The wild side of wiring

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Topic by J posted 12-07-2012 08:11 PM 4064 views 0 times favorited 5 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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70 posts in 2505 days

12-07-2012 08:11 PM

Topic tags/keywords: electrical parts receptacles bad wiring

There are some jobs that are beyond the grasp of the non-savvy DIY’er. This happened to be one of them.

I recently found some spectacular examples of poor workmanship behind the cover plates. A homeowner asked me to track down some problems they had been having with receptacles and lighting. I went to work tracing circuits and inspecting boxes… here is a little of what I found.

This outlet, fortunately at the end of the run had been replaced by someone who did not know the neutral wire is connected to the silver screw and the black wire is connected to the gold screw.

This outlet could be worse, but the amount of insulation left in the box along with no pigtails and connections not properly bent around the screw (facing clockwise) was just no good.

What can I say about this little outdoor beauty. There was a plain duplex coverplate, no GFCI, no wirenuts, no pigtails, the box was too small for the 4 sets of 12-2 plus outlet. I removed the outlet all together, matched colors, re-cut and twisted, capped with a weatherproof plate and installed a new weatherproof GFCI in a better location on a new dedicated circuit.

Many of the outlets had been changed, and this is a picture that represent the overall level of workmanship inside of the boxes. For those of you who don’t know, where the wire connects to the screw the wire should be bent completely around the screw, in a clockwise direction so when the screw is tightened the wire also wraps itself tighter around the screw instead of pushing out from under it. Pigtailing outlets is also a good idea (Mandatory) because if one outlet fails or one connection comes loose, then all of the load receptacles (downstream) will still function properly. One of the other issues with poor connections like the ones in this project is the risk of fire. Many of the outlets sparked behind their coverplate as I plugged in my test probes. Sparks create wear on the wire which leads to more heat and eventually fires.

Fortunately, nobody was hurt in the making of this blog – shocking!

Unfortunately, the internet machines are not allowing me to post anymore pictures on this blog, so next time I’ll post a properly pigtailed receptacle.

-- I found the board stretcher... finally!

View MarkTheFiddler's profile


447 posts in 2532 days

12-09-2012 02:14 AM

Appreciate you sharing J. I look forward to learning some more.

-- Working on my home for 2 years and counting.

View BillyJ's profile


253 posts in 3566 days

12-10-2012 03:05 AM

OMG – and you didn’t have arcing as you removed the receptacles? How did you NOT get shocked? Was the homeowner responsible for this? I hope it was not a handyman. Wow, is all I can say. Good thing you found the problems – as you say, a fire hazard.

-- No matter how many times I measure, I always forget the dimensions before I cut.

View Dan Lyke's profile

Dan Lyke

331 posts in 4069 days

12-11-2012 12:19 AM

Youch! I can see how one might swap hot and neutral, but that second-to-last one, with the wires all twisted around and screwed on to a single nut is terrifying!

My next project is re-wiring, and cringing in expectation. I know that every box I’ve opened so far seems to be too small for modern standards…

-- Dan Lyke, Petaluma California, http://www.flutterby.net/

View kaneoheelectrician's profile


1 post in 674 days

07-20-2017 01:37 PM

Thanks for sharing that post. That just goes to show you that with a little bit of internet search on “how to wire a residential outlet” that anyone semi handy can wire a house, but to wire a house properly, safely, and per code is a completely different story. Sure someone can wire a receptacle, heck you don’t even need a book, just trial and error alone would eventually get you to the point of being able to wire up an outlet and power something up, but doing it properly and safely is a completely different story. Good thing that owner called an electrician when they did and good thing you know what you’re doing.

View dollb3229's profile


24 posts in 106 days

05-21-2019 08:48 AM

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