ungrounded outlets!

I inspected a duplex on Friday that had grounded type of outlets throughout the building. Both living units were full of furniture since the inhabitants had not moved out yet. About one third of the electrical outlets were accessible for testing. EVERY outlet I tested in that duplex indicated NO GROUND CONNECTION. After I tested the third outlet in the inspection, I thought a trend had been established - no grounds! No grounding continued until I had tested all that were accessible; one third accessible), and I recorded it as such and told the realtor and prospective buyer. Then I got to the electrical service panel and found that there were not enough ground wires coming into the panel to ground all of the outlets in the unit!

The building was built in the early fifties and the interior walls were the same walls as in the fifties.

I told the realtor and prospective buyer that someone installed three prong grounding outlets into a two conductor wiring system with no ground wiring.
They asked why, and so did I. Then I mentioned it was to make the place look as though it had updated wiring when in fact, it did not.

Now the realtor calls me back and asks “how do I explain this to an electrician, cause he has to correct it before the sale will go through?”
I explained it to her again, several times, and finally she thinks she understands.

What else should I have done? How else could I explain it so she gets the concept? Isn’t it a matter of deceit? Someone trying to fool someone else into a situation that isn’t as it appears to be?
George Maher
Home - Safe Home, L.L.C.
Fargo, ND

Sometimes it is not a sinister motive but purely economics or availability. The homeowner goes ditty bopping down to Wal-mart, finds the three pronged (grounded) receptacles are only 51 cents and the two prong are $2.50. Now he needs 30 receptacles, does the math and figures he can save $60 by just using the three prong. I see it here more often than not. Go back to the electrical archives as there are some detailed explanations on how to correct this IAW the NEC.


although you can never rule out any sort of motive, this is usually done out of ignorance of the concepts behind their design.

many times, when explaining to clients that you just cant swap out outlets, they admit that they had no idea.

They can simply install a GFCI for each circuit involved and then label the new outlets as having no ground, the labels are included with most GFCI’s.:smiley:

I would be interested in knowing what wiring they have? I have a 1950s house with armored cable with the conductor strip along the casing. I used to have two prong sockets but installed three prong sockets since the casing and conductor strip act as a ground. Perhaps they have the same wiring and so thought that the receptacles would be grounded while forgetting to test for ground? Or pehaps they have the older BX wiring (without the strip) which cannot be used for this? It may be as simple as them forgetting to use self-grounding receptacles if they have Armored Cable and have metal wall boxes.

I don’t think there’s a sinister plot at work here, just pure convience and simple economics. Bruce makes the suggestion that I always make in such situations, concerning adding GFCI receptacles upstream on each circuit. It violates no protocols, adds a measure of protection against shock hazard to those old two wire systems, and is the least inexpensive alternative. That makes agents real happy. I might add that grounding is desirable wherever computer equipment is to be located

MAN…how come my LapTop has no grounding plug on it’s cord…maybe that is why my computer screens keep cracking…thehehehe:mrgreen:

That was very flippant of you Paul.

I made reference to a “conductor strip” in AC and normally you pick me up on this. It is not a conductor strip but just a piece of metal to ensure the integrity of the outer coating. Unlike you to let this pass!

This duplex has plastic covered cables coming into the electric service panels from all circuits, there are no wires coming in encased in metal conduit, solid or flexible. Yes, I believe the grounded outlets were probably installed just because they were cheaper, or the person doing it did not know exactly what he was doing, just enough to be dangerous.
Now I’ve got another “apartment” to do; a four-plex. Wonder what I’ll find there!
Thanks guys.
George Maher
Home - Safe Home, L.L.C.
Fargo, ND

Maybe this will help


Paul…wy u dis me, bro? u no dat be gud idee put dem grouns on dem puters!
De lawd gon’ strike u down!

it’s all good fella…we all make mistakes…thehehe…but now you have to define “flippant” for me…I am from Virginina you know.

lol…man you know I love ya…even if your ground issue cracked my computer screen…lol

No actually…they called me yesterday…strangest thing…I sent the laptop for a crack in the screen…a SMALL one and they said they had to replace the screen which I knew they would…but they said the mother board did not pass inspection either…go figure…so they replaced that also…now I am worried about this Toshiba…yikes…

Paul, you da guru. We all know that!:mrgreen:

George -

Let me throw out a comment we might make in our reports that would explain the condition to an electrician.

“Ungrounded 3-prong electrical outlets were noted at many locations throughout the building. Have a competent and licensed electrician review the electrical system, the conditions and then repair or replace as needed to properly correct any electrical problems”.

ANY electrical problems? That’s casting a pretty broad net. Maybe that’s what you intended?

How about this one:

"The system of branch circuits in the home is an older two-wire, ungrounded system. This was the norm at the time the home was built. Modern branch circuit wiring is a three-wire system which provides a means of grounding each device on each circuit of the home. This provides extra protection against the possibility of shock hazard. While the present system is not considered defective, it is advisable in the interest of safety to upgrade. The least expensive method would be to install GFCI receptacles at the first device in each branch circuit, which will afford protection to the rest of the circuit. You may also wish to consider re-wiring of branch circuits. Consult a licensed electrician on any matters concerning wiring issues.

ungrounded outlets!6/2/07 11:57 PMSeems we have a COWARD in the house…Baby Coward…You know who you are…

What is wrong with installing good (used or new) old two prong outlets like were in it on day one??


It is an option…and your perogative as well :slight_smile: