Entering the house and walking up the stairs I looked at the kitchen ceiling and said, "Uh-oh..."
I knew I was in for some hide and seek electrical during the inspection. Before I even turned on the dishwasher (always the first thing) and unpacked my tools, I was thinking how to approach this one.
Do you see what got me so excited?
There are six new canister lights in the ceiling. And the original single light has disappeared.
What's wrong with that?
The original light was attached to a junction box which housed the cable servicing it.
I see no cover plate.
Is the junction box still there?
Perhaps hard to see in this photo is the slight evidence of a repair to the kitchen ceiling. Is there a hidden junction box under there? It is much more evident in person, and made a bit easier by the semi-gloss paint.
So what's an inspector to do?
Go to the attic!
Opening the scuttle hole I noticed this diligent homeowner had added lots, and I mean LOTS, of cellulose insulation into the attic space. About 12" on top of the old stuff! We have R-value out the, well, LOTS of new insulation!
However, spider crawling over the truss rafters, not much fun, I could barely even determine where the kitchen was, much less see a junction box, or even the light fixtures!
This is a no no.
Maybe these lights are the kind that can be covered with insulation, but I don't know that at this point. They are halogen lights, which get pretty hot.
So I needed another way to see if there is a live junction box in there!
I needed my electricity sniffer!
It's a real blood hound.
Turning it on and poking around I was able to sniff out exactly where the box is located.
Amazingly right in the middle of the drywall repair! And where the light fixture used to be. Access, and a cover plate, needs to be provided to get to that box!
Then it got interesting.
One by one the lights began to turn off. A few minutes later they would turn back on!
My client smartly asked what that means.
It means the fixtures are overheating, turning off in self defense, cooling, and turning back on!
This is another no no.
It also means the homeowner, or other installer, did not read the instructions that came with the fixtures as to whether they can be covered with anything or if their heat needs allowance to dissipate.
Are these the kind of lights that can be covered with insulation? We report, you decide.
I didn't have my thermal camera with me, but it would have been interesting to see this from the attic. Little fuzzy areas of heat generated by each light fixture, and projecting through the thick, cellulose insulation would probably have been detected.
My recommendation: how many of you would have noticed that ceiling when first walking into a house? MOST, IF NOT ALL OF YOU, WOULD NOT HAVE, OF COURSE NOT! That's why you hire a home inspector! And get an experienced one, with lots of cool toys, um tools! They are TOOLS after all! And coupled with the inspector's experience are very, very valuable!
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC
Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.
Office (703) 330-6388 Cell (703) 585-7560