A 2nd floor bathroom I am remodeling has receptacles protected by gfci breaker in the panel which is in the basement.

A previous contractor put gfci receptacles at two locations over vanity.

Is there a good reason for having these receptacles gfci’d? For example would the receptacle trip and prevent the breaker from tripping?

That may be nice since it would prevent a trek down 2 flights of stairs to reset it.

Is that sound reasoning?

Edit: I double checked and the breaker is a gfci not an afci.

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  • Are you sure the breaker isn't an AFCI? they look similar but do a different job.
    – Scott
    Commented May 17, 2020 at 19:12

2 Answers 2


They'll both trip

Both GFCIs will see the ground fault and react the same way to it, snapping off at the same time.

When you go to reset the receptacle, it will be dead. You will need to go down to the basement to reset the GFCI breaker, and then, the GFCI outlet will have a chance of being reset.

The contractor did it to correct a code violation

Bathrooms can use all sorts of outlets, but they must be GFCI protected. A GFCI breaker is a perfectly fine way to do that. However, any outlet protected by an upline device must have a sticker that says "GFCI Protected".

The home inspector came in and saw no GFCI device and no sticker, so wrote it up as a Code violation. The seller or Realtor, in a rush to get the house sold, called in a contractor and said "Fix this!"

The mortal of the story is Put stickers on your GFCI receps.

A lot of moro^Htals believe that all GFCI devices are receptacles, and when someone says GFCI they mean receptacle. So in their rush to fix it, the message got passed to the contractor "No GFCI in the bathroom, 2 receps" which the contractor took to mean "no GFCI receptacles". The contractor may not have been a qualified electrician who would have known better. Or maybe the markup was just better on 2 GFCI receps than 2 stickers.

Regardless, they have played a "Yo dawg" joke on you.

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No way to tell in advance, it's going to be a race. The requirements for GFCI, both for breakers and for receptacles, is that they trip at between 4 and 6mA of current flow. So if one acts at 4ma and the other at 6ma, both meet tolerance specifications, but one trips first.

Breakers may actually take a little longer (at a time scale you can't detect) to clear because the contacts of a breaker have to travel farther than the contacts in a GFCI receptacle, but that may actually result in BOTH of them tripping; the ground fault is sensed by both at the same time, the breaker may start acting first, but the receptacle actually opens first, then the breaker finishes what it started and you have to reset BOTH of them.

Are you ABSOLUTELY sure the GFCI breaker is feeding the same circuit with the GFCI receptacles? Even if so, is there SOMETHING ELSE on that circuit that needs the GFCI? If not, I would opt for the GFCI receptacles for the very reason you mentioned; having to reset the breaker in the basement.

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