Buried electrical box questions

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  #1  
Old 05-05-13, 01:46 PM
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Buried electrical box questions

Well, I >think< it is a buried electrical box.

Project of the weekend is to make a few changes to the waterline in the front yard; easy stuff: a cutoff and a few extra hose spigots. When I dug up the line for the first spigot, I hit something not-dirt. Dig around a bit more, and find that it ... appears to be an electrical box.

It is the same size as a single-gang box, and has what appear to be cables going into and out of it. It has a lid, and appears to be surrounded by, and filled with, some sort of black/white foamy material. The foam is kind of like styrofoam packing, but crumbles in my hand. As I tried to dig around, I thought I felt a gentle tingling at one point (not exactly like when you actually touch a live wire - similar, but much less intense), yet when I poke my volt sensing device (VSD) around the area, it doesn't come up positive (it is working, because I tested in a nearby socket before & after).

I can try to post up a pic, if that will help. Let me know.

Questions:

1) Does this sound like an electrical box? I mean, it looks like a duck, and I'm guessing it is a duck, but... maybe it's a goose? It's the foamy stuff and lack of obvious current that is throwing me off.

2) If it IS an electrical box, ... what do I do with it? I've disturbed/removed a lot of the foamy stuff which, I assume, is some sort of insulation and I may have moved the lid, exposing more of the foamy stuff inside. Do I trust that, because I'm not registering a current on my VSD, the box is still happily insulated & I can rebury it, or... is there an insulation I can buy? Or do I need to dig out the whole thing, replace it & rebury it?

3) Are there rules about how close to a buried electrical box a water line can be placed? When I first moved in, there was a spigot directly above this box. The whole area has been drenched for the past couple days to make my digging project easier.

Yeesh. Nothing is ever easy at this house. Thanks very much in advance for any help you can offer! Shout if you want a picture of my mystery box.
 
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  #2  
Old 05-05-13, 01:54 PM
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Yes..... please. A pic of the mystery box would be a help.

It is not uncommon to bury underground splices. Usually they are placed in a tube and filled with epoxy. Others use a plastic bag full of epoxy that you insert the wire nutted connection in to.

Burying a metal junction box is not usually done.
 
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Old 05-05-13, 02:12 PM
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Also can you look for a cable type on the jacket? It hopefully is type UF.
 
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Old 05-05-13, 02:13 PM
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Okay - I'll be back in 20 minutes or so w/ a pic.
 
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Old 05-05-13, 02:43 PM
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Okay, so it is a duck, and I suspect it is a duck that will need work to be made right.



Here it is, with its lid on. In the bottom center/right you can see a little bit of grey pooking out from under the dirt: that's the conduit heading into the box.
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I moved the lid and started poking around:
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You can see the box is filled with mud - the lid wasn't attached really. The 'foam' I mentioned is that black/white gook around the edges; you can see it most clearly in the upper-left part of the box. And, if you look in the area of the biggest concentration of the gook, you'll see a touch of yellow. That would be a wirenut.

I stuffed the VSD in there a time or 15 and didn't get a positive reading at all. So, it appears insulated, but... I'm sure this is trouble down the road, yes? Since it's already dug up, how do I make it right? And is it a "must get it done tonight" thing, or am I OK to wait a few days (assuming no rain in the forecast here in AZ)?

Can't tell if it is UV cable or not... I kind of assume that it is, because the downstream wire is (there are a few inches a little exposed a little ways down). Though... at this house, there's no telling. It is probably whatever was on sale that day at Lowes.

Back in a few. I moved the water spigot connection about 20" away and need to attach the spigot itself so I can turn the water back on in the house.
 
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Old 05-05-13, 02:59 PM
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Looks as if they used an aluminum WP box, but a steel cover. It should really be in a plastic 4x4 box with sealed inlet/outlet connections, and a rubber sealed cover with screws in all 4 corners. If you can't get to it tonight, swing the cover back in place and place a plastic bag over it all. It does need to be done right, however.
 
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Old 05-05-13, 03:09 PM
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That's not a standard w.p. box. It almost looks like a transformer type housing. Maybe for outside LV lighting.
 
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Old 05-05-13, 03:14 PM
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Wow - just switching out the box will be easy. I love it when unexpected issues are easily resolved! (This is somewhat serendipitous, actually: if this is the circuit I think it is, I have found it tripped a couple times recently and have been meaning to investigate. Somehow, I suspect I may have accidentally found the problem. This circuit does have lighting on it - 2 outside lamps, but not LV - and my driveway gate.)

One more (stupid) follow-up question: I'm 99% sure I know which circuit to turn off to work on this. Normally I'd test the actual wires I'm working on before starting (which has saved my butt a number of times), but I think I'll have to clean in the box a bit before the VSD will register if there is/isn't current.

What are the best type of gloves to wear while I poke around until I can confirm that the box is dead? I'm not a fan of getting shocked. Will nitrile conduct electricity, or do I want something else?
 
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Old 05-05-13, 03:31 PM
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If the conduit is PVC you should be able to get a hit at that point. If that is for your outside lighting then you'll have to figure a way to get that box above ground.


Will nitrile conduct electricity,
No...but they rip pretty easily.
 
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Old 05-05-13, 03:45 PM
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If the conduit is PVC you should be able to get a hit at that point. If that is for your outside lighting then you'll have to figure a way to get that box above ground.
How about one of those boxes that they use for irrigation? Linky linky.

No...but they rip pretty easily.
Maybe it's a girl thing (more gentle touch?), but the only times I've ever had nitrile gloves rip on me is when I'm staining wood. There's something about wood stain that just eats right through them and I inevitably end up with brown finger tips. (Having said that, I'll probably tear through them now swapping this box out. )
 
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Old 05-05-13, 04:17 PM
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Even electricians gloves are worn with leather gloves over them to protect them.
 
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Old 05-05-13, 04:19 PM
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The cover you refer to won't keep water and mud out. Here's the one I was referring to. You'll have to drill and attach/seal connectors into the sides, but the top secures it to waterproofness.

Edit : Carlon 4 in. x 4 in. Junction Box-E987NR at The Home Depot
 

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  #13  
Old 05-05-13, 04:25 PM
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I know the one you're talking about - an actual electrical box that will seal up nice and tight around the actual wires and their connection. At least, I can visualize it and will recognize it when I go to the store.

But PJMax mentioned bringing the box above ground. Rather than doing that (which will be a pain in the rear, I expect), I'm wondering if I can just install one of those irrigation boxes around the electrical box. That way it isn't a buried/hidden junction any more.
 
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Old 05-05-13, 04:28 PM
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I would use the waterproof box, but you can keep the hole dug out, thereby leaving the box exposed below grade and use one of those water boxes. Just be sure to put gravel in the bottom and around the perimeter to help keep silt out of it. Make sure it is level with the grass so your lawn mower won't find it. Above grade is always better, and accessible, but sometimes not practical when machinery will hit it.
 
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Old 05-05-13, 04:35 PM
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Chandler....you're thinking of Quazite boxes which are awesome but pricey.

You can use any type of underground enclosure to put the junction box in but it can't fill with water.
 
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Old 05-05-13, 04:36 PM
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Nice call on the gravel. Would not have thought of that.

Thank you all so much for your help. You really are a great group - I have had so many questions since I bought my house, and you've always helped out. I really really appreciate it!
 
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Old 05-05-13, 05:43 PM
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BTW, you are looking for voltage, not current.

PS, thanks for the thanks. It is nice to hear we helped someone and the feedback.
 
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