Peek A Boo GFIs

By
Home Inspector with Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC

There should be no such thing as peek a boo GFIs.

In modern houses kitchens have two, and sometimes three, circuits.  Each is protected by a GFI receptacle.

One thing I always do in a home inspection is check the GFI receptacles.

All of them.

In the kitchen I make sure that everything that is supposed to be GFI protected is in fact protected.

For example, if there is an island, it should be protected.

And the refrigerator should NOT be protected!

So I look around.

And that's an easy check!

I plug in my device which evaluates the circuit and push the "test" button!

When I see the lights go out and hear the receptacle snap, I turn it back on and move to the next.

In this kitchen I heard the snap, but could not find the receptacle.

I looked all over!  GFI receptacles are sometimes put in what I consider to be odd places. 

Behind this kitchen wall is the laundry room.  I thought, "Did they put the GFI in the laundry room?"

But after looking there, no, they did not.

Where is it?

Look at the photo above.  Can you see the edge of the receptacle cover behind the stuff in the cabinet?

Moving the stored things out of the way, I found the receptacle!

IT'S INSIDE THE CABINET!

I have to confess to never seeing that before!

It turns out that the builder in this house left a large portion of wall without cabinet coverage, favoring a very small desk instead.

The builder also left them a tiny pantry.

So these homeowners decided to add another cabinet to the kitchen where the desk was located.

This is fine, even a smart thing to do.  An additional kitchen cabinet is rarely a bad thing!  But while adding it they covered up the receptacle on the end.  Don't plug in the toaster!

You can see the work was probably done by the homeowner as the receptacle opening is roughly cut.

My recommendation:  when GFI receptacles are tested, they have to be turned back on.  Sometimes they are very difficult to find!  In one house I could not find it and it turned out to be buried behind drywall in the "finished" basement!  Fortunately here we were able to find it, albeit in a very odd place! 

 

 

 

Posted by

Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC  

Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.

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

www.jaymarinspect.com


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  1. Ginger Harper 09/17/2012 06:54 PM
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Rainmaker
1,407,510
Andrew Mooers
MOOERS REALTY - Houlton, ME
Northern Maine Real Estate-Aroostook County Broker

Shocking blog post with valuable information.

Sep 18, 2012 06:59 AM #49
Rainmaker
146,152
Marshall Brown
Mid America Inspection Services, LLC - Fargo, ND
BSEE, CHI

After having to call the listing agent to have the owner come home from work to reset a GFCI that, among other things, "protected" the freezer in the garage we stopped testing any GFCI unless we are looking at it. At that particular house the GFCI was located beneath the vinyl siding and adjacent to the rear door of the house.

Even when you think the GFCI is right in front of you, you can run into cases where they are wired in series with another GFCI, usually a homeowner installation, and it is the other one that trips. GRRRRR!

In order to reduce the number of irate calls from home owners we advise our clients that we do not test circuit breaker GFCI's or AFCI's so as to not cause people to be late for work or not have the big game recorded for later viewing. 

Sep 18, 2012 07:07 AM #50
Rainer
157,536
Anthony Daniels
Coldwell Banker - San Francisco, CA
SF Bay Area REO Specialist

Always good tips that help us to increase our home inspecting knowledge.

Thanks for sharing them.

Sep 18, 2012 07:30 AM #51
Rainer
210,075
Nan Jester
Exit Real Estate Gallery Jacksonville Beach, FL - Jacksonville Beach, FL
Realtor, Exit Real Estate Gallery

GFI's are wonderful in what they do. Crazy to put them in such odd places.

Sep 18, 2012 08:47 AM #52
Rainmaker
641,570
Stephanie/Bob The Ruiz/Miller Team
Keller Williams Cornerstone Realty - Ocala, FL
The Ocala Dream Team
Hi Jay how about the GFI in my garage that controls both baths in a split plan home?
Sep 18, 2012 09:37 AM #53
Rainer
80,477
Bernice Dubon
Royal LePage Solutions 403-607-9117 - Calgary, AB
Calgary Alberta Realtor

I never would have thought of looking in the cupboard!  How did you even find it?

Sep 18, 2012 09:40 AM #54
Rainmaker
696,586
Pamela Seley, REALTOR®
REALTY EXECUTIVES OTF - Temecula, CA
Seals the Deals in Temecula Valley California

I've seen one in a bathroom about one  foot from above the floor. Not too convenient when you want to plug in the hairdryer. 

