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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    Location
    ohio
    Posts
    40

    Default Metal vs Plastic outlet boxes for a bathroom.

    Hello,

    My home was built in 1960 and I am currently remodeling a bathroom. There is an opportunity to move around some light switches and install GFCI outlets. The whole house has it's wiring terminated to metal outlet boxes currently. A friend is helping me with the wiring portion and swears we should use plastic boxes for this project. He states using the metal boxes will be a hassle since wiring needs to be grounded to the box and then the actual switch/outlet. He says the metal box will not really buy us anything, it will just be an additional item to ground and will be more expensive.

    Would using plastic boxes be OK? Is there a big disadvantage to this? I know it will be much cheaper. BTW we are using 12-2 Romex wiring.

    Thanks in advance!
    Sam

    Inspection Referral SOC

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    New Mexico
    Posts
    1,258

    Default Re: Metal vs Plastic outlet boxes for a bathroom.

    Should not be a problem. That's about all that's used for new work here.

    Jim Robinson
    New Mexico, USA

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Orlando, FL
    Posts
    1,339

    Default Re: Metal vs Plastic outlet boxes for a bathroom.

    You stated "it will be much cheaper..."

    How the heck many receptacles are in the bathroom that a few dollars for metal boxes would be a concern?

    Some areas require metal boxes, armored sheathed cable, and no Romex. Check with your local Building Department to verify what is and isn't acceptable wiring.

    If in doubt, call an electrician to do it for you, your family may thank you one day....


  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Location
    Snowbird (this means I'm retired and migrate between locations), FL/MI
    Posts
    4,086

    Default Re: Metal vs Plastic outlet boxes for a bathroom.

    Quote Originally Posted by Sam Alex View Post
    Hello,

    My home was built in 1960 and I am currently remodeling a bathroom. There is an opportunity to move around some light switches and install GFCI outlets. The whole house has it's wiring terminated to metal outlet boxes currently. A friend is helping me with the wiring portion and swears we should use plastic boxes for this project. He states using the metal boxes will be a hassle since wiring needs to be grounded to the box and then the actual switch/outlet. He says the metal box will not really buy us anything, it will just be an additional item to ground and will be more expensive.

    Would using plastic boxes be OK? Is there a big disadvantage to this? I know it will be much cheaper. BTW we are using 12-2 Romex wiring.

    Thanks in advance!
    Sam
    There is no mention of the vintage of the service equipment, sub-feeder-if applicable or the last panel supplying or feeding the circuit(s) of which you propose to alter (? no mention of completely replacing from home-run for its entirety), nor any specifics regarding the wiring method currently employed, nor the condition thereof! Furthermore, there is no mention of iinstalling a completely new home-run dedicated (as to purpose or location) branch circuit(s) for which would be limited to its lowest temperture rating anywhere limited (such as vintage panel terminal, etc.) nor the use of 12/2 WITH GROUND vs. 12/2; NOR are you precise as to where in 'Ohio" your location.

    Quite a bit has changed in requirements for safety, especially regarding grounding, ground-fault protection for personel, and the requirements for a full-size grounded conductor ('neutral') and the sizing of a grounding conductor, since 1960.

    Should your project home be located in NE Ohio (Clevelandi, Akron, one of a multitude of smaller nearby communities) which IIRC was the general area you were "house shopping" last spring/summer: where knob-and-tube remained a code-preferred wiring method well into the late 70s and into the 80s along with armored cable of the various vintages (undersized N and insufficient grounding well-beyond the stated vintage of your home) as well as EMT (requirements for assuring proper bonding of same enhanced for metalic tubing installations for safety reasons have been enhanced over the years) and considering there is no mention of professional qualified party reviewing or confirming (any time modifications, disturbances, work is done, to assure bonding is correct, in-place and where necessary corrected for safety) there is no mention of the in-place wiring method utilized (emt, rmt, bx, ac, K&T, early NM, etc.), nor the mention of any 'upgrades' or modifications between original premisis wiring and branch circuits prior, it would be unwise to be addressing your vague 'fact-set' as you propose your apparent DIY with 'friend' project question(s) as presented.

