical wiring and plumbing through solid block walls? Would they drill a hole down through the block wall? No. I found out there are 2 ways it is done here – the easy, less beautiful way; and the more difficult cleaner-looking way. The more difficult way is to chip away a channel in the blocks, run the conduit in the channel, and then plaster over the the entire wall. The easy way is to just get some plastic conduit and electrical box that just adheres to the outside of the wall.

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The easy way

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The harder, nicer-looking way

We aren’t interested in the look of the “easy way”. So, as I began to think about how this will go down with our delicate soil-stabilized blocks. Are fundis going to chip away at our beautiful interlocking blocks? Are they going to use a grinder? I got very nervous about what could possibly happen to them as they chipped them. I knew it wouldn’t be an issue on the inside of the house since all of the interior walls will be plastered. HOWEVER, if one of those blocks that shares an exterior finish should happen to crack as they are chipping away the inside, it would be DISASTER!

Since we are starting on plastering downstairs today, they started to cut the groves in the walls for the conduits and electrical boxes. And “IT” happened. OH NO!!! Unfortunately the guy who was doing that work was new to our construction site. He has not experienced the pain-staking process over the last couple of months of making sure that each exterior block is perfect. And he did not even know the block had chipped out on the other side. I noticed it myself as a walked past the wall. But it was BAD. At least 30% of the face of the block was now lying on the ground below. I KNEW IT! My biggest concern had become a reality and now we could not just remove the block and replace it with a new one. There were 20 lines of blocks, a concrete ring beam, and a solid slab on top of it. So, we decided we had to go for some surgery.

I called over my 2 co-surgeons, Dr. Pius and Dr. Muturi, and we consulted and began to brainstorm what to do. One option was to just make the plaster next to the window wider than what we really wanted it to be, but it wouldn’t match the rest of the building. Another option was that since this block was only one block away from the concrete column, we could completely extract the injured block, slide the clean block next to it into its place and then try to insert a new transplant block in next to the column and hope for the best.

But then I came up with another idea. Before we totally destroy and extract the entire injured block, why don’t we try to salvage part of it and attach a block graft to the front of it. If it didn’t work, we could still proceed with the first idea of the full extraction. Dr. Pius and Dr. Muturi concurred with me and surgery commenced.

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We first needed to remove the injured portion of the block face. Shown: Dr. Pius carefully performing the painful delicate process.

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Dr. Muturi then needed to make sure the partial extraction site was clean and ready for the graft.

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Then we prepared the donor graft. Unfortunately, we went through 5 donors before we got the perfect one. This was the most difficult part of the process. These blocks fit so tightly together we had to find the perfect size donor block and trim the inside edges (that would never be seen) so that it could fit into the extraction site.

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Dr. Pius then placed our surgical glue (brick mortar) on the graft and we prepared for insertion.

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The prognosis is that surgery was successful. Time will tell. The donor graft looks darker in this post-surgical imagery because it is still wet from the graft shaping.

Tomorrow when the patient heals and dries in the hot Kenyan sun, we will see how truly successful the surgery was.

I also prescribed some preventative medicine for tomorrow –

Script 1: The new guy gets moved to interior walls only.

Script 2: We will use someone to cut exterior walls who has previously experienced the pain-staking process of the mzungu-quality block-laying process so that they know how important it is to not chip out the good blocks.

Script 3: Start working on cutting exterior wall electrical channels upstairs tomorrow before we cast the ring beam and it’s too late to replace mistakes easily.

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  1. […] learned a lot along the way. We have made some mistakes (but none that anyone will be ever to see- read Electrical Installations). We have had some great successes. We even got lucky the way things worked out a few times. We had […]