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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'm currently adding an addition to my house as well as removing some internal walls. My house was built mid-1950s and all the old wire is the black stuff with no ground. Everything is permitted and I'm getting ready to start running my wire for new outlets, lights, etc.

For the rooms being added, and the existing rooms being remodeled, I will be running new 12-2 wire and separating circuits with the proper breakers according to code. My questions are regarding the wiring for the rooms not being remodeled. This includes a bedroom, a bathroom, and the kitchen. Per my inspector, I do not have to update existing circuits to current code, but I'd like to where possible. I have no intention, however, in tearing down my plaster walls and replacing them with drywall just to rewire everything.

If I add an AFCI breaker to the old bedroom and GFCI breakers to the kitchen and bathroom (with the intention of being safe and up to code), will they work properly even with no ground wire? The bathroom outlet and some of the kitchen outlets are already GFCIs.

My wire runs through the attic, I could replace the old black wiring up to the point where it runs down inside of existing walls (ie. run 12-2 from the panel to a junction box). Is there any advantage to doing this? It would mean I could ground overhead lighting, but not outlets and switches.

Final question: All of my new circuits will be 20A. Is there any way I can tell if the old black wiring is rated for 20A fuses or will I have to go with 15A to be safe?

All help and ideas are appreciated, although my budget is not unlimited. Thanks in advance.

17,248 Posts
My house is from the 50's & I've been updating electric
Luckily most of mine did have a ground, are you sure there isn't a ground?
Mine had the ground wrapped around the wire & under the metal box clamp
I have left the old wiring on 15a circuits if that is what it was wired with
Checking my old notes I did not have a single 20a circuit with the old wire

Bathroom I would run a dedicated 20a circuit w/GFCI
Bedroom requires AFCI breakers. might be a good idea on the old wire
I've added outlets in the bedrooms on a 20a circuit & left the old outlets
Rooms also require Tamper proof outlets under NEC 2008
I would do GFCI outlets instead of a GFCI breaker
In my house I'd have to go down to the basement to reset a breaker
Much easier to reset a GFCI outlet in the bathroom
You can use a GFCI breaker or outlet on a 2 wire cable
All outlets must then be marked "GFCI protected" AND "No ground present"

Kitchen I only had 1 circuit
I installed a 15a circuit for the fridge
I seperated the only 2 outlets onto seperate 20a circuits w/GFCI outlets
I added a 3rd 20a circuit with GFCI outlet
You can fish new wire thru the walls - no need to rip open the walls

I would not replace part of a wire run - IE attic junction
Every junction is just another failure point
So if you can replace the whole run replace it

32 Posts
Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I double checked and yes there is no ground in the main wire. It's a black cloth cover with a black and white insulated wire running through it, each wrapped in brown paper. All of the outlets are 3-prong but most of them don't have the ground hooked up to anything. There are a few where a ground pigtail is connected to the metal box and some of these boxes are nailed into the plaster lath so this might have been an old attempt at grounding. The previous owner was an electrician so I'm surprised he had all the outlets 3-prong but with no ground (not exactly code). Then again, he also never updated the 60A panel with push-button breakers nor did he install a ground rod. Thanks for the tips Scuba_Dave.
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