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  1. #1
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    Default The bad practice of back stabbing

    I am talking about the practice of stabbing the hot and neutral wires into the back of the duplex receptacle to achieve a splice. Sometime in the 70's, a lazy worker spliced a cable in my bedroom outlet by back stabbing both into the receptacle instead of using wire nuts to join the cables and pigtail jumpers to the receptacle.
    So today, my wife reports the lights don't work in the bedroom or the closet. Some of the wall outlets were down as well. We had an open neutral situation and of course, the breaker was not tripping. A new receptacle and two wire nuts fixed the problem, but there went a good part of my day.

    Is this practice still allowed?

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  2. #2
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    Default Re: The bad practice of back stabbing

    Quote Originally Posted by John Kogel View Post
    Is this practice still allowed?

    Yes it is, but only for #14 AWG wire. The holes are now made to reject #12 AWG and not allow that size to be inserted.

    John, *ALL* the receptacles in my house (1978) were not only backstabbed but *there were NO screw terminals on the receptacles* - backstabbing was THE ONLY method to connect the receptacles (naturally, I have replaced most of the receptacles, just have not gotten to the rest as yet, and, yes, the receptacles and lights in my office go off and then come back on - the UPS systems on the two computers click in - when I turn my printer on).

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  3. #3
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    Default Re: The bad practice of back stabbing

    This receptacle had screws that were not used. On the load side we have four lights and a clock radio. I've come across some old copper crimped connectors in other rooms, but they were fine, although I replaced them with wire nuts because the tape was coming loose. I'm going to pull some covers and check for more of this stuff.

    The neutral side got hot enough to scorch the steel side plate. I recommend you check yours too, Jerry.

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  4. #4
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    Default Re: The bad practice of back stabbing

    Quote Originally Posted by John Kogel View Post
    The neutral side got hot enough to scorch the steel side plate. I recommend you check yours too, Jerry.

    None of the ones I've replaced so far (which are most of them) had any signs of heating, probably not good enough contact to heat up . Several of the receptacles in the living room simply pulled off the wires when I pulled the receptacle out to replace it, I have no idea how they were making contact to actually still work. I guess the contacts were "touching" the ends of the conductors at least enough to work.

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  5. #5
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    Default Re: The bad practice of back stabbing

    An inspector in our chapter told us this a few years ago.

    He was having trouble with a receptacle outlet; intermittent power. So, he shut off the breaker and pulled the outlet. He found that the stabbed-in wire connections had failed. These particular outlets did not have side wire terminals. When he pulled the wires out, he found that the wires were #12 and the stab holes had been drilled-out to accommodate the wire. For the whole house. Isn't it amazing how much extra work some people will go through to do something wrong?

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  6. #6
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    Default Re: The bad practice of back stabbing

    Quote Originally Posted by Gunnar Alquist View Post
    These particular outlets did not have side wire terminals. When he pulled the wires out, he found that the wires were #12 and the stab holes had been drilled-out to accommodate the wire. For the whole house.

    Gunnar,

    I doubt those holes were drilled out. until a few code cycles ago the backstab holes were for #12 AWG, and I have never seen "a newer" receptacle with backstab holes which did not also have screw terminals, thus the receptacle was likely "an older" receptacle, probably similar to the ones in my house, which were made for #12 AWG, but which the pressure contact inside the receptacle failed and was no longer making a pressure contact against the conductor.

    I really doubt those holes were drilled out, because: 1) there were no screw terminals too; 2) not for the entire house.

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  7. #7
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    Default Re: The bad practice of back stabbing

    The connection method described by FK is more properly called back wiring. A backstab depends on spring tension to hold the conductor in place and make the connection. The backwire has a clamping surface similar to some breaker designs.


  8. #8
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    Default Re: The bad practice of back stabbing

    Quote Originally Posted by fritzkelly View Post
    I just bought a new 20 amp GFCI receptacle. It has backstab holes for #12 but not spring loaded, you insert the wires and tighten down the terminal screw which tightens the device on the bare wire. Seems like a real good connection to me.
    As Jim says below, that is not backstabbing, it is backwiring, you are still inserting the conductors into a screw terminal and tightening the screw down. Backstabbing is where the conductor insulation is stripped back the prescribed distance and then the conductor just pushed into a spring tension contact terminal.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Port View Post
    The connection method described by FK is more properly called back wiring. A backstab depends on spring tension to hold the conductor in place and make the connection. The backwire has a clamping surface similar to some breaker designs.
    Backwiring is a good way to go as it does save some time over the regular screw terminals in that the regular screw terminals need to have the wire wrapped around the screw terminal, all the way around under it, whereas backwiring you just strip the insulation back the correct distance and stick the conductor into the terminal straight, then tighten the terminal screw - no bending or wrapping the conductor around the terminal.

