What I'm Seeing Now

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I Have Never Seen This Before

I do a lot of pre-drywall inspections on new construction.  They are fun to do, not only from an inspector's point of view, but I learn a lot about the "new waves" in the construction industry.

Here may be a new wave and I have never seen this before.

You are looking at the future hall bathroom of a townhouse that you have visited before!  What is new?

Well, aside from the drywall screws holding the tub into place, there is something else.

That is the back side of the electric panel box and two receptacle boxes on the wall - RIGHT BEHIND THE WALL BOARD OF THE BATHROOM.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To the left is the back side of the panel box.  It is not exactly water proof!!

The back sides of those receptacle boxes is not much better.

I wonder about this!  I wondered when they started using 17/32" oriented strand board for roofs.  And when they began using Medium Density Fiberboard (MDF) for outdoor "wood" trim applications.  And when they started spraying a very thin material onto foundation walls to help "seal" them, instead of the old thick tar with fiber and foam on top.

I have to say, I didn't like any of those changes.  My disapproval is warranted.  None of those products work well.  So why the new wave?

IT ALL HAS TO BOIL DOWN TO MONEY.  And so, expressing my concern to my client, I asked her to find out what they intended to use here for wall board.  Durarock, which is a kind of cement board?  Kerdi, in addition to the durarock?  Greenboard, a slightly water-resistant drywall, is no longer permitted, fortunately.  So, what will they use?

This installation has me concerned.  WHEN YOU BUILD A HOUSE, YOU HAVE TO THINK LONG TERM!!

I have been around long enough to know how "long term" things such as polybutylene tubing, synthetic stucco and faux stone were.  And all were supposed to be the latest greatest and would last forever! 

But this is electrical behind a shower!  Now, looking at the house there is no other place, at least on this level, for the panel box.  But I really wonder about this one!

Now, obviously the county is going to approve this or they would not have designed it.  But that doesn't mean it is okay, just permitted locally.  I, for one, do not have a good feeling about it.

My recommendation:  when you see something on new construction that maybe you have not seen before, or gives you a nag, ask!  There is nothing easier than asking.  And if you aren't satisfied, ask someone else!

 

 

 

Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC  

Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.

Office (703) 330-6388   Cell (703) 585-7560

www.jaymarinspect.com


Comment balloon 32 commentsJay Markanich • April 18 2011 07:59AM

Comments

Looks like you have found a number of potentially big problems.

Posted by Jay Schmitt, Gettysburg Real Estate Agent (Keller Williams Keystone Realty) over 9 years ago

I don't know Jay!  That is what is bothering me.  It is approved by the county!  Do they know about the long term?

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 9 years ago

Interesting we are redoing our master bath and have tried, in vain to find someoone who knows what a wet room is. I will remember this post when we get someone in do do ours. Thanks

Posted by Charlie Ragonesi, Homes - Big Canoe, Jasper, North Georgia Pros (AllMountainRealty.com) over 9 years ago

You're welcome Charlie!  But a post about what I don't know may not be much help!  But the idea is in there now, isn't it?

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 9 years ago

Jay ~  This is frightening!  There is a whole host of attendant issues which are certain to follow -- certainly has shades of Chinese Drywall, the use of PB's . . .  Aargh.

Posted by Tish Lloyd, Broker - Wilmington NC and Surrounding Beaches (BlueCoast Realty Corporation) over 9 years ago

Well, I have contacted them about it and no one has answered.  So, still, I don't know Tish.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 9 years ago

Definitely not a warm fuzzy feeling about that one!

Posted by Liz and Bill Spear, RE/MAX Elite Warren County OH (Cincinnati/Dayton) (RE/MAX Elite 513.520.5305 www.LizTour.com) over 9 years ago

Jay - construction 101 ... electricity and water don't mix well. What are they thinking!!

Posted by Cynthia Larsen, Independent Broker In Sonoma County, CA over 9 years ago

Ask, ask ask. Absolutely right. Sometimes you get an argument back but ask anyway. 

Some other long term products; 'colour lock siding' (wasn't much more than cardboard) and UFFI, urea formaldehyde foam insulation (turned out to be sickening for some).

Posted by Robert Butler, Montreal Home Inspector | Aspect Inspection (Aspect Inspection) over 9 years ago

Jay, That is just bad. I would think they would requird a waterproof membrane on the panel wall.

