What I'm Seeing Now

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Electrical Wiring Sheathing Color Is Relevant And Important

I have to wonder if most homeowners, and/or home do-it-yourselfers, and/or "professional" contractors (!) know that electrical wiring sheathing color is relevant and important.

The question is asked because so often I see outdoor wiring that uses incorrect wiring, or is not protected properly, such as with a conduit.

Take this wiring attached to this deck.

We see two colors, gray and white.

This location is wrong no matter what the color - it is right beside a staircase, exposed to weather and sunlight, and the connectors are made for indoors.

As to color, gray wiring is made to be used underground, and its sheathing is more resistant to sunlight, oil and water.  It should still be attached in areas where it is better protected.

I don't have a problem so much here with the gray wiring, although I'd like it elsewhere under the deck.

But the white wiring is not made for this application.  It's made for indoors!

Its installation here is a sure sign of unprofessional work.  That means there was no permit.  It connects numerous new lights installed around this deck.

It originates in a light fixture, improperly installed itself, which is itself connected to another light fixture I think inside the house.  I say that because the white wire enters the house through a hole in the ledger board which attaches the deck to the house.

Outdoors you always want to see gray sheathing, protected by intelligent placement, properly supported and originating professionally.

My recommendation:  it's the little things that count!  And a knowledge of what and where.  Colors usually mean things.  Sizes usually mean things.  Locations usually mean things.  And as to outdoors, gray sheathing is the way to go.  Look to make sure all that is correct!

 

 

 

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 39 commentsJay Markanich • March 07 2013 04:01AM

Comments

  Our almost year old Kitten would disagree....he chews cords regardless of color..they all taste the same !  Have a wonderful weekend !

Posted by Sally K. & David L. Hanson, WI Realtors - Luxury - Divorce (EXP Realty 414-525-0563) about 6 years ago

Not as efficient either right? The covering, the guage, lots to consider when talking juice, sparks, power that Captain Kirk was never happy with, never had enough at the right time when you really needed it.

Posted by Andrew Mooers | 207.532.6573, Northern Maine Real Estate-Aroostook County Broker (MOOERS REALTY) about 6 years ago

Good morning, Jay..... of all of the components of a home, I think electrical is the most dangerous and there aer so many "handy men" who play around with it... whenever I buy a home, I have a master electrician do a thorough walk through and make a list of all of the updates and corrections that are needed to bring it up to code....

Posted by Barbara Todaro, Marketing Agent for The Todaro Team (RE/MAX Executive Realty ) about 6 years ago

S&D - for sure that is true!  I bet it tastes like chicken.

Andrew - no matter the location, when you are wiring something you HAVE to know what you're doing.

Barbara - people sometimes think they can do anything without consequences.  Not in the case of electricity!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 6 years ago

What a shock sometimes for do it yourselfer....

Posted by Richard Burge Realty/ Burge Homes, Broker in Charge/Owner (Richard Burge Realty/Burge Homes) about 6 years ago

Or the "professional," Richard, who says that's the way he's been doing it for 20 years.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 6 years ago

Another great blog post.  I love learning about houses nad how they work.  It's an incredible help in my business to pick out issues before we even write the offer.

Posted by Marc McMaster, Putting my clients before myself (RE/MAX Centre Realty) about 6 years ago

Marc - that isn't really your job, but the more you know, the more you know!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 6 years ago

Jay, electricians are licensed for a reason. Leave the wiring jobs to the pros.

Posted by Michael Setunsky, Your Commercial Real Estate Link to Northern VA about 6 years ago

Good example of the DIY home owner that shold not DI themselves just for safety concerns.

Posted by Randi Brammer, Accountant & Tax Preparer (Randi Brammer, Acctg.) about 6 years ago

You think that Mike, and I think that, but others seem to disagree!

Randi - most electrical DIY is a good example of that!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 6 years ago

They may not see the problem now . .but after a few years exposed to the weather could be a major danger for the house and its occupants. .

Posted by Fernando Herboso - Broker for Maxus Realty Group, 301-246-0001 Serving Maryland, DC and Northern VA (Maxus Realty Group - Broker 301-246-0001) about 6 years ago

Good Morning, Jay. I see this more times than I care to. I have seen some so bad that the insulation has deteriorated...

Posted by TeamCHI - Complete Home Inspections, Inc., Home Inspectons - Nashville, TN area - 615.661.029 (Complete Home Inspections, Inc.) about 6 years ago

Hi Jay, it is really imperative to ask an electrician to take care of the house wirings. 

Posted by Ridhi Raheja, FHA, 203k, VA, Jumbo, PreApproval, Jumbo Home Loan (Movement Mortgage (Illinois)) about 6 years ago

You are exactly right Fernando.  See Michael's comment below yours.

It does exactly that, and we see it often, don't we Michael?  Hence the post, while this still looks good.

I agree Ridhi, unless a homeowner is so specialized.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 6 years ago

Hi Jay,

Many, many home owners think they can do what ever they want when adding things to the home. Most don't think of the home ever being sold or having the home inspected. That's when it all comes out about how wrong the so called improvements were.

Nice find. I see you have power. :-)

Have a good day in Bristow my friend.

