I have been trying to install a new outlet in a room in my 1950s house, but I am really confused. When I opened it up, there were two black wires in under one screw and one under another. Ditto for the white wires. (No grounds anywhere in the house). I knew that was wrong

I pulled it apart and have been trying to sort it out and my head is ready to explode. The first pair (black #1 and white #2) are on one breaker. The second pair (black #3 and white # 4) are on another breakers. And, the third pair (black #5 and white #5) are on yet a third breaker.

To make matters worse two of the black wires (#1 and #3) and two of the white wires (#4 and #6) are hot.

When testing I get 120 between #2 (which appears to be a true neutral) and #1, #3, #4, and #6.

I get 240 between #6 (which should be neutral, by color) and #1, #3, and #4

All other combinations are 0.

There is a light in the room (on a switch) that was working separately from the outlet, but is now out. The outlet has always stayed on, independent of the switch.

I could not come up with any safe way to put it back together.

Any ideas?

  • 3
    #1 Idea - Bring in a very experienced electrician.
    – Michael Karas
    Apr 29, 2015 at 3:08
  • Which black wires were together on the screw, #1 and #3? On the old receptacle, are the tabs between the terminals removed?
    – Tester101
    Apr 29, 2015 at 10:15
  • Yes, to both. I think you are on to something. As nearly as I can tell, This was set up as a three way switch controlling the light with this outlet in the circuit as well. May 1, 2015 at 2:36
  • I think you want to double check the wires traced back to the breakers. Specifically, you said B3 and W4 share a breaker, but you measure 120V between both of them and W2. That doesn't seem right. Likewise, telling where you know or think the 6 wires connect to would help. Do any of them go to the switch, for example?
    – user14008
    May 1, 2015 at 19:13
  • I traced all the wires on one circuit and about half of the ones on another. It looks like #1 and #2 bring the power in to the "correct" circuit. #3 and #4 actually are the load side wires - when I reconnected everything the right way, they are fine now. #5 and #6 come off a switch, but for some reason, the white is carrying the power. The black wire is cut short and curled up in the box. At this point I have all the outlets on this circuit correctly wired and working. I don't even want the outlet switched, but I am trying to get the lights straight. May 3, 2015 at 4:38

1 Answer 1


The only way you can get 240 across a back and white wire in america is if one wire is wired to one phase, and the other wire to the other phase (and not the neutral bus bar). Find the wires in the panel and move the corresponding neutral wires off the breakers and move them over to the neutral bus bar. No grounds to work with?

Recommend you have an electrician do it unless you know what to test and check o make sure lal is well after the swing is done. Combining phases on accident I have heard is no bueno.

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