can you use metal switch plates and receptacle covers on an ungrounded
circuit protected by a GFCI, or ONLY on a grounded circuit?
I think SWMBO has changed her mind on decoration for the living room,
and I happen to have a stack of the good 40 thou beveled edge brass
plates (leftovers from "my" room) but am unsure if it's copacetic to use
replace "roosters" with "cox" to reply.
New code for "new wiring" is that all metal associated with electrical
devices is grounded.
With that said, it is safer when using metal plates if the outlet or switch
is grounded. And it is safer if the circuit is on a GFCI if it is not
What happens is sometimes wires can melt and come loose. Then touch a metal
object inside an electrical box. For the times when this may occur, it is
best that all metal parts be grounded or the circuit protected by a GFCI.
So yes people have in the past been shocked by touching metal plates when
certain malfunctions occur. Thus the reason they want these to be grounded -
just in case!
I understand that it would be far preferable that the circuit be
grounded; I'm just not certain if that is even practical in all
locations, at least not without pulling the baseboards and channeling
the plaster. Hence my question - I don't want to do anything that
doesn't at least meet code.
replace "roosters" with "cox" to reply.
I'm not sure about the interaction w/ GFCI-protected circuits and how
the nuances of new Code might read. The one area that has been updated
is 380-9 that is specifically geared to switches, not receptacles.
Here's a link to a little info amplifying the changes; I don't have full
copy of new code (nor time nor inclination :) ) to dig through to
unequivocally answer the question wrt to GFCI but I think it is safe to
say they're prohibited for new construction on ungrounded circuits w/o
any exception. There's the exception noted for ungrounded switches in
Well so far as electrical codes go, usually you are covered by "grandfather"
rules for older electrical work. Not technically required for old work to be
up to code. An electrical inspector is not going to come out and inspect
just the new wall plates you have installed. (So far as I know.)
Then there is the kid's playground thing. New playgrounds assure that no kid
will ever be hurt. Well you can't protect kids from everything!
Sort of the same with electrical things. There are plenty of metal wall
plates installed out there which are not grounded and there are no problems.
I grew up in a house without grounded wiring, no GFCI's, etc and am still
Basically there is not safe, sort of safe, safe, more safe, and very safe.
(So far as electrical wiring goes.)
New code for new wiring installed would insist everything be in the "very
safe" category. And over time, electrocution accidents will be drastically
reduced. That is the idea. As electrical wiring is replaced/upgraded, it is
done so in a "very safe" manner.
So "very safe" would be plastic wall plates, or grounded, or circuit on
There are also GFCI breakers which can protect an entire circuit. This would
provide protection, yet be less expensive than running new wiring.
The final word is going to come from your local code enforcement office and
the inspector, regardless of what the NEC o r anyone here thinks. Give them
a call & see. You don't hav eto ID yourself just to ask a question.
re: "With that said, it is safer when using metal plates if the outlet
or switch is grounded. And it is safer if the circuit is on a GFCI if
it is not grounded. "
Please re-read what you wrote and notice how it could be taken the
wrong way - especially the second sentence:
"And it is safer if the circuit is on a GFCI if it is not grounded"
The first time I read that I did a double take.
It could be read as "It's safer to have an ungrounded GFCI than a
I know that's not what you meant - I know you meant that a GFCI is
safer than an ungrounded circuit - but I think you can see that it
could be read in a slightly different way.
On Mon, 9 Nov 2009 09:32:10 -0800 (PST), DerbyDad03
Actually, I he may have meant an ungrounded GFCI is safer than a
grounded non-GFCI circuit, which may me true for many (most?)
instances (kid fingers in outlet/lamp socket, toaster falling into the
An internal wire breaking and touching the case may be a tossup --
with a grounded circuit it may short to ground and trip the circuit
breaker, or at least provide an *additonal* path to ground besides
your body (but depending on the resistance in the ground wire to the
real ground vs the path your body has, and the amount of current, you
could still get a fatal shock from the case). On the other hand, an
ungrounded GFCI won't trip until your body makes a circuit, but will
do so *very* quickly and at a very low current.
A grounded GFCI is the best of both, as even a small current flowing
through the case would trip it before you even touch it.
re: "...he may have meant an ungrounded GFCI is safer than a grounded
Sure, but either way, I'm sure he didn't mean what the sentence could
be construed to mean.
It's that pesky English language of ours!
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