Outlet with 10-3 Romex

Discussion in 'Electrical Forum discussion & Blog' started by mavisb, Nov 29, 2009.

  1. mavisb

    mavisb New Member

    Messages:
    3
    Location:
    Tennessee
    My home was built in 1973--no reason to think that this outlet isn't original. The outlet is in a bedroom with little use.

    We had a nightlight short out in the outlet and smoke up. I assumed that it was a defective Chinese plastic-light issue; the light actually swivels around, breaking the electrical connection except in 90 degree positions. BUT something seems wrong.

    The outlet has 4 Romex wires coming in. One of the Wires is a 10-3 and the others are 10-2. All whites wires were on one side of the outlet and all blacks were on the other. (OK) The copper grounds were attached to ground. (OK) The red of the 10-3, however is pigtailed to a GROUND WIRE. With the circuit shut off a the box, I still receive a hot 120 with one pair of wires--but the intended connections are off.

    It SEEMS to me that a Traveler SHOULD NOT be wired to a Ground Wire. Does ANYONE know of a time that you would do this?

    If no other outlets are effected, I'm inclined to terminate the use of the traveler.

    Any comments would be appreciated.
  2. nukeman

    nukeman Nuclear Engineer

    Messages:
    709
    Location:
    VA
    Only comment I have right now is: are you sure they are 10-3 and 10-2? That seems a bit crazy. I would expect to see 14-2 for a bedroom circuit and possibly 12-2 if it was a long run from the panel or if the electrician wanted to go overkill, but 10-2 seems a bit insane.
  3. Billy_Bob

    Billy_Bob In the Trades

    Messages:
    422
    I have a dumb question... Is that a single gang electrical box?

    If yes and actually 10 ga., how on earth did they cram all that wiring in there? :confused:

    And is the 10-3 with an additional ground wire? Or just 10-3 without ground?

    Any idea where the 10-3 wire goes and what is at the other end?
    Last edited: Nov 29, 2009
  4. mavisb

    mavisb New Member

    Messages:
    3
    Location:
    Tennessee
    Wrong guage noted.

    Correct--I was wrong. The wires are 12-2 & 12-3.

    I must have knocked the wire off a side post when I pulled it out of the wall. Must NOT have been wired to ground because it was evidently the brain circuit of the whole house. I lost power to various circuits upstairs and down.

    I placed 4 whites on one side, 3 remaining blacks on the other [red was pigtailed to a black], left the 2 blacks tied together as were, and all works as was.

    I was concerned initially because the breaker killed the outlet, but not the hot wires in the box. Saw spark coming off the ground and the pigtail black was on that side.

    Anyway, thanks anyway. It might not be wired correctly, but it is as was. No more cheap Chinese nightlights. I appreciate your responses.
  5. nukeman

    nukeman Nuclear Engineer

    Messages:
    709
    Location:
    VA
    So, you are saying there are 4 ROMEX cables... Three 12-2 cables (3 white, 3 black, 3 grounds) and one 12-3 (white, black, red, and ground), correct? It sounds like the box is overfilled. Is this a single gang box?

    I'm guessing the problem was not the nightlight. Due to being so full, there probably was not a good connection to one of the wires and it came off and shorted. Is the box metal? If so, is it grounded?

    If it were me, I would try to move some of the wires so it was not so stuffed. If it is overfilled like I think it is, there could be a fire hazzard there. If it is overfilled, the other option would be to use a larger box (like a 2-gang).
    Last edited: Nov 30, 2009
  6. mavisb

    mavisb New Member

    Messages:
    3
    Location:
    Tennessee
    Thanks nukeman.

    Thanks for your reply. Yes, this was a single gang box with 4 wires--and evidently with one extra hot wire running through from and to parts unknown.

    I appreciate your advice and experience. I'll add that to the list.

    Many thanks.
  7. Alectrician

    Alectrician DIY Senior Member

    Messages:
    689
    Just a thought. 1973 may mean copper clad aluminum, thus the "over sized" wire. If the breaker is 15 amp and the wire is @ 12, it's likely Al wiring. It's hard to tell copper clad from copper by looking but you can definately tell from cutting it/bending it.


    The red wire is for a half switched receptacle.

    The 12/3 comes from/goes to the switch. The 12/2 comes from/goes to the rest of the circuit.
  8. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    26,522
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    wiring

    In many areas it would be unusual for a 1973 house to NOT be wired with aluminum. A hot wire going "somewhere" without an adjacent neutral from the same source/location, would usually be considered a "miswiring" since it would have to then share a neutral with some other circuit, which could overload it.
  9. nukeman

    nukeman Nuclear Engineer

    Messages:
    709
    Location:
    VA
  10. enosez

    enosez Member

    Messages:
    88
    Location:
    Long Island NY
    My first house was built in 73. Had aluminum wiring but copper DWV. Go Figure!:)
  11. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    26,522
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    wire

    When I built my first house in 1974, I used conduit and copper wire, which just about blew the inspectors mind since he had not seen anything like that for many years. In fact, he told my neighbor, who had the keys to let him in, that he would have to bring his boss because he did not know if it was done right.
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