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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2015

    Default Romex, GFCI & 3 prong outlets - good sign?

    I just purchased a two story 1915 house in North Carolina. I'm concerned about the wiring, here's what I know:

    - One main service panel, outdated fuse box
    - Two subpanels: one 100 amp breaker panel beside main panel, one 60 amp fuse box in upstairs bedroom (50's era?)
    - all of the wiring going to the main panel and the breaker sub-panel is Romex type cable; not sure what sort of wiring runs from the upstairs subpanel as it is encased in conduit.
    - all the outlets in the house have been updated to three prong outlets, there is a GFCI outlet on at least the kitchen circuit.

    Considering the fact that the wiring to the panels has been updated and the two-prong outlets have been switched out for three prong, do you think that it's likely most of the wiring throughout the house has been replaced in the past few decades? This was a foreclosure purchase, I didn't have much time to investigate! I'm still living in WI at the moment, just trying to do some long-distance research!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Aug 2007

    Default Re: Romex, GFCI & 3 prong outlets - good sign?

    It seems to me that only a hands on inspection by an electrician will tell you for sure.
    Researching the building department for any permits pulled will tell you if any work was permitted.
    Would the wiring be good enough to move in while it is being checked/updated? Possibly, but it should be checked ASAP.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Pacific Northwet

    Default Re: Romex, GFCI & 3 prong outlets - good sign?

    The presence of three-prong outlets is no guarantee that the outlets have been properly grounded. A previous owner may have replaced two-prong with three-prong simply for convenience, without grounding them.

    Another possibility is that the ground was "bootlegged" to the neutral wire: if the building wire does not have a separate ground, sometimes people will just run a jumper between the grounding screw and the neutral wire. This will fool a "3-light" tester into showing a correctly wired outlet. Under certain conditions this can be dangerous, and it can render surge protectors and line noise filters ineffective.

    Where it gets especially dicey is when a bootleg ground is installed on an outlet that has been wired with reverse polarity. (Search the Internet for "reverse polarity bootleg ground") This condition will also cause a 3-light tester or even a multimeter to show a correctly wired outlet, when in fact a grounded device plugged into that outlet will become electrically hot! That is a potentially deadly condition.

    The only way to really know for sure is to open up each electrical device for inspection, and meter each conductor against a known good ground -- such as in an extension cord plugged into a good outlet.

    But you might be lucky; everything might be just fine. I only want to alert you to some things to watch out for.
    The "Senior Member" designation under my name doesn't mean I know a lot, it just means I talk a lot.I've been a DIYer since I was 12 (thanks, Dad!). I have read several books on various home improvement topics. I do not have any current code books I can refer to. I was an apprentice plumber for two years.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 2008

    Default Re: Romex, GFCI & 3 prong outlets - good sign?

    My stock answer is that when in doubt, rewire it all. No, it ain't cheap but 1- It's safer 2- It gives you more outlets which today is a necessity 3- It may result in lower insurance rates 4- You'll sleep better knowing it's as good as it can be made to be. At the very least an on-site check by an electrician is in order, then do as they advise. Bet you they'll say "rewire it all"!


  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Columbiana, Alabama

    Default Re: Romex, GFCI & 3 prong outlets - good sign?

    There are some testers (expensive) that can quickly determine if you have a problem.

    They will actually measure the resistance of each wire and connection back to the main panel, when plugged into the last receptacle. I actually use mine to "map" how the wires are run from receptacle to receptacle.

    Lack of a ground wire, a "bootleg ground, bad connection, defective AFCI or GFCI etc are all things that can be seen in less than 5 min., per circuit.

    A question to ask a prospective electrician is: does he/she have such a tester.
    Good Luck from Columbiana, Alabama
    Maurice Turgeon, Hidden Content

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2009

    Default Re: Romex, GFCI & 3 prong outlets - good sign?

    The fact that romexis newer and it still uses fuses concerns me because i get the impression that someone wanted a cheap upgrade. I've heard of scenarios where people will replace just a few feet of the visible romex to the panel so it gives the impression that an upgrade was done. If it was me i would look into further and open up as many spaces as possible to see the actual wire and at each outlet. But thats just me. I would certainly recommend upgrading the fuse boxes to breakers and even take a lool at the service line if that hasnt been upgraded. Since the box is still fuses, its likely that the service line will need replacement at the same time as the panel upgrade. Only my opinion and what i would do personally in your situation. Ultimately a full inspection by an electrician will give you the detail you will need to make a final decision as to the existing wiring.
    My advice and opinions come from hands on knowledge...and This Old House Hidden Content

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jul 2010

    Default Re: Romex, GFCI & 3 prong outlets - good sign?

    "Invest" in an inspection - it will be a solid investment.

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