What I'm Seeing Now

head_left_image

Hide And Seek Electrical

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

www.jaymarinspect.com


Comment balloon 69 commentsJay Markanich • May 06 2011 06:33AM

Comments

Home inspectors have eyes....ears....and noses in places other than buyers.....anatomically correct.....and the best thing you can invest in when buying a home...but I guess you know that !

Posted by Sally K. & David L. Hanson, WI Real Estate Agents - Luxury - Divorce (EXP Realty 414-525-0563) almost 9 years ago

I do S&D.  And you do!  I wish everybody did!

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

Good morning, Jay. It is amazing the stuff folks do to desecrate their properties...

Posted by TeamCHI - Complete Home Inspections, Inc., Home Inspectons - Nashville, TN area - 615.661.029 (Complete Home Inspections, Inc.) almost 9 years ago

I don't know when they did these lights, Michael, but if they get hot enough that property could really be desecrated!

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

Yes, it is very important to have an experienced and knowledgeable inspector.  this is something most people would not even notice or think about.Nice work.

Posted by Debbie Gartner, The Flooring Girl & Blog Stylist -Dynamo Marketers (The Flooring Girl) almost 9 years ago

It can be a curse too Debbie, when I go into other people's homes, but a good curse I guess.

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

Good morning Jay.  A+ again, nothing gets passed the master.

Posted by Kenneth Cole, NYS Licensed Real Estate Salesperson (Weichert Realtors Appleseed Group, 2043 Richmond Ave. S.I.N.Y. 10314. office phone 718-698-9797, Appleseedhomes.com -) almost 9 years ago

Thanks Ken, for your vote of confidence.  I wish nothing got by me!

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

Hi Jay,

Did you recommend them to install "LED" bulbs"? Right now a little more expensive than the "CFL" bulbs but very effective against heat.

Just curious.

Clint

Posted by Clint Mckie, Desert Sun Home, Comm. Inspection 1-575-706-5586 (Desert Sun Home, commercial Inspections) almost 9 years ago

Jay ~  Another critical reason to hire an experienced, highly-qualified Home Inspector!  I always learn so many things to be on the lookout for, from your posts; thank you.  Had to lean . . .

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

Just one more fun reason to hire a home inspector!  And nothing like having the lights go into Christmas tree blinker mode to scream "Houston, we've got a problem!" :)

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

Good morning Jay, hiding electrical components is a big issue in this area and makes an inspection very challenging.  The problems always come out in the future.

Posted by Dan Edward Phillips, Realtor and Broker/Owner (Dan Edward Phillips) almost 9 years ago

Interesting detective work, sir! I would have thought it was a beautiful kitchen, but when the lights start going on and off you know something is up. The seller would have benefitted greatly from a pre-listing inspection on this one! :)

Posted by Jim Courtney, CRS, GRI, AHWD (OklaHomes Realty, Claremore Oklahoma) almost 9 years ago

Good detective work on this one. I would have to disagree with your conclusion of why the lights blink. It's obvious someone installed yule tide lighting. You know the light in the string that makes them all blink. ;)

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

A yery illustrative article Jay, pun intended. This problem is all to common and more dangerous than many realize.

I have no problem with DIY work having been done, but it HAS to be right.

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

Jay,

Great observations on that one. You are good, obi one co-nose-be, Super sleuth!

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

Jay, I work with my home inspector by supplying him as much information as possible about the prospective home so that he has a chance to come prepared.  It is a union that benefits my clients above all...

Posted by Chris Smith, South Simcoe, Caledon, King, Orangeville Real Esta (Re/Max Chay Realty Inc., Brokerage) almost 9 years ago

@ James..cute! Jay, I don't think I would have picked up on that but your story is something I will remember. All these tidbits from you and the hundreds of inspections I have gone on have taught me a lot and I am sometimes able to spot a problem before the contract is written.

Posted by Barb Szabo, CRS, E-pro Realtor, Cleveland Ohio Homes (RE/MAX Trinity Brecksville Ohio) almost 9 years ago

Wow Jay! I always learn something new reading your post. Next we see a house, I'll have to pay attention to details. Too bad you are not in my area. You would have been a great inspector to recommend.

Posted by Mike Yeo (3:16 team REALTY) almost 9 years ago

Something more to know.. thank you for these posts and the information you provide...

Posted by Michael (Mike) Robinson, CRS, CIPs, REALTOR (Broadmoor Realty, Inc.) almost 9 years ago

Thanks for all the great tips. You make me feel so ignorant!!

Posted by Donald Reich (Prudential Centennial) almost 9 years ago

No Clint.  It is the seller's house and my client has no opportunity to change things now.  I kind of observe and report, and recommendations, except for recommending specialists for certain diagnoses, are not something I often do.

Thanks Tish.  This is one of those that are harder to find!

Bliz - that is usually a sign that there's a problem!  And hiring a home inspector is fun?  Cool!

Dan - they are hard to detect, and usually show up again at some point!  The problem is selling them to someone else!

