Breaker tripping after new drywall

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  #1  
Old 04-06-07, 04:39 PM
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Similar problem...

I'm hoping someone can offer some useful advice. By the looks of most of the posts I've seen, this seems like a pretty useful website for advice for DIY'ers such as myself. I thought I'd post in this thread rather than start a new one, as our problems seem to be very similar.

So, I recently re-wired most of my upstairs. Once I passed my 1st electrical inspection, I put drywall up and had some professional tapers in a couple weeks back (taping is like voodoo IMO ). In any case when the tapers were done, I noticed that one of the new circuits that I had run was tripped. I reset it, but once it sees any load, it trips again. I obviously have a short somewhere.

Upon further investigation, I found that the ground was shorted with a white wire somewhere in my newly drywalled & taped wall. I'm certain that the problem is not within either of the boxes (outlet & office light). I've removed the devices and isolated all the wires (incl gnd). I know exactly which strand it is, but I'm stuck with the sick feeling that I'm gonna have to open the wall up and replace that wire. The problem presumably came from a drywall screw that was added by the taper.

Anyway, my question is... ...Are there any other alternatives to opening that wall up, fixing the problem & re-drywalling & taping? Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Cheers,
ABC

*Edit* - Apologies to WM et al if this is interpreted as a "hijacking". At other forums I visit, one gets crapped on for starting new threads of a similar nature. I guess I'm darned if I do & darned if I don't.
 

Last edited by analbumcover; 04-06-07 at 05:05 PM. Reason: I'm a new user
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  #2  
Old 04-06-07, 06:09 PM
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Having a neutral shorted to a ground could never trip a breaker unless the breaker is GFCI or AFCI. Is your breaker one of those? Or is the "white wire" you mentioned not a neutral?

When you ran the cable, did you make sure it was at least 1.25" behing the stud face, or put a plate over it when not? I assume it must have been if you passed inspection.

I'm not sure you have made the correct diagnosis just yet. Let's do more investigation.
 
  #3  
Old 04-06-07, 06:30 PM
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Thanks for the reply John. I'll do my best to answer your q's below...

Originally Posted by John Nelson View Post
Having a neutral shorted to a ground could never trip a breaker unless the breaker is GFCI or AFCI. Is your breaker one of those? Or is the "white wire" you mentioned not a neutral?
I should have mentioned this in my previous post, the circuit I'm working in is a GFCI. The other rooms are bedrooms, so I was required to go the GFCI route

Originally Posted by John Nelson View Post
When you ran the cable, did you make sure it was at least 1.25" behing the stud face, or put a plate over it when not? I assume it must have been if you passed inspection.
I did indeed add the plates for the holes in the studs where my aim was a little off.

Also, since I last posted, I thought I'd put my theory to the test by running extra wire that I had to replace the strand in question (just running open along the floor, up to the light it was powering). I then hooked up all the devices I had removed previously. When I energized the breaker again, the circuit remained on, and I was able to turn lights on, and plug an old radio in, etc.

Any suggestions you might have would certainly be welcome?

Best,
ABC
 
  #4  
Old 04-06-07, 06:35 PM
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You will likely have to pull down the wall if you want to fix this. Sounds like you might have knicked a cable.

Also, bedrooms need to be AFCI protected, not GFCI.
 
  #5  
Old 04-06-07, 06:37 PM
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How long were the drywall screws you used? And did you miss the stud very often? And how far did you recess the head below the face fo the drywall?
 
  #6  
Old 04-06-07, 06:46 PM
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Originally Posted by HotinOKC View Post
You will likely have to pull down the wall if you want to fix this. Sounds like you might have knicked a cable.

Also, bedrooms need to be AFCI protected, not GFCI.
I didn't know there was a difference to be honest. After looking closer, they are indeed "stab-lok breaker & arc circuit interupter". My bad, I guess I have no GFCI's.

Originally Posted by John Nelson View Post
How long were the drywall screws you used? And did you miss the stud very often? And how far did you recess the head below the face fo the drywall?
I actually used 2 different lengths (as I ran short 1/2 way through the project). I used mostly 1-1/4" and then I got 1-5/8" I believe. I'm not sure if I understand your second question. As my house is ~60yrs old, I had to "re-strap" the ceiling using 2X2's, as the attic insulation is sitting directly on top of the original drywall. I was however able to remove the old drywall from the walls. I'm gonna see if I can dig up some old leftover screws to confirm that what I'm writing is correct.

ABC

Edit - I confirmed that the length of the drywall screws were indeed 1-1/4" & 1-5/8". The longer screws might just be the culprit... ...crap.
 
  #7  
Old 04-06-07, 07:24 PM
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If the other codes were followed, and if the drywall was at least 1/2" and if you didn't break the drywall paper with the screw head, the 1-5/8" screws should not have been a problem.
 
  #8  
Old 04-06-07, 07:31 PM
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Originally Posted by John Nelson View Post
If the other codes were followed, and if the drywall was at least 1/2" and if you didn't break the drywall paper with the screw head, the 1-5/8" screws should not have been a problem.
Ahh yes, I forgot to add the thickness of the drywall to the equation. Good point. I wonder what the heck I did then?

Any other ideas John, or do you figure I'm stuck with opening the wall?
 
  #9  
Old 04-06-07, 08:00 PM
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Since you know which two boxes the fault is between, and since you probably remember where you stapled the cable (hopefully only two staples, one outside each box), then you only need to cut two holes in the wall, one near each box. Then you can hopefully use the old cable to pull in the new cable (if there aren't too many bends).

