Junction box is a fortress

Discussion in 'Electrical Forum discussion & Blog' started by runderwo, Sep 5, 2007.

  1. runderwo

    runderwo New Member

    Jun 26, 2007
    OK, I have this feeling I am missing something obvious.

    Above my garage ceiling there is a double-stacked junction box. I am trying to get into this box to redo the wiring. All the wires are in the top box (there is a switch wire, a supply wire, and two fixture wires). The bottom box is a light fixture box with a fixture attached.

    The way this box is stacked, there are two flathead screws going from the bottom, through the top of the bottom box into the bottom of the top box, where all the wires are. I can reach these screws after pushing through the sheetrock, but they are frozen. Also, instead of using a brace between the studs, whoever installed it nailed it directly to the stud. Of course the nails have worked loose now so the fixture is loose.

    I'm not sure how I'm supposed to access this box. I guess I need to remove the nails, but I can't tell how they even got the nails in there in the first place. The nail heads are just above the "lip" of the bottom box. I can barely see them. None of the ports in the box have been disturbed. Even if the nails were somehow installed through the ports, the wires would have obstructed them. So I believe the nails went in first, then the wires. So it seems that I should remove all the wires first before removing the nails. I also think I should mount the box with a stud brace rather than nails.

    Another possibility is to break loose and remove the two "sandwich" screws and slide the bottom box out of the stack, but I don't believe this is how it was installed, because the sheetrock that is in the way of accessing those screws with a screwdriver was not disturbed at all. This also looks like it would not have been easy to get the nails into the top box if it was just hanging there like that.

    Basically I can't see a logical sequence of how this thing was installed in the first place and that makes me wonder if I am missing the easy way to remove it.

    Here is the funny part (or scary).

    An outdoor fixture was stranded copper nutted to aluminum. The branch wiring is aluminum, but it is nutted unremarkably to copper wire going to one of the fixtures. The fixture that hangs off the box says specifically "Cu or Cu Clad Only", but aluminum wire is wired to it. The garage door opener is plugged into a receptacle on the fixture instead of directly wired, and exceeds the current rating of the fixture. And the fixture's ground screw is not connected, leaving the fixture AND the garage opener without earth.

    This is after unmounting a fixture in another room and having the hot wire nut just fall off as I lowered the fixture... needless to say this place is getting a thorough combing.
  2. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Sep 2, 2004
    Retired Systems engineer for defense industry.
    New England
    Note, a lot of fixtures used tinned copper wire...this will be silver colored, but if you look at it closely, you will see copper in the middle. If it truely is aluminum, then it needs different connectors and anticorrosion grease.
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  4. frenchie

    frenchie Jack of all trades

    Dec 30, 2006
    Brooklyn, NY and Fire Island, NY
    Rubderwo - I'm having a hard time getting a mental image - pictures or a drawing would help a lot.

    Never sure if you mean back of the box, or the front, when you say bottom or top, since they're probably upside-down.

    But if it's how I think it is... the assembly sequence went something like this:

    - box gets nailed to the framing member

    - wire run to it.

    - some of the connection possibly done now. hopefully not. if so, pigtails for the light fixture left hangin into 2nd box

    - second box gets screwed to the 1st box

    -sheetrock & etc

    - light fixture connected & attached

    - power on

    Hope this helps.

    That place sounds scary.
  5. Bob NH

    Bob NH In the Trades

    Oct 20, 2005
    New Hampshire
    The boxes made to permit assembly of a number of singles to make multi-device boxes could be disassembled, the side plate attached to the stud, and reassembled in place. That put the nails in places that are inaccessible after the box is reassembled and in the wall. The boxes made with brackets welded to the box are also attached in ways that are inaccessible after the 'rock is applied.
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