Replacing Wireiffic Receptacle

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Old 09-27-10, 11:56 AM
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Replacing Wireiffic Receptacle

Hello everyone,

I've just purchased a new home with my fiancée and I'm learning to take care of the basic household repairs. My latest project is to replace the receptacles which are in sore shape (cracked or not holding plugs). One cracked receptacle in the dining room certainly isn't addressed in any books or online instructions I've referenced.

Three separate lines (colored/neutral/ground) come into the box along with a fourth black cable which looks like it *could* be a fourth line in the box (though it certainly isn't colored correctly). *it* connects at one point to the ground on the receptacle and the other two lines are threaded in with the colored or neutral groups.

The cracked receptacle has four slip-in wire ports on either side and no screws (as opposed to two wire ports on each side). It isn't labeled for live vs. load.

After looking at this sucker for a while I put it back into the wall. Here's an outline of how it is wired:



Thoughts on this?

How would I wire this into a typical new receptacle?

As for grounding, assuming I'm looking at four separate lines here, it looks like two are grounded to the box and two to the receptacle. I've read that they should be grounded to the box and to the receptacle as well. What are the risks here (say, if it is only grounded to the receptacle). I'm not sure how much room I have to work with in this thing...

Thank you so much.

P.S. There's no harm in giving extra detail. Although I've read a lot about this I'm new to it so any detail could be important.
 
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Old 09-27-10, 12:10 PM
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fourth black cable which looks like it *could* be a fourth line in the box (though it certainly isn't colored correctly). *it* connects at one point to the ground on the receptacle and the other two lines are threaded in with the colored or neutral groups.
Are these wires part of a cable assembly or do they come through a conduit? Is this an old house (at least 60 years) that might have knob and tube (K&T) wiring?

Once we figure the mystery wire out, what you would do to replace the receptacle is as follows. Make 6" pigtails of wire in black, white and bare. Using a red (slightly larger size than normal) wirenut, connect all of the black wires including the black pigtail. Do the same thing with the whites and also with the grounds. Make sure at least of the grounds also connects to the box screw. Attach your three pigtails (which should now be the only unattached wires in the box) to the screw terminals on the new receptacle. Black to brass, white to silver, green to ground.
 
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Old 09-27-10, 12:34 PM
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I haven't encountered anything that would resemble K&T wiring as of yet. The home was built around 1960. I'm not necessarily certain if the wires come from a conduit. They drop down as a group from above behind the wall. Two wires are in connected plastic casing, as you might expect to see in a lamp cord, and the third (the ground) comes along with the group. If I'm understanding cable assembly as a group of cables carried in one casing/group then I'd say yes to it being a cable assembly.

I realized that there is no line/load distinction in a regular outlet (as opposed to a GFCI) so, given the two grouped wires from that fourth wire are tied in with corresponding wires from other groups (one to the black cords and one to the neutral cords) and the third, separate wire, used as a ground, it does seem like a fourth line in. Could it be anything else wired this way? If so, how would I verify?

If that's the case I'll take the approach with the wire nuts/pigtails. Hopefully I can squeeze all of that in there. As for grounding, would it be appropriate to loop one of the grounding lines around the bolt and then into the wirenut, or is it better to give it a dedicated pigtail (seems to be what I've seen in guides, but they have room to work with in those pleasant circumstances).

And one more question. I noticed that some of the kitchen receptacles (GFCI) are grounded to the outlet, but *not* to the metal box wall (via bolt or other clasp). Should I be pulling them out to address this?

Thank you very much.
 
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Old 09-27-10, 12:58 PM
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(Follow up on that final note. It would be neat to learn what safety grounding via receptacle *and* wall introduces. I would like to understand these things and it hasn't been discussed in what I've read.)
 
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Old 09-27-10, 01:34 PM
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Two wires are in connected plastic casing, as you might expect to see in a lamp cord, and the third (the ground) comes along with the group.
That makes me concerned that whatever is hooked up here is not supposed to be. Anything resembling lamp cord is not certified for use inside walls. Any idea what it might go to? Something above or below this receptacle that looks added on?

1960 is new enough there should not be K&T.

Hopefully I can squeeze all of that in there.
Ideal/Wago make a push-in connector that takes up a little bit less space than a wirenut. Could be helpful in your situation. It would also be possible to cut the box out and replace with a larger one.

Grounding
I like to loop one of wires around the box grounding screw and then continue on to the wirenut -- less box clutter. The only case where I don't recommend it is if your ground wires are undersized as they are pretty fragile. The age of the house very well might have something like 16ga. grounds which you can break off if you're not careful.

The metal box always must be grounded. The device (switch, recept) almost always must be grounded also. That wasn't always the case so you will probably run into old devices that aren't grounded with a pigtail. You should ground them to modern standard (box and device) as you replace them. Ground clips can be helpful in old metal boxes that might not have a good screw hole.
 
