How Electricians Turn 2-Pronged Outlets into 3-Pronged

What’s the difference?

For the better part of the 20th century, the standard was for 2-pronged outlets in every home. But by the mid to late 60s, the NEC (National Electric Code) has made the 3-pronged grounded outlets the national standard.

The three-pronged outlets are grounded, which means if the wiring becomes damaged and too much electricity tries go through the wires the circuit will break, and the excess wiring will go through the third prong and to the ground.

 If you see this in your home, call me!

If you see this in your home, call me!

Before that, the 2-pronged outlets would either blow a fuse, which was troublesome and not as reliable as the circuit breaker boxes. It still had a small risk of causing a house fire or shocking the person using the electricity. They weren't inherently dangerous but compared to the grounded outlets they are not the safest choice.

Sometimes adding a properly grounded circuit isn’t a realistic option, which is where the GFCI outlets come into play. GFCI stands for grounded fault circuit interrupter, which is an easily installed upgrade that doesn’t necessarily require a fully grounded home. They’re set up to a circuit breaker or fuse boxes that are incredibly sensitive to shortages or surges of electricity and can cut power in a moment.

 This GFCI om the outdoors has a plastic cover which closes to protect it from rain.

This GFCI om the outdoors has a plastic cover which closes to protect it from rain.

They function nearly the same as the 3 pronged outlets, but the fully grounded 3 pronged outlets are still superior.


An electrician can install a 3-pronged outlet with very little fuss. Installing a completely new one requires opening the walls, but a good electrician can do that with very little damage to a home, potentially only cutting a hole the size of the new outlet box in the walls.

Most GFCI 3 pronged outlets come to electricians ready for upgrading. But the first thing the electrician will do is go to your fuse box or circuit breaker box and make sure it’s been grounded enough—if at all.

If it’s not at all grounded it’s important for the electrician to actually ground it. This is a trick because it involves entirely re-wiring the home. It will probably end up being more expensive for the homeowner up front but will end up saving them money and giving them much more peace of mind in the long run. It will also raise the market value of a home, as it will now be up to code.

If everything is free and clear and the electrician can foresee no problems, the next thing they’ll do is turn off all the electricity in the home. This is important because if there is a crossed wire, or something is wired in a funky way and any of it is live, it could mean death for the electrician or homeowner.

Then the electrician will remove the old box with a screwdriver and carefully disengage the wires from it. After that, they’ll ground the new box, and reinsert it back into the wall. Once they test it and put the plastic cover back on its complete.