Bad wiring

Last Edited By Krjb Donovan
Last Updated: Mar 11, 2014 05:21 PM GMT

Question

I just bought a foreclosed home that has a basement (rare in my central California area). The basement was partially refinished with electrical running through and some walls put up. It turns out most of the electrical was a poor DIY job. Upstairs is fine for the most part except the outlet where I'm to plug in my stove doesn't work and I've been using an extension cord.

I had a friend come over. Together we found that many of the outlets don't work. Some don't have any ground. And a couple outlets were 220volts. He switched a couple wires in the breaker and the outlets were back to 120v. However, when I plugged in my hair dryer to test it out, instead of the hair dryer turning on, I felt some vibrations and each of these outlets turned on a ceiling fan in another room. He said that this wiring can be linked to the bad outlet upstairs.

Any advice on how to go about this? He said I would have to backtrack it from the outlets, to the ceiling fan, to the stove, and then to the breaker.

I'm a young single woman who just bought the house on my own, so I don't have much money right now to hire an electrician for what appears to be a large job. Would it be easier/cheaper to take out all the current wiring from the basement and start from scratch somehow? Any other advise on how to tackle this problem?

Thank you!

Answer

I don't know what kind of stove you have, but extension cords are not a good idea for appliances that use a lot of power. Make sure that the cord is not getting warm or hot.

As far as the wiring, I think you are going to have to start from scratch. I think it would drive you crazy trying to figure out what is wrong. Hopefully it won't be too much of a problem replacing the wires in the walls if the basement is partially finished. Even if you hire someone, the cost of trying to figure out what was done will be a lot because of time involved tracing everything.

Somehow the outlet with the hairdryer is in series with the ceiling fan. That happens when someone tries to wire an outlet to a switch that has only one white and one black wire. There is no neutral there. It is called a switch loop if you want to look it up.

If you do try to troubleshoot, make sure if the wire says 14 gauge (14-2 or 14-3) that the breaker is 15 amps only. If the wire is 12 gauge then the breaker can be either 15 or 20 amps as long as all of the wire is 12.

The wiring is not complicated. At the main breaker panel, the black wire should go to the breaker and white and ground wire to the neutral bar. At each outlet, the black wires go on the brass terminals, the white wires on the silver terminal. The bare ground wires on the green screws. It just loops from outlet to outlet.

The best thing to do is to buy a basic wiring book at any home center. It will give you the basics. Try fixing things a little at a time, starting where you need the power.

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