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Old 10-01-2008, 05:00 PM   #16
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Electrical weirdness


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Originally Posted by jheavner View Post
<sigh>

It looks like the easy and correct fix for the house is to downgrade the circuits, where applicable, to 15A and verify that the kitchen and whatnot are on 20A and to replace the 3-prong outlets with the correct 2-prong variety. The problem is, my home loses value without grounded outlets. I know I wouldn't have purchased it in the first place without grounds.

Maybe my memory is wrong but I'll know when I get home tonight. I'll start taking lots of pictures. How much would it cost to rewire a house? The house is about 600 sq feet per level with a partially finished basement and an accessible attic. I know no one can give an accurate estimate but am I looking at $1,000, $5,000, $10,000? What's my ballpark?
Downgrading would be the correct thing to do, if you don't plan to have it rewired.
As far as rewiring costs, I can tell you for certain that the cost will exceed $10K for the entire house. How far above that figure, I cannot say. It will depend on how difficult a job it is, and how many outlets (lights, receptacles, switches) there are, plus I believe that any responsible electrician will (and is probably required to by NEC and local codes) add receptacles and make any other changes necessary to bring the house up to today's code.
My 80 year old home has way too few receptacles. I have been adding them one at a time, but if I were to hire an electricain to completely rewire the house, I would expect him to upgrade as necessary, adding receptacles, GFCI, etc.

You may not need complete rewiring. You need to (as others have recommended) get an inspector in to survey the situation, and tell you what MUST be done, and what should be done.

I certainly hope that you aren't stuck footing the bill for all of this work.

FW

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Old 10-01-2008, 05:54 PM   #17
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Electrical weirdness


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You have a 'bootleg" ground at this outlet (and on this circuit) it is potentially dangerous. Time to call in a professional electrician.
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Old 10-01-2008, 06:09 PM   #18
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The photos should be interesting.
You said that the entire 2nd flr is on the same circuit. I would want to bring some new circuits up there for sure.
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Old 10-02-2008, 10:33 AM   #19
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So I got home after dark last night and decided to have a few beers instead of fumbling with a flashlight in the dark. Before that I did check the receptacle that all my home theater gear goes through. It reports that it's wired correctly and when I open it, I don't see a bootleg ground. I have two wires attached to the receptacle so I'm assuming it's grounded through the box.

What's interesting is there are two other wires terminated in the box. On one the end is bare and on the other there is some black electrical tape covering the end. I briefly debated turning the power back on and see if the wires are live but there isn't 6" of lead, in fact, there isn't enough wire left to pull it from the box and I don't feel comfortable trying to test back inside the box. That seems too much like the game Operation. I suppose I could have wirenutted an extension and tested that but it didn't occur to me at the time. I'm hoping that those wires are not hot but once went to another outlet that either no longer exists, is on a different circuit, or is fed from a different source on the same circuit. What I am concerned about is that if there's another end that's half-assed terminated and each of these ends magically make contact with something hot then good times might ensue.
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Old 10-02-2008, 09:56 PM   #20
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Electrical weirdness


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Originally Posted by jheavner View Post
So I got home after dark last night and decided to have a few beers instead of fumbling with a flashlight in the dark.
I am new to this forum, but I am going to throw my 2 cents in to this topic. There is something about your post on this that ummm I dont know, deosn sound legit, but putting that to the side I would say you need to take the advice that the members here have given you, and use that advice, 1. contact a lawyer, 2. get it FIXED. Number one and number two are a whole lot more important then to decide to sit back and down a few beers instead of getting this problem fixed.
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Old 10-03-2008, 07:52 AM   #21
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Well, if you had just worked a 12 hour day and found out that you're most likely going to be on the hook for some very expensive repairs (the initial phone call with the attorney didn't sound promising but he's going to find someone with more knowledge in this field for us to work with) then ask yourself if you'd rather crawl around in the dark with a flashlight, screwdriver, and camera or have a few beers and lament ever buying a home in the first place. We've lived here for two months and it hasn't burnt down yet so waiting two days till the weekend to start a very lengthy documentation probably won't make a difference.

I have been asking for electrician referrals from my friends and neighbors (and even put a post on this site which disappeared...did I violate a rule?) because I don't want to just pick someone from the yellow pages (We got burned by picking poorly with something else already).
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Old 10-03-2008, 10:26 AM   #22
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I just spoke with an electrician about the bootleg grounds in my house. He said the only way to fix them without rewiring the house is to put a GFI receptacle as the first receptacle in the circuit. Is that really ideal? Will doing that protect my electronics?

Second, I was quoted a rate of $125 for the first hour and $45 for each additional 30 minutes. Does that seem like a reasonable rate? The earliest they could get me in was next Wednesday.

