I played electrician this morning. What's new.
Last night I was cleaning up the dishes and went to turn on the garbage disposal and nothing happened. Nada. Dishwasher? Also dead. I was cursing Less-Than-Detail-Oriented-Fly-by-Night Contractor. Again. Shocking. It was interesting, this little diddy. I left the disposal switch on and then put my electrical tester in a socket further up the circuit and wouldn't you know? It turned on the disposal. Removed it? Turned off the disposal. That was certainly refreshing. Husband plugged in the toaster oven and everything worked again. How many times can I curse this contractor? It's certainly getting old, no?
Anyway, so Ruler of the Free World, I mean Google, told me it was likely loose connections. This morning I took it all apart and found that two of the outlets in the kitchen were wired with the stab-in since they don't have the side screws. What's the stab-in? Sounds bad, right? I don't like the name either. It's the lazy electrician's way of hooking up an outlet or switch. You basically strip the wire down to the copper and shove it into a hole and it gets clamped down and connected. Unfortunately, those stab-ins are notorious for resulting in less than solid connections after a while. I suppose Said Contractor That I Curse Daily figured he'd just re-use the old outlets even though the old outlets were a bit of a mish-mash - I mean, they did come from the original crap kitchen, so, I can't blame him for buying them. Maybe he was trying to save me money. But at $2 a piece, I would have replaced them with new ones. If I were him. But, clearly, I am not him.
So first, I tried to get the wires out of the stab-ins. Of course, the loose one came out without a fight. The rest resulted in a stream of angry words and huffy noises. I know you're supposed to push somewhere to get it to release but I tried that and it didn't work. I hate those stab-ins. I ended up cutting the wires as close as possible. Then, it was time to strip the insulation. Not so easy with needle nose pliers and a cabinet overheard while also having to be on your tippy toes because you're not tall enough to comfortably reach and see the back of the outlet. Again, more cursing at the Universe. I resigned to running down to Home Depot to get a wire stripper and outlets. At the time I was wearing orange shorts that were entirely too short and would result in several Home Depot patrons seeing the lower part of my ass cheeks. Decided that wouldn't fly, so threw on some sweat pants that, really, if you looked close enough, you might be able to see the pink pattern of my underwear peeking through. Whatever. At least I wouldn't be showing my ass to the rest of the store. Bought my stripper/cutter, two more outlets, came back and 14 hours later I was done. OK, it ended up taking over an hour just to complete this task of replacing an outlet. But it's done. I'll tackle the other stab-in one later this week. The other thing that seemed interesting when I was dissecting the wires was that it looks like the outlet I replaced has 14 gage wire coming in and 12 gage wire going on to the next outlet. Probably not the end of the world, but, STILL. I mean, at this point, after several weeks of researching residential electrical stuff, I probably would have done a more thorough job wiring up my kitchen. Seriously. If he planned his circuit layout ahead of time, he would have used the same gage wire throughout. 20 amp circuit? Run 12 gage for all outlets, switches, etc, in the circuit. 15 amp circuit? 14 gage. It's pretty damn simple. But if you do shit without a plan, this is what you end up with.
Never again. I have learned my lesson, folks. Permits may not be completely necessary all the time, but a good electrician with recommendations certainly is.