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Thread: GFCIs help

  1. #1
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    Default GFCIs help

    Did an inspection yesterday on 1993 house. All of the GFCIs to the bathrooms (2), the garage and the exterior were wired to the service panel. One of the receptacles in the kitchen next to the sink was tripped. Five receptacles including that one around the sink area tripped also. These were thought to trip back to the panel but they did not. No where in the house and I spent a great deal of time looking is there is GFCI receptacle. The panel is labeled for the kitchen GFCIs but there is not a GFCI breaker there. New stylist receptacles were installed on the splash back of the counter. All work except the two at the sink. Any help here. The owner is upset because the power is out to five of his receptacles. Could it be in the wiring of the new receptacles?

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  2. #2
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    Default Re: GFCIs help

    Quote Originally Posted by JIM MURPHY View Post
    Did an inspection yesterday on 1993 house. All of the GFCIs to the bathrooms (2), the garage and the exterior were wired to the service panel. One of the receptacles in the kitchen next to the sink was tripped. Five receptacles including that one around the sink area tripped also. These were thought to trip back to the panel but they did not. No where in the house and I spent a great deal of time looking is there is GFCI receptacle. The panel is labeled for the kitchen GFCIs but there is not a GFCI breaker there. New stylist receptacles were installed on the splash back of the counter. All work except the two at the sink. Any help here. The owner is upset because the power is out to five of his receptacles. Could it be in the wiring of the new receptacles?
    Jim

    It's a little hard to follow your post but in summary you have 5 receptacles (none are gfci) that are not functional. Two that are not working are next to the sink and the other 3 are elsewhere. There are no gfci circuit breakers in the service panel and no other panelboards in the house. New receptacles were recently installed in the kitchen.

    Is that a correct description?

    Questions

    1.) Are the working receptacles on the kitchen counter top gfci protected?
    2.) Did you test all 5 non-working receptacles to see if power was present at any one of them ? A receptacle can show power but not work if an open neutral exists.
    3.) New receptacles serving the counter top suggest a kitchen remodel ... yes or no?
    4.) If remodel or recently installed receptacles did this problem coincide with that work?


    Aside from a tripped gfci or circuit breaker removing power from those receptacles leaves you with a wiring problem.

    Could be the owner needs to bring in an electrician if you can't find a tripped breaker or gfci...or call back the contractor that installed any recent wiring or those new designer receptacles

    Last edited by Roger Frazee; 11-17-2010 at 08:49 AM.

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    Default Re: GFCIs help

    One of the receptacles in the kitchen next to the sink was tripped.
    Do you mean it is a GFCI type receptacle or do you mean it was not working? Do you mean it was already not working or do you mean it 'tripped' when you tested it?

    As far as the seller is concerned, if his renovated wiring had been done correctly, this situation would not have occurred. It is his problem, and you have brought it to his and your client's attention. If a wire has come loose from your action, you did not cause the failure, you found a screwup, IMO.

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    Default Re: GFCIs help

    I quess this was a little confusing so let's try again. The house had protected GFI receptacles on the exterior, the garage and the two bathrooms wired to a GFI breaker in the service panel. The kitchen had two receptacles next to the sink, two on an island near the sink and one receptacle on the otherside of the sink. All of which should be GFIs. I tripped one of them and all five went out telling me that they were wired in sequence. I could find where they tripped to. I checked every outlet in the house, garage and exterior and there were no GFI receptacles anywhere. The panel has a breaker labeled kitchen GFI but it is a standard breaker and not a GFI breaker. I thought maybe they were tripped to the GFI breaker in the panel because I thought I heard the click from the kitchen. But that was not true or at least I can not retrip the outlets back from there. New receptacles were installed on the counter where two of the five receptacles are. Could one of those have been wired for a GFI receptacle and a regular GFI protected receptacle was installed? Please give some advise. The homeowner thinks I have screwed things up!


  5. #5

    Default Re: GFCIs help

    Hi Jim,

    If you tripped a GFCI with your tester, and power was cut to the 5 receptacles, then there is a tripped GFCI somewhere. Since there is no kitchen GFCI breaker, that tells me you just have not found the GFCI protecting these 5 receptacles. It's frustrating when GFCI receptacles are difficult to find, because they can be placed anywhere. Good luck....


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    Default Re: GFCIs help

    Yes that was much less confusing. I also agree with Brandon if you plugged your tester into a normal receptacle on the kitchen counter top to see if there was gfci protection and the receptacles lost power then you were successful in tripping the gfci that protects those receptacles.

    You just haven't found it. Sounds like you heard it trip so gotta be close there somewhere. Keep looking and have the owner look if he will.

    Some places to look are under the sink, basement, inside a cabinet or sometimes a gfci is located very close to the service panel


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    Default Re: GFCIs help

    Look on the wall of the attached garage and under the kitchen counter and behind the fridge. I agree that it sounds like the GFCI tripped as it should but locating it is the problem. Yes, I would be po'ed if I was the owner but it is his issue to correct since you simply discovered a hidden problem.

    Last edited by Jim Luttrall; 11-17-2010 at 03:55 PM.
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    Default Re: GFCIs help

    There may be a dead front gfci line side of these receptacles. There might also be a combination device other than a gfci receptacle, such as a combination switch & gfci. IOW don't limit yourself to look at only receptacles. There might also be a combination gfci recceptacle, switch, or a deadfront GFCI line side of these receptacles in a cabinet, or behind an appliance such as hiding behind a countertop microwave, the refrigerator, or possibly even under the sink in the sink cabinet (sometimes next to the non-gfci outlet for a disposal, insty-hot water, etc.. Also check up at the bottom side of the over the counter/over refrigerator, etc. cabinets behind a light rail, etc. Sometimes you'll find a receptacle mounted there for an articulating radio, tv, or mounted small appliances.


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    Default Re: GFCIs help

    Gentlemen, I have checked all of the places you mentioned. Why would one be present if everything else was wired to the panel? Even went to the trouble of looking at each receptacle of the five.. My question again is whether the new receptacles installed could effect the GFIs. Not sure what was there before but let's assume it was a GFI receptacle and was replaced with a GFI protected receptacle. What difference would that mean?


  10. #10

    Default Re: GFCIs help

    My question again is whether the new receptacles installed could effect the GFIs.
    Not really. They worked prior to you tripping something-- just gotta find what got tripped.

    Not sure what was there before but let's assume it was a GFI breaker and was replaced with a GFI protected receptacle. What difference would that mean?
    I changed the word from receptacle to breaker in your above sentence (assuming that's what you meant). If a GFCI breaker was removed, and a GFCI receptacle (or deadfront GFCI) was added, then the entire circuit will most likely not be GFCI protected any longer. The only receptacles required to be protected in a kitchen are ones serving the counter. The catch is that the new GFCI installed on the line side of the circuit that provides power to those receptacles could be installed anywhere..... Hope this helps.


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    Default Re: GFCIs help

    Quote Originally Posted by JIM MURPHY View Post
    Gentlemen, I have checked all of the places you mentioned. Why would one be present if everything else was wired to the panel? Even went to the trouble of looking at each receptacle of the five.. My question again is whether the new receptacles installed could effect the GFIs. Not sure what was there before but let's assume it was a GFI receptacle and was replaced with a GFI protected receptacle. What difference would that mean?
    ???
    These now non-working countertop receptacles may be GFCI protected by being supplied via the load side of a gfci device, such as a dead front gfci, a combination gfci receptacle, etc.

    Not sure what you mean that "everything else was wired to the panel"?!?

    You said there was one breaker supplying these receptacles, not five individual circuits one for each...

    Wonder if the breaker itself is tripped from a short, etc. did you cycle it on and off? Otherwise not sure why your asking the follow up question(s) or what you mean by them , could you be a bit clearer please? You don't have to use a gfci receptacle for each outlet - you can route power through the gfci receptacle and supply the remaining via the load side.

    If this is an older home (pre mid-60s) perhaps there isn't a proper 3-wire type circuit. In that case the "regular" receptacles should have been labeled "gfci protected, no equipment ground". Is that what you're asking? Or are you asking about wiring errors with the newest vintage of gfci receptacles which once tripped, will not reset or will not provide power load side, in the event of a wiring error? or those earlier gfci receptacles which if wired incorrectly could still provide power to the face of the receptacle after being reset just not load side?

    Last edited by H.G. Watson, Sr.; 11-17-2010 at 04:44 PM.

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    Default Re: GFCIs help

    If I can reduce the problem down to its minimalist and condensed statement, you have:
    a) Several receptacles which were working (were energized) prior to testing for GFCI protection with a GFCI tester.
    b) The receptacles do not need to be GFCI receptacles, they simply need to have GFCI protection.
    c) If one GFCI is wired through another GFCI ... BOTH may trip when a downstream receptacle is tested for GFCI protection, and while the GFCI near you (say, in the kitchen) may trip, the other GFCI upstream (i.e., somewhere else) that the receptacles in the kitchen were wired through may also trip.

    You simply may need to find the other GFCI which tripped.

    And, if that GFCI is on some circuit other than the kitchen circuits, then it needs to be re-wired off the kitchen circuit (there are some exceptions to this, but no many).

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    Default Re: GFCIs help

    Quote Originally Posted by JIM MURPHY View Post
    Gentlemen, I have checked all of the places you mentioned. Why would one be present if everything else was wired to the panel? Even went to the trouble of looking at each receptacle of the five.. My question again is whether the new receptacles installed could effect the GFIs. Not sure what was there before but let's assume it was a GFI receptacle and was replaced with a GFI protected receptacle. What difference would that mean?
    Jim

    Adding to Jerry's comments

    You stated the receptacles worked before you used your tester. Now they do not work. The receptacles cannot effect a gfci that is protecting them whether it be a gfci breaker or other types mentioned. The way they are wired can effect a gfci device.

    Why would one be present if everything else was wired to the panel?
    It's quite common to have a mix of gfci protection. And I am assuming you mean the other circuits requiring gfci protection are protected by gfci breakers when you say ...' wired back to the panel ' .

    But you are saying you cannot find any gfci devices that are protecting these 5 receptacles in the kitchen.

    Not sure what was there before but let's assume it was a GFI receptacle and was replaced with a GFI protected receptacle. What difference would that mean?
    No effect however it likely would mean that where ever the new gfci is that is protecting those 5 kitchen receptacles is a mystery ....

    You said the breaker in the panel is shown as protecting the kitchen gfci circuit ... that tells me there is a gfci somewhere ...no?

    Jim focus..... ...

    Those receptacles are required to have gfci protection. The rest of the house appears to be in compliance with gfci protection where it is needed. Odds are the kitchen receptacles are also properly protected but by a different method/device as mentioned by HG and others.

    Assuming these kitchen receptacles worked ..then you tested...then they no longer work would indicate one of several things based on your information.

    Something failed with a wiring connection when you plugged in your tester ....not likely.

    The gfci device that has tripped from your testing is in a very unusual place and you cannot find it ... very likely

    What Jerry said in his reply

    Or you are overlooking a possible circuit breaker in the panel that has tripped.

    And last but not least the homeowner is withholding valuable information about who did the wiring....

    Last edited by Roger Frazee; 11-17-2010 at 06:12 PM.

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    Default Re: GFCIs help

    I have found GFCI devices in the weirdest places. In cabinets, behind drawers, behind appliances, in an attic, all sorts of places. As others have said, you probably have some cleverly hidden device that needs to be found.

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    Default Re: GFCIs help

    All of the GFI protected receptacles minus the ones in the kitchen are protected by a breaker GFCI. I tripper one of the five breakers in the kitchen and they are went dead. I have been from one side to the other looking for a GFCI breaker that tripped but i am now under the impression that something is wired wrong. I am thinking that one of the new receptacles was perhaps wired for a GFCI receptacle and then rewired for a protected receptacle but not wired to a GFCI. Is that possible?


