I have a mess of a “finished” basement in CA (California) that was wired atleast 4x 1922, 1940-50, 1980 and again in 2020, before I came to own the pile of garbage.

I am redoing a lot of the wiring and have a couple locations where I don’t want to dig wires out of the walls and would prefer to just de-energize, label the termination and leave them in the electrical box.

Example 1: bathroom light has 12/2 feeding the bathroom outlet that is run through the ceiling and down the wall. I am going to run a dedicated circuit for the bathroom receptacle,I plan on leaving the existing wire in place to avoid opening the ceiling,

Example 2: a run of 10/2 receptacles(4 bedroom receptacles and no idea why they ran 10/2), are receiving power through a 14/2 run. The 14/2 run needs to go but it’s in a part of the room that I would prefer not to open up the walls(hence I’m not removing it).

For example 1 and example 2, I wanted to figure out the best thing to do with the “dead” leg,

Option 1: twist the de-energized wires, nut them together, tape and tuck/ “abandon” them into a corner of the box. Option 1a: nut the de-energized wires individually and do the same as above. (Seems like unnecessary use of space for the extra nut) Option 1b: individually but them as energized wires( seems like a bad idea, and actually unsafe for example 2)

Option 2: connect the de-energized hot, neutral and ground to the existing ground and have a “robust” grounding system.

I haven’t found anyone suggesting option 2, but I don’t immediately see any harm in it,

Are there issues with grounding dead electrical legs in general, say, attaching the residual knob and tube system that was killed in place to ground to make sure it doesn’t become “accidentally” energized at some future point?

Thanks for consideration,

1 Answer 1


If you are abandoning the wire/cable, you must remove (cut off) all accessible parts. This appears to be your actual intent. Chop off anything you can reach/access. Abandon the inaccessible parts. That should prevent any chance of it becoming "accidentally" energized.

If you are saving it for later use, disconnect it, insulate the ends, and label it.

It's technically incorrect (a code violation, unless they are 4 AWG or bigger that normally only come in black and can be taped green) to use wires with colors other than bare (uninsulated), green, or green with a yellow stripe as grounds.

  • Thanks for the response,It was my understanding that all wires should terminate in a box? Additionally, if you mark it, isn’t it acceptable to use another color, say taping it green? Additionally, if not all of the wire is accessible, wouldn’t it be safer to leave it in the box so as to prevent a hypothetical energization in an unknown buried J box that could exist behind the wall? Sorry for all the hypotheticals
    – bwp8nt
    Commented Aug 26, 2023 at 16:56
  • The only wires you can (under NEC rules) reidentify green for ground would be those 4 AWG and larger (smaller gauge numbers.) When you abandon a cable, it's not subject to the same rules as an active or "stored for the future use" cable. How is the hypothetical energization from a hypothetical buried junction box supposed to happen? While tearing down the wall, workers found a buried junction box, so they connected it to power? Pretty far-fetched. This is a common situation and code has rules to handle it. Follow them, don't invent your own.
    – Ecnerwal
    Commented Aug 26, 2023 at 17:10
  • Makes sense, thanks for the clarification!
    – bwp8nt
    Commented Aug 26, 2023 at 18:38

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