what have I done, and how to test

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Old 09-22-08, 11:06 AM
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what have I done, and how to test

we bought a house recently, and have been working to move. The house was painted, and I put decent clothes racks in the big master closet. I used the power outlets in the bathroom and an extension cord.

yesterday while putting up some new door molding, I used the same outlets again, but they are dead. One is a GFI outlet, the other not. (no markings about downstream protection, but logical as it is on the counter in the bathroom, altho not near the sink itself)..

anyhow, it the GFCI outlet will not reset.. there are no obvious breakers tripped in the breaker panel in the laundry room, just on the other side of the far closet wall.

so, what has changed.. since it worked..

well, one thing.. I put cabinets on the wall in the laundry room. and there was ONE weird thing.. 9ft ceilings, cabinets base at 54+42in high = 96, 1 ft above open.

I mounted a 1x3 on the wall at 54 in to set the cabinet on, then screwed thru the top rail with cabinet screws ( I usually don't like these cause of the lack of threading the last 1/2 in the shaft and the philips head. 2.5 inches long. )

I used a stud finder to locate the studs and compared against a 16 inch grid to verify.. looked ok.. I marked the inside of the cabinet rail where the wall studs were..
I had already mounted cabinets on the other wall, 90 degrees form here. the breaker panel is in the exact opposite corner of this room.

anyhow, the screw goes in until the threaded part ends, and then stops and just turns. the rail is 1in thick, and the drywall is 5/8, and I have approx 1/2 in of the screw showing. so it SHOULD be just at the stud..

I have seen this before, when we hit a nail or a dried knot.
so, I take my hammer, and hit the screw to force it a little and wow, it goes ALL the way in..
what WAS that I hit.. wasn't metal, could have been plastic to break like that.
next screw over, hits the same type of obstruction.. weird.
I switched to my deck screws, and it goes in just fine. weird.

this wall is the back wall/end wall of the closet.. its another 8 ft to the door wall where the GFI controlled downstream outlet is, and another 8 ft MORE to the bedroom wall where the GFI outlet is.

so, did I puncture a pcv conduit and clip the wires?
it is weird that this thing is running parallel to the floor at exactly 8ft up. I thought the wiring standard required MID stud routing to avoid this very problem.
If I unscrew the wire and the GFI resets is that the clue? if it doesn't then what? pull the cabinet and open the wall to see what I hit? there is no water in that part of the house (that I know of) but that wouldn't explain the GFI problem, and I've been the only one AT the house since this incident, and haven't run any water upstairs anyhow.
Are there any other reasonable testing measures, prior to opening the wall?

again the breakers are not tripped, only the GFI.

thanks for any guidance..

Sam
 
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  #2  
Old 09-22-08, 11:46 AM
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To be safe, never use a screw that penetrates the stud more than 1.25". Going farther risks hitting a pipe or cable, and then you've got a real mess on your hands.

I'm not sure what your screw hit, but i don't think it's a good idea to hit a screw with a hammer.

Go to your home center and spend $6 to $8 on an outlet tester, a gizmo that plugs in and has three lights. This will tell you whether you have an open neutral or an open hot. That information will make it easier to diagnose your problem.

There is no wiring standard that required mid-stud routing.

For best advice, please fill in the "location" field of your profile.
 
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Old 09-22-08, 11:59 AM
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Originally Posted by John Nelson View Post
To be safe, never use a screw that penetrates the stud more than 1.25". Going farther risks hitting a pipe or cable, and then you've got a real mess on your hands.

I'm not sure what your screw hit, but i don't think it's a good idea to hit a screw with a hammer.

Go to your home center and spend $6 to $8 on an outlet tester, a gizmo that plugs in and has three lights. This will tell you whether you have an open neutral or an open hot. That information will make it easier to diagnose your problem.

There is no wiring standard that required mid-stud routing.

For best advice, please fill in the "location" field of your profile.
On the screw, these are one size, 10 gauge, 2.5 inches long.
but 1.675 of that is pre-stud and the rest is in the stud. so, less than an inch in the stud..

if there is no standard, how can you say never go more than 1.25..

thanks for info on the tester..

