How to Convert Old Electric Wiring to Grounded

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In some old homes you may fine electrical outlets with only two prongs instead of the common three-prong outlets seen today. These two-prong outlets do not have a ground wire. If you look at the electrical wiring in the outlet box, you will find only the black and white wires which are the hot and neutral wires. A simple and common fix for this is to replace the outlet with a GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) outlet which is designed to interrupt the circuit if there is a ground fault. This solution only works for equipment that does not require a ground. If the equipment requires a ground, the outlet must be rewired all the way back to the main power panel.

Things You'll Need

  • Wire cutters
  • Wire strippers
  • Plastic twist caps
  • ROMEX® 12-2 wire
  • Grounded electrical outlet
  • Screwdriver
  • Reciprocating saw
  • Old work outlet box
  • Shut off power at the main power panel. Determine the path for the new electrical wire. The wire will have to either run through the attic, crawl space or through the basement. If the attic is only used for storage, the wire can be laid across the floor of the attic. In crawl spaces and basements, the wire must be attached to the bottom of the floor joists every 4 feet for support.

  • Go to the outlet location and remove the outlet cover and outlet from the outlet box. Depending on the size and type of the new outlet, it may be necessary to replace the outlet box. Remove the outlet box by cutting along the side of the outlet box with a reciprocating saw. Pull the old box out and pull the new wire through the hole in the wall.

  • Push the new wire into the new outlet box and push the new outlet box into the hole in the wall. Tighten the outlet box screw until the outlet box is secure. Strip 1/2 inch of insulation off the ends of the ROMEX® wire. Connect the bare ground wire to the ground terminal of the outlet. Then connect the black wire to the bronze screw and the white wire to the silver screw. Tighten all screws and reinstall the outlet into the outlet box and secure the outlet cover.

  • Go to the main power panel and remove the power panel breaker cover. Locate the breaker for the outlet you have been working on. Pull out that breaker and remove the black wire attached to it. Follow that black wire back to the wires going into the house to fine the old white wire also. Cut off both of these wires and remove them from the power panel.

  • Pull the other end of the new ROMEX® wire into the power panel. Strip 1/2- nch of wire off the ends of the black and white wires. Attach the ground and white wires to the neutral bar on the left or right side of the power panel. Attach the black wire to the circuit breaker and plug it back into the power panel. Reinstall the power panel cover and then turn the power back on at the power panel.

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