It has been a very busy several weeks for me. I have not written here in perhaps a month. Christmas preparations, my daughter on vacation, you name it-seems a million things sucked up my time. No writing was done.
The past two weeks we have been re-wiring a vintage condo on Woodlawn. Old cloth-covered wire everywhere, falling apart in many cases. The only place where the wire was new was in the kitchen, where it was done wrong. My client just purchased this condo; the previous owner either was planning to flip it or had done some "fix ups" to make it more sale-able. So he remodeled and rewired the kitchen. Except that in the kitchen he used illegal plastic romex that is not permitted by the Chicago code. Not only that, he used the kind without a grounding conductor, which meant that the GFCI outlets he put above the kitchen counter were were ungrounded. He fooled the inspector by using a "bootleg" ground. He took a wire off the neutral splice (which is grounded, but is also a current carrying conductor) and connected it to the ground terminal of the GFCIs. In other words, the GFCI outlets were not really grounded, and by virtue of connecting the neutral wire to the grounding terminal, which is common to the junction box metallic casing, it made all of the junction box a shock hazard.
This rewire was pretty basic; we replaced all the cloth-covered wire with new THHN copper thermoplastic wire and re-made the splices. WE Installed additional circuits from the panel up to the unit, we put in enclosed globe light fixtures as called for by the code, and we replaced the old cast iron pancake boxes with 40lb rated and fan approved junction boxes, which we anchored to structural members where necessary.
We did encounter one little complication at the outset of the job. We usually make a complete electrical plan and diagram of the existing layout when we start, drawing all the light fixture, outlet and switch locations and labeling them (by trial and error) with the circuit numbers. In the process of doing this, at one point we had all of the apartment breakers shut off. Yet the fridge and counter outlets remained on. It was a head-scratcher for a bit. But after we had every junction box open and all the pull boxes and troughs open in the basement between our panel and the riser conduit that brings the wires upstairs, we discovered that 2 circuits from the apartment we were re-wiring had been inadvertently routed into the neighbor's panel. And the same 2 circuits in the neighbor's apartment had been run into my client's panel. They were probably just transposed by accident years ago when the circuit breakers were installed and the riser wires (but not the actual premises wiring) were changed out. Lord knows how many years, or decades, these folks were paying for their neighbor's electricity. We are done this this job now, and taking some time off until the new year comes.
Have a great holiday!