Finding where the electrical line is broken

Hi guys!
About two years ago, we finished (to be precise, we hired a contractor to finish) our breezeway, turning it into a room. After the renovation was complete, we discovered that the outlet on the interior wall, and it's matching outlet on the garage wall, and our porch light post, are now dead.
It's been two years, obviously this isn't a pressing problem, but geez, I'd love to have that porch light back. Any suggestions as to how to figure this out? The renovation consisted of wallboarding over the exterior walls of the breezeway (e,g, we didn't open up the wall where the fault must lie - between the interior and the first exterior (garage) plug. We did take the ceiling down to the studs, but iirc, there was no wiring there.
Can I safely assume that the fault lies in the wall between the breezeway-cum-office, and the garage, rather than anywhere in the wire between the breezeway/office and the front porch?
How do I tackle this?
And, erm... considering it's two years after the fact, and realizing this is a bit late to be asking... is there any risk of fire with the dead wiring in the walls?
As always, thanks for your kind assistance. Help me Obi-Wan! You're my only hope! (Well, my only hope other than calling an electrician and opening up the finished walls. Eek.)
Thanks!
Donna
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
It's probably going to take someone to open all the dead outlets, then adjacent live outlets and junction boxes to determine if something came loose or was cut, etc

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

I don't think you can assume anything. Most likely its a loose connection in some box which would be easy to fix. Take about 10 minutes for an electrician to find it if that is what it is. (you could DIY but if i have to tell you how to proceed, you should probably leave it alone anyway) If you have a cut wire inside a wall someplace, that's another matter, and you'll need an electrician to figure that out anyway. Have you called your contractor? That's where I'd start.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On Mon, 15 Oct 2007 09:05:36 GMT, "Donna"

There is no way any of us can tell without seeing the thing. The source of the power comes from your breaker box. Where is that? Assume it mosdt likely begins at the outlet or light closest toward the direction of the box. Of course that is not always the case, but more than likely.
Shut off the power to the whole house. Then open each outlet and take off the light fixture. You dont need to remove the wires, just pull the outlets and light out of their wall boxes and look for a broken wire. If a wire is off a screw or pulled out of a wirenut, fix it. If not, the remodelers may have cut a wire inside the wall and unless you have electrical experience, you be best calling an electrician.
Of course, you can use a tester and all of that, but it dont sound like you are experinced with wiring and no one wants you to get hurt.
I dont think you have a fire hazzard after 2 years, but anything is possible.
Might you have a relative or neighbor that has done some wiring? You might be able to get the job done without a costly electricians bill.
But do safely open each of those boxes and look for a broken wire. As long as the power is off, it's simple to use a screwdriver and look inside. Each outlet should have a white wire going to the silver screw and a black (or other color except white or green) going to the brass (gold) screw. Then there is a bare or green wire going to the green screw. You COULD have two sets of wires going to one or more of the outlets. That means these wires go to the next outlet in that same line. As for the light fixture, it's most likely has wirenuts. The black and white wires need to match the same color.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On Oct 15, 8:57?am, snipped-for-privacy@notmail.com wrote:

did it EVER work??
its likely a lose wire, thats easily solved. it happens.
if they used backstab devices its much more likely
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

such after the finishing work, it will be a connection issue. First step would be to check the outlets that have failed. If you know the most upstream (first on the circuit from breaker box), check to ensure it isn't a bad outlet. Get a circuit tester and see if the hot wire has juice. If so, then the outlet could be faulty and not only is it non-functional, it is blocking current from travelling to the next outlet on the circuit. If not, then you need to work upstream from there. One of the junction boxes will have a bad connection, you just need to pray it's accessible.
This assumes there are other plugs/lights on the circuit that DO work, and that it isn't a bad circuit breaker in the box. I just figured you checked for that already. Cheers
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Thanks, guys.

There are three outlets (counting the porch light as an "outlet" for the purposes of this post) that have failed. No other outlets in the house are dead (and yes, to the gentleman who asked, they did work, directly before the renovation).
From your (your plural that is.) kind responses, it seems that the three dead outlets are at the end of a circuit, since everything else works. The interruption must begin at the first dead plug (which is in the office). I have, actually, pulled the wiring out and looked at it. Everything that I saw looks to be correctly connected. But as you all have cleverly ascertained, I'm not an electrician. :)

I'll get a circuit tester. The plug next up the line is also in the office, and works fine, so I suspect you've figured out the problem. Something seems to be wrong with the first dead plug, and either there is a loose connection, or there is an interruption of some kind, and either way, it's a pretty simple thing for an electrician to fix. Is that correct?

That is a correct assumption. The circuit breaker is fine, and every other plug in the house works, including the one that connects to the first dead plug box.

