What I'm Seeing Now

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I Find That One Electrical Problem Leads To Others - It Did Here

Whenever I read or hear that there has been substantial remodeling done on a home, I find that one electrical problem leads to others - it did here.

Often it has been done by a homeowner.
Often it has been done without a permit.
Often it has been done by a contractor who is not an electrician.
Often it has been done incorrectly.
Often it is obviously incorrect.
Often it is dangerous, and the people living in the house don't even know.

WHILE IGNORANCE MAY BE BLISS, IT CAN BE DANGEROUS!

I found the sub panel first. 

Predicting the most common problem, where the white (neutral) lines and ground lines are combined on the same bus, it turned out to be true.

People think I'm a genius when that happens.

Not really - it is, as I say, the most common problem.

And a big indicator that no electrician worked on this sub panel.

Sub panels are different than main panel boxes and the grounds and neutrals should be separated. 

There was another bus in this box, left totally alone.

But this is what got my attention!

Scorching is not good!

This is the main shut off for the sub panel.

It is a 100amp breaker, probably big enough for a newly-finished basement and the other things in the box.

There can be many reasons for it being hot.

But improper wiring is the likely reason.

I did find low voltage (less than 60volts) in lots of the house.  And a huge voltage drop.

That could be a neutral problem.

The neutral is the white wires that makes the system alternating - it carries electricity back.

And looking in the main panel box I was not surprised.

Let's see, that's the neutral connection!

The bare wire is the original ground line to the panel box.

The copper wire is the new neutral for the sub panel.

We have a galvanic problem where the aluminum and copper are connected inappropriately and can cause deterioration through oxidation.

We have two cables composed of many smaller cables.

The original was twisted, necessarily, to provide the best connection.

The new copper has not been twisted.

So it is loose.

And this tapping together is not good, and also not allowed.

Sending these photos to an electrician friend (I was asking about it's probably being the source of the voltage drop and low voltage) he said,

"Yes it could be the problem because copper/aluminum under the same lug could cause it to be a loose connection which could heat up your other connections and cause lower voltage."

So, there you go!

My recommendation:  when you see remodeling has been done, ask about permits that have been both pulled and closed.  A closed permit is one that says the local jurisdiction as been by and approved all the work.  They would have caught this problem early one, before any scorching and possibility of danger.  And the permit requires that this would all have been done by an electrician, not a neighbor, homeowner or contractor who is not electrically licensed.

 

 

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 46 commentsJay Markanich • November 20 2013 03:24AM

Comments

 Good morning, Jay. you are absolutely right! For some reason, homeowners just love to fool around with the one thing that will either kill them or burn your house down.

Posted by TeamCHI - Complete Home Inspections, Inc., Home Inspectons - Nashville, TN area - 615.661.029 (Complete Home Inspections, Inc.) over 4 years ago

As soon as I walked in the seller, who came to open the door, started telling me about how much I would like the finished basement Michael.  I did!  Just not the electrical connections!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 4 years ago

Yes, when it comes to electric and plumbing, it is so important to have a licensed contractor in that field. 

Posted by Debbie Gartner, The Flooring Girl & Blog Stylist -Dynamo Marketers (The Flooring Girl) over 4 years ago

There was a plumbing problem down there too Debbie!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 4 years ago

Timely for us...while the homeowner swears on a stack of conduit that the work was done by an electrician...there is a resemblance to a spaghetti factory that needs code correction.

Posted by Sally K. & David L. Hanson, WI Realtors - Luxury - Divorce (EXP Realty 414-525-0563) over 4 years ago

Also doubling up on that connection is not allowed even when the wires are the same metal. BTW, nice scorching shot.  

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) over 4 years ago

S&D - produce the receipt! 

Yep, Jim.  I didn't want to get into everything deeply as it lengthens the post.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 4 years ago

There, without lengthening the post much, I added a small phrase, "not allowed," to the double tap comment.  In your honor!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 4 years ago

Why thank you, I am...honored ;) 

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) over 4 years ago
Jay, As always, more great information. Make sure you give us the rest of the problems tomorrow.
Posted by Bill and MaryAnn Wagner, Jersey Shore and South Jersey Real Estate (Wagner Real Estate Group) over 4 years ago
Nothing scarier than poorly done electrical work. It really isn't worth the risk trying to save a little money doing electrical on your own.
Posted by Aaron Hofmann, aka Mr. Smyrna Vinings (Atlanta Communities) over 4 years ago

Thank you for this very informative post

Posted by Drick Ward, "RealtorDrick" - Experienced Representation (NEPTUNE REALTY) over 4 years ago

The word "permit" always causes such a stir...If only that system ran smoother perhaps other things would follow

Posted by Richie Alan Naggar, agent & author (people first...then business Ran Right Realty ) over 4 years ago

I love your detailed photos Jay, it makes understanding your words so much easier for those that may not understand the importance of electrical improvements.

