electrician put 12 gauge wire on 20A breaker???

jaansuJanuary 22, 2011

I just noticed that the electrician that did the wiring for our kitchen remodel put 20A GFI breakers on two circuits that have 12 gauge wire. I'm 90% sure these circuits were on 15A breakers before. My question is if these were mistakedly 20A breakers before he replaced them, would he notice at the breaker box when he was putting in the new breakers? If not, he could claim that he was replacing like with like and it was not his fault.

For the remodel, he replaced some full breakers with halfbreakers since there were more circuits.

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The code requires at least 2 20amp dedicated circuits to serve the kitchen counter receptacles. Sounds like he was just doing his job.

    Bookmark   January 22, 2011 at 7:50PM
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Twelve gauge wire can handle a 20 amp breaker...or anything less, like 15 amps. You are fortunate that the 12 gauge was already in place as it allowed him to bring this to code without rewiring.

    Bookmark   January 22, 2011 at 8:09PM
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I made a mistake; it was 12 gauge I was hoping to see. There are two 20 amp breakers on circuits that consist of 14 gauge wiring for our bedrooms, not the kitchen. My fault for rushing it off. But the real question is:

when putting on the breaker, is it obvious the gauge of the wiring it is protecting?

    Bookmark   January 23, 2011 at 12:26PM
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"when putting on the breaker, is it obvious the gauge of the wiring it is protecting?"

At least at the connection to the breaker it is obvious.

I never increase breaker rating to 20 amps without checking every box I can on the circuit to make sure #12 wire is used throughout.

You can never tell when someone might have cut a corner and slipped a section of #14 into the wiring.

If there is ANY #14 in the permanent wiring the entire circuit is limited to 15 amps.

There are some exceptions to this rule, but never for general purpose circuits.

    Bookmark   January 23, 2011 at 2:35PM
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The difference between 12AWG and 14AWG wire is usually obvious to an experienced electrician or electrician's helper. It might not be obvious to a person who started the job two weeks ago.

Regardless of the former breaker rating, "like with like" or not, a 15a breaker should have been installed.

    Bookmark   January 23, 2011 at 2:40PM
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Putting 20A CBs on AWG14 wires is a (theoretical) FIRE HAZARD. Put a stop on that check until corrected. The threat of notifying the AHJ should work wonders with such a blatant safety violation. ;')

    Bookmark   January 25, 2011 at 12:17AM
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WHAT blatant safety violation???
The OP said it it 12AWG.
Presumably, a licensed electrician would verify the entire circuit before increasing the size of the OCP device, but it wouldn't hurt to ask...

    Bookmark   January 25, 2011 at 1:20PM
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Ron Natalie

Yes but he does have 20A on 14g circuits which need to be corrected. They're just not the ones from the current work.

    Bookmark   January 25, 2011 at 2:09PM
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Sorry about the initial confusion. To recap, during the remodel, the electrician had to rearrange some of the breakers in the box and ended up putting a pair of split 20A breakers on circuits that are entirely composed of 14 gauge wiring. He was out today to see it, agreed with me and replaced with 15A breakers. Problem solved.

I plan to check out all my other circuits just in case. It's amazing how many problems and shortcuts I have found in an expensive house. Two taped splices hanging in a wall. Nearly all outlets connected using the backstab holes. And now this.

    Bookmark   January 25, 2011 at 3:28PM
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Back stab holes are not illegal. Just not a good idea. For many people they are not any problem at all. It makes for speedier installs when time is money.

    Bookmark   January 25, 2011 at 7:45PM
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I agree, definitely a timesaver for builders like Toll Bros but I like quality better so I'm replacing all those 20 yr old outlets anyway and using the side terminals. Like all my other houses, eventually I hope to achieve quality systems in all places.

    Bookmark   January 30, 2011 at 6:32PM
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I wouldn't get worked up over a back stabbed outlet , especially on 14 ga wire.

Using the side terminals MAY provide a more secure attachment IF done properly. Attached counter clockwise or over torqued and it might actually be worse.

Cost of a home is not a good indication of quality ! $500k in Des Moines is a VERY nice house. $500k in Manhattan is a real dump and won't get you upgraded anything.

If you want to be sure you get good / great infrastructure you have to SPECIFY the level work to be done AND the type of material used. Our projects require Spec Grade outlets at minimum unless noted and they wire from the back , the wires are not looped around a terminal. If you or your designer , architect , builder don't specify - the sparky is going to use a 49 cent duplex receptacle every time.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2013 at 2:16PM
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But you do get worked up over threads that are over 2 years old? :)

Why drag this up to the top?

    Bookmark   March 26, 2013 at 4:08PM
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Halfway through reading all this I noticed the dates.
Glad I didn't reply. ;)

    Bookmark   March 26, 2013 at 9:07PM
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20 amp breaker requires 12 gauge wire all outlets should be on a 20 amp breaker with 12 gauge.

light switches should be 15 amp breaker with 14 gauge wire

kitchens and baths require a gfi or any outlet where there is a possibility of moisture or water

    Bookmark   January 21, 2014 at 12:11PM
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Johnny-come-lately. Registered today to help with very old question.

    Bookmark   January 21, 2014 at 12:46PM
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Ron Natalie

...and with the wrong answers.

A 20A breaker doesn't required a particular kind of wire, it's the 14G wire that precludes a large breaker than 15A. If there is more than one single receptacle on the 20A circuit, they can be 15A.

The statement about light switches is completely false. There's no requirement that light switches be wired with 15A circuits or 14 gauge wire, and frankly there's nothing that precludes you from putting 12g on the 15A breaker either.

Kitchen COUNTERTOP RECEPTACLES and bathroom RECEPTACLES. Not all OUTLETS. Further, there are a five more places that require GFCI for 15 and 20A 120V receptacles by code (laundry, unfinished basement, garage, near sinks, boathouses, outdoors, and in crawl spaces) and his guidance of "moisture places" doesn't strictly hold true.

There are a few other special requirements for places like pools, animal barns, etc... but those aren't normally encountered inside dwellings.

    Bookmark   January 21, 2014 at 2:22PM
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"all outlets should be on a 20 amp breaker with 12 gauge. "

In what part of the world is this a requirement? And I am assuming you are referring to receptacle outlets?

This post was edited by joefixit2 on Tue, Jan 21, 14 at 19:09

    Bookmark   January 21, 2014 at 7:08PM
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Ron Natalie

Not true in any part of the world. Not all the kitchen receptacle OUTLETS are required to be on 20A circuits (there are exceptions). 12G is not a strict requirement either.

    Bookmark   January 21, 2014 at 8:47PM
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