I am now firmly grounded...

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Blog entry by David Craig posted 10-23-2011 11:04 AM 1505 reads 0 times favorited 8 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I just had my breaker box upgraded yesterday. I was recently gifted with a used 4 seater hottub and have been busy with a few projects surrounding that (one being my first ever concrete pour of a 7×7 slab. Thank God for good friends…). I needed a 220 installed and my old box was totally maxed.

I have lived in this house for 8 years now and had to undo a good amount of damage of one of the DIYers that lived here previously. I had replaced nearly all the light switches and electric sockets over time and noted that there was always a ground wire in the wiring. However, when the electrician replaced the box, he noticed that every single ground was disconnected at the breaker box. The pevious installer never bothered to tie any of them in. So for the last 8 years, none of my surge protectors were really working and I was at risk using all these relatively high amp machines with cast iron tables…Yikes!

For woodworkers who are establishing their shop in an older home where the history is not so well known, you might want to have an electriciian inspect the wiring. It really isn’t all that expensive (I paid about 700 for a complete box and breaker upgrade and a 220 installation) and can not only save your tools but potentially your life. Now I am firmly grounded, a little safer in the workshop, and have some sufficient space in the box to expand my future electrical needs.


-- There is little that is simple when it comes to making a simple box.

8 comments so far

View degoose's profile


7228 posts in 3317 days

#1 posted 10-23-2011 11:47 AM

I rewired my workshop when I first bought the house… idiot before me had uninsulated wiring…meaning no outer layer… just the coloured coating… and used brass elbows…and black irrigation tubing instead of conduit…and plug in flouros.. wired into the lighting circuit with power points on the metal trusses… very disturbing…
All good now…

-- Don't drink and use power tools @

View racerglen's profile


3112 posts in 2743 days

#2 posted 10-23-2011 12:10 PM

My first house here had a dyi’er as previous owner. He and a buddy replaced the 1955 vintage fuse box with a ‘60’s type small breaker box. Couldn’t figure out how to hook the neutral wire up, so they just left it out at the box.
First cold weather after we bought I couldn’t figure out the crackling noise by the furnace, just off my shop area. Yikes ! The BX cable was live, arcing at the furnace and the junction box on the main structural wall.

-- Glen, B.C. Canada

View BritBoxmaker's profile


4611 posts in 2999 days

#3 posted 10-23-2011 03:16 PM

Glad to hear you’re safe® now. Why do people, who don’t fully understand how things work, mess around with them? Death wish I suppose.

-- Martyn -- Boxologist, Pattern Juggler and Candyman of the visually challenging.

View Murdock's profile


128 posts in 2446 days

#4 posted 10-23-2011 04:52 PM

Glad to hear I am not alone on the previous owner exploits.

In my house every 3 way switch (4 sets) was miss-wired as a simple short, flip the switches the wrong way and you trip the breaker.

He also ran the electric oven with an extension cord, sadly that isn’t the worst part, it was a cord intended for standard household current not an oven.

When I moved in my garage had outlets every 4 feet and a single 220 plug. The outlets were even seemingly color coded making me think I had at least 4 circuits, I thought ‘this is great great lots of power’. All the outlets were on the same circuit and the 220 was another extension cord, hooked up to the same breaker as the oven, the cord was rated for 220 this time however.

Pulled out the 220 in the garage as I am not using it now, but I am still living with 1 circuit, going to be changing that in the spring I think.

Pretty obvious mistakes for him to have lived with for at least a year if I understand correctly when they remodeled. To their credit they did pay for a professional to come in and check everything over, ‘after’ I complained though.

I still find little things here and there that are sort of scarey, I have opened up several walls in areas that I know he did work and have check most everything now.

-- "Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new." - Albert Einstein

View Jim Bertelson's profile

Jim Bertelson

4170 posts in 3127 days

#5 posted 10-23-2011 06:50 PM

We bought a house for my mother-in-law that had zip cord (lamp cord) powering the electric stove. This house had passed inspection! So it didn’t take long to get an electrician in…and do it right.

Glad you got it all rigged right David. As a lot of LJ’s know, I do run some circuits, but have a pretty good idea what I am doing. And ever time I do it, I have a copy of the latest code with me. They are available at Lowe’s, Home Depot, etc. And not too long ago, I had an electrician come in and check all the wiring in the house.

Back in my ham radio days, up in Fairbanks, I had a monster rotating antenna, and a 2kw linear amplifier. Besides the normally grounded 3 wire circuit, hams know that the better the ground the better the signal out. I drove a rod into specially treated soil, and then connected it with a huge welding cable to the radio equipment. I actually have a similar ground here in Anchorage, but it is no longer used because I quit the hobby. When you are transmitting….you better have good grounding, cause that radio frequency current can find its way to everyplace it is not supposed to be, including you!

Have a good soak…...........(-:

-- Jim, Anchorage Alaska

View Grandpa's profile


3259 posts in 2638 days

#6 posted 10-24-2011 02:58 AM

The instructions that come with GFCI receptacles say they will function without a ground. Do I trust them?? Well, I have a little problem there but that it is probably just me. The instructions just tell us that they still function the same. Just what I have read.

View WrathOfSocrus's profile


24 posts in 2415 days

#7 posted 10-24-2011 05:41 AM

Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCI’s) do exactly as their name implies; They interrupt the circuit when it notices a fault to ground. The power coming in has to be equal to the power going out. If the circuit senses as little as a few milliamps of difference between the hot and neutral wires then it shuts off the power to anything downstream from the GFCI.

If you are working in a wet location and the plumbing is properly grounded then current can travel through that path to ground if a fault were to occur. A GFCI can use this without an equipment ground wired to it. Of course you always want to follow instructions with your device and follow code for the particular usage. Unless working with an existing older home you probably will be working with a ground wire.

The problem with equipment grounding and GFCI’s is the fact that most people who don’t understand exactly how GFCI’s work tend to look at them as a device that makes it impossible for them to get shocked, and that couldn’t be further from the truth. As long as the power coming in and going out is equal, the GFCI doesn’t care if the load, going from hot to neutral, is a light bulb, a saw, or a human. I’ve seen a few melted screw drivers from people working on live circuits thinking the GFCI would protect them. Luckily for them they only damaged a screw driver and didn’t burn themselves.

There are a few easy tips to greatly reduce risks when working with electricity. NEVER work on live circuits! If you don’t know how to tell if the power is on or how to shut if off then DEFINITELY seek help from a professional. Another tip is that electricity needs to follow a path of least resistance. If you are careful and use only one hand as much as possible it reduces your risk of allowing a path for electricity to follow. One of the big problems I find with safety grounding is that it is all around you and very easy to come in contact with a good ground while working on a circuit. It is possible, even with proper tagging out and turning off power that someone could come up and turn the power on while you are working (it’s happened to me). Avoiding contact with anything that could be grounded (machines, plumbing, metal conduit and boxes) and using only one hand as much as possible will help avoid electrocution. Leaning any part of your body on something grounded or grabbing hold of a grounded switch/receptacle then screwing down a hot wire means all you have to do is slip a finger onto your screwdriver to have electricity go across your chest and through your arms. Not a fun way to start the work week let me tell you! Probably the biggest safety issue you can address (in my experience) is that you can trust the people around you to NOT turn on the power even after you put a sign on the panel and tape over the breaker.

I like the story about the 3 way switch. I’ve seen it done before. Apparently it is one of those things many people get wrong. If someone just shows you the switches and tries to describe the function it rarely comes across as well. If you see a good diagram of how it works it is much easier to follow.

Unfortunately bad wiring is not just the domain of older homes but new ones as well. Maybe they just do things different here in Florida but I have seen absolutely terrible wiring jobs. I think people here hate cable staples. Crawl spaces and firewalls dividing dwellings with the wires laying on the ground in the dead space going much more than 4 1/2’ without any support. I have found that inspectors generally can’t be bothered doing a full inspection on every house in a cookie cutter subdivision, but if a house is being built or remodeled in an existing neighborhood you can be sure the inspector will leave no stone unturned. Another thing I have noticed with new homes is the wiring layout. Having lights and receptacles on the same circuit and multiple rooms so when you plug in a vacuum all the sudden the lights and TV go off in the next room and you find out your alarm clock on the other side of the house is blinking.

Glad to hear you got it straightened out and the new panel installed. It is probably 10 times harder to fix old wiring than to install it right the first time while the walls are open.There are tricks to getting wires through walls but not many tricks to figuring out what somebody did when they didn’t know how to do it right. People without good supervision or knowledge of residential wiring should leave it to the pro’s.

-- "To do is to learn. A brilliant man once said that... I think he had a beard, too." - Joe Burns, HTML Goodies

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 3078 days

#8 posted 10-25-2011 12:01 AM

glad you found out and had it fixed before you were grounded permently :-)

take care

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