Sam
 
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Old 09-22-08, 01:01 PM
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On the bright side it might just be a coincidence that it is not working and not that you punctured a wire. GFCi's won't set if there is a fault but they also won't set if there is no power to them. Perhaps there is no feed power to the GFCI for some other reason. While it is possible, it is highly unlikely you severed a wire, so you need to figure out why you have no power.

I would do the outlet check as mentioned but also remove a couple of outlets and see how the wires are installed to them. A quick install method that was often used was call "back stabbing" where the wires were just pushed into a spring retention clip through a hole on the back, These often fail and if you have outlets installed like this they should be replaced or the wires screwed on instead of back stabbed.
 
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Old 09-22-08, 01:11 PM
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Originally Posted by dsc3507 View Post
On the bright side it might just be a coincidence that it is not working and not that you punctured a wire. GFCi's won't set if there is a fault but they also won't set if there is no power to them. Perhaps there is no feed power to the GFCI for some other reason. While it is possible, it is highly unlikely you severed a wire, so you need to figure out why you have no power.

I would do the outlet check as mentioned but also remove a couple of outlets and see how the wires are installed to them. A quick install method that was often used was call "back stabbing" where the wires were just pushed into a spring retention clip through a hole on the back, These often fail and if you have outlets installed like this they should be replaced or the wires screwed on instead of back stabbed.
thanks.. personally never seen a back stabbed outlet fail IN the wall.. (not moved)

I will go get the tester and start from there.. thats what I was looking for..

Sam
 
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Old 09-22-08, 03:39 PM
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Re John Nelson's comment: I think the OP is indirectly referring to 300.4(A), which says that in wood building members, holes must be bored so their edge is at least 1 1/4" from the edge of the board. But since so many houses are built with 2X4 studs, this gets simplified into drill in the center of the stud. A 3/4" hole has to be centered on a 2X4 to not violate the 1 1/4" rule. So yes, centering happens with smaller boards, and screws shouldn't go more than 1 1/4" into studs. I prefer not using anything that goes more than 1" into the stud, just in case the holes are drilled sloppily.

All that said, it's rather more likely that the failure is something to do with the GFI. For one thing, backstabbing fails all the time in walls, over time the spring tension in the metal fades away with repeated heating/cooling cycles. Eventually the connection goes bad. Commercial grade outlets don't even have backstabs because they're considered too flimsy. Also consider that the GFI itself may have simply failed. I have had horrible luck with fail rates on those cheap $7 GFI outlets. If a whole circuit needs to be GFCI protected, just use a GFCI breaker. Or at the very least buy the heavy duty 20A style GFI outlets, they hold up better.
 
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Old 09-22-08, 08:49 PM
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well, the mistery is solved.

I bought the 3 prong tester, and it confirmed no power to the GFI. WHY was the problem. So, I went off back to the laundry room, and voila found ANOTHER GFI popped.. so reset that one..

now we have power at the GFI int he bathroom.. is that right, one GFI chained off another? I will rewire this I think to not make it a dependant circuit.

then because it bothered me, I took the cabinet off the wall, and cut it open to see what I had punctured.. well, uh,,, nothing.
apparently the difficulty was the back paper of the drywall, cause in the three spots, I actually missed the stud too. And there is nothing inside the wall except the expected 2x4 studs, and wires stapled in the middle of the studs.

Sam
 
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Old 09-22-08, 09:55 PM
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That's awfully redundant having a GFCI downstream of a GFCI but I don't think it'll do any harm...

However you re-wire it, make sure you still have GFCI protection within 6 feet of an open water source.
 
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Old 09-23-08, 05:14 AM
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Originally Posted by madpenguin View Post
That's awfully redundant having a GFCI downstream of a GFCI but I don't think it'll do any harm...

However you re-wire it, make sure you still have GFCI protection within 6 feet of an open water source.
right.. I would only move the wires on the first gfci from controlled to not.. then the second would be independent of the first.

Sam
 
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