What I'm Seeing Now


"The GFI Never Trips In Our New Northern Virginia Basement Bathroom"

When I get a phone call that includes this statement, I begin itching in odd places to find out why - the voice on the phone says, "The GFI never trips in our new basement bathroom."  I know, the title said Northern Virginia, but they didn't actually say that on the phone...

Let's just say that a circuit breaker GFCI has special wiring.  And it has to be done properly for it to control everything in a bathroom that needs to be protected by it.  In this case there were two receptacles.

Both receptacles were hot, but neither tripped the breaker when tested with my GFI device.  Pushing the test button on the breaker did not turn it off either.

Look at the photo and tell me what the problem is here.

Notice how the GFCI breaker is the only one with two screws that are to be connected.

Notice what is happening to the white cable -

it is merely hanging there, connected to the breaker but from there to nothing else.

Without knowing anything about wiring or breakers or GFI circuits, does that impress you as correct?

Do you think this was wired up by an electrician?

Or do you think this was wired up by a "contractor" who thinks he knows everything and did not pull a permit for the job?

Think carefully.

I can just hear him thinking, "That pesky white wire.  It'll work fine just hanging here..."

Yes, there's lack a black double tap just below.  That is where two wires are connected together under a single screw (called a lug).  It is just as incorrect.  And wired by the same guy, no doubt.

My recommendation:  don't get talked out of pulling a permit that is closed by the local jurisdictional authority.  Closed means that the local inspector came by and approved everything, issuing you a copy of the closed permit!  Don't let a general contractor tell you that he can do everything, or claim he has just the right guys working with him to do all the work.  Make sure that each industry discipline needed for your remodeling is worked on by someone licensed in THAT discipline!  The general contractor is just that - he is responsible for the whole until completion.  They sometimes have very high opinions of themselves - opinions that may be just a tad higher than completely true.




Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC  

Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.

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


Comment balloon 12 commentsJay Markanich • November 10 2013 05:14AM


Hi Jay,

Never a dull day. No permit pulled means the job is probably in correct.

But what else is new in our line of work.

Good find. Did you correct the situation or call a REAL electrician to do it?

Have a great day in Bristow my friend.

Best, Clint McKie

Posted by Clint Mckie, Desert Sun Home, Comm. Inspection 1-575-706-5586 (Desert Sun Home, commercial Inspections) about 6 years ago

Good morning Jay,

But it goes out into oblivion!!!!!!

Make yourself a great day.

Posted by Raymond E. Camp, Licensed Real Estate Salesperson Greater Rochester (Howard Hanna Real Estate Services) about 6 years ago

Jay, it does probably seem counterintuitive to connect white wires to breakers---to the novice

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) about 6 years ago

I too have a high opinion of myself Jay, but I'm concerned about you being itchy in odd places.  :)

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) about 6 years ago

Clint - I showed them what is wrong and suggested they call a licensed electrician.  And charge the bill back to the "contractor!"

It is a really long connection Raymond!

White bad, black good - right Charlie?  Those pesky white wires.  Probably no need.

When that itching starts my antenna go up and I get started Tom!  It's like a Spidey sense!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 6 years ago

I was going to mention the double tap too. I don't know how these guys can thing too highly of themselves... they (he/she) was confused to say the least. They walked away from that panel thinking "I am the man"? Or, they just don't give a damn! I'm thinking the latter!

Posted by Fred Hernden, CMI, Albuquerque area Master Inspector (Superior Home Inspections - Greater Albuquerque Area) about 6 years ago

He thought that double was okay, Fred, because he tapped into the original light circuit to add more lights!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 6 years ago

Jay, I'm not sure I understand what you guys are talking about, but I know I better have an electrician do electrical work!

Posted by Tom White, Franklin Homes Realty LLC, Franklin TN (Franklin Homes Realty LLC (615) 495-0752 or www.FranklinHomesRealty.com) about 6 years ago

I was concentrated on the white wire and not paying attention until you mentioned the double tap, then I saw it.

Posted by James Dray, Exceptional Agents, Outstanding Results (Fathom Realty) about 6 years ago

Wires like that need to be connected Tom!

James - the white wire is the GFI problem - the double tap is another different problem!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 6 years ago

Jay, Even reading the direction would save you on this one. Guess thats out, we are guys ;)

Posted by Donald Hester, NCW Home Inspections, LLC (NCW Home Inspections, LLC) about 6 years ago

Duntneed no direkshuns der Donny!  Me man!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 6 years ago

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