Ultimately I would like to know is the only scenario the white wire is hot is due to a switch loop or a reason white might be hot or black is neutral.

I had three wires nm romex (14/2) going into a single outlet. I’m an idiot and did not take a mental picture of what was what before taking two wires off the terminal screws and four wires out the backstabs before replacing with gfci outlet. Rookie mistake I’m sure.

I Temporarily wire nutted the blacks together and the whites together and the grounds.

After some time I realized I’m so dumb for not checking the outlet before hand like I usually do and copy it. The breaker has not tripped and the whites are not hot. But I recently had a question on stack for why a white wire would be wire nutted to black and learned about the switch loop. So I’m paranoid I maybe just created a fire hazard considering there could be other scenarios where white should hot in which case my wiring could be wrong or the black should be white (I would think that’s bad practice but I’m still learning so can’t say for sure).

Thinking through this I can’t think of any reason an outlet might have a white and a black mixed where white is hot or black is switched or some combination for these three wires. The outlet is not controlled by a switch that I am aware of for the five years I’ve lived here but you never know.

I’m sure there has to be some electrician or experienced DIYer that has done this and there is some method to deduce what is what without tracing the wires through the wall.

  • Have you thrown the switch in question? Also you are asking more questions than most people, something to think about. Jan 13, 2021 at 0:33
  • @Harper-ReinstateMonica No switch here, only a receptacle. OP is confused (understandably) about the issue with switch loops and therefore concerned that perhaps black/white might not be normal hot/neutral in one of the 3 cables. Jan 13, 2021 at 0:57
  • 1
    @Harper-ReinstateMonica that is true I have asked a good amount of questions recently so i apologize and will slow down on the Q’s. So there is no switch that control the outlet. From what I can tell. However there is a single switch light on the circuit and a two way switch light on the circuit as well super close by. Hard to tell if one of those is one of the three wires. I think that is really the tricky part that is making me paranoid. The switch loop was for another project and through me off when I saw that. So it got me thinkin Theres other scenarios like that. Jan 13, 2021 at 1:20

1 Answer 1


You should be just fine as far black/hot vs. white/neutral.

However, you may or may not realize how the GFCI is wired. With an ordinary receptacle, it doesn't matter whether a wire goes to top screw, top backstab, bottom screw or bottom backstab. With GFCI, there are two totally different sets of screws - LINE and LOAD. To avoid problems, the LOAD screws are normally covered with tape to prevent accidental use.

By pigtailing everything together, you have everything on LINE. That is perfectly OK, but it means that any downstream receptacles are not protected. If you expect (or want) downstream receptacles to be protected, then a little more work is needed.

  • Thanks for reply. Yea I’m familiar with the gfci load and line I’m just paranoid about not knowing 100 percent about the three wires in general. That switch loop has me paranoid lol. Jan 13, 2021 at 1:03
  • so if for some crazy reason the white and black were switched on one of the lines going out it due to be tied to a switch or something it should in theory trip the breaker right? Jan 13, 2021 at 1:59
  • 1
    Yea i have a multimeter and also a outlet tester. I will test downstream to see which outlets are off when i disconnect. I will also test them once reconnect to ensure the tester shows its setup correctly (Sperry Instruments GFI6302). I am assuming if things were reversed it would show it as not setup correctly. As for my breaker comment, if things were switched it should trip the breaker as I mentioned above right? It seems this would fall under a short circuit which I thought a standard breaker would trip immediately. Either way thanks for the help and i think your answer suffices. Jan 13, 2021 at 2:28
  • 1
    a) I don't think there are any switches involved here; b) even if there was, the result of flipped black/white elsewhere in the circuit would (I think) be the neutral being switched instead of the hot wire - which violates code but doesn't cause a short circuit. Jan 13, 2021 at 2:44
  • 1
    That makes complete sense. Thanks again for the help. Jan 13, 2021 at 3:20

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.