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My wife and I bought our first home ~8 months ago.

Guys who owned it previously bought it to do minor remodels (including installing solar panels that feed into the grid) and tried to resell. Sold it to us for basically the same they paid.
Guy who owned the house before them was a very do-it-yourself type, but cut several corners (no offense to do-it-yourself types, I'm one myself!)

We replaced one outlet in the kitchen with a GFCI. There are 2 outlets on the circuit, both next to one another but not wired together. They individually get wires from the circuit breaker (as far as I can tell) The wiring seems to be 12 gauge and it's a 20amp switch on the circuit. The GFCI was rated to 20amps.

We had water kettle on the GFCI and microwave on the other outlet. A few months later the non-GFCI outlet was crackling with the microwave plugged in. My wife unplugged it and flipped the circuit switch.

I found out the female prongs were loose and replaced with a GFCI. Thought all was well. Only used one electronic at a time. Figure 20amp is fine for a microwave or water kettle if used separately. Then about a month ago when deciding to check the Test/Reset buttons on BOTH GFCI outlets stopped working in terms of tripping when Test is pressed. We went to the store but they only had one in stock. We replaced one outlet. Wondering if the microwave may have been damaged we put electrical tape over the new GFCI with it tripped so it wouldn't be used until we replace the other one as well and find out if the microwave is okay.

Tonight the water kettle was plugged into the failed GFCI (that still gives power but won't trip) and the outlet was crackling. The microwave was unplugged. This tripped the basement circuit breaker. Minor burning plastic smell from the outlet, but not in the basement. The smell has subsided, but I haven't opened the outlet tonight to look at the wires due to another complication:

Creepy part is when I tried to check with a volt meter the new GFCI outlet wouldn't work at all, even when the basement circuit was set back on. Neither GFCI now has Test/Reset buttons working even though one had not been used. The Non-Contact Voltage Detector has gone nuts. With the basement circuit switch off it occasionally beeps once when waved around the outlets. It doesn't constant beep like it does if I put it next to an outlet I know is live. I test some of the female ends on both outlets and it occasionally gives a single beep. Some sort of ghostly residual charge? Static build up?? Really messed up ground wiring???

I assume either the problem is due to both outlets having individual wiring from the circuit breaker, or faulty circuit breaker switch, or broken electronics messing them up. We've checked around the entire house and the circuit breaker only leads to these two outlets before anyone asks if power is being drawn elsewhere from it.

My socket tester confirmed both outlets were installed correctly soon after I installed them, though as I said previously, the GFCI I installed but didn't use doesn't give power at all now.

Help???
 

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Discussion Starter #2 (Edited)
Oh, update:

200 amp circuit breaker
copper wires
home built 1950 with minor electrical updates recently (kitchen and bathrooms are grounded, rest of house isn't... I assume that means the kitchen wiring is newer)

Only other electrical problems we've had besides the outlet are minor and threefold:

1: Wind blew off the head of our outdoor lamp one night. Different circuit. Capped off those wires, no problems since. Too snowy for a better fix yet.
2: Two of the dozens of times we've used our treadmill it flipped the circuit breaker in the basement right when the motor kicked on. It's the only thing on the circuit, which is rated at 15amps. Treadmill states it should have minimum 15amps. Figure this isn't necessarily relevant and normal since treadmills can be resource hogs when the engine starts.
3: Poor connection on dishwasher to house (1/8in or less of contact). Solution: strip wires, gave them a better connection and it's working like new.

I only mention this before it sounds like the whole house wiring is screwed up. Only three other issues, which are trivial and one was wind-related. We've redone some other outlets and light switches successfully for nicer switches/outlet faces, nothing else has looked strange. These two kitchen outlets and their circuit are giving me a headache and the only ones causing problems!
 

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sounds like a combination of poor joints and probably over loaded circuits.
Any outlet with a bigger load on it will need to work harder.
so if the wires are back stabbed or poorly done in the first place
then they will run warmer than normal
over time this extra heat just exaserbates the problem
making a bad situation worse.
Start by checking all fixtures and receptles
are all the connections clean shiney and in good order ?
If not clean them up and re do them
or replace the fitting ( they are cheap enough ).
And don't use back stab type connections
as these are well known to cause trouble.
use only the screw type connections.
Check for over loading on your circuits
A kettle and a microwave on the same circuit
means this circuit will be working hard
consider splitting and using two circuits.
consider using afci / gfci type breakers to increase safety.
 
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