What I'm Seeing Now

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Peek A Boo GFIs

There should be no such thing as peek a boo GFIs.

In modern houses kitchens have two, and sometimes three, circuits.  Each is protected by a GFI receptacle.

One thing I always do in a home inspection is check the GFI receptacles.

All of them.

In the kitchen I make sure that everything that is supposed to be GFI protected is in fact protected.

For example, if there is an island, it should be protected.

And the refrigerator should NOT be protected!

So I look around.

And that's an easy check!

I plug in my device which evaluates the circuit and push the "test" button!

When I see the lights go out and hear the receptacle snap, I turn it back on and move to the next.

In this kitchen I heard the snap, but could not find the receptacle.

I looked all over!  GFI receptacles are sometimes put in what I consider to be odd places. 

Behind this kitchen wall is the laundry room.  I thought, "Did they put the GFI in the laundry room?"

But after looking there, no, they did not.

Where is it?

Look at the photo above.  Can you see the edge of the receptacle cover behind the stuff in the cabinet?

Moving the stored things out of the way, I found the receptacle!

IT'S INSIDE THE CABINET!

I have to confess to never seeing that before!

It turns out that the builder in this house left a large portion of wall without cabinet coverage, favoring a very small desk instead.

The builder also left them a tiny pantry.

So these homeowners decided to add another cabinet to the kitchen where the desk was located.

This is fine, even a smart thing to do.  An additional kitchen cabinet is rarely a bad thing!  But while adding it they covered up the receptacle on the end.  Don't plug in the toaster!

You can see the work was probably done by the homeowner as the receptacle opening is roughly cut.

My recommendation:  when GFI receptacles are tested, they have to be turned back on.  Sometimes they are very difficult to find!  In one house I could not find it and it turned out to be buried behind drywall in the "finished" basement!  Fortunately here we were able to find it, albeit in a very odd place! 

 

 

 

Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC  

Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.

Office (703) 330-6388   Cell (703) 585-7560

www.jaymarinspect.com


Comment balloon 67 commentsJay Markanich • September 17 2012 03:47AM

Comments

Hi Jay,

I found one of these one day and looked for a half hour till I found it way back under the sink.

Hidden from sight, I was getting really frustrated .

Never know what the electrician was thinking and how planning changes when building a home.

Have a better day today in Bristow.

Best, Clint Mckie

Posted by Clint Mckie, Desert Sun Home, Comm. Inspection 1-575-706-5586 (Desert Sun Home, commercial Inspections) over 8 years ago

Good morning Jay,

I have seen a GFI outlet installed inside a cabinet that is meant to be used as an appliance caddy but this one is unusual!

Posted by Dorie Dillard CRS GRI ABR, Serving Buyers & Sellers in NW Austin Real Estate (Coldwell Banker Realty ~ 512.750.6899) over 8 years ago

Some times there is no rhyme or reason to GFI placement Clint.  Once I found the GFI controlling everything outside in a rear built-in shed!  In this case the homeowners covered it up.  But at least I found it!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 8 years ago

That is an odd placement too Dorie!  They should be visible and accessible!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 8 years ago

Hi Jay.  Now that is funny.  Move the Twinkies and find the GFI.

Posted by Conrad Allen, Webster, Ma, Realtor (Re/Max Professional Associates) over 8 years ago

It took some adjustment Conrad!  Wish there were Twinkies!    ;>)

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 8 years ago

Good morning Jay. Playing hide and seek with GFI's is always a party favorite. Why would you NOT want one on the refrigerator circuit? Curious.

Posted by Randy Ostrander, Real Estate Broker, Serving Big Rapids and West Central MI (Lake and Lodge Realty LLC ) over 8 years ago

I see this from time to time too. Nothing like finding a GFI in a master closet behind all the clothes.

Posted by Than Maynard, Broker - Licensed to List & Sell - 405-990-8862 (Coldwell Banker Heart of Oklahoma) over 8 years ago

Pin the tail on the cabinet Randy?

Than - wow, I haven't seen that one!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 8 years ago

Morning Jay I like Randy am curious as to why one could not be on the same circuit as the refrigerator.  Just wondering thats' all

 

Posted by James Dray, Exceptional Agents, Outstanding Results (Fathom Realty) over 8 years ago

James (and Randy) - sorry I didn't answer that.  The fridge should be on its own circuit uninfluenced by any GFI or switch.  That way, if the GFI trips for some unknown reason, the fridge does not turn off and you lose your whatever when it thaws or goes bad.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 8 years ago

I guess you can add Sherlock Holmes to your list of qualities in a good home inspector.  

Posted by Kathryn Maguire, Serving Chesapeake, Norfolk, VA Beach (GreatNorfolkHomes.com (757) 560-0881) over 8 years ago

Every day is a Sherlock Holmes day Kathryn!  You kidding?    ;>)

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 8 years ago

You gotta love the kitchen remodel Jay. Obviously, the outlet was an oversight.

