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Should Appliance Receptacles Be Accessible?

It surprises me that codes have to be written to cover common sense things, like the question:  should appliance receptacles be accessible?

Over the years I have seen book shelves built in offices that cover two of the receptacles in a room without any access to them.  Well, (National Electric Code) NEC 314.29 says that all electrical junction boxes have to be "accessible without removing any part of the building." 

A built-in book case would apply here.  How about a long, completely-filled book case that is not attached but covers two receptacles?  Why would anyone want to split that hair?  What about common sense?

In this final walk through of new construction I had two such questions. 

One was a dishwasher that was installed such that it must plug in to a receptacle.

That's fine, except the receptacle was on the floor and behind the dishwasher!

The dishwasher will be screwed into the counter top or cabinet.  How can that receptacle be accessed?  How would anyone know it is there?  Isn't it vulnerable to water lying on the floor behind the unit?  Ummmm....

Behind the range the large-amperage electric cable went through a panel screwed into the wall.  What's back there?  Is the range directly hard-wired?  Is there a junction back there of wire nuts connecting the service cable to the range cable?  Is there a receptacle back there?

WHO KNOWS!

But the code answers this.  NEC 422.16 (B) addresses the wiring of appliances in various statements.  It covers many appliances and states things like cable length, protecting the cable from damage, having a dedicated circuit, and so forth.  But it also says that when an appliance is plugged into a receptacle, like kitchen ranges have been for decades, "the receptacle is accessible."

Now that is merely common sense!

This is a high-end range, in a very large kitchen, in a very expensive house. 

AND THOSE FACTS HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH THE CODE!

The same codes that apply to this house apply to the most basic condo or townhouse or basement kitchenette.  Electrical junctions, which would INCLUDE receptacles, and appliance receptacles themselves, are covered by the code. 

Junctions and receptacles codes are also covered by common sense and by Mother Nature.

Mother Nature will enforce all codes whether we mere humans think to write the codes, apply the codes, or enforce the codes ourselves.  Her code book is much bigger than ours!

AND SHE WILL ENFORCE CODES WITH IMPUNITY!

Impunity I tell you!  Look at her!  Do you want to test that?  Be my guest.

My recommendation:  don't bury your electrical connections, like junctions or receptacles.  It isn't smart.  It also isn't to code.  I am not a code enforcer, but I do have a phone.  I can git'r dun.  And another piece of advice -- don't fool with Mother Nature.

 

 

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 38 commentsJay Markanich • March 21 2014 02:26AM

Comments

mothers of all kinds are a fotce to be reckoned with !

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

Morning Jay I just can't imagine people who know they are breaking the code and they still go ahead and do it.  Makes one just shake their head in disbelief. 

Posted by James Dray, Exceptional Agents, Outstanding Results (Fathom Realty AR LLC) over 4 years ago

Good morning Jay,

Anything to save a few pennies! You can pay $$$$ or pay $$$$$$$$$ more to get it fixed correctly.

Make yourself a great day.

Posted by Raymond E. Camp, Licensed Real Estate Salesperson Greater Rochester (Howard Hanna Real Estate Services) over 4 years ago

Interesting information. My first response to your title was why? I understand now.

Posted by Gary L. Waters Broker Associate, Bucci Realty, Fifteen Years Experience in Brevard County (Bucci Realty, Inc.) over 4 years ago

Hi Jay,

Here is my guess. They just wire nutted the line in the wall. Then added the panel to cover up the crappy job the electrician did. But just my opinion.

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, All receptacles are accessible via the handy dandy Sawz-all....but I'm not sure the place will ever look the same :)

Posted by Liz and Bill Spear, RE/MAX Elite Warren County OH (Cincinnati/Dayton) (RE/MAX Elite 513.520.5305 www.LizTour.com) over 4 years ago

Seems like someone just didn't want them seen! It amazes me how many people think they should fix it themselves instead of hiring a professional or at least finding out to make sure it's completed correctly!

Posted by Graziella Bruner, Associate Broker - Serving Wayne & Oakland County (NCS Premier Real Estate) over 4 years ago

Holy cow...that would never pass the city inspection here. If those two things are not done to code...makes you wonder what else is not done to code.

 

Posted by Mike McCann - Nebraska Farm Land Broker, Farm Land For Sale 308-627-3700 or 800-241-3940 (Mike McCann - Broker, Farmland Broker-Auctioneer Serving Rural Nebraska) over 4 years ago

Jay, those receptacles can get pretty expensive. Hard-wiring the stove directly insures a permanent connection. LOL Hard to believe this is in new construction.

Posted by Michael Setunsky, Your Commercial Real Estate Link to Northern VA over 4 years ago

Jay, that was an interesting install on the range. If the range is hard wired then it needs a lockout on the panel also. Also if hardwired then the junction box would be visible.

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

Good post!

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

With so many "do-it yourselfers" out there the electrical boxes being accessible does not always come to mind!  This certainly brings it back to the front of the thought process of things to consider.  

Posted by Karen Mathers - Vero Beach FL, When it Matters, Choose Mathers! 772-532-3221 (Keller Williams Vero Beach) over 4 years ago

Never seen a builder trying to hide the receptacle for appliances. Why would anyone care (talking about buyer and builder/remodeler) if they are 'visible' behind the appliance or under the cabinet in the case of most DWs?

Posted by Than Maynard, Broker - Licensed to List & Sell - 405-990-8862 (Coldwell Banker Heart of Oklahoma) over 4 years ago

Some things are slow to change. I have always wondered about the scarcity of receptacles in a home...WHY? There should be more of these not less

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

Good morning Jay. The answer is yes, but I'm still laughing at the picture of the woman.

Posted by Sheila Anderson, The Real Estate Whisperer Who Listens 732-715-1133 (Referral Group Incorporated) over 4 years ago

Funny how we treat electrical when it is being installed, not thinking of what I would be like when someone needed to work on it later on Jay. Maybe that's way the codes are there.  :)

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

Holy cow, this is another one of those, "What were they thinking?" moments. I guess they weren't...

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

It is amazing what inspectors let get by on new construction sometimes, and then again - it is crazy what they request at times too! 

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

Jay,

Sometimes there just aren't any words to say.

This is one of those times.

 

Posted by Kevin A. Guttman Author, Reverse Mortgages, 877-251-9709 (NMLS#384936) over 4 years ago

Hello Jay - Many of the contractors either don't know the code or turn a blind eye to it.  It's frustrating to see it happen time and again. 

Posted by Andy Chaudoir, Your Home Inspection Connection in Central Texas (Professional Inspection Services - Georgetown, Texas) over 4 years ago

Jay, this installation is covered by not being allowed to have an appliance plug into a receptacle outside the room or not protected from mechanical damage.  As to whether there could be a junction box behind that panel that can be removed it likely would meet code:  per NEC definitions for "Accessble": Capable of being removed or exposed without damaging the building structure or finish or not permanently closed in by the structure or finish of the building.  This is how it gets to be OK to have junction boxes above suspended ceilings

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

Charlie - I'll answer you first.  The floor in front of this range was scraped and damaged by someone moving that range before I got there.  I pointed this out to the supervisor first thing, so I wouldn't be blamed for it.  So I did not actually look into this area to see if there was a receptacle buried in there.  But when did you last see an appliance receptacle buried inside a wall?

That might be why the IRC uses the term "readily accessible."  E3901.4.5  Like my example in the post - if you have a wall receptacle blocked by a completely full book case, but the book case isn't attached, is that accessible?  I guess it is, but not if there is an emergency.  And in my opinion, a receptacle on the floor behind a dishwasher which is attached to the counter top is not accessible.  And dumb.

But that's my two cents!

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

An intelligent person shouldn't need a code book to use common sense. Bigh sigh.

I love the photo. Do you suppose that's what Mother Nature really looks like? There are days when I'm sure she's making that face at me - and then laughing.

Posted by Marte Cliff, your real estate writer (Marte Cliff Copywriting) over 4 years ago

Jay- it does make you scratch your head when you see something like this.  Common sense?  Should have been enough.  BTW... I always thought Mother Nature looked like the lady that used to do those margarine commercials!  This one is scary. 

Posted by Kathy Streib, Home Stager - Palm Beach County,FL -561-914-6224 (Room Service Home Staging) over 4 years ago

Don't I know it S&D!  I never contest mothers.

They may not know or think they are not meeting code James!  To me this is not meeting code.  But I enforce nothing.

Thanks Raymond.  Seems Poor Richard had something to say about that sort of thing!

Gary - that's because with you common sense reigns!  You don't need a code to do something sensical.

I couldn't get in there Clint.  The hardwood floor in front of the range was scratched badly by someone prior to my visit who moved the range out.  I showed it to the supervisor before I did anything else so he would know I did not do it.  But I didn't want to move it again.

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

One of the best, and most fun, tools ever invented Bliz!  I have a good one - Makita, from the 90s.  It's a beast.

Graziella - I think this is commonplace and points to the lack of professionalism in the construction trades today.

I suspect a lot we can't see Mike M!  But don't know.  This is the same house as the gas line hang job!

Mike S - biggie big house in Great Falls.  $2+, if you know what I mean.  And this is a custom builder!