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

Jim C. - pre-listing inspections is a market that I have tried and tried to create around here with pitiful results!

Jim Q. - wow!  Now that I think of it, they did not turn on and off sequentially!  You may be right!  Gee, I hope they aren't upset that I thought it was a heat problem.  I hope my client doesn't find out what a screw up this was!

And don't tell Yul Brenner please.

It is pretty dangerous Robert.  And as to DIY, so often it is NOT done right!

Thanks Donald!  And I get the Star Wars reference, I think, sort of.  Do I die in the end, but become more powerful than anyone could realize?

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

Good job Chris.  But in this case I don't think the realtor would have found this one out.  And the seller probably thinks that all is well!

Barb - that is the idea behind EDUCATION - to get us to think for ourselves.  But, it's good to specialize!

Mike Y. - thank you very much.  I used to live in Waco, does that count?

Mike R. - this is one of those well-hidden things that most people would not think to look out for.

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


Donald - there is nothing wrong with ignorant, when one is trying to learn!  Ignorance is what spurs the process!  People confuse ignorant with "not smart," which is not the case!

 

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

IF this was a "permitted" electrical installation, could this still be screwed up by insulation installers? If so, wouldn't it make sense for the fixture manufacturer to provide some sort of topside venting facility with warnings not to cover with insulation.... or am I just a dreamer?

To Clint's point - is there a LED retrofit for halogen lamps available?

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

Brad - it would be a different fixture altogether.  I doubt this would have been a permitted installation, especially since the box was covered over and even the county will catch that one!

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

Thank you for posting. I always, correction....ALWAYS recommend a home inspection.

Posted by Duane Murphy, Broker- Owner-Real Estate - (Expert Real Estate Partners LLC) almost 9 years ago

Thanks Duane, and it's good that you do!  Everyone feels better for the peace of mind.

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

I wonder - hadn't the seller noticed the light show?

Posted by Anne M. Costello (Weidel Realtors) almost 9 years ago

If they did Anne, they didn't know what it meant.  And if the seller installed those lights, they didn't understand what they were doing anyway!

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

Never would have thought about that!  So are those canister lights covered by insulation on top a fire hazard too?

 

Posted by Coral Gundlach, Real Lives. Not Just Real Estate. (Compass) almost 9 years ago

In Manhattan, there are almost never inspections completed on condo and co-op purchases.  I've been thinking more and more that the collective wisdom of the real estate community here, which was built on decades of experience before I ever got into the business, is just plain wrong.  Everyone here seems to think that inspections are "just for the suburbs."  I'm certain a competent inspector could design an inspection model aimed at high-rise living that would be in the best interest of the purchasers they represent.  That being said, I tried to negotiate for an inspection contingency for a $1mil condo purchase I'm brokering this week, but we met a brick wall with the seller and their attorney.  This is something I will continue to think about . . .

Posted by Kate Akerly, Manhattan Beach Residential Sales (Kaminsky Group) almost 9 years ago

Everything you would want an inspector to be....very interesting post...The ability to see through walls and remedy things is a learned experience for the gifted...Jay. thank you

Posted by Richie Alan Naggar, agent & author (people first...then business Ran Right Realty ) almost 9 years ago

Wow, great observation and a great job! Overheating lights in the ceiling could set the place on fire. You also have to wonder if they did a good job splcing the electrical junctions that are hidden under all that insulation...

Posted by Tim Bradley, Commercial Real Estate Expert in Jackson Hole, WY (Contour Investment Properties) almost 9 years ago

I am subscibing to your blog, this is excellent information presented in simple terms (even this loan officer understands it) and I applaud you!  Thanks!

Posted by Steve Barker, Steve Barker (Movement Mortgage) almost 9 years ago

Great info...I will be looking for this situation at the next house I show.  I just love learning things like this

Posted by Karen Steed, Associate Broker Haralson Realty (Tallapoosa, Bremen, Waco, Buchanan, Temple, Carrollton) almost 9 years ago

Now that you informed us about the challenge, what was the solution or corrective action necessary to avoid a hazardous event?

Posted by Kimo Jarrett, Pro Lifestyle Solutions (WikiWiki Realty) almost 9 years ago

Wow, what a scary thing! I would never have looked up for a juction box. Thanks!

Posted by Liane Thomas -Top Listing Agent, Bringing you Home! (Professional Realty Services® International ) almost 9 years ago

Good post Jay! Its amazing how many hidden things you can find>

Posted by Mike Roberson (Pioneer Consulting) almost 9 years ago

Coral - they are a hazard if they are not supposed to be covered.  And not being able to see them I could not know.  But they are overheating!

Akerly - ridiculous!  I have never heard of such a thing!  What wisdom...  Talk about short sighted!

Richie - inspections require a lot of thinking through!  But experience counts the most.

Tim - unfortunately we will never know!  An electrician needs to be there to fix it and he will do so properly.

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

Thanks Steve!  Welcome aboard!

Karen - I don't run into this a lot!  But if you see it, next time you can recognize it!

Kimo - if the seller wants to sell to my client this will have to be rectified by a licensed electrician.