Posted by Tom Arstingstall, General Contractor, Dry Rot, Water Damage Sacramento, El Dorado County - (916) 765-5366, General Contractor, Dry Rot and Water Damage (Dry Rot and Water Damage www.tromlerconstruction.com Mobile - 916-765-5366) over 8 years ago

Tom - GFI?  We don't need no stinkin' GFI!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 8 years ago

Jay, I think that GFI is playing hide and seek not peek-a-boo. LOL

Posted by Debbie Reynolds, C21 Platinum Properties, The Dedicated Clarksville TN Realtor-(931)320-6730 (Platinum Properties- (931)771-9070) over 8 years ago

Debbie - it was peeking and booing in the first photo!  When I found it I said peek a boo!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 8 years ago

Jay, This reminds me of my Mack Truck days. You would not believe some of the home made rigging I have seen.

Posted by Tom Bailey (Margaret Rudd & Associates Inc.) over 8 years ago

I'm sure that's true Tom!  It's okay to do it for yourself, but when you want someone else to buy it, well, it takes a whole new dimension!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 8 years ago

seems there r electricians...and homeowners who just know they are "supposed to" be there...no clue where or why.

Posted by Sally K. & David L. Hanson, WI Real Estate Agents - Luxury - Divorce (EXP Realty 414-525-0563) over 8 years ago

I think that GFI was always there S&D, and they put a cabinet around it!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 8 years ago

It amazes me at the things we find in homes.

Posted by John McCormack, CRS, Honesty, Integrity, Results, Experienced. HIRE Me! (Albuquerque Homes Realty) over 8 years ago

This is real important to know. Our older houses do not have them and that sometimes causes a real problem. Thanks so much for posting this for us to learn.

Have a great evening.

 

Posted by Ginger Harper, Your Southport~Oak Island Agent~Brunswick County! (Coldwell Banker Sea Coast Advantage~ Ginger Harper Real Estate Team) over 8 years ago

Jay - I was a bride once.  The groom was an electrician.  I learned a lot from him during the years we were married.  But I learned something new from you today!

Posted by Myrl Jeffcoat, Greater Sacramento Real Estate Agent (GreatWest Realty) over 8 years ago

Ah the hidden GFCI. They do tend to appear in some of the strangest places.

Posted by Rob Ernst, Reno, NV-775-410-4286 Inspector & Energy Auditor (Certified Structure Inspector) over 8 years ago

Strange - yes - but I have one in a cabinet to plug in a concealed receiver/sound system . . . Thanks Dave

Posted by David Grbich, Orange County Real Estate - 949-500-0484 (Realty One Group - www.FindCARealEstate.com) over 8 years ago

light switchI really, really, feel for you guys!  I often have trouble simply finding a light switch!

The kitchen is the worst offender...I find the light switches on seemingly random walls.  I should not have to walk through a dark room before getting to the switch!

Old style switches are clearly marked ON/OFF.  These new fat switches give no clue about which direction gives what result -- OK, maybe it's because of all these rooms where there are 3 panels that can control ONE LIGHT.

Stop the proliferation of switches, and just place and mark them in a highly visible manner!

Posted by Richard Arnold, Realtor - Tempe, Chandler, Mesa, Gilbert, Phoenix (Keller Williams Realty East Valley) over 8 years ago

John - I am no longer amazed, but sure do have some fun with things!

Ginger - the reason I go to AR is to learn and I think this is a great forum for that.  Thank you for the reblog too!

Rob - it wasn't there all the time, just hiding during the inspection.  I think it was having some fun.

Dale - and they wanted to surround it with that cabinet!  The hole they cut is really cute.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 8 years ago

Dave - receptacles in certain cabinets for TVs and electrical equipment is not uncommon.  A GFI inside a cabinet is!

Rich - once on new construction the kitchen light switch turned the fridge on and off.  I discovered it returning to the kitchen later in the day and turning on the ceiling light.  The fridge turned on at the same time!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 8 years ago

I have stopped testing GFCI's in occupied homes unless I am 100% certain that I can reset.  Like you and others stated, I've wasted alot of time trying to find these things.  I include a narrative for reasons why in the report.  Never been questioned about it. 

Posted by Joshua Frederick, Home Inspector in Defiance & all of Northwest Ohio (Home Inspector for ASPEC Residential Services, LLC) over 8 years ago

I like to know where they are to Josh.  Once I couldn't find it, at all, and it turned out to be behind drywall in the "finished" basement!  That cost me a lot of time!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 8 years ago

Jay, I guess this was an easy fix for the homeowner. It looks like there was room to move it to the left of the cabinet.