Woulda, coulda, shoulda Don!   I loved seeing the receptacle just loosely on the floor behind the dishwasher.  Crap work.

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

Thanks for stopping by again Drick.

Karen Anne - custom builder here, new house and final walk through inspection!

In the cabinet is okay Than, but here all the cabinet receptacles under the kitchen sink and disposal were facing up!  That no no too.

Richie - there is no code as to how many should be on a single breaker - the rule of thumb is 12.  But there are codes as to how many receptacles there should be, minimum, in new construction.

Don't mess with that girl Sheila!  She is impudent to the max.

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

Tom A. - this was ignorant stuff all around.  I was not impressed, but as you know I can enforce nothing.

They weren't Tom W!  They weren't!

This house already had the final approval too Robert!  I was not impressed.  On my reports I have to quote codes to get things done.  The builder can take it up with the County.

And you said them well Kevin!

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

Like Charlie says below you Andy, interpretation is everything!  But the IRC says "readily accessible."  That would be common sense to me.

I am certain that is a photo of her Marte.  I just looked for an impudent old-lady face, and she was priceless!

Kathy - that was a hired actor.  The photo here is the real deal.  Really.

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

Jay, as a home inspector you definitely get to see some weird things.  This unaccessible recepticle issue is not even logical, makes you wonder why someone would do this.

Posted by Silvia Dukes PA, Broker Associate, CRS, CIPS, SRES, Florida Waterfront and Country Club Living (Tropic Shores Realty - Ich spreche Deutsch!) over 4 years ago

Jay, my only point is that there are several things wrong with the installation.  If there is actually a plug and receptacle behind that panel then of course it is wrong.  Do you consider junction boxes under insulation "inaccessible?"  The code allows them under insulation in an accessible attic.  A receptacle behind anything that can be moved is accessible as defined by the code.  Now if the bookcase cannot be moved and there is a back on the bookshelf that covers the receptacle then that would not be accessible.  A receptacle behind a refrigerator is obviously considered accessible.  A plug-in cord behind any range, dryer etc is considered accessible.

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

This is a very good post.. and you are so right on

  "I am not a code enforcer, but I do have a phone.  I can git'r dun.  And another piece of advice -- don't fool with Mother Nature."

Posted by Joan Whitebook, Consumer Focused Real Estate Services (BHG The Masiello Group) over 4 years ago

 Good morning, Jay. I do not think that I've ever run into a case where the receptacle has been covered up. Most of the time, they are not secured to the wall. To me, this is a short circuit waiting for a place to happen.

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

Silvia - yes but look around at the home inspector posts on AR!  There are some great home inspectors here and we do have some fun!

Joan - I have CEU classes with the local County inspectors who all give me their cards and say that when I run into something interesting to give them a call!  I only have to tell the builders that.

Michael - you should come here to Fun Land!  The amusement parks offer very little fun over what local "installers" can provide.

Charlie - I was thinking last night about your comment (yeah, little life going on here...).  You're right, of course, about accessible.  This morning I looked up how to contact the NEC, or NFPA.  I think the words should be changed to "readily accessible," or "obvious and readily accessible."  Yes, a box under insulation is accessible obviously, but if there's a junction box in the forest under the moss and there is no one who knows it's there, does anyone hear the cover coming off?  In my opinion there is no accessiblity to the two receptacles behind what is in that photo to the right.  How about behind a W/D stackable in a custom closet, with little space on all three sides, to the receptacle on the wall directly behind?  I think the NEC needs to rethink or better define accessibility.  Maybe in that attic you suggested the NEC sells little flags with 3' rods to go through the insulation and the flag says, "Lookie here!", and the flags are required over every junction box or switch!  I think orange with a little NEC logo works!

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

Charlie - look what Christian and Robin did.

I guess that's what new houses are for - fill'm up.

Where the kid got that Redskin hat nobody knows.

Probably an old stork...

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

Drives me crazy when people don't think about accessibility of receptacles... we use them for so many things and when some are "lost" in terms of access, it's a terrible waste.

'

Posted by Nina Hollander, Your Charlotte/Ballantyne/Waxhaw/Fort Mill Realtor (RE/MAX Executive | Charlotte, NC) over 4 years ago

A good inspector will nearly always uncover "covered" receptacles that need attention. It's because people have work done without professionals or permits!

Posted by Kathy Smiley, Westlake Village, CA - "Making YOU Smile!" (Rodeo Realty ~ Fine Estates Westlake Village) over 4 years ago

Nina - and then the few that are left and available are overloaded!

This is a custom builder Kathy!  I hope they had a permit or two!

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

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