Liane - it has to be there!  If not the distribution to the various lights could not happen.

Mike - it takes looking around the the proper tools!

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

Great job Jay! I think that you have a sixth sense for these kind of things.  It also shows the importance of getting a GOOD home inpsector.

Posted by The Hollinden Team, Serving the Greater Louisville area (EXP Realty) almost 9 years ago

Thanks Steve.  No sixth sense, just a lot of experience with people and what they do!

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

Jay, too bad you didn't have your infared camera with you to show us the heat blasting off those lights.  It's a common problem with those lights & Mr. Home Depot Homeowner.

Posted by Lyn Sims, Schaumburg Real Estate (RE/MAX Suburban) almost 9 years ago

That would have been interesting Lyn.  But I am sure I would have seen heat!

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

Great post to warn people about the potential hazard. You're right - very few would notice the ceiling repair and get curious.

Posted by Marte Cliff, Your real estate writer (Marte Cliff Copywriting) almost 9 years ago

Inspectors are worth their weight in gold!

Posted by Brenda, Ron, Lee Cunningham & Tara Keator, Realtors, Homes for Sale - Phoenix Metro (West USA Realty) almost 9 years ago

Alrighty then, I did the same repair to my ceiling and have no plate cover either! But I do know that my cans are not covered with insulation.

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

Marte - inspectors would get curious.  Most other people would not.  Maybe an electrician visiting for a party or something!

Thanks B&R - we would like to think so!  I wish I was... wow!

Cynthia - well, if there is a junction in there it needs an access cover!  That would be safest for you.

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

I would have never thought of this or noticed the issue.  Thanks for a great post.  I will reblogg.

Posted by Gene Riemenschneider, Turning Houses into Homes (Home Point Real Estate) almost 9 years ago

Thanks for the reblog Gene.  Glad you enjoyed this post also!

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

Jay, that is amazing, I never would have thought to look at it that way. Is that considered a fire hazard?

Posted by Ray Waisler, NMLS #6621 - Specializing in Jumbo FHA & VA (Finance of America) almost 9 years ago

It very well could become one, if it is not now, Ray.  Heat works over time and insulation on the cables can fray.

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

Jay,

Again you have impressed me with your MASSIVE amount of knowledge! 

Posted by Kathy Opatka, Serving Ocean City, MD, & The Delaware Beaches (RE/MAX CROSSROADS) almost 9 years ago

"Hide And Seek Electrical"

The houes my wife and I live in exactly!  :(

Posted by Joe Lane Richland, WA Realtor, 509.438.9344 www.LaneRealEstateTeam.com (Kennewick Richland (and West) Pasco WA Homes For Sale) almost 9 years ago

Jay - It is amazing the short cuts people will take to save a buck.  This seems to me a situation where an extra buck could potentially save thousands!  Home inspection by a licensed inspector is always a recommendation that should be given.

Posted by Robert Courtney, Century 21 All Islands, RA, CDPE, MCRE, CIAS almost 9 years ago

Thank you Kathy.  The idea on a home inspection is to think a thousand things and hope some of them you actually run across and can identify!

Joe - wow, I hope not!  Get someone in there to make it safe!

Robert - this may have been a short cut based in ignorance.  I hope so anyway - nobody should do this intentionally!

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

Very interesting. I always find your posts very informative. Thanks!

Posted by Jamie King, Sandusky, OH (Hoty Enterprises, Inc.) almost 9 years ago

Thank you Jamie!  We try, we really try...

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

whoops!

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

And I don't know if this is an easy or difficult fix Charlie.  No see-o from above.

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

I always appreciate a good post from someone in a related real estate field that is informative.  I sold a house recently that had "aftermarket" recessed lights in the kitchen which looked similar to your photo.  Thankfully the buyer's close relative is a contractor and they are basically doing a complete remodel of this former REO.

Posted by Jason Nenadov, expert advice and services to buyers and sellers (EQUITY ASSETS REAL ESTATE) almost 9 years ago

Jason - and likely they will find a lot of DIY or unprofessional stuff they didn't anticipate.  But it's good to find it and professionally take care of it.

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

Good catch Jay.  They are lucky the cans turn off when they overheat.  

Posted by Jack Gilleland (Home Inspection and Investor Services, Clayton) almost 9 years ago

Isn't that built in to the newer canisters Jack?  I had understood so, but honestly could not tell much about these.  They are very pretty lights though, but obviously hot.

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

Another excellent opportunity to learn from your posts.  Thank you for the elec lesson. 

Posted by Beverly Femia, Broker Realtor Stager - Greater Wilmington, NC Are (BlueCoast Realty Corporation) almost 9 years ago

Beverly - glad you enjoyed it and that you find so much instruction on the posts!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 9 years ago
Wow, I learned something today! Good hunting and educating!
Posted by Sylvie Stuart, Home Buying, Home Selling and Investment - Flagsta (Realty One Group Mountain Desert 928-600-2765) almost 9 years ago

This blog does not allow anonymous comments