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Receptacles With No Ground

February 26, 2017

My house was built in 1953.  There’s no knob and post wiring in the house;  it was built after that era.  All of the electrical wiring uses conventional cables, except that there’s no ground wire in any of it.  That means that all of the electrical receptacles only allow you to plug in two-pin cables.  I’ve added ground wires and changed receptacles for all the ones that were easy to get at.  All that’s left now are the difficult ones.

These are all on exterior walls of the house, just above the concrete foundation walls.  I particularly wanted to fix three old-style receptacles along one wall of the living room and dining room.  My plan was to bring up new wiring from the basement.  The problem was that the basement walls were much thicker than the walls on the main floor, so that I couldn’t just drill straight up from the basement.  I’ve seen how electricians do it.  They install a pedestal for the new receptacle about 10 or 15 cm out from the wall, and then put a cover over the old electrical box.  I didn’t want that.  I wanted the new receptacle to remain in the wall.  I was expecting to make holes in the wall, but I knew how to repair them.

I started with the most difficult one, on one end.  The power feed was from the ceiling light in the centre of the room.  I disconnected it there, putting a wire nut over the two wires so they wouldn’t touch anything else.  I removed the old receptacle and the box from the wall.  Then I tried drilling downwards, inside the wall.  There was a bottom plate and the subfloor to go through.  It worked at first, but then my drilling stopped.  I don’t know how far it got, but I never hit concrete and never saw light in the basement.  That attempt was a failure.

Next, I tried drilling up from the basement, at an angle.  I drilled a pilot hole first.  It looked about right, but came out in the hardwood floor, about 8 cm from the wall.  Oops, I wasn’t expecting that.  I can plug that hole pretty easily, with a dowel.  I tried a lower angle.  This time it didn’t come out in the hardwood.  It was someplace inside the wall.  I followed that pilot hole with a larger drill.  This time it cut into the baseboard, just at the edge of the hardwood floor.  I don’t like that either, but maybe it’s the best I can do.  Once again I drilled down inside the wall.  That time the hole intersected the one coming up at an angle from the basement.  I was able to run a cable through and have it emerge at the opening in the wall where the new box was going.

The rest was easy.  The new box fit in the space where the old one was.  I had to drill holes for the ground screws and clamp screws.  The wiring was easy too.  I installed a junction box on one of the joists in the basement.  I ran a cable from there to the breaker panel.  My tester confirmed that all the wiring was correct.  I had finally replaced that receptacle with a modern one.  It finally had a ground.

Well, I still had to repair the hardwood floor.  The small round hole was easy.  I just glued a dowel into it and cut the dowel off with a flush-cutting saw.  The other one was more difficult, even though it was close to the edge of the wall.  I used a rotary cutter and a chisel to cut a shallow rectangular opening into the hardwood, and then glued a piece of wood into the opening.  Once I apply a coat or two of polyurethane varnish, nobody will notice the repairs.

I still have two more receptacles along the wall.  One of them already has a power cable coming up from the basement, of course with no ground.  It disappears into the gap between the concrete and the subfloor.  With luck, I will be able to use that cable to pull the new cable into place.  The new cables are thinner, so it might work.  In any case, the holes will be there.  If I have to, I can use them as a guide.  The other receptacle gets power from that one.  I don’t know what I’ll do when I get to it.  At least, it’s a double receptacle, giving me more space to work.  I’ll have learned a few things by the time I get to it.  Maybe I’ll even have learned to give up and install a pedestal, but I don’t think so.  I am persistent, after all.  Time will tell.


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