Garage/Bath/Reverse Hot and Neutral/GFI questions

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Old 12-05-13, 10:03 AM
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Garage/Bath/Reverse Hot and Neutral/GFI questions

The house I moved in to was built in 1986. There is a 2nd floor master bath that appears to have either been remodeled or added on at some time beyond 1986.

There is one 20A circuit that feeds at least one of the electrical outlets of the attached garage and both of the outlets of the master bath (but not the bathroom light/fan and not the garage light or opener).

Neither the garage nor the bathroom has GFCI outlets installed, only standard outlets. My plan is to replace one of the standard outlets in the garage and one of the standard outlets in the bathroom with GFCI outlets. I understand that I can just replace one outlet with a GFCI closest to the line, and everyting downstream will be protected. However, I don't want to run all the way up to the 2nd floor bathroom to reset a GFCI if something in the garage tripped it.

In the garage, the outlet box just had one strand of 12-2 wire. I installed the GFCI in the garage, no problem. I tripped the GFCI in the garage and, while tripped, the bathroom outlets stil worked. I'm going to assume that the garage is the end of the run.

I then went to the 2nd floor master bath and removed two outlets. I was shocked to see that the black was screwed in to the silver screw, and the white was screwed in to the brass. I used a 3-prong outlet tester (with the 3 lights on it) and it confirmed a "HOT/NEU REVERSE" condition existed in both outlets. One of the outlets in the bath has just one strand of 12-2 wire coming in to the box going straight to the outlet, while the other outlet has two strands of 12-2 wire in the box, then a pigtail to the outlet. The outlet with the pigtails, I plan to remove both pigtails and wire directly in to the line/load.

Questions:
1) Is it acceptable to have the attached garage and 2nd floor bathroom outlets on the same circuit? I thought I read somewhere else on here that bathrooms need to be on their own 20A dedicated circuit.
2) I know nobody here knows *why* the hot/neutral wires were reversed, but is it OK to just swap the wires and move them where they need to be? I guess the real question should be - would there be any reason on earth, other than a simple mistake, that the wires would be reversed?
3) In this circuit, why am I finding two different outlets on the same circuit with just one set of 12-2 wires pulled through the box? I would have expected to just see only one box containing just one set of wires.
4) Is there anything else I'm missing or doing to create a hazardous situation?
 
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  #2  
Old 12-05-13, 11:55 AM
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1) Is it acceptable to have the attached garage and 2nd floor bathroom outlets on the same circuit? I thought I read somewhere else on here that bathrooms need to be on their own 20A dedicated circuit.
That's how it would need to be done under current code, but that was adopted since 1986. How difficult would it be to run a new cable to either the garage or the bathroom to separate them?

2) I know nobody here knows *why* the hot/neutral wires were reversed, but is it OK to just swap the wires and move them where they need to be? I guess the real question should be - would there be any reason on earth, other than a simple mistake, that the wires would be reversed?
Yes, you can and should wire the new outlet standard. In fact, a GFCI won't work properly unless you do.

3) In this circuit, why am I finding two different outlets on the same circuit with just one set of 12-2 wires pulled through the box? I would have expected to just see only one box containing just one set of wires.
The circuit must be split in a location you haven't discovered yet. What else goes off when you kill the breaker for these receptacles?

4) Is there anything else I'm missing or doing to create a hazardous situation?
It doesn't sound like it.

General information: All of the receptacles in your garage need to be GFCI protected, including the one for your GDO.

Have you looked everywhere for a missing GFCI? These were all required in 1986 in most jurisdictions before 1986. Outside? Behind something in the garage? What about the circuit breaker?

What happens if you use a GFCI tester to test these receptacles?
 
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Old 12-07-13, 10:37 AM
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Thank you for your help so far. For me to run the cable, it would be a difficult task. For someone who does this for a living, perhaps it would be moderate difficulty.

AFAIK, nothing else goes off when I cut the breaker, although I'm not ruling out the possibility there are other outlets on the circuit - I just can't seem to find them. I know there's a splice on the front inside wall of the garage that might be connected to the circuit. It would be a great spot for me to add a second outlet, but that's for another day when it's warmer out. I did find another GFCI outlet on the back side of the house (exterior facing on a 3 seasons patio that was added after 1986), but it appears to be on a different circuit (still has power when I cut the garage/bath circuit breaker). I put a GFCI tester in both outlets in the bathroom and nothing trips. I've got the same problem (Re: no GFCI) in the other two baths (one circuit) and kitchen (3 different circuits) and near the basement utility sink, so I'll tackle those next. There are no GFCI breakers in the breaker box.

I've rewired the second outlet in the bath (the one with just one set of wires) to put the black on the brass screw. No problem.

I pulled the first outlet in the bath and just now found out that are FOUR sets of wires coming in to that junction box. I was able to isolate the LINE pair using a non-contact tester. I connected that to the LINE on the GFCI outlet. On the LOAD terminals, I am pretty sure that I must pigtail everything for the LOAD side and backwire that to the GFCI outlet. Is that correct? I read the directions for the GFCI outlet and it says in my situation (more than 2 cables coming in to the box) to contact a qualified electrician.
 
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Old 12-07-13, 04:39 PM
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I was able to isolate the LINE pair using a non-contact tester
I wouldn't rely on the non-contact tester, they give too many false indications. You should be using a contact test light, solenoid voltage tester or meter.
 
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Old 12-08-13, 05:04 PM
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A GFI has terminals for two conductors under each clamp. If the box was large enough you could have four cables connected to the device, two in and two out without pigtailing.
 
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