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Old 09-27-10, 03:39 PM
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Originally Posted by ibpooks View Post
That makes me concerned that whatever is hooked up here is not supposed to be. Anything resembling lamp cord is not certified for use inside walls. Any idea what it might go to? Something above or below this receptacle that looks added on?
This room—the dining room—used to be a bedroom. Across the room the closet-turned-minibar has its own lighting and that's the only thing I can imagine to have been added. There is, of course, the overhead light. My comparison to a lamp cord may have been misleading. The double wire pair is sheathed in plastic and shows the contour of the two cords inside (like a lamp cable) but it is larger than a lamp cable would be. The annoyance is that it contains threaded copper (like you might find in a speaker wire) rather than solid copper cables. It is not connected to the outlet, but rather wrapped around a part of other cables (see illustration) at a stripped point, and that bundle wrapped in electric tape. On the side with black wires I removed the tape to see this.

Annoying. How do wire nuts handle this sort of thing? It seems like the Ideal/Wago packaging doesn't mind a small degree of multi-threading, but clearly warns against the finer multi-threaded wire. I'll have to open it up again and have a look at this.

I imagine this was done when the room was converted.

Originally Posted by ibpooks View Post
Ideal/Wago make a push-in connector that takes up a little bit less space than a wirenut. Could be helpful in your situation. It would also be possible to cut the box out and replace with a larger one.
Very interesting products. Too bad it doesn't seem like local places carry them much. Is there an excellent website or two to purchase electrical equipment like this? Something to electronics and wiring like MonoPrice is to A/V and networking?

I'm sure cutting the box out would work wonders but I should probably behave and take on projects like that after I'm much more comfortable with the basics.

Originally Posted by ibpooks View Post
I like to loop one of wires around the box grounding screw and then continue on to the wirenut -- less box clutter. The only case where I don't recommend it is if your ground wires are undersized as they are pretty fragile. The age of the house very well might have something like 16ga. grounds which you can break off if you're not careful.
Some do indeed have fine ground wire. I tread carefully around it.

Originally Posted by ibpooks View Post
The metal box always must be grounded. The device (switch, recept) almost always must be grounded also. That wasn't always the case so you will probably run into old devices that aren't grounded with a pigtail. You should ground them to modern standard (box and device) as you replace them. Ground clips can be helpful in old metal boxes that might not have a good screw hole.
Home Depot fellow said it isn't a concern as long as one is grounded or another. Why am I not surprised? I wish some solid advice could be had in stores such as that, but if someone really knows their stuff I guess they're probably not interested in working at Home Depot...
 
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Old 09-27-10, 05:17 PM
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Originally Posted by Bruin View Post
This room—the dining room—used to be a bedroom. Across the room the closet-turned-minibar has its own lighting and that's the only thing I can imagine to have been added. There is, of course, the overhead light. My comparison to a lamp cord may have been misleading. The double wire pair is sheathed in plastic and shows the contour of the two cords inside (like a lamp cable) but it is larger than a lamp cable would be. The annoyance is that it contains threaded copper (like you might find in a speaker wire) rather than solid copper cables. It is not connected to the outlet, but rather wrapped around a part of other cables (see illustration) at a stripped point, and that bundle wrapped in electric tape. On the side with black wires I removed the tape to see this.
They do make Zipcord (lamp cord) in larger gauges, but that type of wire is illegal for in-wall use no matter what the size. Is the ground wire integral to this cord or is it a separate wire (also illegal)? At this point I would kill the circuit and test every outlet and fixture to see what's off. Then disconnect the splice (which was done truly amateur style - that kind of splice would never pass an inspection), turn the circuit back on, and see what doesn't work.

Is it possible for you to post a picture of the offending box and cable so we can see exactly what we're talking about?

Very interesting products. Too bad it doesn't seem like local places carry them much. Is there an excellent website or two to purchase electrical equipment like this? Something to electronics and wiring like MonoPrice is to A/V and networking?
Home Depot carries them. They're on the peg wall with the shrink tube/ground clips/split bolts/etc.


Home Depot fellow said it isn't a concern as long as one is grounded or another. Why am I not surprised? I wish some solid advice could be had in stores such as that, but if someone really knows their stuff I guess they're probably not interested in working at Home Depot...
It depends. Some know, some are morons. In the store I go to, they at least have the decency to say "I don't know, but I can get someone who does" if they don't know. But you're right. Most of them would just rather guess at it. While he's partly right that if you ground a metal box, the device screwed to it would be grounded by default (and vice versa), it is not allowed by code because more often than not the device isn't firmly attached to the box. The mounting ears are sitting on the drywall and the screw has 1/4" of thread showing between the device and the box boss. It's not a solid electrical connection, hence the requirement to bond both the box AND the device.
 
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Old 10-02-10, 03:24 PM
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PLEASE post a picture of this rats nest...if this is really wired incorrectly it could be very very dangerous.. was the home inspected before you purchased it?????????
 
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Old 10-02-10, 03:28 PM
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Originally Posted by JerseyMatt View Post
While he's partly right that if you ground a metal box, the device screwed to it would be grounded by default (and vice versa), it is not allowed by code because more often than not the device isn't firmly attached to the box. The mounting ears are sitting on the drywall and the screw has 1/4" of thread showing between the device and the box boss. It's not a solid electrical connection, hence the requirement to bond both the box AND the device.
Are self grounding devices with the screw clips still acceptable or is a ground still required at both the device and the box...just curious
 
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