DEAR BARRY: Are the electrical wires in a home color-coded for positive, negative and ground? Our wires are brown, blue and green/yellow. Which ones should we connect to which screws? –Agatha

DEAR AGATHA: Assumptions should never be made when electrical safety is involved. Have an electrician verify the color coding. Residential wiring is typically black for hot, white for neutral, and green or noninsulated for ground.

Yours is different because the person who wired your home used materials commonly found in commercial electrical systems. Typical color coding for commercial wiring is brown for hot, blue for neutral, and green/yellow for ground.

Rather than connecting the wires yourself, have the electrician do the work. With electrical wiring, there is often one way to do it right and many ways to do it wrong. The cost of an electrician could spare you from shocking consequences.

DEAR BARRY: Before we bought our house, our home inspector tested the toilets and reported that they were functional. Unfortunately, these tests were just water flushes, which failed to tell the whole story.

After moving in, we had immediate problems with the toilet in the master bathroom. The fixture works OK with liquids, but simply does not dispose of solid waste. In fact, the first time we flushed it, the bowl overflowed. Isn’t there a more reliable way for home inspectors to verify the operability of toilets? –Byron

DEAR BYRON: Home inspectors have reconciled themselves to the routine banality of mere water flushes to test a home’s toilet fixtures. Such simple tests can check for evidence of leakage and ensure that each fixture is securely attached to the floor.

In nearly all cases, these inspection methods are sufficient for identification of operational defects. Unfortunately, your case may have been one of the rare exceptions. Fortunately, repair is likely to be routine and relatively inexpensive. The cause of overflow may simply be common blockage in the drain line or trap. If plunging fails to clear the line, have it checked by a licensed plumber.

Show Comments Hide Comments


Sign up for Inman’s Morning Headlines
What you need to know to start your day with all the latest industry developments
Thank you for subscribing to Morning Headlines.
Back to top
Log in
If you created your account with Google or Facebook
Don't have an account?
Forgot your password?
No Problem

Simply enter the email address you used to create your account and click "Reset Password". You will receive additional instructions via email.

Forgot your username? If so please contact customer support at (510) 658-9252

Password Reset Confirmation

Password Reset Instructions have been sent to

Subscribe to The Weekender
Get the week's leading headlines delivered straight to your inbox.
Top headlines from around the real estate industry. Breaking news as it happens.
15 stories covering tech, special reports, video and opinion.
Unique features from hacker profiles to portal watch and video interviews.
Unique features from hacker profiles to portal watch and video interviews.
It looks like you’re already a Select Member!
To subscribe to exclusive newsletters, visit your email preferences in the account settings.
Up-to-the-minute news and interviews in your inbox, ticket discounts for Inman events and more
1-Step CheckoutPay with a credit card
By continuing, you agree to Inman’s Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

You will be charged . Your subscription will automatically renew for on . For more details on our payment terms and how to cancel, click here.

Interested in a group subscription?
Finish setting up your subscription