Home built 1975, South Florida.

Adjacent to my kitchen sink is a combo switch controlling a non-GFCI receptacle below the sink for the garbage disposal. Next to it (same box) is another non-GFCI receptacle. Connected to this one receptacle (spliced together, not in sequence) are 3 more receptacles for the microwave, dishwasher & coffee maker. The incoming wires are a 14/2 on one breaker and a single 14 (red) on another breaker. There used to be a fan in the next room converted to a simple light. I believe the red wire is the secondary hot that was once used for the fan. The outgoing wire to the disposal outlet is a 14/2.

Obviously, I would prefer to have GFCI next to my sink. The 3 outlets coming off one is clearly not the best set-up, but I have to work with what I have. :/ I have managed to change the outlet and all 4 outlets do test/trip correctly.

However, that leaves me stumped trying to install a single pole switch for the disposal receptacle below the sink. I have only 1 red line in and no neutral.

Is it possible? If not, do I need to splice a neutral to the neutral from the light in the next room & run it over?

Thank you for your help!

  • 1
    I'm unclear. When you say "14/2 and a red", is that a shorthand for "3 wires white black and bare" and then there's also a red inside the same wrapping/sheath, or are you saying the red is entirely outside/loose of the sheath which contains white black bare? Commented Feb 2, 2017 at 6:13
  • I'm sorry. Let me clarify. There is a black/white 14/2 coming from one breaker. There is a single red wire coming from another breaker. Commented Feb 2, 2017 at 6:42
  • Ideally, i would end up with 4 outlets on one breaker and the single-pole switch + outlet for the disposal on the other. Just not sure if it's possible with no neutral on the line side. Originally, the neutral from the disposal outlet was just wire-nutted with the others in the box even though they were on a different breaker (???). I can do that again, but it does not seem correct to me. Commented Feb 2, 2017 at 6:57
  • Some photos might help
    – Tester101
    Commented Feb 2, 2017 at 12:07

1 Answer 1


Can't have a loose wire

"14/2" means a black, white and bare wire wrapped in a sheath. "14/3" is the same except it also has a red wire inside the sheath.

If the red wire is outside the sheath, loose or tacked on, then it cannot be used. At all. This is a totally improper wiring technique. Cap it with a wire-nut and tape, and push it into the back of the box. At the service panel end, just cut it - it is useless. Whoever installed it did very bad work, and all the other work in the house should be reviewed against Code.

I know what he was trying to do, but you can't do that - so no point getting into the gory details.

Pigtails are fine

It's fine if circuits are pig-tailed with wire nuts and short lengths of wire to the receptacle. That is a totally acceptable wiring method.

A workaround: put it all on a single circuit

The simplest thing is simply to wire everything onto a single circuit. It's not good, it would certainly not meet new-build or remodel standards, but it is better than he had it.

When possible, you should pull at least two more 12 AWG/20A circuits, preferably three, and spread the loads out among them. Then retire the 15A/14AWG circuit, or dedicate it to a single thing such as the refrigerator.

Two ways to GFCI

You can install a GFCI breaker inside the panel. That will protect everything on that circuit. You must use a 15A breaker because there is any 14 AWG wire in the circuit.

Or, you can install a GFCI receptacle there at the switch. You can decide which additional loads you would like to GFCI-protect by attaching them to the LOAD side of the GFCI. If you put a "hot" on the GFCI LOAD terminal, you must also put its companion "neutral" also. You may end up with 2 wire-nuts with 2 groups of neutrals: the unprotected and the protected. If a hot goes through the GFCI and a neutral does not (or vice versa), the GFCI will trip.

  • Thank you! I knew it didn't seem right. We are talking about redoing the kitchen soon. When we do, I will make adding more circuits a priority. (The current layout is ridiculous, too!) Until then, I will do as you suggest & put everything in the same circuit. Commented Feb 2, 2017 at 17:04
  • And thank you for the GFCI answer. I was wondering if having 2 groups of neutrals would be the correct way to approach it. Commented Feb 2, 2017 at 17:05

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