    As indicated by another poster, you should at minimum, be planning your project with someone knowledgable of the entirety of the circumstances of your existing condition(s) and the specifics of your locale.

    Wiring methods utilizing a bonded metalic pathway other than a wire for equipment grounding oftentimes require an appropriately sized and listed and properly bonded metallic/conuductive 'outlet box' (armored, greenfield, emt, rmt, etc.). Wiring methods such as K & T, depending on the type and vintage of the conductor material (temp ratings, etc.) extended to and in certain applications may also require same, for example. Proximity to other metallic systems, selection of equipments, fixtures, application specific (such as existing reinforced "mud' tile work, old-time stucco, metal windows, conductive faceplates, other outlets on the same non-dedicated branch circuits, etc.) may further influence the selection of materials, especially in what may be a mixed-method circuit extension or modification that you seem to be describing of what may be a non-upgraded 2-wire (no ground nor grounding method) existing wiring method multi-outlet branch circuit which may or may not be dedicated to one bathroom area or multiple convience outlets only in bathrooms (and might even be a MWBC of the vintge). Either way 1960 was before grounding required for bathroom outlets nor bathroom lighting and IIRC grounding-type receptacle outlets were only required for laundry (and perhaps not in your jurisdiction), certainly wasn't required for general purposes, convience receptacles nor lighting.

    The vintage of certain combination GFCI devices which may or may not have been earlier employed may also affect, as would a host of potential earler to this project's proposed modifications to branch circuit(s), etc.

    Engage the services of a qualified, (licensed, if applicable) party to review, plan and specify, the entirety of your scope of work; subject your project to the planning/review/inspection permitting process (as applicable, modification of existing and/or extension of, and/or new circuit(s) installations) and take ALL the necessary steps for an abundance of safety to PERSONS (personnel) as well as property.



    If not for the safety issues, keep in mind that the majority of insurance entities will not indemnify (cover losses) 'incidents' caused by or related to project work by the owner/occupant him/her self if done 'on the sly', even if done 'correctly'.

    P.S. Modern listed 'metal boxes' contain an already tapped and MARKED ground screw location. A grounding green machine threaded screw and materials to 'pig tail' is by no means a hassle nor overly expensive. IIRC even a big-box small (6-12 each count) package was less than $2, so if the 'boxes' you pick-up from the bulk bin are sans (without, i.e. missing) the grounding screw, or you drop/loose them, they are easily replaced for minimal cost. 6-8" of 12 ga. is minimal.

    P.P.S.S.

    For the uninformed/ignorant..the OP had previously indicated he had been "home shopping" in NE Ohio, i.e. Cleveland/Akron/greater area, where NM was verbotten until at least late 70s if not mid 80s, and where K&T or emt, etc. & metal 'boxes' was the minimum and norm. IIRC not until both full size neutrals (grounded conductors) AND full-size grounding conductors (ground) and at least 75c conductors were cable methods including NM approved for the region.

    Last edited by H.G. Watson, Sr.; 10-20-2013 at 03:57 PM. Reason: got my C cities in Ohio mixed up - which happens with old-timers from time to time.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    Location
    Southern Vancouver Island
    Posts
    4,546

    Default Re: Metal vs Plastic outlet boxes for a bathroom.

    Sam, the grounding screw in the metal box is only a hassle for someone that has never wired a house with metal boxes.
    One cable, the line, is left longer than the others. The grounding conductor is long enough to go around the screw, clockwise one turn, tighten the screw. The long end gets twisted to the other grounding wires. This takes just that long to do.

    But I would use the plastic boxes if there is no good reason for the metal ones. For multiple switches just because they are handier and easier, with built-in cable clamps. I like the expanding metal boxes with built-in clamps for certain reno work like adding a switch.

    Last edited by John Kogel; 10-20-2013 at 09:10 PM.
    John Kogel, RHI, BC HI Lic #47455
    www.allsafehome.ca

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