I recently moved into an older home (built in 1968) and have been replacing some of the older light fixtures. We pulled down one of the lights and found that there is a ground running into the box but the light fixture itself doesn't have a ground to hook up to it.

My wife is considering refurbishing the look of the light instead of replacing it... is it okay to use the light even though it's not grounded?

  • 2
    If it's a metal box, and a metal light fixture, and the box is grounded. The fixture itself may indeed be grounded via contact with the fixture box, and/or through the screws holding the fixture to the box. This is by no means an acceptable alternative to an actual properly designed grounding system in the fixture, but it may be enough if it's needed.
    – Tester101
    Commented Jul 10, 2013 at 12:01

3 Answers 3


We live with legacy ungrounded fixtures all the time, usually without incident. As I understand it, grounding is a backup system to give the high potential an easy path to ground (that is, a better path than YOU) if there is a short in the fixture.

Basically, grounding is a connection between the metal body of a fixture to a continuous ground (wire or metal shielding) that returns to the service panel and an earth ground. You could create a ground on a fixture by installing a screw in the metal body of the unit that could then take the ground wire. However, there could be more than one metal component in the fixture needing a ground, so it is by no means a sure fix.

The main issue is the likelihood of a user touching something metal on the fixture that could be accidentally live. If the fixture is out of reach, the lack of a ground is probably a low risk. If it is a pull chain light, use of a string pull rather than metal is a good idea.

  • A good safety check for an older fixture is that the center conductor of the socket is connected to the hot (ungrounded) conductor.
    – HerrBag
    Commented Jul 10, 2013 at 2:30
  • @HerrBag isn't that something that can (and should) be done when reinstalling, regardless of how it was originally wired?
    – bib
    Commented Jul 10, 2013 at 3:01
  • 1
    Yes, I just wanted to pair the comment with your answer.
    – HerrBag
    Commented Jul 10, 2013 at 3:07

Yes, if you have a metal light fixture your fixture needs to be grounded. The ground wire exits your junction box, but it is not attached to your junction box. It may be acceptable for the ground wire to attach to the fixture mounting hardware only, but if you have a metal light fixture you definitely want it directly grounded.


yeah ,don't worry about it . you're way *overthinking it . lighting fixtures at normal heigth won't normally be handled while standing on the ground.

been working for years like that without incident fire or electrocution, right ?

  • 3
    Welcome to the site! Please keep in mind the age of a question when providing answers and make sure that you are adding additional information or a different perspective. This question has had an accepted answer for almost 3 years that says pretty much the exact same thing yours does.
    – kinar
    Commented May 27, 2016 at 19:06

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