Posted by Michael Setunsky, Your Commercial Real Estate Link to Northern VA over 8 years ago

I wonder why they did not relocate the receptacle...wait you answered that...the homeowner did the work.

Posted by Gary L. Waters Broker Associate, Bucci Realty, Fifteen Years Experience in Brevard County (Bucci Realty, Inc.) over 8 years ago

Mike - an electrician could have moved that GFI.  But they didn't want to employ an electrician!

Gary - exactly!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 8 years ago

I remember an inspection where we could not find the GFI after it was tripped. 

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) over 8 years ago

our master bath gfi is in a separate bathroom behind it... that was a tough find for us!

Posted by Mark Loewenberg, KW 561-214-0370 (KW of the Palm Beaches) over 8 years ago

Only once for me Jim.  I predicted where it might be and it was there - under the panel box in the "finished" basement, behind the drywall.  The seller was mad at me because they couldn't use their bathrooms!  He was the problem, not me...

Mark - it is common to string GFI receptacles off of a main controller.  But when it's hidden that makes it even more difficult!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 8 years ago

Best ever, they connected a bedroom that was behind the kitchen to the GFCI. I tripped it in the kitchen and the entire computer system shut down. Did they save their project they were working on? No, that would be too simple. They screamed out loud that the computer just crashed, then I reset and I hear them say it just turned back on. But they have to retype the entire paper. 

Rumor has it that an inspector once tripped the GFCI in a kitchen and Grandma's oxygen ventilator machine in the rear bedroom shutdown. Truth or fiction, we may never know. 

Posted by Scott Seaton Jr. Bourbonnais Kankakee IL Home Inspector, The Home Inspector With a Heart! (SLS Home Inspections-Bradley Bourbonnais Kankakee Manteno) over 8 years ago

Oh man Scott!  I hope grandma stayed above room temperature...  People don't know what they don't know and should NOT be fooling with electricity.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 8 years ago

I almost sold a house where the circuit breaker panel doors were behind braces for added-on cabinets. Really a "what were you thinking" moment!

Posted by Travis "the SOLD man" Parker; Broker/Owner, email: Travis@theSOLDman.me / cell: 334-494-7846 (Travis Realty) over 8 years ago

My neighbors have a GFCI in the garage and had both a fridge and full freezer plugged into it. (2 appliances) 

Their kids moved them into an assisted living facility and hired me to mow the grass...I warned them many times about the consequences of no one at the home...food in the fridge and freezer and our yearly storm related power outages...

Yea...you know what happened next...I could smell the rotting food from across the yard.  I went in and reset the GFCI and at least the spoiled food was frozen when the daughter finally cleaned it out.

Posted by Mike McCann - Nebraska Farm Land Broker, Farm Land For Sale 308-627-3700 or 800-241-3940 (Mike McCann - Broker, Mach1 Realty Farmland Broker-Auctioneer Serving Rural Nebraska) over 8 years ago
Great post & photos!
Posted by Lanise Warrior-Johnson, Real Estate Specialist (Real Estate Brokers Services, Inc.) over 8 years ago
Wow, I haven't seen any GFIs that are hidden like that, that makes no sense. Good investigating!!
Posted by Sylvie Stuart, Home Buying, Home Selling and Investment - Flagsta (Realty One Group Mountain Desert 928-600-2765) over 8 years ago

Jay - When attending a home inspection, I'm always amazed at what some homeowners will do to "improve" things.  This is a good one...

Posted by Brad Baylor (ERA Coup Agency) over 8 years ago

Always amazing what I learn on AR. Thanks for the lesson.

Posted by Kimo Jarrett, Pro Lifestyle Solutions (WikiWiki Realty) over 8 years ago

Jay, The old hidden GFCI. There has been a couple of times I was not able to find one. Usually in a garage covered with shelving and junk. They can be a bugger to check at times.

Posted by Donald Hester, NCW Home Inspections, LLC (NCW Home Inspections, LLC) over 8 years ago

Your blog is very informative. I know the wiring is an essential item to have checked. Thanks for sharing.

Betty

Posted by Team Honeycutt (Allen Tate) over 8 years ago

Shocking blog post with valuable information.

Posted by Andrew Mooers | 207.532.6573, Northern Maine Real Estate-Aroostook County Broker (MOOERS REALTY) over 8 years ago

After having to call the listing agent to have the owner come home from work to reset a GFCI that, among other things, "protected" the freezer in the garage we stopped testing any GFCI unless we are looking at it. At that particular house the GFCI was located beneath the vinyl siding and adjacent to the rear door of the house.

Even when you think the GFCI is right in front of you, you can run into cases where they are wired in series with another GFCI, usually a homeowner installation, and it is the other one that trips. GRRRRR!

In order to reduce the number of irate calls from home owners we advise our clients that we do not test circuit breaker GFCI's or AFCI's so as to not cause people to be late for work or not have the big game recorded for later viewing. 

