DIY Home Improvement Forum banner

1 - 18 of 18 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
77 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
I am replacing outlets and rerouting some cables on a circuit that is giving me fits with old Romex 12/3 copper wires that are broken. The whole room was wired wIth switched outlets which look pretty old and I don’t need. So far I have opened two outlet boxes that were overstuffed full (they used pigtails for everything including ground) and in both boxes a ground wire was snapped off. It’s possible I snapped it when pulling everything out of the box. I also found one black wire that feels like it’s snapped under the insulation. They were in a wall that’s open so I replaced with bigger boxes and ran new 12/2 romex which worked out better.
Anyway, my two questions are:
1. No heat in the house while I’m working. It’s about 40-45 degrees in there. Do the overstuffed copper cables get more brittle when being bent and yanked in the cold? Would I be smarter to get a heater to avoid working on cold copper?
2. Since these are only the first 2 receptacles that were wired like this on the circuit, and I have 6 more to go, should I give up on keeping the 12/3 cable that feeds all these and rewire the whole thing? I don’t need the extra hot wire and now I’m wondering if this old cable is too old to re use.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,369 Posts
I always like to rewire when the wall is open if the wiring is over 25 years old. If you need more slack, do. Also a good time to add additional outlets.
Do you now have ceiling lights? The lack thereof is why switch plugs were used.
 

·
Licenced Electrician
Joined
·
1,142 Posts
When cold, the insulation is more prone to cracking, although almost any temperature you are working at is not generally an issue. Cracking typically starts at about -20.

If anything, heat will cause copper to crystallize and then become fragile when it is moved. That may be what is going on in your case. Does the circuit have a properly sized breaker? Any chance the circuit has been run overloaded to the point of the wire being heated? In any case, I would replace as much of the wiring as you can.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
77 Posts
Discussion Starter #4
When cold, the insulation is more prone to cracking, although almost any temperature you are working at is not generally an issue. Cracking typically starts at about -20.

If anything, heat will cause copper to crystallize and then become fragile when it is moved. That may be what is going on in your case. Does the circuit have a properly sized breaker? Any chance the circuit has been run overloaded to the point of the wire being heated? In any case, I would replace as much of the wiring as you can.
Thanks. Yes the whole setup on this old circuit looks like goofy and it has to be replaced. This house was poorly insulated so my guess is lots of crappy space heaters were used in this room, maybe they overdid it with electric space heaters.

There is a long home run 12/3 about 40 feet long to the panel which looks OK to a 20 amp breaker. Planning to keep that one. The problems I found seem to be in the boxes which were stuffed full with pigtails, wire nuts plus outlets.

This home run wire was a12/3 and I am only using the black and white. The red went to a second 20 amp breaker. It looks like it was a shared wire but there’s no split off to a second room or circuit. As best I can tell, they wired the top outlets to red, bottom outlets to black and nipped the tab between them on the hot side with a shared white on the other side.

So to cap off:abandon the red wire at the panel, what is the code way of doing it? Inside the first box in the room I wire nutted the end of the red. At the panel I can wire nut the other end after disconnecting from the breaker. Is it OK to leave that wire nutted red wire in there?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
885 Posts
Check the main panel. If it uses fuses instead of circuit breakers, check behind all the screw-in fuses for "spare change" (people loved to put a penny behind a blown fuse allowing the circuit to be seriously overloaded). While you are at it, check all the fuse ratings; most should be 15 amp. Cartridge fuses were used on most 240 Volt circuits.
 

·
Licenced Electrician
Joined
·
1,142 Posts
Thanks. Yes the whole setup on this old circuit looks like goofy and it has to be replaced. This house was poorly insulated so my guess is lots of crappy space heaters were used in this room, maybe they overdid it with electric space heaters.

There is a long home run 12/3 about 40 feet long to the panel which looks OK to a 20 amp breaker. Planning to keep that one. The problems I found seem to be in the boxes which were stuffed full with pigtails, wire nuts plus outlets.

This home run wire was a12/3 and I am only using the black and white. The red went to a second 20 amp breaker. It looks like it was a shared wire but there’s no split off to a second room or circuit. As best I can tell, they wired the top outlets to red, bottom outlets to black and nipped the tab between them on the hot side with a shared white on the other side.

So to cap off:abandon the red wire at the panel, what is the code way of doing it? Inside the first box in the room I wire nutted the end of the red. At the panel I can wire nut the other end after disconnecting from the breaker. Is it OK to leave that wire nutted red wire in there?
Yep, capped off in the panel AND box is fine. You never know when you might need a spare circuit in the future.
 

·
Super Moderator
Joined
·
14,290 Posts
The wires may have been knicked while being stripped. This makes them prone to breakage if handled too much.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
77 Posts
Discussion Starter #9
I don’t know how the pros can stay sane after seeing all the bad wiring that is out there in these older houses. Today I pulled out an outlet, it had 4 blacks and 4 whites loosely screwed on it, extra runs to outside receptacles added and spliced in over the years. Several just fell right off. Just knowing it was like that drives me sort of nuts...I start wondering what I’m going to find next.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
77 Posts
Discussion Starter #10
644233

I've moved on to another part of the house and look what I found behind the drywall...still finding surprises left by clueless previous owners. This switch was on a 15 amp circuit that covered 3 bedrooms and hallway, lighting and many outlets. It's all coming out for new wiring.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
442 Posts
I don’t know how the pros can stay sane after seeing all the bad wiring that is out there in these older houses. Today I pulled out an outlet, it had 4 blacks and 4 whites loosely screwed on it, extra runs to outside receptacles added and spliced in over the years. Several just fell right off. Just knowing it was like that drives me sort of nuts...I start wondering what I’m going to find next.
I hear you!! It makes me want to lobby Congress to pass laws restricting the sale of certain items such as wire, panels, breakers, and junction boxes to licensed electricians only. But little good that will do in regards to all the hack work that has already been done by millions of people who think they know what they're doing.
 

·
Super Moderator
Joined
·
21,632 Posts
It all depends if those wires are live. If they are dead there is no problem leaving them in the wall.
 

·
Licenced Electrician
Joined
·
1,142 Posts
Actually, it doesn't look like there's much wrong with that wire. At least the part in the picture.

Is the black cable NMWU?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,369 Posts
I don’t know how the pros can stay sane after seeing all the bad wiring that is out there in these older houses. Today I pulled out an outlet, it had 4 blacks and 4 whites loosely screwed on it, extra runs to outside receptacles added and spliced in over the years. Several just fell right off. Just knowing it was like that drives me sort of nuts...I start wondering what I’m going to find next.
Expect the unexpected.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
885 Posts
Sometimes I found stuff that made me think a new acronym should be added: YGTBK or You've Got To Be Kidding!
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
419 Posts
Man, that's a mess. Over at Electrician Talk they have a "Gems of the Trade" thread. Maybe we need a "Gems of the Homeowner" thread.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
9,287 Posts
Loosely screwed wires can heat up and melt the wire insulation (and also melt parts of the receptacle or switch or whatever the loose screws were on). This can happen long before the full circuit amperage is being drawn.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Zipperje

·
Registered
Joined
·
77 Posts
Discussion Starter #18
people who think they know what they're doing.
I've already diagnosed this guy who used to own my house. Based on some really weird framing and plumbing fixes he did...he took every shortcut he could dream up as long as the work was covered up and hidden.

I'm the first to admit I don't know all the ins and outs of today's code. I'm just a retired guy who learned how to work on wiring back in the 60's, about 20+ code revisions ago. But I am willing to take my time to learn and do things right. And I am permitting everything and getting it inspected.
 
1 - 18 of 18 Posts
Top