I have been remodeling my bathroom in an old house with a 2 wire electrical system without conduit. It had a 2 prong outlet at the lower wall that I've replaced with a new standard 3 prong. Also I've installed a new 3 prong GFCE outlet for use at the sink - splicing it to the wiring that traverses between two old light fixture boxes where the old medicine cabinet was and am keeping for the lighting in the room. I am determined to ground all those properly, but without conduit to feed wires through, I am challenged to ground these without being somewhat creative. Also there are ground wires leading out from the light boxes themselves.

I have wired the GCFI at the lighting circuit using the input and output features on the back of the outlet, so that there are a total of 4 wires along with the ground, so two wires are going from the back of the outlet to the second light, and two wires leading from the first light.

I am determined to ground the electrical items for the bathroom, despite learning that GCFI outlets are okay to leave ungrounded. Further, having a ground to the lights seems like a good idea anyway and want to use the ground wires from the light boxes. I have tested the outlets using an outlet checker, temporarily using the cold water pipe as a ground, and the lights indicate "correct" for the power and the ground.

I am not intent upon using the water pipe, but only to test what I have already done.

Can all those items be grounded with to a single common ground wire - considering that the lower wall outlet is possibly on a different circuit from the lights and the new GCFI? Does the ground for those items have to return to the common ground at the electrical box? Can a separate grounding rod be used if more convenient? Is it okay that I've spliced the GCFI outlet in-between the two light boxes the way I described? Can I run the ground wire(s) outside using some sort of weatherproof wiring ( if such wiring exists ) stapled to the exterior of the house?

Is my determination to ground items in the bathroom warranted? Should I consider simply relying on the safety features of the GCFI outlet and then install another GCFI at the lower wall - without grounding anything? Would leaving the light boxes ungrounded despite noticing ground wires be okay? Is the reworking of the bathroom this way making the old wires leading into the bathroom subject to replacement.. or are they okay as they are?

The house does have a breaker box at the back exterior.

Please word answers simply as possible without jargon like "daisy chaining" as I become confused easily sorting out condensed phrasing and concepts familiar to professionals.

Thank You

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  • Can you post photos of your situation? Apr 13, 2017 at 22:12
  • I have added photo's taken just now.
    – H. Wayne
    Apr 13, 2017 at 22:49
  • Uh...are the exposed splices in the first photo your work, or existing work? Apr 14, 2017 at 1:00
  • Those are my splices.
    – H. Wayne
    Apr 14, 2017 at 2:27
  • 1
    You know splices like that belong in a box right? Apr 14, 2017 at 2:34

3 Answers 3


With wiring that old the best and EASIEST thing to do is abandon all existing electrical in the bathroom (or complete area of renovation) and replace it, from point A to point B, as if it were new construction. It would be crazy to have the walls opened up and not do so.

  • It would be best for point A to be a new circuit run from the panel.
  • 2nd best is tapping the exiting circuit before it enters the renovation area in an attic, basement, crawlspace or a light or receptacle in another room making that your point A.
  • If you must, tap the existing circuit where it 1st enters the renovation area making that your point A.

The 1st device in your new wire run should be a GFCI receptacle that's installed properly to protect the remainder of the circuit. BTW a GFCI doesn't require a ground wire to make the circuit safer. (If you're getting shocked from hot to neutral a GFCI won't help you, but if you're getting shocked from hot to something grounded it will, regardless of whether there's a ground wire or not.)

Don't ever splice outside of a box even if that box will not otherwise be used and have to have a blank cover, and whether you use the old circuit or not, don't forget to maintain that circuit if it happens to be continuing on (passing through) to supply another part of the house.


Please, read the National Electrical Code Article 406.4 for grounding and replacement of receptacles:

406.4 General Installation Requirements Receptacle outlets shall be located in branch circuits in accor- dance with Part III of Article 210. General installation re- quirements shall be in accordance with 406.4(A) through (F).

(A) Grounding Type. Receptacles installed on 15- and 20-ampere branch circuits shall be of the grounding type. Grounding-type receptacles shall be installed only on cir- cuits of the voltage class and current for which they are rated, except as provided in Table 210.21(B)(2) and Table 210.21(B)(3). Exception: Nongrounding-type receptacles installed in ac- cordance with 406.4(D).

(B) To Be Grounded. Receptacles and cord connectors that have equipment grounding conductor contacts shall have those contacts connected to an equipment grounding conductor. Exception No. 1: Receptacles mounted on portable and vehicle-mounted generators in accordance with 250.34.

(C) Methods of Grounding. The equipment grounding conductor contacts of receptacles and cord connectors shall be grounded by connection to the equipment grounding con- ductor of the circuit supplying the receptacle or cord con- nector.

Informational Note: For installation requirements for the reduction of electrical noise, see 250.146(D).

The branch-circuit wiring method shall include or provide an equipment grounding conductor to which the equipment grounding conductor contacts of the receptacle or cord connector are connected.

Informational Note No. 1: See 250.118 for acceptable grounding means. InformationalNoteNo.2: Forextensionsofexistingbranch circuits, see 250.130.

(D) Replacements. Replacement of receptacles shall com- ply with 406.4(D)(1) through (D)(6), as applicable. (1) Grounding-Type Receptacles. Where a grounding means exists in the receptacle enclosure or an equipment grounding conductor is installed in accordance with 250.130(C), grounding-type receptacles shall be used and shall be connected to the equipment grounding conductor in accordance with 406.4(C) or 250.130(C).

(2) Non–Grounding-Type Receptacles. Where attachment to an equipment grounding conductor does not exist in the receptacle enclosure, the installation shall comply with (D)(2)(a), (D)(2)(b), or (D)(2)(c). (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. (c) 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” and “No Equipment Ground.” An equipment grounding conductor shall not be connected between the grounding-type receptacles.

(3) 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.

(4) Arc-Fault Circuit-Interrupter Protection. Where a receptacle outlet is supplied by a branch circuit that requires arc-fault circuit interrupter protection as specified elsewhere in this Code, a replacement receptacle at this outlet shall be one of the following: (1) A listed outlet branch circuit type arc-fault circuit interrupter receptacle (2) A receptacle protected by a listed outlet branch circuit type arc-fault circuit interrupter type receptacle (3) A receptacle protected by a listed combination type arc-fault circuit interrupter type circuit breaker This requirement becomes effective January 1, 2014.

(5) Tamper-Resistant Receptacles. Listed tamper-resistant receptacles shall be provided where replacements are made at receptacle outlets that are required to be tamper- resistant elsewhere in this Code.

(6) Weather-Resistant Receptacles. Weather-resistant receptacles shall be provided where replacements are made at receptacle outlets that are required to be so protected else- where in this Code.

Good luck with your project!


Given the level of renovation (removing wall covering), the only correct answer is to remove all the old wiring, and run new code compliant three wire cables back to new breakers at the electrical panel.

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