To Ground or Not to Ground?

13 Replies

So I'm doing a flip with my wife in Arlington, TX. We set aside some money to update the electrical in parts of the home. My contractor called me and said that the electrician says nothing in the house is grounded. To ground the whole house would be an additional 4,000. I looked on some of the forums around the site and people have mentioned that they didn't ground the outlets. They simply put a sticker on the outlets not grounded that disclosed that fact. The sticker would say something to the effect "No equipment ground"  In their jurisdiction that was fine. I was wondering if anyone in Arlington TX has run into this issue and how they handled it. Thanks in advance. 

@Luiggi Perdomo what type of wiring is in the house?

I have had numerous houses with ungrouded outlets. I simply added a pigtail and 3 prong outlet to the existing box, and they all tested as grounded with no issues. I would ask the electrician what the issue is and see if this "fix" is better than whatever the $4000 buys you.

Regarding putting stickers on every outlet that states it is not grounded... never heard of this, and can't imagine this would go over well. Every single potential buyer will read that, and probably walk out the door. I imagine no FHA lender will be ok with this, and I also imagine a home inspector will hit this on his list as well.

I'm not sure what type of wiring is in the house. I just texted GC to tell me. I thought the sticker idea was kinda strange too but people were writing that it didn't affect their sale. They would use GFCI outlets rather than normal ones. The fix he proposed was rewiring the bedrooms and living room. 

@Luiggi Perdomo If the whole house has 2-wire connections like knob and tube, you'll most likely need to re-wire the entire house.  If this is the case, $4,000 doesn't sound like a lot.

If there are 3-wire connections to the outlets and appliances, but the ground isn't connected, that should be a simple fix.

Use an impact hammer to drive a ground rod and have the electrician connect it.  Or a cold water pipe - assuming it's copper, not pex.  If this is the case, $4,000 seems crazy expensive.

Any home inspector will pick up ungrounded outlets in a heartbeat and I'd expect it to be an issue at resale.

Charlie MacPherson, Real Estate Agent in MA (#9532146)
781-412-4151

@Luiggi Perdomo , I hope that you don't mind my curiosity here--  it's fascinating what we all find in different areas, despite the prevalence of the IRC.  

This would absolutely not fly in my jurisdiction... but that's not saying anything about yours.  Have you asked around at the City/County Building Inspector or CEO's office?   Sometimes, you're fine "until as soon as you touch it or around it,"  Then you're under obligation to bring it up to code.  

Also, keep in mind that any Fix & Flip is (1) assumed by the buyer to be actually fixed(!) and (2) that the buyers, too, will be doing their DD including home inspections.  If you're willing to fix everything else, put it on the market, and when asked, discount your price somewhere between $5 & 7 grand (inconvenience fee) then by all means, have at it. 

Furthermore, if they negotiate a Mortgage Contingency and the Mortgage Co. won't lend without insurance and their Insurance Co. won't insure without grounds, then you've wasted a lot of time. This is exactly how we got a Seller to pay about $8 grand to upgrade Knob & Tube wiring in a recent transaction of mine (and another $12G upgrading the panel to 200A).    

Aside, I have a three-pronged outlet tester that cost me less than $20.00 at one of the home stores.  When you plug it in,  It has three lights, and tells you if there's an open hot, open neutral, open ground, or mixed-up wiring on any standard grounded outlet.  (An open ground would tell me that you did something like @Brian Pulaski was describing, unless those outlets went back to the panel with BX Cable or something.)  The little tester has certainly been worth the price.   

Either way, the people who know what's expected in your area are in the city/county CEO's office.  Good luck, and keep us posted!  

I appreciate everyone's input. It seems like the best course of action is to just get the house rewired. I had budgeted about 2700 for the electrical.  According to the GC the house is mostly copper and aluminum wiring. I just spoke to him we got another quote for only 2500 more than the original budget. 

And I don't want any of those things @Steve McGovern mentioned to happen to me. 

Hopefully we can avoid any other surprises. 

Ha! Quite seriously, none of the above was intended to scare you... it is a simple truth that jurisdictions interpret the Code differently from other jurisdictions. I would still recommend speaking to the CEO or BI to verify the norms in your area.

Good luck.

I have a couple properties that are not grounded. It's not essential to have done, but tenants can get frustrated by it. I believe electrical code states that it is okay to put in a GFCI that's not grounded as long as the not grounded sticker is used. I had an electrician that ran bare copper grounds to all the outlets for about $800. Some electrical companies have newbie grunts that are cheaper for just this kind of work.

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@Brian Pulaski if I understand you correctly what you are doing is called a "bootleg ground". This type of grounding is against code, dangerous, and can open you to liability. People use bootleg grounds usually to mislead home inspectors who use cheap circuit testers. These cheap testers will show that a bootleg ground is grounded when it really isn't. The most economical method when dealing with old ungrounded wiring is to installment a GFCI receptacle as the first in a circuit. It then will also protect all receptacles down stream. Another option is to protect each circuit with a GFCI breaker in the box.

@Don Gouge interesting, I was told by all of my electricians that this was an acceptable way to ground an old 2 prong outlet with BX cable and metal boxes (thought I had mentioned this, but I guess I didn't). 

Always best to get opinions from professionals, which it sounds like you are doing.

@Brian Pulaski, with BX, you are correct— I stand corrected from my earlier “open ground” note— but we need to add that detail: the BX IS the ground back to the panel. (And assuming, back to the street-side water main or grounding rod).

I.e., you’re NOT actually ungrounded.

@Luiggi Perdomo - I understand you are doing a flip, but with our rentals we typically just leave the outlets as ungrounded two-prong and just replace with new two-pronged outlets and covers (rather than put three-prongs in that are ungrounded). The exception being the wet areas and garage where we do install GFCIs.  My bigger concern would be the aluminum wiring you mentioned, if it is in the branch circuits:  that is a pain for us to insure in our rentals (I have just one with half aluminum).   In your case I would be concerned that any good inspector would note the aluminum when you do your resale.  Could cause problems with the buyers' insurer.

Andy

Andy Webb, Real Estate Agent in Texas (#692589)
214-263-0021

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