Sep 18, 2012 10:33 AM #55
Rainmaker
187,626
Lyn Sims and the Blog Dog
Bartlett IL Real Estate & Homes - RE/MAX Suburban - Bartlett, IL

You find the oddest stuff. I did have a seller have an interior cabinet plug for her Kitchenaid giant mixer thing that even came up on a stand even with the counter.  I was afraid to even see it work!  Cooking isn't really my thing & this had more attachments than anything I had ever seen!

Sep 18, 2012 11:34 AM #56
Rainmaker
1,254,266
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Travis - behind cabinets is even worse!  It's hard to open the panel box door when it's behind stuff!

Mike - not smart!  When builders put a receptacle in the garage for a freezer it is supposed to be dedicated and NOT on the GFI!

Thanks Lanise.  We try!

Sylvie - it was such a playful device, I bet it moved later!

Sep 18, 2012 01:27 PM #57
Rainmaker
1,254,266
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Brad - and, usually, they will stand by whatever they did!

Kimo - that is the same for me too!

Don - hidden behind garage stuff is not uncommon.  But, as you know, there is no rhyme or reason as to where the controlling GFI is!

Thanks Betty.  That's one of the primary things on a home inspection!

Sep 18, 2012 01:30 PM #58
Rainmaker
1,254,266
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Andrew - I like electrifying posts...

Improperly-wired GFIs are very common, with homeowners not realizing they are stringed, as you know Marshall.  But I am surprised, very actually, that you did not know it was behind the vinyl siding.

Anthony - that's the idea here!

Nan - it wasn't in a bad place, until they installed the cabinet!

Sep 18, 2012 01:33 PM #59
Rainmaker
1,254,266
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Bob - there is no rhyme or reason as to where the electricians put the controlling GFI.  I find them all over!

Bernice - I heard the snap, but could not find where it came from!

Pamela - truly an odd spot!  Sounds like an older home.

Lyn - sounds like it was a dedicated location!  You don't see that appliance often either!  Love Blog Dog!

Sep 18, 2012 01:36 PM #60
Rainmaker
658,973
Evelyn Kennedy
Gallagher & Lindsey, Alameda, California - Alameda, CA
Alameda, Real Estate, Alameda, CA

Jay:

At least you found it.  I presume the homeowner never uses this GFI, so I guess it could be left off.

Sep 18, 2012 02:46 PM #61
Rainmaker
1,254,266
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Had it tripped they might have had a hard time finding it not realizing what they had done Evelyn!

Sep 18, 2012 03:11 PM #62
Rainer
25,324
Dave Brice
Pacific West Home Inspections - Salmon Arm, BC

Surprise you have not seen this before. I have hundreds of times and is not allowed by electrcial code here.

Sep 18, 2012 04:32 PM #63
Rainer
202,594
Dörte Engel
RE/MAX Leading Edge - Bowie, MD
ABC - Annapolis, Bowie, Crofton

Dear Jay,

Say what ....? I am not a fan of water mains hidden behind screw off doors inside a closet or decorative frames around electrical panels that do not let you get to the breakers. Functional items should be easily functional. Spend a couple bucks to save lots down the road, when needed in an emergency.

Sep 18, 2012 05:08 PM #64
Rainmaker
111,583
Rafi Footerman
Mid Jersey Inspections - Edison, NJ
Home Inspector, Mold Inspector, Radon and More!

There was one in NJ that was completely covered with a built in kitchen cabinet.  The poor inspector looked and looked, but it was impossible to find.  They had to have someone come in to cut a hole in the cabinet. Peek a boo is one thing, hide and go seek is another.

Sep 18, 2012 07:24 PM #65
Rainmaker
1,254,266
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Receptacles are in cabinets all the time, Dave, but this one had a cabinet built around it post facto!  And pretty well hidden.

Dorte - often I am unable to enter the panel box for furniture or the water main is behind something immovable!

Rafi - people do try to think in advance...  well, maybe not.

Sep 19, 2012 01:23 AM #66
Rainmaker
572,725
Chris Smith
Re/Max Chay Realty Inc., Brokerage - New Tecumseth, ON
South Simcoe, Caledon, King, Orangeville Real Esta

Jay, I know there is a glaring lack of knowledge about GFI's in our marketplace.  Many people have never tested there GFI outlets.

Sep 19, 2012 09:05 AM #67
Rainmaker
1,254,266
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Ideally they are tested monthly Chris!  Who does?  Nobody I know, including me!

Sep 19, 2012 04:49 PM #68
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Rainmaker
1,254,266

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