Grounded outlet required?

I have a somewhat detailed question I need answered regarding grounded outlets. I am working on a lengthy condo conversion project
that was originally built in 1986.

In my final walkthrough, I found that the electrician did not repair the open-grounded outlets I marked out , instead **he installed **
two-pronged outlets. It is unclear why he could not find the ground error.

The electrician cited 406.4(D) Replacement of receptacles as to why this method of repair is ok.

I NEED back up on this…
Am I right or am I wrong?
406.4 (D) does not apply here since the structure was once required to have “Grounding-Type” receptacles?

I have a feeling that I may look back on this and ask myself why I posted such a stupid question :)))

Thanks for your positive and friendly input!

At first I thought he had you on a sneaky technicality. Then I went back and re-read the section. It’s 406.3(D)

*406.3 General Installation Requirements
(D) Replacements
(3) Non–grounding-Type Receptacles
Where grounding means does not exist in the receptacle enclosure, the installation shall comply with (D)(3)(a), (D)(3)(b), or (D)(3)©.

(a) A non–grounding-type receptacle(s) shall be permitted to be replaced with another non–grounding-type receptacle(s).

KEY words:*“Where grounding means does not exist in the receptacle enclosure”.

If the house was built in 1986 then you are absolutely correct in that a grounding means would most certainly exist. So by default there MUST be a grounding means in the wiring. In this case it MUST be used for replacement receptacles.
And cutting off the ground wire does not mean it does not exist. :wink:

Also, it specifically states a non-grounded can be *replaced with another *non-grounded receptacle.

I personally think you have HIM on a technicality.

Someone might have previously cut off the ground wire (no common sense)and the current electrician doesn’t have any slack on the feeds to get more ground wire into the boxes.

First let me say that this is the best question I have read on this forum in some time and I think it is a darn good question.

Second I agree with Petey complety and recommend that you don’t back away from your findings.
If the grounding conductor was cut; to bad, it needs to be replaced.

One good call my friend. Keep up the good work.

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This is a very similar question to one I recently posted on my local web blog. My question is dealing with older wiring that has had 2 prong outlets simply replaced with 3 prong. But there are some similarities FWIW.

Q. Hey Mark, What can I do about two prong outlets that have been converted to three prong outlets but are ungrounded? I was told this is a shock hazard, and I don’t want to rewire my entire home.
Rob R.
Hey Rob,
Thanks for the question. This particular problem can be handled a couple of different ways. And each of these solutions should be addressed by a qualified electrical professional. (There may be other issues involved such as knob and tube wiring or solid aluminum wiring, which make this issue more complex.)
You already mentioned the best way to solve this problem in your question. That is, rewiring the circuits in question to use a 3-conductor cable (hot, neutral, & ground). This would be considered an upgrade for your electrical system, and would probably be a positive selling point when you are ready to place the home on the market.
Another option would be to simply replace the 3-prong ungrounded receptacles with the original type, 2-prong receptacles (AKA Polarized two-slot). One problem with this solution is that you are still living with ungrounded circuits, and may not be able to use certain appliances requiring a 3 prong outlet. (Important Note: The 2- prong to 3-prong adapters found at hardware stores do not provide a ground for your appliance unless they are grounded another way. They simply allow you to plug in a 3-prong plug into a 2-slot receptacle. The appliance may work, but is unprotected. If there is a short, whoever is touching the appliance may become the “ground” which could result in a serious electrical shock. This is the current condition of your receptacles.)

There is a third option, which could be a good “compromise” solution. National code states that these outlets can be replaced with GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) receptacles. The receptacles are still not grounded but are supposed to protect against shock. This may prove to be a less expensive repair. Note you may want to check your local code to determine that this can be done in your area. Building codes differ from location to location. If you choose this option, each of these outlets should also be labeled “GFCI protected / NO equipment ground”.


In my opinion the sparke was wrong

But if he was time and or money limited the two prong outlets did solve the issue. If it is a code issue and we do not do code how could we call it??

Around here many homes were built not to any code regardless of age. Some times the inspector used his own “local” code

If the condo conversion had to have an electrical permit we have another issue

I would not call the correction to the open ground wrong because of the above

Is it safe - Yes or No that is all. The open ground was a safety issue


Align me with Petey and Mike. The ground “exists” it is just broken and it should be fixed. If these are all on one circuit I bet it is just a wire that fell out of a wirenut somewhere, probably in one of the overstuffed ceiling boxes.
Worst case it is broken off at the box clamp. Ugly but still not impossible to fix.
From a pure safety standpoint the sparky did the right thing by ensuring no 3 prong plugs could be used but that is a stop gap measure and the buyer needs to know what he is getting. Perhaps the seller would not pay what sparky wanted to fix this and is just throwing it back on him.

This is NOT true. A GFCI can protect against fatal shocks, however offers absolutely no protection against electrical shocks in general. The current required to trip a GFCI breaker is enough to be very painful at the very least.

Personally I do not recommend that option outside areas not recommended for GFCI protection (e.g. kitchen count tops near the sink, bathroom). Even then I state that the addition of a ground conductor can further reduce risks of** dangerous** electrical shocks.

It only gives protection between the hot wire and ground.
No protection between Hot and neutral as the same power going out is coming back.
It is when there is an unbalanced load that they shut down.

as we say, the GFCI may keep you from being electrocuted but it doesn’t keep you from falling off the ladder.

If you are saying the above is incorrect well sorry I disagree
If you get between the Hot and neutral the system does not know if you a Person or a light bulb.

This is NOT true. A GFCI can protect against fatal shocks, however offers absolutely no protection against electrical shocks in general. The current required to trip a GFCI breaker is enough to be very painful at the very least.

Hey Roy,
I think things got turned around on this one. What is not true is the statement that “GFCI’s protect against shocks”.

Thanks just shows We all can get confused me more then most .
The one big advantage this discussion might just have shown some how important information is .
Thanks again …Cookie

In my area, such a remodel would mean that all the electrical MUST be upgraded to current standards (which would include grounding).

But then, in this area, everything is in conduit, which carries the ground.

I alwasy recommend (per our state HI law) that older 2 prongs be replaced with grounded receptacles (per current national standards) which is what our state HI law requires. Inform the client about current national standards (especially when it comes to safety), but that does not mean they are required to change it.

But on a remodel (in this area) they are.

Hope this helps;

BTW: Great question. Don’t be shy or skittish. These are the types of questions that help good inspectors become great inspectors. :smiley:

Will, how often do you find bad grounds with a real tester? Suretest or similar that actually tests something.

For existing 3 prong plugs, wired through conduit, very rarely.

I was just curious. I guess that is a testament to the robustness of metalic wiring methods. I had similar experiences surveying a WWII era military base that was being converted to a hospital. They wanted to know if they could count on the pipe as a redundant grounding path. I didn’t find any bad ones either. (tested with an ECOS)

Hey, I’m not saying I am for or against it, just that that is what is. I’ve seen a bunch of Romex wired houses (yes, there are some areas that still allow it, around here) that are really F’d up.

Whatever the method, the safety depends upon the quality of the electrician and the diligence of the code inspectors, as well as the HIs, for used houses.

By “romex”, do you mean NM (non-metallic…plastic) sheathing?

Yes. Sorry I wasn’t precise. :mrgreen: