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Old 06-19-2011, 12:03 AM   #1
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Why would ground wires be cut deliberately


Hi -
I have a 15amp circuit that has a half dozen porcelain pull-chain lights in my basement and a handful of three prong receptactles on it. It was not grounded, and I went to find out why. It's wired with 12-gauge three wire romex. The first two lights on the circuit showed the problem - the neutral and hot are connected, but the ground wires are neatly clipped off at the end of the sheathing, just inside the electrical box. This is the case for the incoming and outgoing feeds at the first two boxes on the circuit, and then the rest of the circuit appears to be wired properly with ground connections.

It looks to me like the whole circuit was done at once, since the material and style is consistent throughout. I assume (but can't know for sure) that the electrical work was done in the mid-late 1970s when this old house was rehabbed and knob-and-tube was completely replaced throughout. The house is in St. Louis, and the wires aren't encased in conduit - they just run through holes in the joists.

Because the ground wires are cut off so short, I've got no way to hook them up without doing some rewiring and maybe moving a couple of boxes.

Does anyone have an idea why someone would choose NOT to connect the ground wires, but rather cut them short to make the connection impossible? It seems absolutely nuts to me.

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Old 06-19-2011, 12:13 AM   #2
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Why would ground wires be cut deliberately


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Does anyone have an idea why someone would choose NOT to connect the ground wires, but rather cut them short to make the connection impossible? It seems absolutely nuts to me.
Because they are nuts?

Try a wago or a but splice. If you have even a short piece you can use one of those to extend it. Otherwise just rewire.

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Old 06-19-2011, 06:55 AM   #3
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Why would ground wires be cut deliberately


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Because they are nuts?
Psst! This sentence should end with a period, not a question mark.

Is there slack in any of the cables so you can extend at least one inch of additional cable into the box and gain access to the ground wire? Maybe drill an alternate hole in a joist to reroute a cable slightly. Maybe snip off a few existing staples and restaple the cable.
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Old 06-19-2011, 09:26 AM   #4
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Why would ground wires be cut deliberately


Is it an older home? Is there a GFI upstream in the circuit? One method of adding receptacles to an existing non-grounded circuit is to install a GFI and cut the ground wires to everything downstream. The reason we cut the wires is so anyone opening up the splice at a later date does not reconnect the grounds thinking there is a ground. Once again I will state that this only happens if adding to an ungrounded circuit and extending off a GFI receptacle.
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Old 06-19-2011, 12:26 PM   #5
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Why would ground wires be cut deliberately


Do not cut wires off. If there is a wire you are not using, curl it up and push it to the side of the box. (Put a small wire nut on the end of a hot or neutral wire.)
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Old 06-19-2011, 08:47 PM   #6
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Why would ground wires be cut deliberately


It's possible there was no ground at the panel connection back in the 70's, but I had the panel replaced 10 years ago so they certainly hooked this circuit up to a ground at that point. There's no evidence that there was ever a GFI, though.

I like AllanJ's advice, though - I wish the folks who did this wiring had listened. They didn't leave any slack...the wires were stapled to the joists, and prying those rusty old staples out would have messed up the sheathing (at least).

I might have been able to use a butt joint like Jamie suggested. In the end, though, I just moved the two receptacles apart about 6" each, which gave me some slack at the in and out ends, then replaced the fairly short stretch of wiring between them. Not too bad. I'm lucky they didn't treat the whole circuit this way!

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