No outlets in bathrooms - adding GFCI to existing box

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Old 02-09-11, 10:12 PM
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Question No outlets in bathrooms - adding GFCI to existing box

Hi--

Apologies if this is in a FAQ somewhere, I looked around and didn't see it.

All of the bathrooms in my house have two switches (light and exhaust fan) and no outlets. I would like to change this. So what I'd like to do is remove the existing two single-switch units and replace them with one double-switch unit and one double GFCI outlet.

I took the switches out in one bathroom and here was the wiring. Four cables go in (each has black, white, and ground). Let's call them cables 1 through 4 left to right. All the whites were twisted together. Each switch had one black from one of the cables (1 is light, 3 is fan) and a pigtail to the wire nut where they meet the blacks from 2 and 4. All the grounds were twisted together, and one of them was twisted around a screw in the (metal) outlet box.

The instructions that came with the double-switch unit say that it needs a neutral and not to use it to replace switches that had two black wires. I ignored that, and connected the blacks from 1 and 3 to the two screws on the non-tab side and the black pigtails to the two screws on the tab side.

Question 1: was it stupid to ignore the instructions? Although the words talked about a neutral, the picture on the package seemed to be wired the way I did it. Both switches seem to work properly.

While wiring this, I untwisted the grounds and unlooped the ground from the screw in the outlet box because the others wouldn't reach the switches.

Question 2: was this stupid? Do the grounds all need to be connected to that screw (or to each other), or can I assume that the ground wires will be grounded somewhere else?

And now we get to the fun part: the GFCI. I took the black and the white from cable 2, removed them from the respective wire nuts, and connected them to the LINE screws on the GFCI. (The GFCI is clearly marked which side should be white and which side should be hot.) Nothing is connected to the LOAD terminals. I also hooked up one of the ground wires to the green screw. (Does it matter which one?) Now when I turn the breaker on, the two switches work properly, but the GFCI won't reset. I'm guessing this means either that it's getting no power or that I messed up the ground somehow.

So question 3: did I do something wrong in wiring the GFCI? should I do something different, such as run pigtails from the wire nuts to the receptacle? Or just try the wires from cable 4 and see if that works?

Thanks in advance for your help.
 
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Old 02-09-11, 11:26 PM
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Please note the code warrning in the last half of the post.

All the whites were twisted together. Each
You would add one white pigtail to this bundle. That would go to the silver screw on the line side of the GFCI receptacle.

The black that is power in (always hot) would be pigtailed to the line side brass screw on the GFCI receptacle.

A second pigtail from power in goes to the side of the duplex switch that has a tab between the screws.

You also seem to have a power out cable to another area. The black of that goes to the other screw on the tab side of the duplex switch. The tab must not be broken.

On the side of the duplex switch with no tab black from light to one screw and fan black to the other screw.

All grounds tied together, pigtailed to the fixtures and to the box if metal.

All whites together.

The gotcha is that this may not be code compliant and may not be grandfathered.

To be current code compliant it must be a 20a circuit.

If there are lights on the circuit it can only serve one bathroom and no other area.

If you put the receptacles on one 20a circuit and lights on another 15a or 20a then one 20a circuits can serve receptacles in both bathrooms.

The forum strongly recommends you do this to current code.
 

Last edited by ray2047; 02-09-11 at 11:52 PM.
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Old 02-10-11, 06:19 AM
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While is can be dangerous to ignore the instructions given for anything, especially electrical, in this case I think the instruction are wrong. That switch is just two single pole switches on a common yoke. It should not involve the neutral.

As Ray has pointed out the new receptacles should have been on a new 20 amp circuit.
 
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Old 02-10-11, 07:51 AM
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Thanks for the advice, guys. As far as I know, this circuit powers the bathroom and one light fixture in the hallway. (Possibly also a light bulb in a closet that I'd forgotten about.) I don't know if it's 15A or 20A - would that be marked on the breaker? If it's 20A, is it OK to have the receptacle on that circuit per code, or it has to have its own?

And basically I need to go buy a few wires and make some pigtails. Would your guess be that the way I've wired it is that the GFCI is connected to power out, and that's why it's not getting any power? I forgot that I have a multimeter somewhere so I can test it tonight. If the closet light doesn't work, then it would all make sense. But if everything on the circuit (other than the GFCI) seems to work, what could the wires be that I attached to the GFCI?

Finally, a really dumb question: if I wanted to add a separate circuit for the GFCI, that necessarily means a new breaker and running new cable from the breaker box, correct? No way around that?
 
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Old 02-10-11, 11:50 AM
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Originally Posted by Jeebus View Post
Thanks for the advice, guys. As far as I know, this circuit powers the bathroom and one light fixture in the hallway. (Possibly also a light bulb in a closet that I'd forgotten about.) I don't know if it's 15A or 20A - would that be marked on the breaker? If it's 20A, is it OK to have the receptacle on that circuit per code, or it has to have its own?
A new install should meet the current requirements for a new circuit. While adding a receptacle on the existing circuit is not terrible it is still not code compliant.

And basically I need to go buy a few wires and make some pigtails. Would your guess be that the way I've wired it is that the GFCI is connected to power out, and that's why it's not getting any power? I forgot that I have a multimeter somewhere so I can test it tonight. If the closet light doesn't work, then it would all make sense. But if everything on the circuit (other than the GFCI) seems to work, what could the wires be that I attached to the GFCI?
It could be as simple as a mis-wire. A photo might help.

Finally, a really dumb question: if I wanted to add a separate circuit for the GFCI, that necessarily means a new breaker and running new cable from the breaker box, correct? No way around that?
Correct.

While wiring this, I untwisted the grounds and unlooped the ground from the screw in the outlet box because the others wouldn't reach the switches.

Question 2: was this stupid? Do the grounds all need to be connected to that screw (or to each other), or can I assume that the ground wires will be grounded somewhere else?
All grounds need to be connected together and to the metal box and the switches and receptacles. Additional length or pigtails can be added to allow the connections.
 
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Old 02-10-11, 12:00 PM
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As far as I know, this circuit powers the bathroom and one light fixture in the hallway. (Possibly also a light bulb in a closet that I'd forgotten about.)
The closet and hall would be a violation of current code but may be grandfathered.

I don't know if it's 15A or 20A - would that be marked on the breaker?
Yes, usually on the end of the toggle handle.

And basically I need to go buy a few wires and make some pigtails. Would your guess be that the way I've wired it is that the GFCI is connected to power out,
Use your multimeter to be sure which cable is hot. Then with all neutrals connected test each black to detemine what it goes to by connecting it to the known hot black. Then, label, disconnect and test the next. This way you know for sure which is which.

Best practice would be to add a new 20a circuit using 12-2 NM-b for the receptacle. The lights would remain on the existing circuit. If it is in the same box you would need to connect all grounds together but keep the neutrals separated by circuit.
 
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Old 02-11-11, 08:08 AM
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Thanks for all your help. It turns out that I had managed to wire the GFCI to the power out that went to the closet light. Once I put in a new neutral pigtail and moved one of the hot pigtails from the switch duplex (where it was redundant) to the GFCI, everything worked. I also put in new grounds.

Of course I realized that the circuit inexplicably controls not only that bathroom and closet light but at least *4* hallway light fixtures over 2 floors. Whoever wired this place 45 years ago was seriously lazy.
 
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Old 02-11-11, 10:09 AM
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Good job. Thanks for le6ting us know the outcome.
 
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