We have a receptacle Box located in a bottom kitchen cabinet on the back wall with 1 white, 1 red, and 1 black wite. No ground. I wanted to add a plug to it and then took a closer look at what I was working with and that doesn't seem possible. Any ideas on what this is for? or if I can put a plug in? It's two cabinets from the right of the stove. The wires are usually capped just took off for pic. Nothing was attached before.

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  • Do you have some way of seeing if there's voltage at the box? Apr 30 '20 at 23:12
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    – HoneyDo
    Apr 30 '20 at 23:15
  • What I see in the picture is a Set of Black/White and another set of black/white and 1 red wire. If the wires are hot, those pairs of black and white seem awful close and present a safety hazard. Apr 30 '20 at 23:21
  • @Programmer66 - No look closer. White spray paint in on everything on the wall and in the box, including the wires. And there are shadows against the wall. So I see a black (on left), white (lower right) and red (upper right) and no visible ground.
    – DaveM
    May 1 '20 at 20:39

A /3 cable like that can mean 3-way switch, or a Multi-Wire Branch Circuit (probably not), or a half-switched receptacle (with red being switched-hot) e.g. for dishwasher/disposal. It might be both at once; dishwasher+disposal are often on a MWBC.

An octagon box like that is usually for lights. None of the other knockouts appear to be removed. It's possible to put a receptacle in an octagon box with a special magic cover plate.

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However it can't be a GFCI recep. I have seen pictures of similar cover plates with Decora format openings, however, I have my suspicion they're not legit. Regardless, GFCI receps are very bulky and will not fit inside that box. Put the GFCI device somewhere "upstream" (closer to the panel) - if necessary in the panel as a GFCI breaker. Given the age of the work you might also choose AFCI+GFCI dual mode. AFCI protects against bad wires starting fires.

It's unlikely it is grounded. However it might be using an armored cable wiring method that brings ground on the cable armor. If so, the case would be ground. You ground devices either with hard flush bare metal contact with the box, or, you run a pigtail off the hole tapped #10-32 in the back of the box. It appears that hole is being used by the screw on the left, so move the screw farther left.


First using an electric meter you should try to determine if you have one or two hot wires. You may have two opposing hots, two hots on the same leg improperly sharing a neutral, one hot and the same hot interrupted by a switch, or one wire that was not or is not connected at all. You should locate which breakers shut off the power to those wires and carefully examine the markings on the panel to try to discern what the original purpose of those wires were to try to find if there was some additional consideration that would discourage re-purposing those wires. You should also verify the proper sized breaker is used for the conductors in use. Currently installing those two wires on opposing legs would require those to be fed from a two-pole or handle tied breakers, but that hasn't always been the rule.

If you find that one was a usable hot you should remove the box from the wall and attempt to get a little slack on the wire to see if a ground is present. If you do find a ground you could replace the box with a 4" Square box and a properly ground the box and receptacle.

If you find no ground I would abandon those wires altogether or attempt to see if there was a possibility of adding an NEC 250.130 compliant ground to the box. Some electricians may install a GFCI receptacle to substitute for the missing ground, and some jurisdictions may allow it, but I find it a bend and twist of the rules to add a new receptacle. NEC 250.130 addresses ungrounded circuit extensions, and refers to 406.4(D) which is titled Replacements for receptacle replacements. That section allows replacement of two wire ungrounded receptacles with grounded type receptacles when GFCI protection is provided, but that provision refers consistently to receptacle replacement, no where does it refer to adding a receptacle.

  • Also grounding receptacles without an equipment ground and GFCI protected are to be labelled "No Equipment Ground", and NEC 250.114 gives a list of appliances that shall be connected to an Equipment Ground. May 1 '20 at 15:00

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