I will try to explain it and I made a drawing that give an idea of what it seems to look like.

I just had some work done on my house (built in 1967) and the electrician found this weird connection.

I have a 14/3 wire going to an outlet in the kitchen, it was not a GCFI, now it is. In the outlet, I have 2 wires coming in, one from the panel (14/3) and one from the range hood (14/2) (the hood is not installed right now). The range hood has 2 hot black wires on 2 different breaker. The other breaker (the 14/2) is feeding a lot of lights and a microwave.

It seems that somewhere in the wiring the neutral doesn't follow the black, it feeds another set of lights, including the microwave.

In the picture below, the left side is where the microwave / hood are.

We have confirmed that the neutral from the left side is needed to be connected to the neutral from the 14/3 wire, if we remove the connection nothing is working on that side.

The electrician said that it would be a good idea to remove that connection between the 14/3 and 14/2 neutral but that would cost a lot. He also said that since it's working it should be OK to keep it as-is but he said that if I'm selling the house in the future, I should mention this since it could be classified as a latent defect

My question are:

  • Is this a dangerous way of connecting everything, is it a latent defect?
  • Should the 14/2 also be connected at the panel like the 14/3 is? (see picture pf the breaker)
  • When I install the range hood, which hot wire should I use? the one from the 14/3 or 14/2? (I don't remember how it was connected when I removed it)

enter image description here

  • This looks to be quite a mess - if that picture is real (and not just a random similar picture you found) then you have a fake handle tie on an MWBC, but only 1/2 used (sort of) and in general a real mess. I think pictures showing the actual wiring at the breaker, at the GFCI, at the first receptacle past the GFCI, the last receptacle of the left neutral chain and the first receptacle past the breaker of the right neutral chain would help. OMG! Commented Oct 19, 2020 at 1:42
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    @Fredou -- can you find the junction box where the left-side neutral terminates? Commented Oct 19, 2020 at 2:21
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    @Fredou -- it should bloody well be accessible from below (either through a light fixture, or a blank cover); if not, that's an issue in and of itself Commented Oct 19, 2020 at 2:37
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    Then there should be no need to go into the attic, unless there are additional boxes up there. Every box you have found already - light, switch, outlet, etc. - is accessible, by definition, by removing the cover plate, light, switch, outlet, etc. You will only need to go into the attic if there is a need to run new wires, which hopefully won't be necessary, though we don't know for sure yet. Commented Oct 19, 2020 at 3:32
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    Turn off all 4 of the breakers in your picture. Remove the cover plate from each outlet, switch or hard-wired device (light, etc) in your drawing. Remove each device (switch/outlet), but DO NOT REMOVE ANY WIRES OR WIRE NUTS. Take a clear, focused picture of each device showing the wires attached to the device & where they run into the box. Edit your post to embed each of the pics, numbered to match your drawing. Do this especially for the top center where you show a black from 2 breakers connected in the box. Do not go into the attic for this.
    – FreeMan
    Commented Oct 19, 2020 at 14:24

2 Answers 2


Code requires 2 things: First that all junction boxes be accessible, and second that wire splices happen only inside junction boxes. That is why everyone is expecting this should be accessible.

So there are 2 big problems. First that breaker's handle-tie is completely hork-a-dork (credit for having a handle-tie, but they should've gotten a proper one). Either obtain the proper handle-tie for that breaker, or replace the 2 breakers with a quadplex 15-15-15.

The far bigger problem is this violates a cardinal rule: Neutrals and hots must travel together and Neutrals must serve only their partner hots. Any outlet must use the neutral from the same cable the hot came from. You can't loopy-doop neutrals like this for two reasons: Aside from current imbalance (which causes heating, this is AC power not DC!!!!) the big problem is we could overload the neutral. Imagine a 15A load plugged into the GFCI, so 15A on the red wire. No problem, right? Now imagine 2 boxes above it, 15A plugged in there. What's the current on the /3 white wire? You're darn right it's 30A!!!! So this won't do at all.

