Replacing outlet: ground wire broke

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Old 12-15-17, 12:24 PM
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Replacing outlet: ground wire broke

Like the thread title says!

Replacing an outlet, which was in its 1956 steel outlet box. Disconnecting it, the ground wire snapped. I am hesitant to cut everything there and rewire - I don't have a lot of slack. As I see it, I have three options.

A) Cut the black and white wires to the same length as green, and hope I never need any more wire out of that box.
B) Twist a new ground wire on to the old, cap it, and screw that to outlet
C) Do nothing.

The only things in this outlet are an alarm clock and the occasional iPhone.

I figure if I do (A) the probability I will ever need that slack is super-low. But the consequences if I'm wrong is pretty big.

For (C), I know it's not code. But what are the real risks?

Is there a fourth alternative I'm missing?

What would be the best option?

Thanks!
 
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Old 12-15-17, 12:30 PM
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Best option is to extend the remaining ground wire with a new piece of copper. Those old thin ground wires are often somewhat brittle so you have to be careful. I try not to use wirenuts because the twisting can break the wire again. The push-in style connectors or crimp splices are good for this application.
 
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Old 12-15-17, 12:34 PM
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Option B is the best route. If it is a steel box, the box should be grounded as well. If remaining ground wire is attached to the metal box, you can just replace outlet with self grounding outlet. Then you don't have to attach ground wire to the outlet because it is grounded through steel junction box.
Another option is to screw ground wire to grounded steel junction box then attach that to the outlet. That way you save some space you may loose from a wire nut. Twisting ground wires together then crimping with ground crimp will also save some space.


Not having rounded outlet will not be a problem for 2 prong devices, but 3 prong devices requires ground to operate safely. Under normal condition, you won't have any problem, but for some reason live wire gets shorted to the chassis you will be electrocuted. Also most surge protectors use this ground conductor to discharge surges. If there is no ground, the surge protector is pretty much useless.
 
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Old 12-15-17, 12:38 PM
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Thanks for the quick reply. Hadn't even finished brushing my teeth before heading to hardware store!

I am replacing the steel box - so I presume I can/will use a plastic one. (Next question, figuring out how to attach it to stud.) The design of the old box had a weird post through it - which prevented the new outlet from fitting snug (it's one of those clever USB outlets).

So I'm intrigued about the "push in" connectors you described, ibpooks. Is that something easy to find at my local Ace? Will they know what I'm talking about?

And am I stuck buying $30 worth of copper because I wanted todo a stupid $15 project on my day off?

Thanks!
 
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Old 12-15-17, 12:53 PM
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The ground wire broke because on vintage wire of that era.... just like mine..... the ground wire is one size smaller than the current carrying conductors and is somewhat fragile.

If you're replacing the box you may pick up some additional cable.

You'd want to use a plastic old work box. It will require a slightly larger hole. Cut the hole tight as there isn't much room for error for the plate to cover.

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Old 12-15-17, 12:53 PM
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Use an "old work" box. It has fins that tighten against the drywall so you don't need to fasten to a stud. The push-in connectors sometimes called Wagos as that is a popular brand -- Ideal makes them too. Ace probably carries them. They will also likely sell wire by the foot, so you'll probably be in about $0.10 on copper.
 
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Old 12-15-17, 01:28 PM
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Thanks for the tips. I'm hopeful I won't have to cut the wall - it's painted panel (I know, I know) so patching any overcut will be a pain....
 
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Old 12-15-17, 01:45 PM
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The plastic boxes are pretty much larger than your existing hole.

You could possible use a cut-in gem box. Should be the same size as your existing hole now. The gem box will be metal. A pair of madison bars or box supports are needed to hold the box in the wall.

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Old 12-15-17, 05:00 PM
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As long as you have non metallic cable you can use a plastic bbox. Otherwise you need to stay with metal.

If you can use plastic try to find a Smartbox that screws to the stud.

There is no need for all the wires to be the same length. Just splice into the ground.
 
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Old 12-16-17, 04:25 PM
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I bought the plastic boxes - not sure what you mean by "nonmetallic cable"; I can't think of a cable (data, power, AV, etc.) that doesn't have metal? (I have insulated ground wires, if that's the question.) So hopefully the plastic boxes are OK.

But you're right, the boxes were bigger - and, the panel had been cut with some overlap of the stud, for some reason, so I spent more time then I would have liked using a hacksaw and ranger knife shaving microns off the paneling. Did chip in one place - the can of touch up has been sitting in a 74% humidity garage since the end of the Clinton administration... We'll see!!!

Got the ground wire spliced nicely, and the "Old Work" box was a breeze. I probably would have figured it all out with enough time and trips to the hardware store, but I got it right the first time, this time. Thanks!
 
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Old 12-16-17, 04:29 PM
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Good job.

Non metallic cable is NM-b.... aka romex.
Metallic cable is BX, AC, MC lite and other metal jacketed cables.

Since you had a bare copper ground wire.... you have old style NM cable like i mentioned previously.
 
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