Never assume. :) But yes, I did check that. Beyond that point, though, I needed some guidance. Thanks.
Donna
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

I think you are assuming that the easiest way to fix it is find where it is broken and reconnect it.
That will be true if it is just a loose connection in a junction box that is easily accessible.
But I've run into more of these where it was a whole lot simpler just to run a new wire out to where you need it.
also, there are ways to put a signal onto the wire and trace how far it goes. But it takes some equipment and skill.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
unfortunately, you have no way to determine how the daisy chain of wiring runs, but barring a cut cable inside of a closed wall, you want to try to find the first dead outlet on that circuit, or the last live outlet on that circuit. A loose conductor on the input of the former and a loose conductor on the output of the latter

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
It's not necessarily the first dead outlet on the circuit that is the problem. The break (disconnected wire) could easily be in the last live outlet in the chain (power comes in to the outlet, but wire leading out to the first dead one is disconnected. Turn off the breaker that serves the non working outlets. Then check in the boxes of the other outlets that go off with that breaker off. Good chance you'll find a disconnected wire there.
--
Peace,
BobJ

"RBM" <rbm2(remove this)@optonline.net> wrote in message
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Marilyn & Bob wrote:

Chuckle.
Finding the breaker that serves the non working (dead) outlets could be fun.
Then check in the boxes of the other outlets that go

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Unless the breaker box was correctly marked as it should have been.
Don Young

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On Mon, 15 Oct 2007 16:03:02 -0700, jJim McLaughlin

I thought that exact same thing !!!!!!

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On Mon, 15 Oct 2007 17:59:30 GMT, "Donna"

Donna
You did open the first dead outlet and said it looks fine. Thats a good start. However, the problem is likely in the outlet BEFORE the first dead one, unless of course these 3 "outlets" are the only thing on that circuit. If the first one is on your office, it would likely be the outlet closest to this dead one, either to the left or right. I'd open each one of them in that room and check for broken wires, loose screws, etc. Also carefully look at the sides of the outlet (by screws) and be sure nothing looks burnt. There is a small piece of metal between the screws on each outlet (part of the outlet). Be sure they are not burnt in half. Also, what is on the outside of that office wall? Could there be another outlet there?
That first dead outlet should have had 2 white and 2 black wires in the box. One pair comes IN to the box, the other goes OUT to the next outlet. Sometimes (not always), you can see the direction of the wires in the wall. That often helps. There are devices that beep to determine the direction of the wires too, but they are costly.
Keep opening boxes and checking things. Just be safe about it.
I have done wiring for years, and I always find the problem, but even after years of doing it, it sometimes can take some time to find the culprit. Be patient, and just open each box and check. Tighten all wire screws while you are at it.
one other thing, "IF" you have any idea which breaker controlled those outlets, that would really help, because you could turn that one off and determine what still works on that circuit. If there are any labels in your breaker box, that may help.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On Oct 16, 10:51 am, snipped-for-privacy@notmail.com wrote:

It's easy enough to open any box with an outlet. Trouble is there may be an unknown number of boxes that only contain junctions and don't show.
Wire nuts, ugh. Might as well swap them all out for chocolate blocks while you're at it.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Did you know that if you remove all the wirenuts from all wires, all wiring would be female? :)
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Most of the replies are making the assumption that these outlets worked at some time in the past _after_ the renovation. It doesn't sound like that to me.
I'm thinking it's a good possibility that the contractor cut the cable to these outlets because he was going to rewire it to the new work he was doing, and forgot. Or thought it wasn't serving anything, and abandoned it.
Yes, checking the new boxes, and the dead ones, to see if anything is loose or simply not connected is a good idea. If she can figure out where each cable goes, it'd help too.
Unless something obvious is found, however, I think her best bet is to get an electrician in who has a good wire tracer. Otherwise, I very much fear this is going to be a rip off the walls exercise.
Watch out for buried junctions. Code violation, and lead to problems like you're experiencing.
Simply adding a new feed to the abandoned bit would work, _if_ it's abandoned. It could be partially connected, and cross-feeding could cause a lot more problems.
Fire hazard? Probably not.
--
Chris Lewis,

Age and Treachery will Triumph over Youth and Skill
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
clipped

nailing flooring and electricity for one of our circuits went out. It tripped the breaker twice, but the guy wasn't easy to discourage. He did it again, and then the breaker would not come back on. I knew exactly where it occurred the first time, as I was sitting directly below where he was working when the lights went out. The other times we were not aware immediately, but when I went up to talk to him, he showed me where he had been working .. about 8' from the breaker panel. When the electrician came out, he first took the wire for the dead circuit and connected it to another breaker to see if it was the breaker. It didn't work on a good breaker, so he knew it was the wire. He detatched it again and just pulled it out .. the wire had burned through entirely and the insulation had numerous nail nicks. It burned through exactly where the fellow had been working. This is wiring inside a metal conduit. They had a tough time getting new wire through the conduit due to the nails, but they did it. I was pretty impressed with the burned wire and insulation. I kept it as a souveneir.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Related Threads

    HomeOwnersHub.com is a website for homeowners and building and maintenance pros. It is not affiliated with any of the manufacturers or service providers discussed here. All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.