I have a couple of junction boxes outside my condo. Both are very small, about 4 inches by 2 inches. No one has a ready to fit external outlet for this. Is there something I can fit into the junction box? Do I need to rip out the conduit and start over?
Dru D. - St. Louis, MO
Dru, modifying electrical junction boxes and installing outlets are not DIY projects -- especially when you live in a condo building and other residents may be affected by work done incorrectly. What you are seeing is probably a junction box for an exterior light fixture or some other sort of outdoor electrical device.
Depending on how your building is set up, the panel that controls the flow of electricity through the box may not even be in your condo. That means that you could have all of the breakers flipped off in your panel and still receive quite a jolt when the junction box's cover is removed and the wiring is touched.
If you want to install an exterior outlet, the first step should be to contact the Condo board to find out if it is permitted. They should also let you know whether you can hire an electrical contractor for the project or the building already has a company under contract for that type of work. In many cases, everything outside the walls of your home is someone else's responsibility when you live in a condo building.
In either case, all exterior outlets need to be on a special circuit that immediately cuts off if there is a sudden change in voltage. This is to protect condo and homeowners who happen to be standing in a puddle when using an electrical device. The outlets over the countertops in your kitchen and in your bathroom are on the same type of circuit. If your condo has a garage or unfinished basement, the outlets in those areas could be on that type of circuit as well.
Under no circumstances should anyone work on the wiring inside or outside your condo who isn't a licensed electrician. It may seem like a simple enough project, but if done incorrectly, it could create a major safety hazard for you, the condo, and your neighbors.
If the board allows you to hire an electrical contractor, it might be a good idea to choose the company that originally did the building's wiring. They should be familiar with the electrical layout in the units and may have knowledge of the situation that could save you some money.