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    Default Re: GFCIs help

    I tripped one of the five breakers in the kitchen and they are went dead. I have been from one side to the other looking for a GFCI breaker that tripped but i am now under the impression that something is wired wrong. I am thinking that one of the new receptacles was perhaps wired for a GFCI receptacle and then rewired for a protected receptacle but not wired to a GFCI. Is that possible?
    Not following Jim

    What do you mean rewired for a 'protected' receptacle but not wired to a gfci ??

    You have a few typos in your reply but your looking for a gfci device other than a breaker but I think you know that.

    I am thinking that one of the new receptacles was perhaps wired for a GFCI receptacle and then rewired for a protected receptacle but not wired to a GFCI. Is that possible?
    This doesn't make any sense Jim


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    Default Re: GFCIs help

    Quote Originally Posted by JIM MURPHY View Post
    All of the GFI protected receptacles minus the ones in the kitchen are protected by a breaker GFCI. I tripper one of the five breakers in the kitchen and they are went dead. I have been from one side to the other looking for a GFCI breaker that tripped but i am now under the impression that something is wired wrong. I am thinking that one of the new receptacles was perhaps wired for a GFCI receptacle and then rewired for a protected receptacle but not wired to a GFCI. Is that possible?
    Huh??? Do you mean you plugged in your three light tester into one of the five duplex receptacles in the kitchen?

    How old is the home JIM MURPHY? Are the circuits wired as three-wire or MWBCs? There should be two small appliance circuits for the kichen - two. Depending on the age of the home - there may not be a ecg. If you plugged in a 3-light tester and "trippered" or tested for a GF you may have created a problem. I suppose an arc might have been possible that could have burnt the neutral connection. Somehow with the terminology bandied about I don't think it would be prudent to describe investigating. Hopefully you have a relationship with a local electrician, now is likely the time to call upon him/her I suggest you attend while the electirican is present. You might want to discuss this situation with your insurance agent and/or underwriter.

    Anything is possible, but something happened when you "trippered" however you accomplished that "trippering".

    I'm having some difficulty with your latest statements and question(s). I suspect it might be time for an electrician to be called, and a CE class for you.

    Line side is the power from the panel side. Load side is carrying on to the next outlet. You make no mention if the five receptacles are pigtailed or feed-through (shouldn't be feed-through neutral).

    Trace the circuit path from the panel to the kitchen receptacles - some where between the panel (where the circuit breakers are) and the first receptacle (outlet) there should be a device.


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    Default Re: GFCIs help

    Quote Originally Posted by JIM MURPHY View Post
    I tripped one of the five breakers in the kitchen and they all went dead. I have been from one side to the other looking for a GFCI breaker that tripped but i am now under the impression that something is wired wrong.
    This part is possible.
    Quote Originally Posted by JIM MURPHY View Post
    I am thinking that one of the new receptacles was perhaps wired for a GFCI receptacle and then rewired for a protected receptacle but not wired to a GFCI. Is that possible?
    This is also possible, but then there would be no tripping when you pushed your tester into it. If this was done, the outlet would simply perform as a standard outlet

    I would expect that if, in 1993, those outlets had GFCI protection, it would have been in the form of a GFCI breaker. Apparently, that GFCI breaker has been replaced by a standard (20 amp?) breaker. Is this correct?

    A wire nut may have come loose when you tried to test for GFCI protection.

    If a GFCI definitely snapped off for the test button, we are back to where is it? and the person who installed the thing knows where it is. Plus the owner needs to know where it is.

    Last edited by John Kogel; 11-17-2010 at 08:45 PM. Reason: differentiating between GFCI breaker and GFCI receptacle
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    Default Re: GFCIs help

    JIM

    I put together a diagram for you to look at... what you have is going to be similiar I think.

