LESLIE: Well, water and electricity never mix, so let’s hope we can help Blake with his dilemma. You want to add an outlet to the bathroom. Let’s help you out. What can we do?
BLAKE: Yes. I have a house that was built in the 60s and when it was built, there was really no electrical outlet put in the bathroom. It was integrated in the light fixture. And I was wanting to put in a new outlet and I was wondering if it was GFCI compatible and also how to wire it in.
TOM: Well, it’s definitely a good idea to put in a ground fault outlet. It is a 1960s house?
TOM: So, what kind of wiring do you have? Do you have three wires that go through that?
BLAKE: There’s three wires in the wall outlets.
TOM: Well, you probably can install it. It’s not sort of Electricity 101 to put a ground fault in because if it’s done improperly, it can appear to trip but not trip. I’ve learned this from years in the home inspection business, actually testing ground faults with an expensive tester. Sometimes it’ll trip on the outlet itself but not when you put a tester in it. So, if you’re unfamiliar with how to install a ground fault, I wouldn’t recommend it as your first project.
Having said that, though, I will commend you on putting one in because a ground fault is much safer than a regular outlet and in fact, as you may know, it’s required in modern construction. But back in the 60s, it wasn’t put in. The reason it’s different than old-fashioned electrical outlets is because it has the ability to detect diversion of current to a ground source. And that’s what happens if you’re getting a shock. If 2/1000 of an amp goes to ground, the ground fault circuit will turn off that outlet.
Now, by the way, it could be installed at the outlet and it could also be installed at the circuit breaker. There’s a way to put a ground fault circuit breaker in that will protect the entire circuit.
But anything that’s a wet location in your house should have one and if you’re going to have an electrician come in and help you with this – because as you say, you’ve never put one in before – do the rest of the house at the same time. I mean the expense is the service call. The outlets are very inexpensive. So put them in the kitchen at the countertop; put them outside – the outlets on the outside of your house; put them in the garage; and of course, in all of the bathrooms. Those are the most appropriate places to have that. That’s going to give you a high degree of safety.
TOM: Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.