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) over 4 years ago

Jay, I consider myself fairly handy, but I'm definitely staying away from the electrical side of things. The homeowner is lucky his place is still standing!

Posted by Tom White, Franklin Homes Realty LLC, Franklin TN (Franklin Homes Realty LLC (615) 495-0752 or www.FranklinHomesRealty.com) over 4 years ago

Hi Jay,

What was the main panels Amperage? 200? if the sub panel was at 100 amps then it only leaves 100 amps for the main panel. Was or is that enough left without causing a flickering in the lights when in use?

Great finds and I hate to find this stuff. This usually brings a call from the electrician and they only complain.

Have a good day in Bristow.

Best, Clint McKie

Posted by Clint Mckie, Desert Sun Home, Comm. Inspection 1-575-706-5586 (Desert Sun Home, commercial Inspections) over 4 years ago

Jay

Electrrical issues are some of the most common things I've seen at inspections, some of which are pretty scary, at least based on what the inspector say. As a favorite inspector is fond of saying...looks like they had Uncle Vinny in to do some work for them. These issues tend to be hot ones for the buyers (pun intended) due to safety issues. You situation is REAL scary

Jeff

Posted by Jeff Dowler, CRS, The Southern California Relocation Dude - Carlsbad (Solutions Real Estate ) over 4 years ago

Jay, it seems that elctrician (or not) makes it to many homes ; ) 

Posted by Donald Hester, NCW Home Inspections, LLC (NCW Home Inspections, LLC) over 4 years ago

Jay, It never fails to amaze me that homeowners will take on projects that they are incapable of doing correctly.

Posted by Connie Harvey, Realtor - Nashville TN Real Estate (Pilkerton Realtors) over 4 years ago

Thanks for the heads up on that!!

Posted by Bob Marsh, Broker,480-529-2936, Warm Weather Real Estate (Warm Weather Real Estate) over 4 years ago

Jay, I would not want to cut corners on anything. That said I can not imagine doing it with the electrical. I do not want to burn up while I am sleeping.

Posted by Tom Bailey (Margaret Rudd & Associates Inc.) over 4 years ago

I see double taps on just about every inspection short of a new home. Always best to have an electrician check it out. That is why we do home inspections.

Posted by Bill Reddington, Destin Florida Real Estate (Re/max Southern Realty) over 4 years ago

Jay - I agree 100% about asking about permits, but also double checking with the municipality to verify.  Many jurisdictions have an online system to check on the recent history of the property.

Posted by AJ Heidmann ~ CRS, YOUR Alexandria & Arlington, VA Real Estate Expert (McEnearney Associates, Inc.) over 4 years ago

We have so many electric issues on our island. Aloha Jeff

Posted by Jeffery Griffin, Broker Owner (Jeff Griffin LLC ) over 4 years ago

Jay, I have noticed that homes often have "themes."  If I find one bad gfci I will find others, or it there is one overheated receptacle there will be others etc.  While this is obvious with double pane window seal failure it is more interesting with other items.

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) over 4 years ago

I don't know much about electrical work, but even I know that scorching is BAD.

Posted by Kat Palmiotti, The House Kat (Grand Lux Realty, 914-419-0270, kat@thehousekat.com) over 4 years ago

I can't believe people would do this kind of work/upgrades without the proper knowledge to do so!

Posted by Suzanne Otto, Your Montgomery County PA home stager (Six Twenty Designs) over 4 years ago

I knew that would be true Jim!  He says, with the same wink you sent.  It was probably better to add it anyway, and not add a lot to the post.

Bill - I was kind of done with this one, as so many of the problems have appeared in other posts (regarding OTHER properties!).  The lights flickering all around the house would have made Mr. Morse proud!

It isn't worth the risk Aaron, and really dangerous.

Glad you stopped by Drick, and enjoyed it.

Richie - I am not sure what people think they will get away from by not having something properly done, including permits.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 4 years ago

Tom A. - they key word is "improvements!"  They were not!

Tom W. - that's what I said to the buyers!

Clint - it was.  There was so much flickering Mr. Morse would be proud.  For all I know this house was sending messages to the Russian satellite above.

While not shocked Jeff, I did find the problems to be electrifying.