Now, a "CABLE" contains a number of WIRES inside a sheath. They don't sell cables with just a black wire, so there must be an undrawn white wire at top center.

Usually when "the last guy" does a dumb thing like this, it's to try to compensate for what is thought to be a broken wire. Often it turns out to not be a broken wire at all, but some sort of blunder. (remember anyone who does this is NOT the sharpest tool in the shed). Actual wire breaks are VERY rare.

So your task here is to complete the mapping of this circuit, account for every wire, and validate every wire to see what's really broken and what's merely a faulty wire connection at the device (notably: backstabs).

Then, you pick 1 place to break BOTH the black AND white wires: Just left of center where you did not draw a white wire, or above the GFCI. At that junction box, you disconnect one set and cap them off.

If all wires prove out good, and one of the possible break points is a 2-gang box with 2 yokes (4 sockets), feel free to feed one yoke with one circuit, and the other yoke with the other circuit. Do NOT split the 2 sockets on one yoke and feed 1 from each circuit (that would require something you can't do).

There's nothing abnormal about being afraid of going into an attic where blown insulation covers the rafters. When blown insulation covers the floor, you have no way of knowing if there's even a floor there. If there's no floor, then one misstep and your foot punches through the ceiling drywall and you have an injury, a fire department rescue, a BIG mess, and an expensive repair bill.

  • The correct course of action is to get a whole bunch of trash bags, a quality mask and glasses, and shovel all the blown insulation into the trash bags until the floor is easily observable. Then create a floor using appropriate materials (quality plywood is my choice; stronger and lighter than OSB; if 4x8 sheets are unwieldy have the yard cut it to your rafter spacing typ. 16" or 24"). Then lay the floor as you advance into the attic, removing insulation as you go. Then add a few lights at the apex, then do your work that you need to do. Then put the insulation back over the new floor. Do the entire floor so next time you're up there you never have to worry about if there's a floor here.
  • the way the basement was wired, i just paid a lot fixing it, it was, that is the electrician term, octopus junction box, power was coming in and was split all over the place, i had 1 junction box having 1(wire) power in and 7(wires) power out. i also had one with 1 in and 9 out, kind of a mess. I assume I have 2 octopus box in the attic, one for the left side and one for the right side of the picture. if lucky i could find where the neutral is not connected and fix at least this issue with that neutral. side note light switch and light only have 1 wire in them, same with the microwave outlet.
    – Fredou
    Commented Oct 19, 2020 at 22:30
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    just to add to what @Harper-ReinstateMonica said ... always wear a hardhat in the attic if nails from shingles or from roof tiles are visible ... you should really wear one if the attic is unfinished, because you never know what might be sticking out
    – jsotola
    Commented Oct 20, 2020 at 0:49
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    @Fredou isn't anything wrong with octopus wiring per se, as long as the work is proper and the box is big enough for the splices. Commented Oct 20, 2020 at 2:08
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    @Harper-ReinstateMonica i know, but that one (8 wires) was behind drywall without any access, I just found it again in my trash, i think i will keep it to remind me why i spent a few thousands rewiring the basement. This is what it looked like, youtube.com/watch?v=Flg7GclDmMA sadly the one with more wires, they removed the wire one by one. this one was found after. They just decided to remove it as-is.
    – Fredou
    Commented Oct 20, 2020 at 2:18
  • @jsotola i need to find a friend that can go into the attic, i think i have claustrophobia, i tried once to go in, i just wasnt able, thanks for the tip ... i will make sure he/she have one
    – Fredou
    Commented Oct 20, 2020 at 2:24

is that a dangerous way of connecting everything, is it a latent defect?

Absolutely it is dangerous, having unblalanced currents in a cable can cause inductive heating of the apertures the cable passes through. for this reason it is a code violation.

What you have drawn looks bad, there could be other faults lurking there too that would be revealed by photographs.

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