Posted by Marshall Brown, BSEE, CHI (Mid America Inspection Services, LLC) over 8 years ago

Always good tips that help us to increase our home inspecting knowledge.

Thanks for sharing them.

Posted by Anthony Daniels, SF Bay Area REO Specialist (Coldwell Banker) over 8 years ago

GFI's are wonderful in what they do. Crazy to put them in such odd places.

Posted by Nan Jester, Realtor, Exit Real Estate Gallery (Exit Real Estate Gallery Jacksonville Beach, FL ) over 8 years ago
Hi Jay how about the GFI in my garage that controls both baths in a split plan home?
Posted by Bob Miller, The Ocala Dream Team (Keller Williams Cornerstone Realty) over 8 years ago

I never would have thought of looking in the cupboard!  How did you even find it?

Posted by Bernice Dubon, Calgary Alberta Realtor (RE/MAX First 403-607-9117) over 8 years ago

I've seen one in a bathroom about one  foot from above the floor. Not too convenient when you want to plug in the hairdryer. 

Posted by Pamela Seley, Residential Real Estate Agent serving SW RivCo CA (West Coast Realty Division) over 8 years ago

You find the oddest stuff. I did have a seller have an interior cabinet plug for her Kitchenaid giant mixer thing that even came up on a stand even with the counter.  I was afraid to even see it work!  Cooking isn't really my thing & this had more attachments than anything I had ever seen!

Posted by Lyn Sims and the Blog Dog (Streamwood, Elgin IL Real Estate - RE/MAX Suburban) over 8 years ago

Travis - behind cabinets is even worse!  It's hard to open the panel box door when it's behind stuff!

Mike - not smart!  When builders put a receptacle in the garage for a freezer it is supposed to be dedicated and NOT on the GFI!

Thanks Lanise.  We try!

Sylvie - it was such a playful device, I bet it moved later!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 8 years ago

Brad - and, usually, they will stand by whatever they did!

Kimo - that is the same for me too!

Don - hidden behind garage stuff is not uncommon.  But, as you know, there is no rhyme or reason as to where the controlling GFI is!

Thanks Betty.  That's one of the primary things on a home inspection!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 8 years ago

Andrew - I like electrifying posts...

Improperly-wired GFIs are very common, with homeowners not realizing they are stringed, as you know Marshall.  But I am surprised, very actually, that you did not know it was behind the vinyl siding.

Anthony - that's the idea here!

Nan - it wasn't in a bad place, until they installed the cabinet!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 8 years ago

Bob - there is no rhyme or reason as to where the electricians put the controlling GFI.  I find them all over!

Bernice - I heard the snap, but could not find where it came from!

Pamela - truly an odd spot!  Sounds like an older home.

Lyn - sounds like it was a dedicated location!  You don't see that appliance often either!  Love Blog Dog!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 8 years ago

Jay:

At least you found it.  I presume the homeowner never uses this GFI, so I guess it could be left off.

Posted by Evelyn Kennedy, Alameda, Real Estate, Alameda, CA (Alain Pinel Realtors) over 8 years ago

Had it tripped they might have had a hard time finding it not realizing what they had done Evelyn!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 8 years ago

Surprise you have not seen this before. I have hundreds of times and is not allowed by electrcial code here.

Posted by Dave Brice (Pacific West Home Inspections) over 8 years ago

Dear Jay,

Say what ....? I am not a fan of water mains hidden behind screw off doors inside a closet or decorative frames around electrical panels that do not let you get to the breakers. Functional items should be easily functional. Spend a couple bucks to save lots down the road, when needed in an emergency.

Posted by Dörte Engel, ABC - Annapolis, Bowie, Crofton & rest of Maryland (RE/MAX Leading Edge) over 8 years ago

There was one in NJ that was completely covered with a built in kitchen cabinet.  The poor inspector looked and looked, but it was impossible to find.  They had to have someone come in to cut a hole in the cabinet. Peek a boo is one thing, hide and go seek is another.

Posted by Rafi Footerman, Home Inspector, Mold Inspector, Radon and More! (Mid Jersey Inspections) over 8 years ago

Receptacles are in cabinets all the time, Dave, but this one had a cabinet built around it post facto!  And pretty well hidden.

Dorte - often I am unable to enter the panel box for furniture or the water main is behind something immovable!

Rafi - people do try to think in advance...  well, maybe not.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 8 years ago

Jay, I know there is a glaring lack of knowledge about GFI's in our marketplace.  Many people have never tested there GFI outlets.

Posted by Chris Smith, South Simcoe, Caledon, King, Orangeville Real Esta (Re/Max Chay Realty Inc., Brokerage) over 8 years ago

Ideally they are tested monthly Chris!  Who does?  Nobody I know, including me!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 8 years ago

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