Don - this guy gets around more than in any other trade.  Sea to shining sea.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 4 years ago

Connie - and all to save a buck!  If the house burns down and the claim is denied, I am not sure there was a savings.  I will think about that ...     ;>)

Bob - you're welcome.  Stop by again!

Tom - many people do!  Make sure your smoke detectors are viable and have good back up batteries!

Bill - if it's not one thing, it's another.  Double taps are the most common thing out there it seems!

AJ - the realtors around here have county apps they can go to.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 4 years ago

Jeffrey - not surprising - we have a lot on our island of Virginia.

Charlie - the theme thing is very true.  And on new construction, if I find a mistake in one house, it is usually present in all the others!

Kat - that is the first day of the first class in electricity!

Suzanne - well believe it because it's so very common!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 4 years ago

In many cases homeowners have a friend, who knows a guy, that has a cousin, who used to be an electrician. He can save them hundreds of dollars. These situations are tempting to the homeowners, trying to save a little money. Check with the local Authority Having Jursdication (AHJ) to see what work requires a permits & inspections!

Posted by Paul Miner (Affinity Inspection Group "For The Discerning Client") over 4 years ago

A few flames in the electrial box, no problem!!  the mix of black and white is pretty scary, especially for the ususpecting person working in the house thinking they shut off the circuit... ZAP!

Posted by Robert Rauf (HomeBridge Financial Services (NJ)) over 4 years ago

That's it in a nutshell Paul.  I see so many "remodels," and those are the first questions.  Here the realtors have apps to see what has permits and what does not.

Mix and match Robert!  Isn't that what we're told?   ;>)

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 4 years ago

Jay, that's so scary. I can't understand how people can feel safe at night not knowing if the electrical is going to cause their home to catch on fire.

 

Posted by Ralph Gorgoglione, Hawaii and California Real Estate (800) 591-6121 (Maui Life Homes / Metro Life Homes) over 4 years ago

Jay -- No permits and scorching?  Recipe for disaster.

Posted by Barbara Altieri, REALTOR-Fairfield County CT Homes/Condos For Sale (RealtyQuest/Kinard Realty Group, Fairfield and New Haven County CT Real Estate) over 4 years ago
Jay, the electrical is certainly one main area that is meant to be taken very serious. It could mean your life and the lives of others. Too scary to play around with or to cut corners in order to try to save a few bucks.
Posted by Jane Chaulklin-Schott, TeamConnect Luxury Homes - Orlando, Florida, 32836 (TEAMCONNECT REALTY - (407) 394-9766) over 4 years ago

Oh nothing to worry about there huh?

Nothing that a REALLY good insurance policy couldnt resolve when that bad boy melts down!!!

Posted by David Shamansky, Creative, Aggressive & 560 FICO - OK, Colorado Mtg (US Mortgages - David Shamansky) over 4 years ago

Electrical issues scare me! The other side effect is that their electric bill probably went up due to the problems but were probably dismissed due to the additional outlets, etc being added.

Posted by Gerard Gilbers, Your Marketing Master (Higher Authority Markeing) over 4 years ago

Ralph - except for the most basic of stuff, I always hire an electrician, and I can probably do everything I have ever hired one for.  Most recently I hired one to replace the photo eye in my front yard that turns my light on and off.  That's pretty basic, but still.

It is Barbara.  Mix in a little water and stir.

Jane - it is the "saving" part that gets to me.  What if, is what I always think, what if.

David - they would determine that all that was done without a permit and deny the claim.

Gerard - hard to know what happened to the bill, but you're right, if it did they may have dismissed it.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 4 years ago

Jay, we do run across this all the time. It's a good sign that the homeowner or a jack-leg did the work. Was there inhibitor cream on the mains on that box? They look pretty dry in the photo. That would also cause the scorching over time. 

Posted by Mike Cooper, Your Winchester, VA Real Estate Sales Pro (Cornerstone Business Group Inc) over 4 years ago

Mike - I call that jelly to my clients!  And nope, no jelly!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 4 years ago

Electirical problems are usually involved inevery home inspection and the electrical work is usually done wrong and not to code. It makes people think of FIRE!  Not Good.

Posted by Jimmy Faulkner, The Best Of St. Augustine (Florida. Homes Realty & Mortgage) over 4 years ago

Jimmy - this scorch is certainly the first step toward a fire!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 4 years ago

Jay - the newly renovated or remodeled homes are always the ones that I proceed with extreme caution.

Posted by Eric Middleton, Professional Property Inspector (Closer Look Property Inspections Inc.) over 4 years ago

Fer sher Eric.  The current state is one that lacks professionalism.  And my sarcastic words are "7-11 construction..."

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 4 years ago

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