Posted by Keith Gilkey, 410-920-7214, Re/Max Chesapeake (Re/Max Chesapeake) over 9 years ago

That is a HUGE red flag.  Water and electricity never mix well.  I shudder to think what might happen if a pipe were to leak or burst.

Posted by Justin Dibbs, REALTOR® - Ashburn Virginia Homes for Sale (Pearson Smith Realty) over 9 years ago

Bliz - still doesn't feel good to me either!

Cynthia - this is what I mean by this creeping along of things "appropriate" now, but not in the past.  Why not in the past?

Robert - for sure we could go into lots of products deemed terrific!  But I still don't know about this placement.

Keith - even Durarock is not a waterproof membrane, they have found.

Justin - it is to me, but apparently Alexandria has approved it!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 9 years ago

Jay,

Logic would go a long way.  But sometimes people look at something and just do it because it was drawn up that way. You would think the electrician would of said something.

Posted by Donald Hester, NCW Home Inspections, LLC (NCW Home Inspections, LLC) over 9 years ago

It's sort of like bring a radio into the tub with you. Only the charge will be a tad greater lol

Enjoy the day

Posted by Don MacLean, Realtor-Homes for Sale- Easton Mass (New England Real Estate Center Inc.) over 9 years ago

Jay,

PRESUMING that placement was allowed. Are there adaquet remedies that would make it better... ie. waterproof or even raintight boxes/enclosures/fittings, conduit, protective membranes, mechanical protections???

Because wet  walls get replaced before dry situations (re-tile, grout problems leading to substrate weakening etc.) I think I'd also want to see something pteventing cutting tool penetration of the electrical equipment. I can just see the owner wanting to add a hand hold bar in the shower and drilling into an electrical bus bar.

Posted by Brad Rachielles, REALTOR, CDPE, Upland, CA (CENTURY 21 Peak, Ca BRE# 01489453) over 9 years ago

Donald - the electrician is being paid now.  Why would he want to postpone that?  And it was designed and wired to install the box in this position.

Don - just a tad!  And try not to drop that radio!

Brad - if there was some membrane to be put behind or around the panel, it should be there now.  I have never heard of one though.  And I also don't know of a rain tight box.  And drilling a hole!  You mean like for a handicapped assistance bar?  Wouldn't that be something!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 9 years ago

I agree Jay, putting a big distribution panel on that wall is asking for it. Even if they'd furred or double studded the wall and spaced it with no contact on the shower side sheathing it would be 100% better.

Posted by Robert Butler, Montreal Home Inspector | Aspect Inspection (Aspect Inspection) over 9 years ago

Robert - the buyer emailed me to say that the supervisor said that this application was LEEDS certified!!  What does something "green" (which simply means more money) have to do with anything?  And he showed her the house next door.  Still, he didn't identify what the product was to be on the walls!  I emailed her back right away!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 9 years ago

Brad's point is a god one I had not considered. Even if you didn't hit the panel (and that's a big target) you still have a good chance of nicking one or more of the electrical wiring that's going to be concentrated in that area.

Posted by Robert Butler, Montreal Home Inspector | Aspect Inspection (Aspect Inspection) over 9 years ago

Jay, this certainly doesn't seem wise.  Kinda like that column James Q. wrote last week about "Voices".  Something inside says, "Not a good idea!"

Posted by Jeremy Wrenn, C.O.O., Winslow Homes (Winslow Homes) over 9 years ago

Robert - for sure!  Who can guarantee that no holes will be drilled in the future?

Jeremy - there are two angels on my shoulders now, and they are both the good ones saying to stay away!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 9 years ago

Bet a code panel of electrical experts would have a hay day with this. Maybe I'd be surprised, but, IMHO - this is a huge problem.

Posted by Brad Rachielles, REALTOR, CDPE, Upland, CA (CENTURY 21 Peak, Ca BRE# 01489453) over 9 years ago

Jay, I know of nothing that would prevent this installation by code---it likely would not even meet the defintion of a "wet location" as the tub/shower enclosure is not supposed to leak.  I would argue in terms of water, mounting the sucker on a concrete basement wall or block wall would be as much of a water issue as this would be.  As far as mechanical damage goes, anyone drilling into the wall and continuing on after they hit the metal box may deserve what they get---always looking for ways to clean up the gene pool :)  There are some new plastic panels that would make me more nervous---but still it is required of the driller to know where the heck he (or she) is drilling.  It is called being "qualified" to use the drill :)

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) over 9 years ago

Yikes!  Having just dealt with a listing in which the shower pipe burst somewhere in the wall, I can't imagine this situation!  In addition, the homeowner frantically chopping into the drywall to find the leak in my case, who knows what he would have hit if he'd been in that bathroom.  Zaaaap! 

