GFCI and False Ground


Old 08-29-07, 07:05 AM
Thread Starter
Join Date: Aug 2007
Posts: 9
GFCI and False Ground

My father-law was hit on an inspection for False Ground and lack of GFCI. The house is a mix of old 2-wire and new 3-wire circuits. I think that replacing the 3-prong outlets with 2-prong where there are only two wires will correct the false ground. One problem is that one of the outlets that needs GFCI (close to kitchen sink) only has a 2-prong outlet and has only two wires. Can this get a GFCI outlet without adding the ground wire to the circuit? If so, then won't it show a false ground?

The second problem is that the garage needs all GFCI. It is a 2-wire circuit. There are about 5 outlets. Can I replace them all with GFCI leaving just 2-wires in the circuit (as I mentioned above for the kitchen outlet) or should I install a GFI breaker and leave the circuit alone with 2-wires and the same 2-prong outlets?

Thanks for your help
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Old 08-29-07, 07:28 AM
Join Date: Sep 2003
Location: Central New York State
Posts: 13,973
I am not sure what you mean by "false ground". A tester, any tester, will show a ground if one is present. Without opening the box you cannot tell if the ground is proper or not, and even if you do open the box you can get fooled.

A GFCI will work and provide protection without a ground. The ground wire does not enter into GFCI protection in any way. An external GFCI tester needs a ground to work properly, but that is a different issue.

In the US there is no rule for a GFCI in proximity to a kitchen sink. Current code requires that all kitchen counter top receptacles in the US need GFCI protection, even if there is no sink nearby.

In the garage you can probably safely provide GFCI protection to all five receptacles with a single GFCI. As long as you replace the first receptacle with a GFCI receptacle and make the outgoing (downstream) connections to the LOAD side of that GFCI they will be protected. I do NOT recommend a GFCI breaker, as they are expensive and require a trip to the basement to reset.

Remember that a GFCI receptacle does not provide a ground. To be code legal, if they are installed on a two wire (ungrounded) circuit, then you need to use the "No Equipment Ground" stickers to indicate that no ground is provided.

Now I need to ask why you want to install these GFCIs. If you are doing it for safety, then install them to current code. That means in the garage, for the entire kitchen counter top, for the bathrooms, for outside, and for the unfinished basement. If you are doing it for some other reason, then evaluate your reason and see if it makes sense.
Old 08-29-07, 08:10 AM
Thread Starter
Join Date: Aug 2007
Posts: 9
Thanks for the quick response.

The "false ground" as I understand is that it has a receptacle with ground (3-prong) but there is no ground present in the circuit since it is only a 2-wire knob and tube. The tester showed open ground. Thus, the person thinks it has ground because of the receptacle but it doesn't.

The reason for all this is that my father-in-law is selling his house and needs to bring it to code for the inspector. Also, safety for sure.

Thanks again,
Old 08-29-07, 08:28 AM
Join Date: Sep 2003
Location: Central New York State
Posts: 13,973
This is NOT a false ground. You are describing an open ground. That is, no ground at all.

Installing a few GFCI receptacles will NOT bring a house up to code. To bring a house up to code is usually quite expensive and requires much more than just a few GFCIs. In your case it requires rewiring with proper grounded cable.

Bringing a house up to code is also not required for a sale. Sometimes a town or city will require GFCI receptacles in some locations for safety to sell the house. This is easily accomplished, and something a conscientious homeowner would have already done for his or her own safety.

If the inspector is a home inspector then he or she has no authority to require your father-in-law do anything. These issues may be raised by a potential buyer, and the potential buyer may ask your father-in-law to make changes, but your father-in-law can tell the buyer and the inspector to take a hike. However, depending on what the requests are and how much traffic the home has had, and how anxious your father-in-law is to sell, it may be in his best interests to negotiate with the buyer for any requested work to be done.

Remember, when buying and/or selling a house, everything not mandated by law is negotiable.
Old 08-29-07, 06:13 PM
Join Date: Jul 2007
Posts: 15
A false ground is where the neutral is used as both the grounded and grounding conductor. This is a safety issue and a code violation. There are plug in type testers that can detect this problem.

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