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Six wires in a single outlet box?

Posted by littleriverbb (My Page) on
Thu, Mar 19, 09 at 14:18

OK, so I wanted to replace a brown electrical outlet in an upstairs bedroom with a new white one (not at the B&B). I take off the cover and there are six wires coming out of the box...

two wired to the screws on the left
two wired to the screws on the right
two are snapped into the connectors on the back (seems like duplication)

My new outlet only has the four snap connectors on the back. I could probably buy an outlet with snap connectors but my questios are...

1) What would be the point of six wires in the box? It does not appear that it was ever a double gang box, neither the top nor bottom outlet is tied to a light switch, and they are connected to the same breaker in the box.

2) This wiring seems odd to me, is there any danger with wiring up the new outlet just like it currently is?


Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Six wires in a single outlet box?

Not a problem. You a power in cable and two power out cables feeding two other devices.
You need two wire nuts and a short black wire and short white wire of the same gauge(diameter) as the existing wires.
Connect the three black to the short black with a wire nut. Then connect the black to the gold screw.
Do the same for the white and connect to the silver screw.
Connect all the bare wire together and to the green ground screw.

You can buy a receptacle that has the clamp style connector. This allows two wires under each screw. The screw has a plate under it. The wire goes under the plate and the screw clamps the plate on top of the wire. With this type you can put one wire under each side of the screw. With normal screw connection you are only allowed one wire per screw.

RE: Six wires in a single outlet box?

Make sure you choose one of the two options joed describes, and don't be tempted to buy a receptacle with push-in connections in the back. Although they are approved for use, they can sometimes pose a fire hazard because the push-in contacts don't provide really secure, high conductivity connections.

RE: Six wires in a single outlet box?

I have the exact same problem, but my house is old and all 6 wires look alike, thick copper with a black rubber sheath, and a kind of gray & red cloth covering the rubber. In the back of the box there are two wires coming out of the top left, two out of the top right, and two out of the bottom left. There is a hole in the bottom right with no wires coming out. The outlet isn't grounded, so no ground wires. I was able to get 2 wires under one screw, so I tried a couple of configurations, but my overhead & two front porch lights won't turn on. How do I figure out which wire attaches to which screw?

RE: Six wires in a single outlet box?

"I have the exact same problem, but my house is old and all 6 wires look alike, thick copper with a black rubber sheath, and a kind of gray & red cloth covering the rubber."

Gray is neutral, red is hot.

If you want to test use a volt meter and an extension cord from a grounded outlet.

RE: Six wires in a single outlet box?

"I was able to get 2 wires under one screw..."

Cyndy- What you describe is not only illegal but a potential fire hazard. I don't mean to be insulting, but if your approach to wiring this is to experiment until something works, you don't have the knowledge necessary to do this safely. Please get an electrician or someone with electrical knowledge involved in this before you get hurt or have a fire.

RE: Six wires in a single outlet box?

Brickeyee, I meant each wire is covered with gray & red fabric, not one color or the other, but it sounds like I should follow kudzu9's advice and call a professional. I was just trying to save some money. I can't understand why putting two wires under one screw instead of one out the back of the same plug would make a difference, but I'll take your word for it. Thank you both.

RE: Six wires in a single outlet box?

I'm glad you're getting some help with this, and that you didn't take my suggestion as an insult. I'm all in favor of do-it-yourself to save money...except when it comes to wiring where a person doesn't have enough knowledge to know whether what they are doing is correct/legal/safe.

As for the two wires under one screw, the screw connection can only handle one wire securely. I know it's possible to get a second wire under there, but, over time, as the connection warms up and cools down under use, the screw will loosen up, and the wires won't make as good a contact. When that happens, you can get extra heat, possible arcing, and receptacle failure, and fires. That is the kind of thing that isn't obvious when you haven't done a lot of wiring, and it's a good example of the type of trouble you can get into if you don't have a good enough knowledge base about wiring.

Good luck.

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