Posted by Joel Weihe, Helping you to use your VA home loan benefits (Realty World Alliance) over 9 years ago

Panels are put out doors in some locations and that's allowed. I can't say given the choice I wouldn't install a panel in that location, but if there is nothing preventing it from going in there, what can one say.

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) over 9 years ago

Brad - I don't think there is a code thing to prevent this, obviously since they county approved the installation.  But the back side is against the wall board.  It just doesn't feel right to me, but, as I say, I don't know!

Charlie - clean up the gene pool!!  Good one...!  That's probably what would happen if it got drilled into.  Who's to say that somewhere down the line someone, as I said earlier, doesn't put in a stabilizing bar for an invalid?  I know it isn't "supposed" to leak!  But the back side is right against the wall board, whatever that is.

The client emailed me to say that the supervisor told her that they were putting in a product that meets LEEDS standards!  I am not sure what "green" stuff (mo' money) has to do with a waterproof back side, but he took the time to show her the house next door.  LEEDS or whatever product put there, I want to know it's safe.  I asked her to try to find out what the product is, but haven't heard yet.

Sheree - the pipes are on the wall to the left in the photo and not really near the box.  But, as you say, a spray is a spray!  Theoretically the wallboard is fine, but I really wouldn't want to have to worry about it.

Jim - I don't think this is a panel made for outdoors!  And I agree with your choice!  Here's another good one.  Behind where the panel is located, it is the laundry room.  It is barely wide enough for a drip pan and stackable unit there.  There will be very little room around the sides of that stackable, a lot of which will be taken up with the hoses and discharge tube (can you see it there?) and the dryer vent above.  The unit is plugged into the wall BEHIND the stackable - and it is a GFI outlet.  If/when that trips, good luck resetting it!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 9 years ago

As far as I'm concerned "LEEDS" is just being used as another jargon term that both impresses and confuses at the same time. It's not yet developed into the standard that it might become someday.

It stands for "Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Standard". Thats all. This is developed as a focus for architects and engineers to work toward energy efficiency and sustainable building practices and materials.

It's not a building standard, but it will become a design standard. It's to be an evolving reference. What is up to LEEDS rating this year will not be LEEDS rated next year.

Buildings are not LEEDS certified. The building design is LEEDS certified, dated for the completed set of drawings.

Thats nice but it isn't everything. its an incomplete developing standard for design. It's a starting point and will take generations to become a high quality reference that it has the potential to be.

 But if contractors and developers keep using it as a 'buzz word' then it won't develop and will become meaning less.

Drawings are not the building and certified drawings do not mean a certified building.

Builders are expected to follow the plans, but the plans don't tell them how to work. They are expected to follow normal trade practices and all building, fire and electrical codes.

In the process they are must integrate safety into the work place and the construction. Common sense is to be applied. It just hasn't been here.

Posted by Robert Butler, Montreal Home Inspector | Aspect Inspection (Aspect Inspection) over 9 years ago

I agree Robert.  I don't know why that would be touted as exceptional or special, especially since it doesn't have anything to do with the concern here!  And it is just a buzz word at this point!  And you are right also, no common sense here.  Charlie's comment about drilling through the back to peel off some of the gene pool was pretty funny.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 9 years ago

Yeah, there is definitely a shallow end to the gene pool, I just didn't realize it was in residential showers.

Posted by Robert Butler, Montreal Home Inspector | Aspect Inspection (Aspect Inspection) over 9 years ago

Good line Robert!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 9 years ago

Jay - WHEN YOU BUILD A HOUSE, YOU HAVE TO THINK LONG TERM!!  I agree, but far too many "builders" are like politicians and have a severe case of myopia.

Posted by John Mulkey, Housing Guru (TheHousingGuru.com) over 9 years ago

My question, John, is whether it's intentional in some regards.  In this case, I think they have approval and are going ahead with it!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 9 years ago

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