Two prong receptacles.

I have been inspecting many older homes recently that have two prong receptacles throughout most of the home. I have been recommending upgrading. I was curious if other inspectors are letting this go.

What is your opinion?

Definatly recomment upgrading. Ungrounded Outlets do not meet modern safety standards. GFCI’s will work with no ground, but I wouldnt try it. The wiring must be 40 or so years old… probably time anyway. If the client chooses to NOT upgrade, you have your butt covered.

Why not?

Please advise what the “significant deficiency” of a 2 prong outlet is?

Having a 3 prong on a two wire circuit IS an issue, but why would I want to upgrade my entire electrical system?

There are only one or two appliances I own that have a 3 prong plug (computer). What is your point?

This is not me talking, it is what you will be asked by Client, Agent, Electrician.

What is your reply?

Are you saying we must “upgrade” old homes to today’s standard?

Does the SOP or your State Law require this reporting?
Do you have any earthly Idea what it takes to re-wire a house (“it about time anyway”) ?

When ever we see ungrounded three prong outlets we will recommend that they be changed to two prong or marked ‘grounded’.
Were all homes built 40 years ago or more not safe? From our standpoint we are very carefull about using terms such as ‘must’ or ‘significant upgrade’ in any verbal or written communication with our clients. The attorneys love it, the realtors hate it and most of our clients don’t care!

I would not recomend an upgrade for two prong outlets in general. I would recommend if I felt it was a safety issue, (kitchen, baths, basements, etc).
i would also recommend changes to standard 3-prong outlets on a two wire system.


About 95% of what we plug into receptacles have two prong plugs. Computers, vacuums, etc. have the typically have grounded plugs but little else does. Must be a reason! There is an excellent (free) electrical course on line here in iNachi to help dispel some of the misunderstandings and misinformation about electrical.

If I’m inspecting a home with two prong receptacles I mention in the report how some appliances do require a three prong receptacle but I would never recommend a system upgrade based on the presence of two prong.

If I come across open ground three prong receptacles I would recommend they replace the receptacle with a two prong.

It’s not about covering your butt it’s about providing your client with valid, relevant, professional advice.

Other options available:

**406.3(D) Replacements **Replacement of receptacles shall comply with 406.3(D)(1), (D)(2), and (D)(3) as applicable.

(1) Grounding-Type Receptacles Where a grounding means exists in the receptacle enclosure or a grounding conductor is installed in accordance with 250.130©, grounding-type receptacles shall be used and shall be connected to the grounding conductor in accordance with 406.3© or 250.130©.

(2) Ground-Fault Circuit Interrupters Ground-fault circuit-interrupter protected receptacles shall be provided where replacements are made at receptacle outlets that are required to be so protected elsewhere in this Code.

(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).

(b) A non–grounding-type receptacle(s) shall be permitted to be replaced with a ground-fault circuit interrupter-type of receptacle(s). These receptacles shall be marked ``No Equipment Ground.’’ An equipment grounding conductor shall not be connected from the ground-fault circuit-interrupter-type receptacle to any outlet supplied from the ground-fault circuit-interrupter receptacle.

© A non–grounding-type receptacle(s) shall be permitted to be replaced with a grounding-type receptacle(s) where supplied through a ground-fault circuit interrupter. Grounding-type receptacles supplied through the ground-fault circuit interrupter shall be marked GFCI Protected'' andNo Equipment Ground.’’ An equipment grounding conductor shall not be connected between the grounding-type receptacles.

NEC says 2-prong receptacles are OK in an existing system.

Make sure you check for reverse polarity though.


I do advise client that when they have a 3 prong plug appliance, do not shortcut and add an adapter which may not ground the appliance. If they need a grounded receptacle, it should be checked and professionally installed.

VERY well said.

Let me clarify my previous statement. I recommend upgraging to GFCI’s. If they are 2 prong, They obviously arnt.

. **It’s not about covering your butt it’s about providing your client with valid, relevant, professional advice./**quote]

Actually, valid, relevant, professional advice *is *covering your butt.

Education is the absolute best way…

You need to cover your butt, but you do not have to document it where it is so obvious. Every report section you don’t understand.

I educate the client about the “old” home and systems in it they are purchasing.

Let’s not confuse the word “grounded” with “grounding”. There is a difference.

For a receptacle to be ungrounded would mean that the system was ungrounded, or that the system ground was not bonded to it and its box.

Many 2-prong receptacles are, indeed, grounded. Metallic sheathing or separate wire extends to the metallic box, where it is mechanically and electrically bonded. The receptacle is, in turn, mechanically and electrically bonded via mounting screws. The receptacle is therefore grounded.

Folks get confused with 3-prong “grounding” receptacles; the purpose of which is to extend the system ground to any device whic may need it. Thusly, the need for the third prong.

I may call attention to the difference, but do not automatically call for replacement under the guise of the “system” or receptacle not being grounded. Besides, many of the older 2-prong receptacles are loose, painted over, or may be cracked ot otherwise worn out, which are legitimate reasons for replacement of affected receptacles.

I’m sure you meant “marked ‘ungrounded.’”

You could also recommend that they be grounded.

A less expensive route is to label the open ground three prong receptacles as “ungrounded.” Another option is to have them grounded.

I believe it’s both, and with the prevalence here of these older homes being purchased by mom and dad for their children to live in for six years while going to college, and with the prevalence of all sorts of modern day items needing three-prong outlets, I would hate to open the paper some day and find an article about three college students dieing in a home fire determined to have been caused by extension cords being plugged into extension cords being plugged into extension cords being plugged into a cheater plug.

The other thing to be aware of is that if the home has older two-prong outlets, there is a possibility that the service capacity is less than 100 amps. Many insurance companies here won’t insure a home with less than 100 amps, or will require an upgrade to 100 amps minimum, or will charge a higher insurance premium.

Additionally, a home with two-prong outlets can indicate a lack of an adequate number of outlets and/or a lack of an adequate number of circuits. I’ve been in many homes here where 50-foot extension cords are run from an unused area of the house to a living room which is the CCC (Communications Control Center) for eight college students, as well as a gazillion plugs into several surge protectors. For example, see this picture and this picture.

Yes, while two-prong outlets are safe for your electric razor and a common table lamp, there is no guarantee that those outlets will be used for those appliances. Better safe than sorry.