What I'm Seeing Now


Very Narrow Electric Panel Box Access - And In A Bathroom?

Very narrow electric panel box access - and in a bathroom?

There should be very good access in front of, and plenty of clearance under, over and beside an electric panel box.

The minimum clearances are defined by code!

The reason for that is obvious.  Electrical components need to be gotten to and have excellent light provided for when work needs to be done.

There are places electric panel boxes should not be - behind cabinets added to the kitchen, in very small closets and behind clothing, and especially not in bathrooms!

So when I could not find the electric panel box in this particular house, and knowing where it had to be, I looked into the newly-created basement bathroom and groaned.

Obviously the new bathroom hid the panel box, but the access door was only 12" wide!

I was able to get my svelte self inside, and was disappointed to find another thing I suspected.

The infamous Federal Pacific Stab-lok panel box.

Misinformation about this box and its components are rife. 

A lot of the misinformation is put out there by home inspectors - that the box has been recalled, that the box regularly has fires, that it has been proclaimed unsafe by the CPSC, etc.

None of that is really true, but my insurance company expects me to tell my clients about the reputation that's out there. 

On my reports I put information about the box, and put a link to the CPSC, and what it says, and that is about it.  I always recommend that older wiring, and panel boxes, be considered for replacement.

This box, however, was inaccessible not only by the small door and closet that blocked it, there was no light back there, and the wall framing was only 4" in front of the cover!

Notice that the two screws on the left side of the cover are missing.  You can't get to them!  And the two on the right were wood screws with sharp points!  That in and of itself is exceptionally dangerous, and I did not remove them.  Breakers were also missing, so somebody, not a professional,  has been inside this box.  It needed professional evaluation right now.

My recommendation:  sometimes decisions on buying a house has to be made on one thing alone.  This bathroom is a big deal - no permit, dangerously wired, and blocking a panel box - all of these things represent a big, big reason to avoid this house.   




Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC  

Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.

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


Comment balloon 7 commentsJay Markanich • October 12 2016 04:41AM


It saddens me when I see evidence of poor planning in construction. The buyer needs to be concerned about other issues behide the walls.

Posted by Sandy Padula and Norm Padula, JD, GRI, Presence, Persistence & Perseverance (HomeSmart Realty West & Lend Smart Mortgage, Llc.) over 4 years ago

This was one, and a big one, of many reasons not to proceed with this house, S&N.  The buyer is a very confident type who thinks he can do everything himself.  Not always the best combination.

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

Wow, makes you wonder what builders and DIYers are thinking!

Posted by Jennifer Mackay, Your Bay County Florida Realtor 850.774.6582 (Counts Real Estate Group, Inc.) over 4 years ago

Good morning Jay. Sometimes you just have to say "run buyer, run fast"! Enjoy your day!

Posted by Wayne Martin, Real Estate Broker - Retired (Wayne M Martin) over 4 years ago

I always give them the links to all the articles about FP panels and suggest to them replacing it removes all doubt, then leave it to them. Good luck to the guy that has to squeeze in there to do the work!

Posted by Fred Hernden, CMI, Albuquerque area Master Inspector (Superior Home Inspections - Greater Albuquerque Area) over 4 years ago

Jennifer - I expect a builder would not get away with this (though I have seen some WEIRD stuff in new construction!), but this homeowner made of mess of the house, this being only ONE of them!

Wayne - see my answer to Sandy and Norm.  Confident buyer.  He said, "I don't see anything here I can't take care of."  Ummm, okay.

This neighborhood has those boxes in every house, Fred.  All the houses are there, but I don't know how many of the original boxes are still around!

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

We are ust having a service upgrade for a house we are listing....this service looks like a spaghetti of afterthought instead of well planned construction.

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

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