While analyzing a house for its new-home potential, the electrical system is one of the things you'll want to pay special attention to, since it can make the difference between living happily in the house for years or having the house burn down in a catastrophic fire. As you walk through the house, take note of anything you see that may add evidence to the "for" or "against" arguments. Here are three things to look for in the kitchen if you want to catch hints that all may not be well in electrical wiring land.
1. Lack of GFCI outlets
All outlets in areas where water-related electrocutions are a high risk should be connected to a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI). A GFCI outlet looks different than a normal outlet; it has two buttons, one of which is a "test" button and the other of which is a "reset" button. These outlets are required by electrical code now in traditionally "wet" areas such as garages, bathrooms, and kitchens. If you don't see one or more GFCI outlets in the kitchen, there's a problem. Don't freak out if you see one GFCI and one or two normal outlets, though; the normal outlets may be wired to the other one to protect them as well. You can check by testing each outlet as though it were a GFCI outlet. Plug in a small lamp or other device to whichever outlet you want to test, then press the "test" button on the GFCI outlet. If they're wired together correctly, the lamp will immediately shut off as the GFCI device breaks the electrical connection.
2. Too few outlets
Not having enough outlets in a kitchen can mean that you'll need to have work done by a licensed electrician to add enough outlets for your needs. Or it could be an indicator that the wiring system is fifty years old and needs to be replaced altogether. If you see only one or two outlets in the kitchen, it's a good idea to give the electrical system a closer look. Calculate the number and type of outlets you'll be likely to need (for example, one for the microwave and blender, one for the stand mixer, as well as 240 volt outlets for large appliances) and make sure the number available matches that.
3. Outlet damage
If you see blackened, melted, or broken outlets or switches, expect trouble. If they're hot to the touch or give off a burned odor, you should also be extremely skeptical since this may indicate a dangerous malfunction. The outlet could be experiencing electrical overload, or even a critical condition such as crossed wires or loose connections, that makes it unsafe to use.
These three problems that you may discover in your kitchen can alert you to issues with the wiring that may require expensive rewiring or electrical repair that can even involve the whole house, especially in cases of older houses that may have worn-out wiring systems.