    Your going to be wired back to the panel as you say to a circuit breaker then downstream a gfci receptacle or some other type of gfci device ( see Hg's post) will be the first on the circuit. Then terminations will be made to the load terminals of the gfci and then wiring will continue on to the 5 receptacles down stream of it. All the downstream receptacles are now protected. In the diagram I'm showing those with a 'P'.



    Last edited by Roger Frazee; 11-17-2010 at 08:07 PM.

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    Default Re: GFCIs help

    1993 would have been gfci protected countertop and island receptacles. If JIM MURPHY is asking could the breaker originally have been a gfci and since replaced with a non gfci breaker, sure that's possible. But something has "tripped" or opened apparently. A short or arc causing a breaker to trip (pop) can sound just like a gfci receptacle trip - it depends where you're at in relation to what is moving.


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    Default Re: GFCIs help

    More than one GFCI receptacle wired as a master device on a circuit? I've run into that one a number of time in obvious DIY improvements.

    The above statements are expressed solely as my opinion and in all probability will conflict with someone else's.
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    Default Re: GFCIs help

    Quote Originally Posted by John Kogel View Post
    In 1993, there were most likely no GFCI receptacles in the kitchen, and it is possible that there are none now. A wire nut may have come loose when you tried to test for GFCI protection.
    John, OP said the outlet tested was next to the sink. GFCI's have been required within 6' of sinks since 1987.

    I think he heard the GFCI trip. Could be there was a kitchen re-model, and it is behind a new cabinet! Might take a signal tracer to find it.

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  23. #23
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    Default Re: GFCIs help

    Jim

    I agree with Hg .. time for an electrician but I do not see why it is on your shoulders to hire one. If it isn't a breaker and it isn't a gfci somewhere this would mean that it is a wiring problem.

    If someone switched out a gfci breaker for a non gfci breaker then there likely was an existing fault that was tripping the gfci breaker. They changed it out to a non-gfci breaker to mask the fault and keep the receptacles in the kitchen powered.

    Could be the owner is not telling you this bit of information.

    But if this is the case it still does not answer why when you tested the kitchen receptacle did you lose power ...? Maybe a problem in that receptacle box causing a connection failure when you plugged the tester into it.

    If you absolutely cannot find a gfci device then I suspect someone has tampered/worked with this kitchen branch circuit and the loss of power to those receptacles doesn't rest with you.


  24. #24

    Default Re: GFCIs help

    These 2 sentences lead me to believe you just can't find a tripped GFCI:

    I tripped one of them and all five went out telling me that they were wired in sequence.
    I thought I heard the click from the kitchen.
    Jim,

    We are all here to learn and feed off of each other, and are all (possibly minus a couple) weak in one or more areas. Based on your questions, I recommend taking H.G.'s advice.


  25. #25

    Default Re: GFCIs help

    If you absolutely cannot find a gfci device then I suspect someone has tampered/worked with this kitchen branch circuit and the loss of power to those receptacles doesn't rest with you.
    About 6 months ago, I did a one year warranty inspection on a house I had already inspected prior to purchase. The client told me that she thought that I had missed several dead receptacles serving the kitchen counter areas (half of all of the counter area receptacles were dead). I told her that this was pretty much impossible, as I test every single receptacle in a home-- since it was new construction, there were no hidden ones.

    The dead receptacles bugged me enough for me to open things up instead of just saying to "have the builder figure it out and fix it". I found that the electrician had never tightened one of the screws securing an ungrounded conductor to the receptacle.

    So it's possible that something happened at the exact moment that you plugged your tester in, but unlikely.


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    Default Re: GFCIs help

    Quote Originally Posted by Vern Heiler View Post
    John, OP said the outlet tested was next to the sink. GFCI's have been required within 6' of sinks since 1987.
    Thanks, Vern, HG has already clued me in. (In Canada, not before 2006! What, and nobody died???)
    My point, though, was that they used GFCI breakers in the panel, not wall receptacles in those days.
    Quote Originally Posted by Vern Heiler View Post
    I think he heard the GFCI trip. Could be there was a kitchen re-model, and it is behind a new cabinet! Might take a signal tracer to find it.
    Some dumbass parked a cabinet in front of a GFCI outlet? Yes, it's a possibility.

