Changing switch to switch/outlet combo

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  #1  
Old 01-27-13, 03:28 PM
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Changing switch to switch/outlet combo

Hello forum,

I have a situation which it seems has come up several times on this board, answered repeatedly by ray2047. I think the answer to my question is "you lack a neutral, you need to run new wiring." But I'd like to be sure.

I'd love to turn a bathroom switch to a switch/outlet combo, but believe I lack the appropriate wiring.

I have a switch in a bathroom controlling a single on/off light. It is an older 2-screw switch (no ground on switch). The box has a single cable running to it, containing 1 black, 1 white, and 1 bare silver-colored wire. The black and white wires are connected to the screws of the switch. The bare metal (not copper, silver colored) wire is screwed to the box, but not to the switch.

I'd love to put in a unit with a switch and a GFCI outlet.

1) Is GFCI required for all bathrooms, or just full baths? (this is a half bath).
2) I can't wire up the outlet since I lack a neutral, correct? To get this to work, do I just need to run new cable from the light to the switch (maybe I can do this), or do I need to run cable from the switch back to the fuse box (too far for my inexperienced hands to fish)?
3) If I replace the switch with a grounded switch, can I wire-nut a bare copper wire from the green screw on a newer (grounded) switch to the bare silver one, which is fastened to the box?

Thank you.
 
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Old 01-27-13, 03:55 PM
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1) Is GFCI required for all bathrooms
Yes.
I can't wire up the outlet since I lack a neutral, correct? To get this to work, do I just need to run new cable from the light to the switch
Yes. Replace the 2-conductor cable with 3-conductor and use a GFCI/switch combo.
3) If I replace the switch with a grounded switch, can I wire-nut a bare copper wire from the green screw on a newer (grounded) switch to the bare silver one, which is fastened to the box?
If you verify it is a working ground, yes.
 
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Old 01-27-13, 04:38 PM
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It sounds like you have aluminum wiring. Special devices are needed along with gentle handling of the wiring.

gfi protection is required for all bathrooms regardless.
 
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Old 01-29-13, 02:32 PM
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Thank you for responding. Based on your feedback, I plan to check the aluminum wire to see if it's ground (I'll probably hook up a grounded outlet and use my plug-in tester), then try to fish a 3-conductor cable from the receptacle for the light to the receptacle where the outlet is. Once I have done that, I will have 2 3-conductor cables coming into the switch box. I should then be able to hook up a GFCI switch/receptacle combo similar to the instructions on step 7A of this unit:
http://www.leviton.com/OA_HTML/ibcGe...minisite=10251

(Not what I bought, just an example).

Thanks for your help.
 
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Old 01-29-13, 02:46 PM
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then try to fish a 3-conductor cable from the receptacle for the light to the receptacle where the outlet is. Once I have done that, I will have 2 3-conductor cables coming into the switch box.
No. I think you are confused. From what you have written you currently have a 2-conductor cable (white, black, bare) at the switch. That needs to be abandoned and replaced a three conductor cable (white, black, red, bare) You won't have two 3-conductor cables. You will have one.

I plan to check the aluminum wire to see if it's ground (I'll probably hook up a grounded outlet and use my plug-in tester
The correct way is to test with a cheap analog multimeter ($8-$15).
 

Last edited by ray2047; 01-29-13 at 07:55 PM.
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Old 01-29-13, 07:32 PM
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I plan to check the aluminum wire to see if it's ground (I'll probably hook up a grounded outlet and use my plug-in tester),
I'm not sure how that would work without a neutral.

You do not need to use a plug-in tester for this test anyway. You need to test the power with a multimeter, preferably an analog multimeter, as Ray said.
 
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Old 01-29-13, 08:00 PM
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Kmp878, just to expand on my last post since that cable at the switch is going to be cut off and shoved out of the box on both ends it really doesn't matter if it is grounded.. What maters is if you have a ground at the light and if you have copper or aluminum there since you will be running a new cable. Note you will not be able to use wire nuts to connect the new cable at the light if the power in cable at the light is aluminum.
 
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Old 01-30-13, 07:43 AM
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Okay. Thanks for the updates. As long as all of the work is between the light box and the switch box, I can do it. I expect to tie a new 3-conductor cable to the old 2-conductor cable, and pull the 2-conductor cable out of the wall, pulling the 3-conductor with it. This way, I'll have removed the 2-conductor from the wall, and will have a 3-conductor in its place.

I was surprised to see the aluminum wire in the box. It's likely not grounded properly. Every other outlet, switch, and lamp I've replaced in the house has had a proper copper ground wire.

Thanks again.

I a
 
  #9  
Old 01-30-13, 08:07 AM
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Have you looked at the wiring at the light fixture yet, to see whether it appears to be copper or aluminum?

Do the insulated wires at the switch appear to be copper or aluminum?
 
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Old 01-30-13, 08:24 AM
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You don't pull the old cable out of the wall/ceiling, you can't. It is stapled in place. You cut it as short as possible and just shove it out of the box. At the switch to make fishing easier you will remove the existing box by cutting the nails* that hold it with a Sawzall or a hack saw blade with a duct tape handle. This leaves a hole that makes fishing the wire easier. Once the wire is fished you can go back with an old work box. You could even go back with a double gang box if you have room and use a regular duplex GFCI receptacle and switch side by side.

But of course lets not get the cart before the horse. Before doing anything else pull the light and answer Nash's questions.

*The saw blade is inserted between the stud and box and if done correctly does not damage the Sheet rock. The box is pulled out and discarded.
 
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Old 02-25-13, 06:32 AM
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I looked at the lighting fixture that is tied to this switch and saw that it too is using aluminum wiring. I abandoned the idea of replacing the switch with a combo switch/outlet. It was clear I'd have to put in new copper wiring, but would have a few studs in the way. Boring through these studs would have required putting several holes in finished walls along the way.

Instead, we looked around the house and realized that we could add a totally new 2-gang outlet by connecting it to an existing outlet in the kitchen.

The kitchen was redone before we bought the place, which I guess included replacing old aluminum wiring with copper. The kitchen and bathroom share a wall, and the kitchen side had a GFCI outlet installed already.

So we opened a pop-out on the kitchen receptacle box, snaked new wire down the wall (without having to go through studs) and cut a a hole in the bathroom wall to grab it. We installed a plastic old work box, and wired up a new GFCI outlet in the bathroom.

This turned out to be far easier than replacing the switch with a switch/receptacle combo. And we also prefer it (TWO outlets, and they're closer to the counter top).

Thanks for your advise along the way.
 
  #12  
Old 02-25-13, 06:39 AM
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AFAIK, you cannot do this - the kitchen and bathroom cannot share a circuit.
 
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Old 02-25-13, 06:40 AM
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nstead, we looked around the house and realized that we could add a totally new 2-gang outlet by connecting it to an existing outlet in the kitchen.
Sorry but if this was a small appliance branch circuit (SABC) that was not code compliant.
 
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