I have a circuit in my old house (built 1918), it’s gone through many remodels during its lifespan and multiple owners.

This one circuit has no grounded outlets, so I had a look behind the outlet to see what the story was. It appears that all these outlets have copper wires back there, so I picked up some grounded outlets and hooked up the copper wires to the ground not - all to no avail. Now my outlets show “open ground”.

I can’t see any other outlets on this circuit, and it appears everything is fine. The only thing relatively near these outlets are two lights (not a traditional light). They are on the wall, and use a twist/click mechanism to turn on and off. Would these also need to be grounded in order for the whole circuit to be correct?

Thank you

  • Are you asking how to rectify the open ground issue? No, the lights don't need to be grounded for that. You need a grounding conductor connecting back to the panel. Chances are you have some 14/2 with ground attached to and extending a circuit initially wired with 14/2 without ground. The only good solution is to re-run that upstream segment with modern cable.
    – isherwood
    Jun 10, 2019 at 20:49
  • @isherwood I am asking how to fix that, yes. It’s very odd, everything else in the house with the new cabling (looks to have been installed at the same time) is grounded correctly.
    – Abacus
    Jun 10, 2019 at 20:56
  • Do you know which line it is on the box (I'll assume breakers)? Is there a ground wire there?
    – Ben
    Jun 10, 2019 at 21:23
  • @ben, I believe there’s a ground wire there - yep. That’s why I’m confused. Everywhere else in the house is grounded that’s why I’m unsure what’s actually up. But yes, I do know which breaker it is, is there a simple way to check if that breaker is grounded?
    – Abacus
    Jun 10, 2019 at 21:31
  • 1
    Grounds don't go to the breaker. Neither do neutrals in most cases. The red wire is a little odd. Follow the red wire back to the cable where it enters the box and note the black white and bare wires which join it in the cable. Follow each of those and tell me where they go. I am also interested in the black. Jun 11, 2019 at 5:53

1 Answer 1


If I'm interpreting your drawing correctly, 3 possibilities (all incorrect under current code) may have existed in the past:

  1. They may have had a 220v line at one time split between 2 cables.
  2. They had 2 cables but a wire got cut or broken so they used a wire from each of the cables to build a circuit.
  3. They paralleled wires from 2 cables for higher current capacity.

I have found all 3 of these in my own 1929 house.

Regardless of which case it is, there's a break in the ground between the breaker panel and the outlet. You'll have to trace the circuit to find the break and correct it. As Isherwood said, your best solution is to rewire that circuit with a single new grounded cable from the panel out.

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