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Hazards lurk behind the walls....

Posted on April 2, 2012 at 1:33 PM
Hyde Park Chicago ElectricianHyde Park Chicago ElectricianHyde Park Chicago Electrician
We did a full blown rewire a few weeks ago on a vintage condo in Hyde Park. This unit had the double whammy of 1. Not having the wiring updated since the 1920s. (A lot of great innovations in electricity and fire safety since then!) and 2. It had been "flipped." Which means there had been some updates. And they were done wrong. Cheap. Stupid. Dangerous.

Case in point, middle picture. This switch and GFCI outlet in the bathroom had at least 3 issues. First, the white and the vanilla colors on the devices clash terribly. Second, as you can see above and behind the GFCI outlet, there is a BX cable brought into the box. That is the metallic tube shaped affair with the armadillo like coiled metal jacket. This BX is not allowed to be just pulled into the box and left hanging there like that. It is supposed to enter the junction box by way of an approved fitting, i.e. a BX connector. The connector attaches to the end of the cable, and fits tightly with a lock-nut into a knockout hole in the box. This allows for support of the cable AND more importantly provides a grounding connection to the BX, and thus to whatever box or device is at the other end of it. As it was, the light fixture this BX lead to was ungrounded. In a bathroom. Not too smart. The third defect was that they did not take the time to peel the combustible paper wrapping off the wires. What was it Ben Franklin said? " A penny saved is a house burned?"  Well, he flew kites in the rain so he is not my role model for electrical safety. The fourth problem, of course, is the cloth-covered wire that was left in the box. You can see with your own eyes it is falling apart.

The bottom picture shows something we discovered that is even worse. In the bathroom, at least they had the common courtesy to run BX. In the kitchen, they decided to add a light in a pass through area and they just ran some bare wires in the wall. No ground. No protection. NO BRAINS.

And as an added bonus, we discovered that two of the circuits powering the apartment we were rewiring were actually coming off of the neighbor's circuit breaker panel. If you look closely at the top picture, you see all the panels for this condo building. This installation is not original, it dates back to 1950s or early 60s. At that point, the smaller fuse panels were removed and these circuit breaker panels were installed. In so doing, all of the branch circuit conduits that you see coming down from the left and making 90 degree bends were routed into troughs (the metal "trays" with the grey covers that are below and above the circuit breaker boxes)  When they did that, they must have gotten confused, because they ran 2 of my client's circuits into her neighbors panel and vice versa. But with a little investigation and a little diplomacy, (when we had to tell the neighbors we wanted to shut off their power for a while and work on their breaker panel) we were able to get it all straightened out!

All's well that ends well.

Categories: Do it Right the First time, will ya?, Electrical Fires waiting to happen!, Total rewires