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Covering electrical wires

jyang949's picture

Covering electrical wires (post #188326)

I found a small white patch in a plaster wall. All of the other holes in the wall had been patched with joint compound. This one was patched with some other material that did not crumble into powder, but came out in chunks that looked a bit like styrofoam and were almost as lightweight. 

Inside were electrical wires crossing over a two-by-four. The plaster and lath had been removed to make space for the wires between the two-by-four and wall. The space was too shallow to allow a drywall patch so it had been filled in with the foamy stuff.

I don't know what the foam filler was and why they didn't use joint compound. Is it because it goes on wet (although the wires are insulated)? Because it gets so hard it would be difficult to dig the wires out in the future?

How should I close the hole--should I chisel a groove into the two-by-four so there will be enough space to use a drywall patch? If the foam is the best solution, please tell me what the stuff is called.

Janet

My first concern is the (post #188326, reply #1 of 24)

My first concern is the quality of the wiring.  It seems really odd that there is a hole in the drywall, but not one in the stud to fish the wire through - that means it wasn't done by an electrician.

Find out where this wire goes, and be sure it is connected properly (with a wire nut or similar).  Also make sure the wire isn't 14ga. on a 20 amp breaker.

 

Notching and patching are probably fine, but you have to protect the wire from your dumb significant other - you know, that person who will want to hang a picture or moosehead on that exact spot where the wire is.  The wire needs to be placed in the middle of the stud, or if that's not possible it needs to be protected with a thick piece of steel (16ga) anyplace it is closer than 1.25" away from the inside of the wall surface.

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"electrical wires crossing (post #188326, reply #2 of 24)

"electrical wires crossing over a two-by-four"

 

Something is not right. Any way to post a picture?

 

Is it just wires or do you mean cable? Are the other patches in line with this one?

 

I don't have a camera, but (post #188326, reply #3 of 24)

I don't have a camera, but here's what it is like in cross-section. It's about three feet above a GFCI outlet.

Janet

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That's what I pictured from (post #188326, reply #4 of 24)

That's what I pictured from your description. Not great but it can be fixed.

Now, what do the wires look like? A couple individual wires or one cable?

Are the other patches in line from this one? Going horizontally across the wall?

I have seen this before (post #188326, reply #8 of 24)

Somebody needed to add a circuit or extension after the fact. They drilled holes on either side of the stud and notched the drywall above the stud to provide a trough for the wires to lay in, which was then patched over.

I was going to say that I used to see licensed electricians do this all the time, but then I remember, they used romex armored cable, which contains its own thick metal shield. So this is actually legal and legit. But bare insulated wires? Very bad.

I would trace the entire run and either: cover every affected stud with a steel cover, or redo the whole thing with romex, or perhaps pull a fresh cable up from the basement.

As others have pointed out, there is a genuine risk of electrocution here.

Good luck.

"Romex" isn't armored cable. (post #188326, reply #9 of 24)

"Romex" isn't armored cable.


Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well-warmed, and well-fed.  --Herman Melville

Crainial Flatulence (post #188326, reply #19 of 24)

I meant BX, with the thick metal shield. You can't even purchase Romex in Chicago. My bad.

You can buy it... (post #188326, reply #21 of 24)

You just can't get it Permitted!

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That is certainly not (post #188326, reply #22 of 24)

That is certainly not right.

The correct way to fix that is to cut a notch in the 2x4, lay the wie in it, put a metal plate over the wire (because it is not 1 1/4" back) and replaster the hole.

Greg

The "foamy stuff" was what (post #188326, reply #5 of 24)

The "foamy stuff" was what the jackleg who installed the wires had in his toolbox at that moment -- nothing "special" about it from the standpoint of the wires.

The wires are improperly/illegally installed.

The "right" way to have done this would have been to use a long spade bit to drill through the plaster at a shallow angle to create a hole (or two) in the stud and then thread the wires through that.   A bit more plaster would have to be removed, but it's no harder to repair an 8-inch hole than a 4-inch one.  The current install is in violation of code since it's too close to the surface of the finished wall without having a nail plate protecting it.

Probably the best "fix" is, as you suggest, to chisel a notch in the stud to let the wires sit flush.  But then install a nail plate over the notch to protect the wires before you patch the hole.


Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well-warmed, and well-fed.  --Herman Melville

I would suggest that this (post #188326, reply #6 of 24)

I would suggest that this would be a great time to buy a Multifunction Tool from Harbor Freight.  For only $40, she can make a plunge cut that would not damage any of the surrounding plaster on this side or the other.

I think this wire was run to supply the GCFI.  This horizontal 2x4 is called fireblocking.  The tool I mentioned vibrates a thin sawblade back and forth so quickly it almost melts through the wood.  It's a really handy tool to have around the house for cutting odd things precisely.

As an alternative, you can just unhook the wires from the GCFI outlet and pull the wire back up through the hole in the wall you just made, above the blocking.  Then you can do that shallow drilling that Dan mentioned, then string the wire though the hole.

YAY!  I love WYSISYG editing!  And Spellcheck!

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Paul, I took your advice and got a (post #188326, reply #23 of 24)

Paul, I took your advice and got a Multifunction Power Tool from Harbor Freight. I was skeptical--a $40 knock-off of a $400 tool?--but it worked fine and was, as you predicted, just the thing to use in such tight quarters. 

It is also great for cutting drywall.

Question about the triangular sanding pad: Are you supposed to use the screw and just one washer to attach it to the spindle?--because the larger washer doesn't fit into the hole in the pad.

Janet

I just double checked mine - (post #188326, reply #24 of 24)

I just double checked mine - don't use the large washer for the sanding pad.

Glad it worked out for you!

YAY!  I love WYSISYG editing!  And Spellcheck!

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I understood "jackleg" from (post #188326, reply #7 of 24)

I understood "jackleg" from context, but Googled it anyway. Learned a new word today.

The wiring may have been done by a plumber. At some point the bathroom, which is on the other side of that wall, was renovated. The wiring, GFCI outlet, and plumbing access panel are in the hallway, not in the bathroom. I thought it was strange placement--aren't GFCIs usually near water? It turns out the circuit is not just for the bathroom, but also controls the outlets in the adjoining room. Is that a reason for putting it in the hallway?

Janet

"The wiring may have been (post #188326, reply #10 of 24)

 

"The wiring may have been done by a plumber"

Hmmm. Gotta be a joke in there somewhere.

 

Anyways, what does the wire itself look like?

 

The wire is flattened instead (post #188326, reply #12 of 24)

The wire is flattened instead of round, 1/4" thick and 3/8" wide. I don't know how many wires are inside the insulation, which is off-white.

That would be standard (post #188326, reply #14 of 24)

That would be standard "Romex".


Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well-warmed, and well-fed.  --Herman Melville

The "correct fix" (post #188326, reply #11 of 24)

The best solution, at least in my mind, is to pull the wires to the side, and temporarily staple them there. 

Once they are out of the way, just take a router and cut a 3/8-inch wide by 1/2-inch deep notch in the stud.  Tuck the wires in the new notch, and install an armored plate over the notch. 

If you are neander mode, you can bang out the notch with a sharp chisle, in the time it takes to set up the router. 

Are there plates made (post #188326, reply #13 of 24)

Are there plates made especially for this situation?

Janet

Yes.  They cost a few cents (post #188326, reply #15 of 24)

Yes.  They cost a few cents each and have a couple of teeth that hold them inplace.  Most any hardware store will carry them in the electrical department.

You need to be careful about (post #188326, reply #16 of 24)

You need to be careful about hammering anything in a plaster wall, you can crack the plaster on the other side.

YAY!  I love WYSISYG editing!  And Spellcheck!

____________________________________________________

Thanks, everyone. Lucky that (post #188326, reply #17 of 24)

Thanks, everyone. Lucky that I didn't cut into the wires while digging out the foam! My husband went straightaway to Home Despot and found "nail plates." He bought several, in case we come across more instances of faulty wiring.

The next time I dig out a patch in the plaster, I will turn off the power first.

Janet

Better yet, just name me on (post #188326, reply #18 of 24)

Better yet, just name me on your life insurance policy.


Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well-warmed, and well-fed.  --Herman Melville

Where there is one.... (post #188326, reply #20 of 24)

I would trace that line back to its source. You could have a half dozen such opportunities.