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Thread: GFCI in bathroom

  1. #1
    DIY Member philp's Avatar
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    Default GFCI in bathroom

    My bathroom has a hallway switch which turns on the light (above vanity) and also turns "on" a grounded outlet.

    I'd like to change this to a GFCI outlet which is always "on" with the switch for the lights still working.

    Can anyone tell me the best way to do this with minimal re-wiring?

    I thought about removing the hallway switch, changing the outlet to GFCI and then adding a switch downstream of this inside the bathroom for the lights. Would this work? I think for code safety I have to put a blank plate where the old switch was which isn't ideal but I could live with it.

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    Moderator & Master Plumber hj's Avatar
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    Default rewiring

    Until you know how the existing wiring is installed, you will not know whether your changes amount to a minor rewiring, or a semi major one. If the two devices are close to each other it might just require one more wire between them, although a switch in the hall turning on a bathroom light is definitely an ODD arrangement.

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    DIY Member philp's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hj View Post
    Until you know how the existing wiring is installed, you will not know whether your changes amount to a minor rewiring, or a semi major one.
    The switch has two wires: one from the supply and one to the bathroom outlet. The outlet has two wires: one from the switch and one to the lights. The lights have one wire from the outlet.

    Is this sufficient?

    Quote Originally Posted by hj View Post
    If the two devices are close to each other it might just require one more wire between them, although a switch in the hall turning on a bathroom light is definitely an ODD arrangement.
    I don't think it is odd - just old fashioned.

  4. #4

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    For conventional wiring it will require another run from the switch to the outlet.

    Another option would be utilizing an Insteon product available from Smarthome, but it may not be cost effective.

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    Moderator & Master Plumber hj's Avatar
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    Default switch

    It is odd because it means that someone walking down the hallway could see the switch is turned on and turn it off, regardless of whether the bathroom is occupied or not. In some cases it could create a hazardous situation if someone is suddenly plunged into darkness and becomes disoriented.

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    DIY Member philp's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hj View Post
    It is odd because it means that someone walking down the hallway could see the switch is turned on and turn it off, regardless of whether the bathroom is occupied or not. In some cases it could create a hazardous situation if someone is suddenly plunged into darkness and becomes disoriented.
    Yes - so how can I solve this?

  7. #7

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    The switch has two wires: one from the supply and one to the bathroom outlet. The outlet has two wires: one from the switch and one to the lights. The lights have one wire from the outlet.
    I assume you mean cables rather than wires.

    Is the bathroom receptacle in a good place to relocate the switch?

    This may be simple.

  8. #8
    DIY Member philp's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 220/221 View Post
    I assume you mean cables rather than wires.

    Is the bathroom receptacle in a good place to relocate the switch?

    This may be simple.
    Yes - cables, with each cable being 14/2 with ground.

    Yes the switch could go where the receptacle is now and the new GFCI outlet below it at counter height. Does this make it simple? Should the switch be affected by the GFCI i.e. if it trips should the switch loose power or if someone turns on the switch with wet hands will the GFCI kick in and provide protection?

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    Moderator & Master Plumber hj's Avatar
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    Default gfci

    The answer to those questions lies in how you rewire the GFCI and switch. If the GFCI trips and turns off the light, you have the same situation as the switch being in the hall, namely that the occupant may suddenly find him/her self in the dark.

  10. #10
    DIY Member philp's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hj View Post
    The answer to those questions lies in how you rewire the GFCI and switch. If the GFCI trips and turns off the light, you have the same situation as the switch being in the hall, namely that the occupant may suddenly find him/her self in the dark.
    Good point, thanks - so what's the "right" way to rewire?

  11. #11
    Licensed Electrical Contractor Speedy Petey's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by philp View Post
    Good point, thanks - so what's the "right" way to rewire?
    Run a new 12/2 cable from the panel to a new GFI receptacle.
    Answers based on the 2008 & 2011 NEC. If you're on the '14 already I feel sorry for you.

  12. #12

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    Good point, thanks - so what's the "right" way to rewire?

    Trick question

    Run a new 12/2 cable from the panel to a new GFI receptacle.
    Code requires a dedicated 20 amp circuit for bathroom receps so Petey told you the right way.

    I will give you another version of the right way using the existing 15 amp circuit but don't blame me when the hair dyer/curling iron combination trips the breaker.

    In the existing switch box, tie all blacks to blacks, whites to whites and grounds to grounds. Install a blank cover plate on the jbox.

    You have now have two cables in your recep box.

    1. 120V power.

    2. Switch leg to the fixture.


    You can change the recep box to a 2 gang or you can add a box for the recep next to/below it if there is room in the wall cavity. When you decide which way to go, I will give you step by step...but I'm out of communication from thur thru Monday.

    The basic wiring is:

    Black and white = hot and neutral.

    The GFCI recep requires a hot and neutral

    The light switch only controls the hot side. It makes or breaks the connection on the blach wire going to the light. The neutral wire from the light ties to the incoming neutral.
    Last edited by 220/221; 09-09-2009 at 04:32 PM.

  13. #13
    Extreme DIY Homeowner Scuba_Dave's Avatar
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    Is this a 1/2 bath = toilet & sink?

    If it's a full bath I'd definitely do what Speedy said & run a dedicated 20a circuit to a GFCI outlet
    Heck - Me - I'd even do it for a 1/2 bath
    Wife loves that high powered hair dryer
    DIY Handyman (not 4 hire)
    I have enough to do to my own house

  14. #14
    DIY Member philp's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 220/221 View Post
    When you decide which way to go, I will give you step by step...
    Can I do both? i.e. as a temporary measure blank off the existing switch, replace the outlet with GFCI and add new switch inside bathroom. (I'm not sure how to wire this to be safest?)

    I need to add a receptacle to another bathroom (both are full bathrooms) so when I do this I will run a new 12/2 cable. Is it ok to run both bathrooms off the same 12/2 circuit? Can I just use one GFCI (at the first outlet)? Should lighting and outlets be on separate circuits i.e. keep the 14/2 cable for lighting?

    The bathroom outlet is used for hair drying but so is an outlet in the bedroom by the dressing table - should this be on 12/2 20A fuse as well?

  15. #15

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    when I do this I will run a new 12/2 cable. Is it ok to run both bathrooms off the same 12/2 circuit? Can I just use one GFCI (at the first outlet)? Should lighting and outlets be on separate circuits i.e. keep the 14/2 cable for lighting?
    Yes, yes and yes



    Can I do both?
    I meant, when you decide if you want to change the recep box to a 2 gang or you can add a box for the recep or switch next to/below it

    I am on my way out so I'll give you the easy way.

    Change the box to a 2 gang.

    Remove old box.This may be really easy or it may require some effort. If for some reason you have a 4" square box and a single gang mud ring, you can simply change the ring (screws in opposite corners)

    Install new 2 gang (plastic) in it's place securing it to the stud with drywall screws.

    Incoming cable:

    Install two pigtails on the black. One for the switch and one for the recep.

    Switch leg cable: Hook white to incoming white and leave a pigtail for the recep. Black goes to switch .

    Grounds tie together with pigtails for switch and recep.

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