Drywall patching is pretty easy. You can probably use the same piece of drywall you cut out to patch the holes. Put some backer boards (e.g., 1x2s) behind the hole, screw them in place, and screw the patch in place.

Taping isn't quite vodoo. The key is to put 1/16" to 1/8" of mud over the taped joints (purposefully leaving a bump). Then, on the second and third coats, feather the mud at least a foot or more from the bump down the the surface of the surrounding drywall. Many people scrape too much mud off the tape in the first coat. Then they've got nothing to taper, and the tape shows through and eventually peels off. I recommend paper tape (it makes a stronger joint), but you can use fiberglass mesh tape if you want.

And don't try to cut too small of a hole in the first place. It'll make replacing the cable too hard. Cut at least a square foot or more. Patching a medium-sized hole is no harder than patching a small hole.
 
  #10  
Old 04-06-07, 08:06 PM
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Thanks John. You've been very helpful.

I'll probably begin to attack this tomorrow. I'll let you know how it goes.

Best Regards,
ABC
 
  #11  
Old 04-07-07, 12:59 AM
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hey if you can remove the box (or break it apart if plastic) you can avoid tearing down the wall. just cut a small square hole by the ceiling, cut the old wire, and run the new wire through the top plate and snake it to the box hole. then use a renovation box to replace the old one. and leave the old (disconnected) wire abandoned in the wall since its useless now anyway.

to patch the hole, toe screw a small block (1.5"x1.5") to the top plate making sure not to hit the new wire then put the old square of drywall back in its hole and put a single screw through the drywall into the block. and slap some mud on and sand (or call back your drywaller to patch it)
 
  #12  
Old 04-07-07, 01:03 AM
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before you take it apart id buy one of those testers that show if you miswired or cross wired it ( its yellow, has 3 leds on it, and plugs in with standard prongs) also make sure you did not wire the LINE to the LOAD side of a GFCI outlet, or vise versa
 
  #13  
Old 04-07-07, 06:37 AM
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At any electric supply, or on line, you can get cable tracers that inject a tone into a wire, and a wand to find that wire. You can also get a more expensive tester called a TDR which will give you the distance to the fault.
 
  #14  
Old 04-07-07, 07:37 AM
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If the attic is accessable, you need cut no drywall at all. Just locate the spot where the rec is in the attic and drill another hole down through the top plate. Tear the existing wall box out as mentioned and abandon the "not to be used at all " cable in place. Remove the torn out cable where ever you can get to it from the attic.

Fish a new cable down the wall, and run it to the next location or to a new J box in the attic.
 
  #15  
Old 04-07-07, 09:06 AM
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AFCI's are finicky !!!

Even the slightest discrepancy in connection integrity will trip an AFCI.

Before you replace the wire, reconnect all devices, making sure the connections are perfect. Also, check for a broken wire in one of the boxes. Sometimes drywall installation can damage a wire in a box (particularly if a rotozip tool is used to cut around the boxes and it slips inside the box by accident).

In your case it sounds like you may have actually had the outlets all installed before drywall installation. This is unusual, but if so then the problem probably is in the wall.
 
  #16  
Old 04-07-07, 10:13 AM
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Had exactly the same problem a while back.

Remodel of a bedroom, AFCI protected, circuit stayed on with no load, apply load to the circuit and the breaker would trip.

I questioned the homeowner about the length of the drywall screws?..."all 1 1/4" thru 1/2" rock"....not the problem.

I asked the owner if anyone else had nailed anything up or put any screws into the wall?....he thought a second...."aah yes, I put up a closet organizer and screwed it to the wall".

How long were the screws?...."I don't remember, but they were pretty long".

Luckily, the wire that he hit with the screw fed the last receptacle on the circuit, which was one of two in his closet (his request, don't ask why), I simply went to the previous receptacle on the circuit and disconnected the wire....problem solved.

He decided that he could live with only one receptacle in his closet.

I read continuity between the neutral and ground wire with both ends disconnected.

I'm still not sure how the AFCI breaker would stay latched without any load and then trip when load was applied....but it did.

A few thoughts
steve
 
  #17  
Old 04-07-07, 10:29 AM
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You need current flowing to trip the breaker.
 
  #18  
Old 04-07-07, 11:57 AM
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Wow. Thanks for the responses folks. I'm glad I'm lazy and haven't begun yet. Certainly some more useful ideas.

Cheers,
ABC
 
  #19  
Old 04-07-07, 12:15 PM
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Originally Posted by 594tough View Post
At any electric supply, or on line, you can get cable tracers that inject a tone into a wire, and a wand to find that wire. You can also get a more expensive tester called a TDR which will give you the distance to the fault.
http://www.tessco.com/yts/customerservice/techsupport/whitepapers/pdf/AEMC.pdf

That's a pretty cool tool. I had to look it up.
 
  #20  
Old 04-07-07, 04:28 PM
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Just an update. I managed to get everything back up and running again just a few minutes ago. I had to cut several ~5" X ~5" holes in the walls to get the new cable run (due to my imaginative routing from last time) , but it seems to have worked out. I tested it, and it's running again.

Tomorrow I'll start patching the holes. Again, thanks for all the input. I think I woulda made it way harder for myself if I hadn't come here.

Cheers,
ABC
 
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