The biggest problems, actually, are with 14-gauge wire in backstab
connections. And the Code *doesn't* allow that any more, precisely because of
problems such as you are seeing. (The installation in your home probably did
meet Code at the time it was done.) 12-gauge wire is still permitted to be
backstabbed (but screws are much, much better).
Doug Miller (alphageek at milmac dot com)
Good wiring techniques call for series connected devices to be
pigtailed to the primary wires. Shame on all you experts for not
mentioning this. The reason is obvious: when a replacement or repair
is necessary it can be done in mere minutes with greater reliability
it is claimed. Through wiring (using both screws on the side of a
receptacle, for example), is the mark of an amateur. HTH
This is what I was taught and what always intuitively seemed right,
never let the device be the load run. A healthy plier twist and wire
nut will carry the load run and the device should simply tap that. I
think the problem is that Romex is so much thicker than regular wiring
with conduit that it quickly takes up all the room in the box, so use
of a deeper box would be needed to do pigtails. With regular wire in
conduit center stripping a 1 inch area then looping around the screw
with no cutting of the load run is easier, common, and very dependable
as it has no effect downstream even if a screw comes loose. You cant
center strip Romex because of the way the outer jacket must enter/exit
the box and be anchored, so it's cut, cut, cut in every box.
Though it doesn't really matter for me, I am curious, and always
willing to learn. How did he connect 8? With 4 wires?
Also, I take it from this and an earlier post that referenced romex
wiring, that romex is what I'm dealing with, and pigtailed is the same
as what Rick referred to as "working with plain wire in conduit"?
Chicago and it's suburbs are about the only place where conduit is
still required for residential. Romex is a term like Xerox, a brand
name that became a generic name for something. Romex wire having its
own outer jacket so it can be used without roughing in a house with
steel conduit first. Pigtailing is a technique of twisting a smaller
wire onto the load run using a wire nut, that small pig tail then goes
to the device (outlet) leaving the load run with a more dependable
wire nutted connection no longer dependent upon the device connection
failing. Similar to a "T" where the load run is the top of the T and
the pigtail is the vertical part. Bottom line is that with pigtailing
every device in the run does not become a "carrier" for the entire
Originally, this box just held a switch for the attic light. Since
this box is located almost directly above the panel, there were 2
pieces of Romex present.
Then, a previous owner has an outside receptacle added. This was wired
to this switch box.
Finally, the new neighbor added some wiring in the room below (a
garage converted to a room), and ran this to that box. He changed the
box to a 2-gang one and put in a receptacle there, and used it to join
all those wires (instead of going out and looking for a couple of big
If you notice how the outlet is connected to the box, you can understand
how plugging and unplugging a plug into the outlet can flex the outlet
in and out, which then can loosen, or break, a back stabbed wire.
Thanks. Yeah, I understand the initial one; what had me stumped was
the fact that the other outlet hadn't been used in years. And also,
that it had been working, apparently, prior to me dealing with this
other one, and yet upon dealing with the other one, apparently a
connection came loose in this one such that my testing it
re-established the connection. It was behind a dresser, so the only
thing I could think of was the power "surge" and drop from turning the
breaker on-and-off had affected it. Wasn't sure if that was possible
or not, so hence my stumped response.
Thanks again everyone for the help!
No, more likely something was mechanically weak internally in the
other outlet and the simple act of plugging in a tester broke it.
That means it's time to replace it.
Yup, replace 'em all. Just do it. You'll sleep better. at a
minimum, test every outlet in the house and replace all that have
problems, but I'd just do all of them while you're in the groove.
(total hypocrite, since I still have to do about half of the ones in
Probably just beating a dead horse here, but just to clarify and try
to understand it, if there was something mechanically weak or wrong
prior to testing it, why was it not causing a problem the day before
when the other was acting up? This new, previously "unused" outlet was
upline from the one I was working on, but not causing a problem until
after I had worked on the downline one. Anyway, not important, but
just trying to see if there's something else to learn from this
Thanks; I'm thinking of maybe doing one room per day. But also, doing
a whole house, even at only a couple dollars per outlet/switch, will
be over a hundred dollars. I'm guessing close to 50 combined? At that
volume, we'll have to see how "high quality" I want to go! Or would
simply re-wiring all of them be enough. It's not like we're
continually plugging and unplugging things into these outlets. Anyway,
See if you have a real electrical supply house that will sell you receps
and switches in quantity. The one around here is Dominion, but I think
they only have locations in Virginia. If you go with the cheapies, even
a "contractor pack" of 10 at the Home Despot will only run you $10-15.
replace "roosters" with "cox" to reply.
I would guess that the plastic that holds the metal bits in place got
brittle from age and possibly heat and the simple act of plugging in a
little tester or sticking your Fluke's probe in there caused it to crack
and no longer hold the metal bits firmly in place. But that is just a
guess. I have however removed plenty of receps that have the thin bit
below the ground hole busted out so it seems like a reasonable guess.
replace "roosters" with "cox" to reply.
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