What I'm Seeing Now


Has It Been Like This Since The House Was Built?

The seller has been in the house since it was built in 1963.  She is alone and "moving on."  She would be unable to answer a question such as I would ask.  As regards the service cable, has it been like this since the house was built?

This is the main service cable and was brought into the furnace room, through an opening in the floor, and connected to the panel box.

The protective plate does not appear to have ever been nailed on as there are no other holes in the wood.

The service cable has insulation which is placed around a cellophane tape that encases the individually-insulated electric cables and ground line.

Can you see what bothers me?












The outside, insulating sheathing appears to have been intentionally removed.  Why?  And it looks to me as if it happened when the house was built, literally cut and peeled back.

Was that the only hole possible to use for installing it?  Was the hole too small so the insulation had to be removed to fit it through?  Why not just make the hole bigger?  How much of the insulation is stripped off?  All the way to the electric meter?

From here the cable passes between floors to the exterior wall where the electric meter is located.  It will turn, go up inside the drywall and then through the wall and into the backside of the electric meter.  It is not visible at any other point from this hole in the floor.

That hole has been used since.  The gray cable comes in from the very new photo eye box on the front of the house servicing the very new front yard light.  That all appears to have been put in by an electrician.  He must have seen this frayed service cable.  I guess it didn't excite him.

My recommendation:  sometimes we find things on home inspections that are odd and lead us to wonder what can or should be done.  But just because something has been there for a long time doesn't mean it should stay that way.  If this came up on your home inspection, what do you think the Realtor should do?



Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC  

Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.

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


Comment balloon 20 commentsJay Markanich • August 12 2011 07:18AM


Good morning, Jay.....how could an electrical inspector for the town/city allow that to pass???  The realtor should insist that a new line be brought in from outside by a master electrician and with all the proper permitting.....and this is something that should be done whether there is a deal or not....and it wouldn't matter if I were a listing agent or a buyers' agent....that's dangerous and should be reported to the building dept.

Posted by Barbara Todaro, Previously Affiliated with The Todaro Team (RE/MAX Executive Realty - Retired ) about 9 years ago

How many times  have you heard someone say; "It been like that since I moved in and its never been a problem". The point is it could be a problem one ime and that is one time too many.

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

I would agree with Barbara; I've had inspections in the past where extensive remodeling was done, and the breaker box was never relocated to a new proper location and that is what we had the sellers do.

Posted by Carol Zingone, Global Realtor in Jax Beach, FL - ABR, CRS, CIPS (Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Florida Network Realty) about 9 years ago

Call the electirican for his permitted fix....looks like a much bigger problem just waiting to happen/ignite.

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

Maybe he was looking down and not up Barbara!  I don't know, but I know I'm uncomfortable with it!

Jim - right!  But the realtor in this case did not know what to do about it!  And the elderly seller knew nothing, of course.

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

That is an easy one compared to this Carol!  When you make changes, you MUST meet the current code conditions.  This looks out of code even for the 60s, but it slid by and has been like that ever since!

S&D - I agree, it is a problem waiting to happen.  What the selling agent does about it is yet to be determined, but I want to find out.

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

It should be fixed...or better yet replaced.  I completely agree w/ Jim's comment too.

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

Yep.  I do too Debbie.  All it takes is one circumstance.  It might also necessitate the replacement of the panel box.

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

Good morning, Jay. It never ceases to amaze me as to what some dummies will do with electricity...

Posted by Michael Thornton, Nashville Area - Photography & Videography (RadnorLake Video) about 9 years ago

This one was amazing, Michael, and to think it has been like this apparently from the start!

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


I think I got what you are saying. Is this is the main service conductors that are running to the panel from the meter? If so then the are un-fused at this point. Very dangerous.

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

What is sad to me is the builder actually did this and left it that way. We see this stuff all the time, even in newer homes. So where did the electrical inspector sign off on this? Hmmm, probably from his car.

Posted by Fred Hernden, CMI, Albuquerque area Master Inspector (Superior Home Inspections - Greater Albuquerque Area) about 9 years ago

Jay, something like this can cause an issue, namely a fire, even if they have been lucky for a long time, another reason why your service is so vital for home buyers...

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


I'd dial my Everything Electrical guy who is an electrical engineer and have it fixed!  Some things might not be done right, but do less harm, this is asking for trouble.

All the best, Michelle

Posted by Michelle Francis, Realtor, Buckhead Atlanta Homes for Sale & Lease (Tim Francis Realty LLC) about 9 years ago

That's the main service cable? And is that a steel beam I see under the sill plate?

Add high voltage, contact with a steel beam, friction wear from an unsecured cable and you've got a pocket lightening bolt looking for ground. 

Anyone near that beam can be at risk. They would become the ground conductor route for all that voltage. There doesn't need to be an arc. When the voltage is high enough a current will be induced in nearby conductors (metal).

Here the standard is conduited wiring between the panel and the service entrance, meter and all the way from the service head. EMT conduit is preferred in proximity to large metal masses. (Steel beams qualify)

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

But Jay, that plate didn't need to be attached on both sides -- no one was going to be nailing anything there.  I take it this is the house where the meter box is not properly attached to the outside wall due to the siding replacement -- that just begs the question as to how much movement this saw during that process.

Posted by Steven Cook (No Longer Processing Mortgages.) about 9 years ago

Don - I read your comment and thought that it all way obvious.  Then I reread things and had to change the wording.  So the line beside the first picture is a bit more understandable.  Yes, it's the service cable attaching to the panel box!  My question is - what would the realtors do in this case?  I think it needs to be replaced.

Could be Fred!  In that county the same guy signs off on everything.  I don't know how it happened when the house was built.  But maybe from the car!

Chris - this house has dodged bullets for a long time!

Michelle - there you go!  It's possible that money would have to be allocated for this after the sale because I doubt the elderly seller has the money now.

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

Robert - for sure there are huge risks all around.  But you know what the other party would say - "it's been like that for a long time!"  My answer would be, "so what's your point?"

Steven - that whole thing is a cluster you know what.  And I bet that sheathing is missing all the way back to the meter, which is probably 6' or so.

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

I'm sure the electrician we helped today would've been shaking his head at this one as well. 

Posted by Chris Ann Cleland, Associate Broker, Bristow, VA (Long and Foster REALTORS®, Gainesville, VA) about 9 years ago

Necessarily Chris Ann!  So did I!  Get back to bed - what are you doing up still?  It was nice to see you again... even if you were sick.

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

This blog does not allow anonymous comments