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  9. #9
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    Default Re: The bad practice of back stabbing

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Peck View Post
    I really doubt those holes were drilled out, because: 1) there were no screw terminals too; 2) not for the entire house.
    Jerry,

    You might well be correct. I did not see the outlets, just heard his tale. I had assumed that he knew what he was talking about.

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  10. #10
    Ron Bibler's Avatar
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    Default Re: The bad practice of back stabbing

    Quote Originally Posted by Gunnar Alquist View Post
    Jerry,

    You might well be correct. I did not see the outlets, just heard his tale. I had assumed that he knew what he was talking about.
    ( ASS-U-ME )

    Best

    Ron


  11. #11
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    Default Re: The bad practice of back stabbing

    While reading this post, I found myself humming a tune from yesteryear, albeit subconsciously.

    "They smile in your face, all the time they want to take your place, the backstabbers..."

    Sorry for the distraction.

    Dom.


  12. #12
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    Default Re: The bad practice of back stabbing

    "They smile in your face, all the time they want to take your place, the backstabbers..."


    I'll have that in my head all day
    Thanks Dom

    ' correct a wise man and you gain a friend... correct a fool and he'll bloody your nose'.

  13. #13
    Craig Mulder's Avatar
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    Default Re: The bad practice of back stabbing

    I only use the backwire feature on a GFCI when using stranded wire. I have seen solid wire
    pull out of the backwire. With # 12 wire especially, when the receptacle is being installed and pushed into the box the backwire connection loosens up from the twisting and moving of the wires. So I now wrap around the screw. This seems like a better connection to me.

    Craig


  14. #14
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    Default Re: The bad practice of back stabbing

    Quote Originally Posted by Craig Mulder View Post
    I only use the backwire feature on a GFCI when using stranded wire. I have seen solid wire
    pull out of the backwire. With # 12 wire especially, when the receptacle is being installed and pushed into the box the backwire connection loosens up from the twisting and moving of the wires. So I now wrap around the screw. This seems like a better connection to me.

    Craig
    Which is precisely why they make torque screwdrivers and devices have torque specs for the screws.


  15. #15
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    Default Re: The bad practice of back stabbing

    Quote Originally Posted by Craig Mulder View Post
    I only use the backwire feature on a GFCI when using stranded wire. I have seen solid wire
    pull out of the backwire. With # 12 wire especially, when the receptacle is being installed and pushed into the box the backwire connection loosens up from the twisting and moving of the wires. So I now wrap around the screw. This seems like a better connection to me.

    Craig
    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Kriegh View Post
    Which is precisely why they make torque screwdrivers and devices have torque specs for the screws.

    Yep, if the wire backs out - the wire was *not* properly tightened.

    Not only that but ... using those screw terminals as the wrap-the-conductor-around-the-terminal is likely *not* an approved method for those terminals as those terminals are intended to have the wire backwired.

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  16. #16
    Craig Mulder's Avatar
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    Default Re: The bad practice of back stabbing

    I went and grabbed a GFCI out of my truck and pulled out that annoying little piece of paper out of the box it came in and it said something weird like "instructions" on it. Have never seen this before. Anyway looping around the screw is an approved method on this type of GFCI. As for tightening torque on a backwired receptacle, the screw will strip out before you can get it tight enough to not loosen. Trust me I have tried. (I have been accused of tightening screws too tight.)

    Craig


  17. #17
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    Default Re: The bad practice of back stabbing

    Quote Originally Posted by Craig Mulder View Post
    As for tightening torque on a backwired receptacle, the screw will strip out before you can get it tight enough to not loosen. Trust me I have tried. (I have been accused of tightening screws too tight.)
    I think you missed the highlighted part below:

    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Kriegh View Post
    Which is precisely why they make torque screwdrivers and devices have torque specs for the screws.

    "Tightening" and "torquing" are two entirely different things (well, okay, not "entirely different", nonetheless, though, they are very different things).

    "Tightening" can be to any imagined "feel", however "tight" or "loose" that many be.

    "Torquing" means that it is torqued to a specific setting (okay, unless someone says "I really torqued that baby down.", then that is really just "tightening" and saying that it was "tightened a whole bunch" ).

    If the terminal is properly "torqued" then the conductor should hold, and "over-torquing" IS NOT recommended.

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  18. #18
    Craig Mulder's Avatar
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    Default Re: The bad practice of back stabbing

    "If the terminal is properly "torqued" then the conductor should hold, and "over-torquing" IS NOT recommended."

    I have used torque screwdrivers and the conductors have still come loose. That is why I sidewire. When I leave a house or business I will never say, "Well, You shouldn't have a problem with loose conductors." I have to know they will stay tight. I know it is an accepted and approved practice, but as in alot of other accepted methods, there are better ways.


  19. #19
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    Default Re: The bad practice of back stabbing

    Maybe the wire is falling on the wrong side of the clamp and is not being secured, but the screw still pulls the clamp tight. That is the only way I can see a back wired connection failing to grab the wire and hold it properly.


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