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Old 10-16-2011, 02:13 PM   #1
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Rookie needs help wiring an outlet


Please forgive my terminology, I'm definitely new at this...

I recently tore down a pony wall that separated my kitchen and living room. After getting behind the wall I realized the receptacles and wiring were in pretty bad shape. Without thinking to jot down some notes on how everything was configured, I'd ripped everything out. Now I'm left with the following setup:

A) 3 wires coming up from a solid metal conduit in the foundation (concrete slab). The wires are all black, two are hot and the other is neutral. Before tearing everything apart there were several wires coming into the box that was attached to this conduit.

B) 3 wires coming from a flexible metal conduit from the area (that's tough to get to) behind the sink and lower cabinets. There is a black, white, and bare wire. The black in this instance has no power running through it. After capping the wires off and switching the power back on I didn't notice anything missing. It wasn't until after I tried using the garbage disposal (a switchable outlet) I realized what I had done.

It seems that the outlet the garbage disposal is plugged into and the accompanying switch get their power from the wires coming up from the floor (A). It's my plan to add a receptacle back on to the conduit and re-wire an outlet in this location so my questions is:

How do I re-connect everything? I'm assuming I would just connect them inside the new receptacle and use jumpers to connect to the new outlet in that receptacle. However, I'm concerned about the bare ground wire (B) -- could I just ground that to the new metal receptacle and therefore the existing metal conduit? Should I cap off the second hot wire (A)? Note: all the outlets in the area were and are 3-prong.

Thanks in advance, this one's got me stumped!

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Old 10-16-2011, 02:21 PM   #2
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The first question is, why is there only two hots and one neutral in that conduit. You need to back trace with a tone & trace to find where the wiring goes. If it is conduit, you can repull as necessary for the wiring. The other question is, where are you located, please update with city & state.

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Old 10-16-2011, 02:27 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by robmarston View Post
Please forgive my terminology, I'm definitely new at this...

I recently tore down a pony wall that separated my kitchen and living room. After getting behind the wall I realized the receptacles and wiring were in pretty bad shape. Without thinking to jot down some notes on how everything was configured, I'd ripped everything out. Now I'm left with the following setup:

A) 3 wires coming up from a solid metal conduit in the foundation (concrete slab). The wires are all black, two are hot and the other is neutral. Before tearing everything apart there were several wires coming into the box that was attached to this conduit.

B) 3 wires coming from a flexible metal conduit from the area (that's tough to get to) behind the sink and lower cabinets. There is a black, white, and bare wire. The black in this instance has no power running through it. After capping the wires off and switching the power back on I didn't notice anything missing. It wasn't until after I tried using the garbage disposal (a switchable outlet) I realized what I had done.

It seems that the outlet the garbage disposal is plugged into and the accompanying switch get their power from the wires coming up from the floor (A). It's my plan to add a receptacle back on to the conduit and re-wire an outlet in this location so my questions is:

How do I re-connect everything? I'm assuming I would just connect them inside the new receptacle and use jumpers to connect to the new outlet in that receptacle. However, I'm concerned about the bare ground wire (B) -- could I just ground that to the new metal receptacle and therefore the existing metal conduit? Should I cap off the second hot wire (A)? Note: all the outlets in the area were and are 3-prong.

Thanks in advance, this one's got me stumped!
It sounds like the 3-wire circuit you described is a multi-wire branch circuit (MWBC), which is not unusual for kitchen counter-top small appliance branch circuits (SABC). Code requires two SABC.

A MWBC is essentially two 120V circuits which share a common neutral. The two circuits *must* be connected to opposite 120V legs in your breaker panel, and those two circuits breakers must be controlled by common two-pole breaker, or two single pole breakers tied by a common trip handle. Additionally, care must taken with the neutral connections throughout the circuit. All devices must be connected to the neutral by a pigtail connection (not passed through the device).

The reasons for these requirements:
1) If one leg of the MWBC trips (or is intentionally shut off for repair work), the other leg must be shut off completely disconnect both legs. Failure to shut off both legs could present a safety hazard, if a person working on the circuit assumes the neutral is not connected to a live load.

2) The shared neutral serves to balance the voltage between the two hot legs. If the neutral continuity is broken at any point in the circuit, the voltage between the two legs will become unbalanced (instead of 120v on each leg, one leg could increase voltage significantly while the other drops) and result in serious damage to connected appliances, lights, etc.
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Old 10-16-2011, 04:39 PM   #4
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@gregzoll: Los Angeles, California

@clashley: Thanks for all the information.

The house was built in the 50's and remodeled by the previous owner (clearly not an electrician) a few years ago. I am looking for a solution that is safe, inexpensive, and does not require a professional as I'd like to finish this myself (for the learning experience as well).

Here are some photos of the breaker box (second one from the left switched off the area in question) and the wiring (capped off for safety). Hopefully this helps.





Thanks everyone.
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Old 10-16-2011, 04:42 PM   #5
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You can not use Black as Neutral. You are going to have to correct any wiring issues, before the inspector signs off. That means if they see problems, they will Red Tag you until an electrician or other trade fixes the problem.

I get a feeling that who ever wired that up, used the conduit as neutral/ground, and had three hots.
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Old 10-16-2011, 05:01 PM   #6
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All the wires coming up from the floor have black coverings. It's my guess these are the original wires and either the concept of color-coding the wires or the material to do so wasn't around in 1949. Because this was such a small demo and I don't plan on selling any time soon so there's no inspector/permits involved. That said, safety is still very important to me. Also, I've tested the wires -- two are hot and other is neutral. Isn't that a common red, black, white config.?

Regardless of what's up to code and what isn't, this setup was working fine before I disconnected everything. I guess my question still stands, what's the best way to wire everything back up?

Thanks again.
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Old 10-16-2011, 05:17 PM   #7
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That wiring is not from 1949. And they did know the rules back then, since the NEC has been around since 1897, when electric was first introduced to the masses. If it was from 1949, it would have been a cloth covering over rubber, and a thinner gauge like #14. No, what you have is a rewiring by a hack.
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Old 10-16-2011, 05:41 PM   #8
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Good to know. As I look a little deeper into the conduit it looks like there is a frayed fabric sheath around the rubber wire covering but the gauge does seem a bit large. Regardless, I'm going to put a band of colored electrical tape around the ends of the wire covering to signify what color they should be.

I drew up a quick sketch of what I think the best way to wire everything up would be. Please, forgive the lack of artistry and let me know if you see any glaring holes. Note: I didn't know what to do with the ground wire so I figure attached it to a green screw on the box and ground it out through the conduit.


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