Thread Number: 70256  /  Tag: Other Home Products or Autos
Electrical wiring question...
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Post# 931618   4/10/2017 at 12:27 (433 days old) by MattL (Flushing, MI)        

I'm flipping a '50s ranch and have an issue with the existing wiring.  It still has all the original outlets - non polarized and obviously non grounded.  By code I can install a GFI at the start of the circuit and have all the following outlets protected and use a 3  pin outlet.  All well and good -- except-  all the outlets in the rooms go to one central point -- the ceiling light.  For lack of a better term I call this "spider" wiring, wondering if there is an actual term to describe this method/style of wiring.


I've been scratching my head for the easiest way to rectify this, nothing seems a like an easy fix.   Only option I can come up with is identify the power wire going to the ceiling box, cut it, feed it to the nearest outlet and feed back from that point. 


This house is on a slab, so all the wiring is in the attic, but I'm dealing with 12"+ of blown cellulous insulation.  Anyone come across this issue and solve it?  And just a disclaimer -- I've been wiring and rewiring houses for over 40 years, all my stuff passes inspection and I am totally comfortable working with all aspects of wiring.

Post# 931676 , Reply# 1   4/10/2017 at 18:23 (433 days old) by panthera (Rocky Mountains)        

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Here in Wyoming, you can replace a polarized (two-prong) outlet with a GFCI, but you can't go on from there to other 3-prong outlets.

You can only GFCI every single, solitary one. Sheesh.

I think your idea is a good one - maybe you could just bring out a 12/2 w/Ground as feeder from the distribution panel?


Post# 931681 , Reply# 2   4/10/2017 at 19:00 (433 days old) by MattL (Flushing, MI)        

That is a thought I had, but not my first choice as it is more work and money than I want to spend.  The code I'm following states that the first outlet should be a GFI and the subsequent outlets simply have to be labeled " No equipment Ground", the stickers are usually included with the GFI.


On a semi related note, this is one of those situations where I need to pull myself back a bit.  I tend to want to do too much to a property, and I have to remind myself I'm not going to live there.  I do feel somewhat like a steward since I'm leaving my mark on the property and I want it to stand the test of time. For me it's quite easy to do these things and I know that 98% of folks buying the home will not have the knowledge or money to do this, so I want it right.

Post# 931682 , Reply# 3   4/10/2017 at 19:05 (433 days old) by cadman (Cedar Falls, IA)        

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If that ceiling light returns to a conventional breaker panel, why not a GFCI breaker?

Which does remind me, I'm not sure what the rules are in your area if you touch bedroom wiring, but I know in this area code requires an AFCI breaker for bedrooms with new wiring...if that applies to rework of old, I don't know.

Post# 931737 , Reply# 4   4/10/2017 at 23:25 (433 days old) by MattL (Flushing, MI)        

Only reason not to use GFCI breakers is cost.  I picked up 8 gfi outlets for $28.


Still wondering if that style of wiring had a name.  I find it odd.  But I think I know why it was used in this application.  This is a true brick house, and they attached 1X2" directly to the brick with cement nails.  Then they applied a sheet of foil "insulation" ( I use that term loosely...) then another 1X2" to which they applied the plaster board.  There was no way to run wire through the studs as you normally would.

Post# 931840 , Reply# 5   4/11/2017 at 15:04 (432 days old) by turquoisedude (Ogden & St-Liboire (where??), QC, Canada)        

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I can't help but think it was just 'standard practice' back in the day...  The house where I grew up (where you could definitely NOT plug in a '2' with a '6' - built in 1954) was wired like that as was the first house I ever owned (built in 1950 or 51).  Both buildings were wood frame with a brick veneer so it should have been easy enough to run wires before the plaster walls went up.    

Post# 931855 , Reply# 6   4/11/2017 at 17:59 (432 days old) by CircleW (NE Cincinnati OH area)        

My house was built in '52, and much of the original wiring was configured in this manner. In one instance, there were two circuits in one of the ceiling fixture boxes. When I tore out the old wiring, I found the reason - the neutral for one circuit was picked up from the other in this box. This had to do with a 3-way switch for the basement light at the bottom of the stairs. Doing this saved the electrician from having to run an additional cable.

The new wiring has all receptacles separate from any light fixtures.

Post# 931866 , Reply# 7   4/11/2017 at 18:33 (432 days old) by cfz2882 (Belle Fourche,SD)        
mine too.

my house was built in '52 also and was wired "spidered out" from ceiling light fixtures :)cables are coverd with a tarred fabric braid,but vinyl insulation underneath.A square D "QO" breaker panel was installed in '81 when some additional circuits were added.

Post# 931868 , Reply# 8   4/11/2017 at 18:41 (432 days old) by wayupnorth (On a lake between Bangor and Bar Harbor)        

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I had 3 old apartment houses and they all had old fashioned plug fuses and pretty much one outlet per room. I did upgrade all the wiring to code with GFI's and breaker boxes. Last week on "This Old House" the resident electrician showed how to easily convert outlets in where just a lamp would be plugged in to old wiring and not tear walls and ceilings out. But GFI's are a necessity in the kitchen and bath, where water could be an issue.

Post# 931940 , Reply# 9   4/12/2017 at 01:58 (432 days old) by MattL (Flushing, MI)        

Well I tore into it today.  Interesting results.  I was able to correct 3/4 of the house's original wiring easily.  Actually it was done correctly - 2 circuits in each room ( for the most part...) lights of differing circuits from the outlets in the room and so on.  I had to remove the old shallow nail on boxes to install the gfi outlets but other then some minor plaster issues it went well. Living room and 2 bedrooms all ran through the wall as usual, except for one outlet in the mast br, that will get it's own GFI.


Two problem rooms remain, the 3rd bedroom, all on one circuit, and definite drop down wiring, and the same in the dining room.  Luckily when i gutted the bath it is next to the 3rd bedroom and it will be relatively easy to get to that wiring.  Dining room a bit more challenge but not by much.  It is only a few feet from the panel  so I may just run a new feed to the nearest outlet and feed it from there, killing the original power feed.  I had rewired the kitchen and baths as well as the family room years ago  so they are fine.  Turned out to be much less of an issue than I expected.  And now it's much safer and should be usable for another 60 years.

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