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Old 09-10-2010, 09:07 AM   #1
jh87
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electric box extender

I'm putting up tiles in the kitchen and need help with outlet problems - I hope this is the right forum to post.

The first problem is, I can't seem to pull out the wiring far enough to fit through the box extender, as in , it won't even pull forward far enough to tilt back in. Am I doing something wrong here? I saw a couple how-to videos online, and it seems like the wiring should give easily and extend far enough to pull through the extender. Is there something I can do to fix this myself? Trust me, I pulled as hard as I thought was prudent, because when I tried with the other one, it kind of sparked and freaked me out a little (I did turn everything off though, and used a voltage checker, so I don't know if it's normal to spark when all the power's off. Anyway, the outlet did work when I turned it back on to check.).

The second problem is, the other outlet is a triple one (not sure what it's called) - it has two switches and a regular outlet, the outlet plate/covering measures about 4.5 x 6.5". The guy at Home Depot said they don't have extenders for a triple outlet, so I went to an electric supply store as per his suggestion, but they didn't have anything like that either. And I can't really seem to find anything online. Does this triple box extender not exist? Has anyone run into this problem while tiling, any suggestions? The Home Depot guy and I tried fitting multiple (single) extenders together, but it was just too wide and probably wouldn't fit under the outlet cover.

Also, for both electric boxes, the wiring for the outlets resists being pulled out, while the wiring for the two switches pulls out easily.

Advice really needed! Thanks!
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Old 09-10-2010, 09:34 AM   #2
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If you are getting sparks, the power is not off. I suppose maybe if it is the middle of winter and there's lots of static maybe, but unlikely. Be careful. I love electrical work. If you respect it, it is easy, logical and fun (as opposed to plumbing), but it can really really hurt you.

What kind of wiring system do you have in your house? My knowledge is limited to the more modern stuff. Do you know what wires go to what breakers/fuses? Many newer kitchen are split wired to outlets, meaning that the top plug-in is on a different circuit than the lower one. Turn off just one and you can still get zapped.

I can probably talk you through extending your wiring. The tile pros have some good ideas about using screws and nuts as extenders.
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Old 09-10-2010, 09:38 AM   #3
Dave Taylor
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Hello Jean............

And welcome to Tile Your World forums.

Jean writes:
Quote:
I pulled as hard as I thought was prudent, because when I tried with the other one, it kind of sparked and freaked me out a little (I did turn everything off though, and used a voltage checker, so I don't know if it's normal to spark when all the power's off.
I'm sorry for your electrical trouble Jean.
There is only so far I feel comfortable going offering internet advice remotely and (for me at least) your electrical problem as described exceeds that comfort range.

My advice is.... "let your fingers do the walking" through your local yellow pages. Find a licensed electrician and hire them to try and correct your troublesome outlets.

I do hope this helps.
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Old 09-10-2010, 09:40 AM   #4
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Get yourself a voltage detector, like this one at Amazon

Sparking means you've got a live circuit in there still. You really don't want to work on it until you have disconnected power properly.
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Old 09-10-2010, 09:44 AM   #5
Edthedawg
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Welcome, Jean

As Wendy very correctly notes - if you have any sparking, your wiring is LIVE, and you are placing yourself in great danger.

Please don't hurt yourself!

If you don't have a working AC voltmeter handy, then get yourself a "tick" - it's a little pen-like device that lights up and makes a beeping sound when the plastic tip is placed near a live electrical wire. It's not 100% foolproof (shut-off breakers can "leak" a trickle of voltage sometimes, but they won't ever spark like that) but it's a great first line of defense.

As for getting any wire out of the boxes - are you unscrewing the retaining clamps? Are you pulling the wire straight at you? Or trying to pull up/down along the wire's entry direction? is this modern Romex? Old style BX? Or some kludged up, ancient knob-and-tube 2-wire stuff?

You won't find a 3-gang box extender easily at Homers. Go specialty. I just found one online for $3.50.
http://cableorganizer.com/arlington-...-extender.html

Good luck on your projects! be safe
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Old 09-10-2010, 10:16 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jean
(I did turn everything off though, and used a voltage checker, so I don't know if it's normal to spark when all the power's off.
Quote:
it has two switches and a regular outlet,
Be safe, If you really had everything off as mentioned you have a bigger issue but Kitchen? Bath? Most likely might be 2 seperate circuits, the outlet on a seperate gfi circuit and the switches,if just lights or something, a seperate one.

Triple extender as mentioned earlier is easiest/best

Just curious, did the home depot guy actully just line up 3 single gang boxes or was he at least thinking of the metal single gang with removable side plates that can be combined to form a normally sized triple?
While that should fit to replace any normal size box, it's a whole lot of work to rewire versus an extender made for the situation.
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Old 09-10-2010, 11:22 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wendy
Many newer kitchen are split wired to outlets, meaning that the top plug-in is on a different circuit than the lower one. Turn off just one and you can still get zapped.
Thankfully, and only very, very recently, these circuits now require simultaneous disconnect of a double pole breaker under national code.

If you have an older one make sure you have both off of course, but if you still get sparks (edit it would be rare and the last thing I 'd look for in your case) but if they are off, (edit as you did say you turned everything off and tested) you most likely have an improperly wired multi wire circuit where someone put both circuits on the same phase in the panel (now also prevented by the double pole requirement) and it actually can lead to a neutral to ground path shock that normal use of a meter won't find. If that's the case, I'd strongly suggest you call an electrician.

Last edited by interlodge; 09-10-2010 at 12:06 PM.
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Old 09-10-2010, 12:43 PM   #8
Brian in San Diego
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim
You most likely have an improperly wired multi wire circuit where someone put both circuits on the same phase in the panel (now also prevented by the double pole requirement) and it actually can lead to a neutral to ground path shock that normal use of a meter won't find.
Could you provide a sketch of what you are referring to here? Exactly how it would be wired in the scenario you are suggesting and the way it should be wired if done properly? Where does the double pole requirement come into play?
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Old 09-10-2010, 04:09 PM   #9
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Electical wiring

NEVER try to stretch electric cable of any kind. If there is not enough cable length tucked in the box , use a wire nut and add a short extension of the same size and color wire.

Kitchen outlets are required to be 20 Amp and most have to be Ground Fault Interrupted.
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Old 09-11-2010, 12:26 AM   #10
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I think what he was referring to is that both circuits may be on the same bus bar in the panel as opposed to double pole breakers which have a hot from each bus bar. And if the neutrals were joined together elsewhere like in the 3 gang box, a neutral - ground situation could be the source of the shock with one of the breakers off, while the other is still energized. Some tick tracers only alarm on the hot wire and won't alert that the neutral wires are still energized from the other circuit.
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Old 09-11-2010, 05:55 PM   #11
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There are numerous ways to wire things up. A split circuit could use a 12-3, use the netural as common to two indivdual circuits. You'd do this at a receptacle by breaking the hot tab between the outlets, putting the neutral on the proper side, and then use one hot on the top, and the second hot on the bottom. Since they are (supposed to be) on opposite legs of the power panel, the neutral current would cancel out and never exceed what one leg's supply was pulling. This would have a 220vac breaker (ganged). Both halves of the breaker are supposed to be tied together, but may not be if they cheated. In that 3-gang box, there could have been numerous supplies, maybe as many as five different ones (two each for each receptabcle, and one on the switch). You really have to be careful when poking around to ensure you turned off ALL of the power.

Current codes call for 6" of wire, but that doesn't happen as often as it should, and since it is a kitchen, it should be 12g or higher. That means you really should use a good sized box (i.e., deeper), as stuffing that thick, stiff stuff back into the box is a pain, especially if it is a multi-gang one! Whoever installed the switches and receptacles might have cut off the excess to make it easier to stuff back into the box, or it may never have had the length current code wants.
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Old 09-11-2010, 08:19 PM   #12
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Interesting thread. I wonder if the OP will come back and read it.

And for any DIYers out there, I seriously recommend making a detailed circuit diagram of any home you buy. A basic one only takes about an hour with a voltage tester. Then you'll KNOW which breaker(s) to flip to do work. If you plan to get into the walls at some point it's worth while to trace the path of all your circuits, but it's a bit of a pain. I did it by disconnecting the line in outlet or switch boxes one at a time. The people who wired my house were a bit creative at times and I couldn't always predict where on the circuit a box would be.
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