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    Default Re: GFCIs help

    Quote Originally Posted by John Kogel View Post
    Thanks, Vern, HG has already clued me in. (In Canada, not before 2006! What, and nobody died???)
    My point, though, was that they used GFCI breakers in the panel, not wall receptacles in those days.
    Some dumbass parked a cabinet in front of a GFCI outlet? Yes, it's a possibility.
    Nope, not necessarily. In fact, it was and is still commonplace to use combination devices or dead-front gfcis load side of the panelboard.

    In retrofitting, especially ungrounded, back in "those days" mid-late 80s to early 90s depending on local adoption sequence and if no ammendments, there was even a (brief) requirement to use individual combination gfci receptacles and not to wire "load side" protection in some circumstances.

    Back to the OP, curious about something:

    Metal face plates for these receptacles, especially at the location you "tested" or "tripped"?


  28. #28
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    Default Re: GFCIs help

    Quote Originally Posted by H.G. Watson, Sr. View Post
    Nope, not necessarily. In fact, it was and is still commonplace to use combination devices or dead-front gfcis load side of the panelboard.

    In retrofitting, especially ungrounded, back in "those days" mid-late 80s to early 90s depending on local adoption sequence and if no ammendments, there was even a (brief) requirement to use individual combination gfci receptacles and not to wire "load side" protection in some circumstances.

    Back to the OP, curious about something:

    Metal face plates for these receptacles, especially at the location you "tested" or "tripped"?

    The metal faceplate is an interesting thought.

    I would or have the electrician try to pry out some information about the remodel or wiring upgrades to that kitchen...who wired in those receptacles and any work in that panel ... like changing a gfci breaker to non gfci.

    I'm still holding out on a mystery gfci but not being there it becomes a wiring issue. That in my opinon is not the fault of the inspector ... maybe homeowner wants free fix of his installation mistake occurring prior to inspection....

    But if wiring issue likely is in the tested or 'trippered' box.

    Also not knowing the type breakers in the panel it is possible that they are not ' trip ' to ' off ' breakers and just visually looking at them may not be good enough. I'd move handle to ' off ' and then back to ' on ' with the breaker protecting that branch circuit and see if it resets.

    Then you need to determine why it tripped when receptacle was tested if that is the problem


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    Default Re: GFCIs help

    Quote Originally Posted by Vern Heiler View Post
    John, OP said the outlet tested was next to the sink. GFCI's have been required within 6' of sinks since 1987.

    I think he heard the GFCI trip. Could be there was a kitchen re-model, and it is behind a new cabinet! Might take a signal tracer to find it.
    Not a GFCI, but I did have an inspection where I could hear a period 'beep' like a smoke detector low battery warning. Looked and looked. I finally found an open ceiling in a closet where I could see back into the room. The DIY basement finishing project included covering a ceiling mounted smoke detector! GFCI receptacle covered by a cabinet? Why not.

    Last edited by Stuart Brooks; 11-18-2010 at 10:04 AM. Reason: spelling
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    Default Re: GFCIs help

    Appreciate you "see" where I'm thinking Roger F, as regards to those plug-in 3-light testers, etc. Insecurely bonded metal face plates, and/or receptacles which are relying on "self-grounding" but not contacting directly to a metal box (improperly relying on mounting screw, etc. or with paper insulators still present) as opposed to a ground wire mounted to the grnd post.

    Back to John K, and others, IIRC the "six-foot rule" regarding sinks was 87(88(clarification/errata) - 93 editions.

    Back to JIM MURPHY - you might also check the "toe kick" areas for receptacles/dead-fronts, etc., other non-countertop wall areas, the "other side" of half-walls or countertop/breakfast bar/serving pass-through overhangs, and other areas not necessarily required to be GFCI protected; but are also other small appliance circuit outlet areas depending on the NEC edition/vintage and local ammendment, such: as the Dining Room, "breakfast nook", (dining and serving areas).


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