This is for a U.S. based house built in 1990.

I have an outlet receptacle running on 20 Amp 12 Gauge wire. I want to replace it with a GFCI outlet.

The problem is that 2 circuits are running through this outlet. You will notice in the diagram below, that all of the Whites (Neutral) are capped off with each other and connect to the outlet once, while two hots come off the outlet.

The wiring in the upper right corner is the source of power for the normal circuit.

If I take the Black and White from that circuit and hook those into the Line screws of the GFCI, the GFCI works and tests out perfectly, but the rest of the chain (Load) is not connected.

What needs to happen with the white wires to make this work?

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  • You say that the upper right cable is the source (home run), but it's connected to the load side. Wha?? Please edit your post to explain a little better what's going on here.
    – isherwood
    Apr 16, 2017 at 3:16
  • The white wire from the source should be removed from the wire-nutted bunch and connected to the Line side of the GFCI. The rest of the whites should be nutted together and pigtailed to the Load side.
    – brhans
    Apr 16, 2017 at 4:03
  • Do you want the GFCI to protect any of the other branches, or just the receptacle itself?
    – Tester101
    Apr 17, 2017 at 12:09

2 Answers 2


Don't use the words "line" and "load" for plain receptacles.

What's happening here

If indeed the power is coming from the upper right... This is a multi-wire branch circuit that appears to irrevocably split here. It shares neutral up to this point, then it does not.

Because it is an MWBC, the neutrals are pigtailed. That is correct and important. However it is not necessary after the MWBC hots split for good, so the upper left cable did not need to be pigtailed, it could have chained off the receptacle same as its "hot" does.

The lower right cable is the "red" leg of the MWBC. It departs and we don't deal with it again here.

The receptacle is the "black" leg of the MWBC.

How to hook up a GFCI

It goes without saying that you de-energize both sides of the MWBC before doing anything with wires. This will involve many trips to the breaker panel. Most likely the breakers are adjacent, possibly with a handle tie, or are a 2-space 2-pole breaker.

First, disconnect and fold back both hot and neutral from the upper left cable. We will not be using them at all. (yet.) You might, at this point, go see which receptacles are downstream and now dead. Make a note of those.

The lower right cable stays exactly as it is.

At this point there will be 1 hot and 1 neutral going to the receptacle, and the receptacle should work.

Replace the receptacle with a GFCI type. The hot and neutral go to the LINE terminals. The LOAD terminals are unused.

At this point the GFCI should work fully. Plugging anything into any receptacle in either this or the other half of the MWBC should not trip the GFCI at all. A GFCI test on the other half of the MWBC should not trip this GFCI.

Lastly, go back and grab the upper left cable I said we weren't going to use. Connect these to the LOAD terminals on the GFCI. At this point all the downstream receptacles should be back up. Now go test the downstream receptacles with a GFCI tester. All should trip the GFCI. Other than that, if you are now getting nuisance GFCI trips, it means one of the appliances downstream (or the wiring) has a ground fault (that is, after all, what you are paying this gadget to detect).

  • What about the neutral of the lower right cable? Do I pull this neutral off and cap it, or what should it be pigtailed with?
    – JasonH
    Apr 16, 2017 at 14:15
  • @JasonH It should be pigtailed with the supply and the receptacle, as it is now. In other words don't mess with it Apr 16, 2017 at 14:22

This box may already be pretty full. A GFCI receptacle may occupy more space in the box than the standard receptacle and you may have trouble fitting a GFCI receptacle into the box. An alternative to replacing the receptacle is to leave the standard receptacle in place and instead replace the standard breaker(s) with GFCI breaker(s). To replace breakers you must remove the front of the service panel and, if you have never done this, you would need to find out how to do it safely.

  • 2
    Since this is a MWBC the breaker should already be a double pole breaker, not two singles. That double pole breaker could be replaced with a double pole GFCI breaker. If the circuit is currently mis-wired using two single pole breakers, replacing one of those with a GFCI breaker will not work due to the shared neutral, nor will two single GFCI breakers, only one double pole GFCI breaker can be used.
    – Tyson
    Apr 16, 2017 at 14:32

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