Strange old 2-conductor wiring with bare neutral

I did an inspection today and found one of the oddest things I’ve ever seen: 4 of the circuits had old cloth-covered wiring with an insulated hot wire and bare neutral that looked like a grounding wire typically does.

I thought at first the neutrals had been clipped off, but upon closer examination the bare wires were the neutrals.

I traced one of the wires, and surely enough, the bare wire was wired to the neutral terminal of the outlet and – get this – bonded to the metal enclosure.

While this is definitely a bad configuration, the worst thing seems to be to be connecting the enclosure to a current-carrying wire, which I told the client should be disconnected, with the bare wire just wired directly to the neutral terminal of the outlet, and not touching any other metal parts to make it less unsafe.

The main functional problem appears to be the increased likelihood of a short circuit due to penetration of the outer sheathing.

I recommended the client have a qualified, licensed electrician look at it, of course.

Have any of you seen this sort of wiring before?

What do you make of it?



I have to honestly say I have never seen a bare conductor with one insulated conductor, that I can remember anyway.

But I’m a far cry from being a electrician----:smiley:

Odd nobody has answered you in an hour—:shock:

While I have never seen it done exactly that way, which looks like a single piece of K & T along with a bare one, I have, on two occasions, seen a dwelling wired with one insulated conductor and one bare conductor inside metal conduit. I think it must have been done by someone (Sparky?) who followed the thinking that the grounded conductor is the same everywhere in the system.

There is no option but to re wire in a case like this. No way would I go in there and try to do a half a** fix up, the buyers need to know this house needs a total rewire.

Thanks, Brian. That was my thought.

Fortunately, it’s only 4 of 12 circuits that were wired like that. Far from needing a complete re-wire. The circuit I examined had only one outlet connected to it. Very easy to correct.*

Most* of the wiring was good, albeit mostly old, 2 conductor with ground plastic sheathed wiring that appeared quite sound, but did have the very thin (18 gauge or so) grounding wires typical of very old grounded wiring.

There’s a name for that stuff, but it eludes me at the moment. It’s being used wrong in that picture. I forget what it was really supposed to be used for, but there was a legitimate use for it. What you have pictured is wrong, however.

Yes after I looked at the other pic of the panel with the Romex I realized it was probably only the original few circuits in an older home.

Kudos to you for catching it, the two homes I have seen it in I was there doing HI follow up on other stuff, but the HI hadn’t picked up on this.