Wiring question

14 Replies

I looked at a house today where the wiring was done in a manner I had never seen before.

It looks like they brought one wire from the breaker to the center of each room (I am looking at this attached to the ceiling in the basement), and ran it into a junction box, then ran wires from that junction box to each of the outlets in the rooms. 

Is this normal,  or even up to code?

It's kind of hard to explain, but it is like they fanned out from the center box to all the outlets.  there is one setup like this for every room except the kitchen.  that is run like I'd expect.  either a single line back to the breaker,  or run from one outlet to the next. 

If this house requires a rewiring,  i'm going to pass,  so want to know before I pay for an inspection

Electrical much like legal is one of those things investors should never attempt to handle themselves.

I agree with James...get a professionals opinion. Junction boxes are only rated for so many of a given wire size per box. So it very likely could be overloaded the way you describe it.


from what you are describing I don't think anything is illegal with the way it is wired. That being said if anybody wanted to finish the basement with a drywall ceiling you would have to leave those boxes accessible according to code. If you had pictures I could tell you for sure. I am an electrician outside of investing just so you know

@Adam McCarty Thanks for the response.  I don't have any pics.  

Would you wire up a house like I described?  this is an old house,  but all the wiring looks new

@James Wise and @Dan Funk

I would never attempt my own electrical work (except replacing fixtures, switches, and outlets).  Just trying to gauge if this is something I should run from,  or if it's ok.  Of course I will get it inspected before making a final decision

I keep it simple and wire to a receptacle opposite to any switch...then daisy chain around and from the last recep to the light switch...that goes up to power the light and daisy chains to any additional fixtures (like recessed lights). There are much more complicated ways to do this that experts are comfortable with...but that's my go to method.

@Tim Lindstrom check with the wiring inspector for the county some laws have changed, you can do some wiring for your own house but not for your rented property. we don't want that responsibility if something happens

Disclaimer: I would get a licensed electrician to look at it. 

That being said, 

1. It sounds like a legitimate way to run receptacles. What probably happened, if the house was old and the wiring looks new, was that the old wiring was probably abandoned in the wall and the only/ easiest way to rewire was to go straight down from each receptacle. Fishing wire otherwise would have been nearly impossible without tearing out sheetrock or worse, lathe. 

2. You do run the risk of overloading your box. In all reality you will never have any problems with overheating wires on one circuit rooms because there is never usually that much load in one bedroom at any given time. If you look at the back of the inside of the box you will probably see a short guide for how many wires is acceptable. It will say 9/14, 8/12, 7/10. Or something like that. That means 9 #14gauge wires can fit, 8 #12gauge, etc. Each individual wire counts as 1 except grounds. They count as one altogether. Each device, whether switch or receptacle counts as 2. 

I know this because I am an electrician until my RE investing replaces my income. Hope this helps. Pictures would be awesome. 

@Steve Smith

 I am not doing this wiring.  It is already done in a property I am interested in potentially purchasing

Thanks @Joseph Druther

 I think you hit it on the head.  looks like they drilled through the base of each wall into the basement and ran the wires directly to each outlet.   So, this might be up to code.

I would agree about how the retired it. They however did it the cheapest way they could. It would have been nice if they had still daisy chained the outlets but the way they did it probably saved wire. 

also if they have a circuit for each room besides the kitchen you should be fine for load. Box full depends on how many wires they have in each box and how big the box is. If the cover goes on the box without really forcing it in you are probably fine on that too

Without seeing the wiring in the house I can infer or assume the following... 1. The house is wired this way because they furred out the walls and could only fit a short 1 gang box on the furring strips. Because this is the case the load or cubic rating of that box is only rated for one wire in and NO wires out hence why it's not daisy chained. 2. The reason they furred out the walls is because it's masonry block or brick behind the plaster or "new drywall". The way to fix this would be to use a brick or masonry chipper or channeler and cut into the surface behind the furring strips to run the wire and daisy chain it. 3. Check with your local electrical inspector and pay them a "rough wire inspection fee" it'll cost you $100, for peace of mind.

This was very common in track homes of the late 70's and into the 80's. This was done for speed. Seeing you only had one wire to make up to the device. And in the ceiling you would be installing a light where multiple wire do not make a differance in make up. I have not seen anyone wire houses this way in a long time. This is because lights and outlets are not tied together anymore for the most part. With arc fault breaker being introduced it is even less common. As for you being concerned about it. I would not be to worried. Like I said this was once a common practice. All of what I have posted is based on what was said in the orginal post by Tim Lindstorm    And my 20+ years as an electrian and electrical contracting. 

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