Best, Clint McKie

Posted by Clint Mckie, Desert Sun Home, Comm. Inspection 1-575-706-5586 (Desert Sun Home, commercial Inspections) about 6 years ago

This is a very informative post for me as a Realtor and a project warrior.  As a DIY er,  I don't perform electrical work but this is a great help.  At least I know right from wrong.

Posted by James Brown (KWRC) about 6 years ago

Thanks for another informative blog.  I haven't seen white wires on the outside of any homes, but now I'll know what to keep my eyes out for!

Posted by Kat Palmiotti, The House Kat (Grand Lux Realty, Monroe NY, 914-419-0270, kat@thehousekat.com) about 6 years ago

We hardly got any snow, despite all the dire warnings Clint.  It's ridiculous how things get built up.  When the house is sold, it's amazing how many things come to the fore.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 6 years ago

I can do electrical James, but I don't do my own.  That way, if there's a problem, insurance can't say I screwed up.

That's the key Kat.  Glad you picked up some new information!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 6 years ago

Jay...one of my first jobs was cleaning electrical lights on scaffolds 30 feet and higher in the air by hand...you learn a little about shocks, fixtures, changing bulbs etc...Summing it up, I learned to respect electricity early on...Hire up on this subject when needed

Posted by Richie Alan Naggar, agent & author (people first...then business Ran Right Realty ) about 6 years ago

It doesn't take long for the Insulation to become brittle and crack. The paper insulation on the white wiring can hold water within the outer layer; this makes for an interesting lesson in proper materials.

Thanks for the featured post today Jay.

Posted by Tom Arstingstall, General Contractor, Dry Rot, Water Damage Sacramento, El Dorado County - (916) 765-5366, General Contractor, Dry Rot and Water Damage (Dry Rot and Water Damage www.tromlerconstruction.com Mobile - 916-765-5366) about 6 years ago

Jay- Very scary.. if someone did this.. what else did they do

Posted by Scott Fogleman, New Home Team (New Home Team 804-573-9592) about 6 years ago

Solid advice by someone who has experience.  Thanks Richie.

It does not take long Tom!  Especially depending on the amount of sunlight.

That is exactly the thought that goes through a home inspector's mind Scott!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 6 years ago

When our old buddy Uncle Bob takes care of his family's home projects, it always comes back to bite you in the butt when they sell their home. Luckily in this case, you caught it before something bad happened.

Posted by Fred Hernden, CMI, Albuquerque area Master Inspector (Superior Home Inspections - Greater Albuquerque Area) about 6 years ago

I don't know about you Fred, but I see indoor wiring outdoors, and vice versa all the time!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 6 years ago

Jay -- it is interesting that the folks at the big box DIY stores don't check the use for the wire, before selling it to the DIYers.

Posted by Steven Cook (No Longer Processing Mortgages.) about 6 years ago

People go into the aisle and pick out what they think they need, Steven, and go buy it.  The cashier knows nothing about the product or why it is being bought.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 6 years ago

I see the wrong wiring being used around here all the time and I always wonder why people don't stop to read. It's clearly marked on the packaging. If you can't take the time to read, chances you shouldn't be playing with electricity. 

Posted by Suesan Jenifer Therriault, "Inspecting every purchase as if it were my own". (JTHIS-Professional Home Inspection Team) about 6 years ago

Jay, those white two-nail fasteners might as well be "red" as they are for sure a red flag that the work was not done by a licensed electrician :)

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) about 6 years ago

That's a 10-4 good buddy Sue.  But I think you are being a hair too common sensical.

Proper fastening is mentioned, and you picked up on it Charlie.  That's the fastener I used when I ran cable co-ax in my house.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 6 years ago

Jay, See we are on the same page this week ; ) I see so much NM on the exterior. 

Posted by Donald Hester, NCW Home Inspections, LLC (NCW Home Inspections, LLC) about 6 years ago

Never say always :) I found this beauty the other day. I told the client the color was wrong. After which I had to pull my foot out of my mouth. That wire is labeled for exterior use. 
Exterior wire

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) about 6 years ago

@Jim, I was going to say that as well.  Not all UF cable is grey or grey/green in color.

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) about 6 years ago

Don - well, great minds think alike.  So often we inspectors post about the same stuff on the same day!

Jim - if it's labeled it's good.  Not labeled, go gray.

Charlie - but this is Virginia.  We are gray here!  You might laugh, but there are still LOTS of people still fighting that war.  It's silly, but still here!  So you can forget anything outdoors but gray.

Thanks.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 6 years ago

I'm seeing allot of grey lately going under the slab to the island. Have you ever seen  pink? It's so cute.

Posted by Rob Ernst, Reno, NV-775-410-4286 Inspector & Energy Auditor (Certified Structure Inspector) about 6 years ago

That's how they did the light in my front yard 14 years ago Rob.  And it still works!

Haven't seen pink.  Hope some of the money goes toward a good cause...

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 6 years ago

No not for a good cause. It was a contractor wiring new homes during the boom that got tired of people stealing his wire.

Posted by Rob Ernst, Reno, NV-775-410-4286 Inspector & Energy Auditor (Certified Structure Inspector) about 6 years ago

And pink stopped that theft?

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 6 years ago

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