Lastly, and this is where I'm really confused, the electrician is focusing on problems and solutions but should we really be fixing anything if there is going to be potential legal action? It's not cost effective for us to have the whole house rewired at this point but I don't want to replace all our grounded outlets with two-prong outlets because that's the easiest fix and then get the sellers to reimburse us for that non-ideal fix. I want to get my ducks in a row but I want to make sure I'm doing the right things at the right times and doing it in the most cost effective way possible.
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Old 10-03-2008, 12:29 PM   #23
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GFCI is code compliant fix. It does not give you grounded receptacles but it does give the ability to plug in three prong cord safely.
That only addreses the ground issue. What about the other issues?
The minimum code compliant fix is probably all you could expect to get from the prevoius owners.
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Old 10-03-2008, 01:07 PM   #24
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That only addreses the ground issue. What about the other issues?
Good question, I took another look at the panel and there are both 20A and 15A circuits. There's just a lot more 20A than I would expect to see going to places I wouldn't expect. However, the panel is labeled incorrectly so I'm going to try and trace that this weekend. I wouldn't expect to see 4 20A circuits that say "Second floor, outlet/lights" when the second floor has 3 bedrooms and 1 bath and I knew the romex in the attic is 14/2. I'm also going to have the electrician look at the panel and make sure everything is correct. To a layman's eye, the panel looks very good. Everything is clean and neat and it seems like it's grounded to both the water main and to something on the outside of the house. As I start tracing circuits, it may turn out to be fine. I think it might turn out to be that the panel is labeled in a way that make it appear the right circuits are in the right places when that isn't the case.

Other things that may or may not be a problem (I'm not familiar with code so I don't know)...

The upstairs bathroom is on the same circuit as the rest of the upstairs. My understanding is that may be ok for the lights but not for a receptacle. I'm going to double check both bathroom circuits and ask the electrician.

It would appear that the upstairs circuit has 7 receptacles (including the GFI in the bathroom), 10 to 12 lights (fixtures not actual bulbs), a ceiling fan, bathroom exhaust fan, and an attic fan on it. That seems like a lot but I'm not sure there's an actual problem.

I'm also going to show him the receptacle I found with two wires, one bare, coming into it that are attached to nothing.

I don't know what else will be uncovered during a thorough inspection.

My plan is to have the faceplates and receptacles unscrewed and ready for inspection before he arrives. I also plan to take down most of the drop ceiling in the basement to allow for visual inspection. I will be documenting everything. I'd like to talk to the attorney before then to understand if we should make any changes to the system at that time.

While he's there, I would like to have him run a dedicated circuit to the living room for my home theater equipment. That's a completely separate issue from everything else going on. Well, it's actually what started this whole mess.
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Old 10-03-2008, 04:34 PM   #25
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OK....re reading, I'm not sure you have bootlegged grounds.


Just have your electrician look at everything.

Last edited by 220/221; 10-03-2008 at 04:43 PM.
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Old 10-09-2008, 02:04 PM   #26
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So my electrician came yesterday. It was a disappointing experience. I ended up paying $195 for one GFCI outlet and a handyman that didn't know code. He suggested that I run a ground wire to my outlets, when I told him that was illegal he called his boss who told him that yes, it was illegal. He confirmed that my neutral and ground had been spliced or jumpered together in most of my receptacles but told me that was ok because neutral and ground went back to the same place anyway. I disagreed and another phone call to his boss later and he's telling me that I need to fix it. He also couldn't explain or didn't understand how a GFCI circuit could or would protect electronics, which resulted in a third phone call. All the conversations took place on a Nextel so I could hear both sides of it. You could tell the guy on the other end was frustrated and didn't have a very high opinion of my tech. He reminded him to put "No equipment ground" stickers on my outlets but that didn't happen.

Some other highlights...
He disappeared and I realized he was in the bathroom. He stayed in there for a good 15 minutes. At least he didn't request reading material.
He gave me a screwdriver and some snips and told me to start cutting the jumpers between the neutral and ground on a live circuit while he was doing something else. This came about when the newly installed GFCI stayed in a tripped position because it was detecting the ground/neutral connection. I had to suggest to him that was probably the issue.
He fielded a final call from his dispatcher that asked if he could do an emergency job after he was done with me. His response, "Do you mean tonight or can I do it tomorrow?" I was thinking, "wouldn't an emergency mean right now?" when his dispatcher replied, "it's an emergency so it has to be done tonight."

Good times.

I still need to separate the two bathrooms on to their own circuits as well as change some stuff around in the kitchen. He gave me a quote of 8 hours to do the work. None of the receptacles that he tested were grounded. He didn't give an estimate on that and just said it would be a lot of work.
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Old 10-09-2008, 02:44 PM   #27
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You need a new electrician. Sounds like you got a first day apprentice who is supposed to be supervised by a journeyman at all times.

Actually worse than a first day apprentice if he thought ground and neutral were the same thing so it was OK to connect them together.
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Old 10-09-2008, 05:40 PM   #28
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You need a new electrician

He needs a REAL electrician.

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