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Problems Commonly Found During a Home Inspection

March 16, 2015

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Home inspectors often come across electrical problems in the homes they inspect. For that reason, we’ve compiled a list of the most common electrical problems found during home inspections, so you know what to look for before making that final decision to buy, or not to buy.

Open Junction Boxes

Some electricians may cut corners in places where they think nobody will see, or become aware of. One of those corners is electrical junction boxes. These boxes are often necessary in an electrical installation. The corner they cut is the cover of the junction box, and the inside of the junction box is where electrical conductors are joined together. Now, if someone comes along and puts an object inside that open box, an object such as a screwdriver or finger, you can only imagine how dangerous it can be when sparks start to fly. This is an electrocution just waiting to happen.

Knob and Tube Wiring

Homes built prior to 1950, generally have what's known as knob and tube electrical wiring. Electricians no longer use this method to wire new houses, and it's generally believed to pose a hidden hazard to homeowners. Though you may be able to get financing for a home with knob and tube wiring, getting insurance for it may be difficult and the cost will possibly be more than double. If the knob and tube wiring is active, most insurance companies will require that it be removed before closing or 30 days after closing.

Double Taps

When two wires are placed under the same screw or lug in a panel, it is called a double tap. Two wires should not be installed under a single screw or lug unless the device is designed for that purpose. Some breakers are designed to accept more than one wire; the most common are certain Square D breakers. In the past, it was common to install more than one neutral or ground wire under a single screw on those buss bars, but today’s code requires a single wire per opening on the neutral and ground bus bars.

Open Knockouts

Service panels have areas that can be knocked out to allow a wire to be installed. A connector or bushing is installed to keep the wire from rubbing against the sharp metal of the panel. If these knockouts have been removed from the side of the panel or the front where the breakers are located, then a foreign object could be inserted into the opening, creating a shock hazard.

No GFCI and Ungrounded Outlets

Some common issues found in the branch circuits include ungrounded outlets and the lack of GFCI protection.

In the 1970s, GFCIs (ground fault circuit interrupters) were introduced. These outlets and breakers are designed to sense a very minute change in the current flow of the wires and will stop the power to the outlet or circuit if any change is detected. Originally they were only required at the exterior of the house by swimming pool equipment. Over the years, GFCI receptacles have been required in more locations such as garages, bathrooms, kitchens, etc..

Prior to the 1960s a two wire system was used to provide power to the outlets. A black wire and a white neutral wire were used to power two pronged outlets. It is common for DIYers to replace these two pronged outlets with three pronged outlets, giving the false sense of security that the outlet is grounded and safe for appliances with three pronged cords.

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