Category Archives: Electrical

KNOB AND TUBE?!

Knob-and-tube (K&T) wiring was at its peak in popularity between the years 1880 and 1930/40, serving buildings the best way available at the time (it is now obsolete).  K&T wiring is not inherently dangerous in itself, but hazards can arise from handyman modifications and insulation enveloping these wires over time.  

K&T wiring is not grounded, so it cannot serve 3-pronged appliances/outlets.  This type of wiring is not available for new construction, but is not required to be removed in older construction either.  This being said, I personally recommend you remove K&T wiring and have it further inspected by a qualified electrician to be on the safe side.  

YOU COMPLETE ME: ELECTRICAL WORKS NEEDS TO BE FINISHED

Homeowners often get sidetracked when it comes to “to-do” lists, especially in older homes and homes that have not been well-maintained. There is always something to do!

When one task seems to be priority No. 1, another one creeps up and takes its place (sometimes after the first job has already started). Evidence of incomplete work is a common observation in my reports.

Case in point: on a recent job in Langley, I noted unfinished electrical wiring practices in the bathroom. I also called out handyman extension cord wiring practices at multiple outlets in my report. 

I recommended the completion of this unfinished electrical work in a timely fashion.

If you have questions or comments about electrical issues or home inspections in general, tweet me (@AIHomeInspect).

YOU COMPLETE ME: ELECTRICAL WORKS NEEDS TO BE FINISHED

Homeowners often get sidetracked when it comes to “to-do” lists, especially in older homes and homes that have not been well-maintained. There is always something to do!

Just when one task seems to be priority No. 1, another one creeps up and takes its place (sometimes after the first job has already started). 

Case in point: on a recent assignment in Anacortes, I noted unfinished electrical wiring practices in the bathroom. I also identified handyman extension cord wiring practices at multiple outlets in my report. 

When I see these types of issues, I try to convey them in my reports and encourage the client to have the work completed.If you have questions or comments about electrical issues or home inspections in general, tweet me (@AIHomeInspect).

THE ‘411’ ON ‘DIY’ ELECTRICAL WORK

Surprisingly, electrical issues are common discoveries at home inspections, with the most common being improperly wired switches, outlets, and handyman/unprofessional wiring practices. Purchasing an outlet tester (costs less than $10) is a simple, quick way to determine if your home’s outlets are correctly wired. You’ll probably be surprised to find a few in your home! Unless you’re entirely confident and competent, I recommend hiring a licensed, bonded, and insured electrician to perform any and all electrical work. 

If you DIY and your work doesn’t appear professional (think PERFECT), it will likely be called out by a home inspector when your home is sold. Competent electricians are fastidious and “fussy” with their work (it’s their signature after all), and there’s nothing better than a “fussy” electrician I like to say! 

Be sure to check with the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries, as most electrical work requires a permit and final inspection. Permits are easily obtainable and inexpensive. Furthermore, having a third-party inspection of electrical work is just another layer of safety and insulation against potential future electrical issues. Plus, it’s the law! Finally, for the DIY homeowners out there, a great book is “For Pros by Pros: Wiring a House by Rex Cauldwell. I’ve relied on this book for years of building and remodeling. It’s excellent!

If you have questions or comments about DIY projects or home inspections in general, tweet me (@AIHomeInspect).

HISTORICAL ELECTRICAL EVENT REQUIRES FUTURE EVALUATION

It’s never fun to read (or write!) the phrase “evidence of a historical event” on a home inspection report. However, unless your home is brand-spanking new, these occurrences are just par for the course.

One common “historical event” I encounter are electrical events. During a recent inspection in Langley, I came across an outlet that appeared mildly charred. I can’t know how recently the sparks flew, so I recommended further evaluation by a qualified electrician.

If you have questions or comments about electrical issues or home inspections in general, tweet me (@AIHomeInspect).

(TRAN)SYLVANIA ZINSCO?

Sylvania Zinsco electrical panels are known to the inspection industry to be problematic (just like Dracula…) and should be further evaluated by a qualified electrician.  

But what exactly is so problematic about them?  This brand of electrical panel is a known latent hazard, risking failing to protect your home from a fire or injury should an over-current hazard occur.  Replacement is typically advised by qualified electricians, familiar with these panels, and certainly by myself.  How do you spot these panels you might ask? Sylvania Zinsco panels are easy to spot by their brightly colored and thinner (compared to modern electrical panels) breakers.  

Please check out this link for more information if you have concerns: Recalled Electrical Panels: What You Need To Know [With Photos] (sunelectrician.com)

IS YOUR ELECTRICAL SYSTEM SECURE?

Overhead electrical service entrance conductors are very common, and so are issues that impact their performance. During a recent inspection in Whatcom County, I came across an electrical entrance conductor mast that was missing proper clamps that would safely secure it to the home. 

If you are interested in learning more about all the main components that make up your home’s electrical system, I found this handy video that breaks things down nicely.

Just remember: be safe before you do any handyman work, especially on electrical systems. 

If you have questions or comments about electrical issues or home inspections in general, tweet me (@AIHomeInspect).

OVERHEAD UH-OH: EXPOSED SERVICE ENTRANCE CONDUCTORS NEED TO BE SEALED

Service entrance conductors connect your home to the electrical grid. In other words, they are pretty darn important if you want to turn the lights, heat, and Netflix on.

However, if I can quote Spider-Man’s dad (or Cliff Robertson speaking with Tobey Maguire in the 2002 blockbuster Spider-Man movie): “With great power, comes great responsibility.” 

Aside from being a horrible pun, this also means these components require special attention.

I recently came across a situation on Orcas Island where exposed overhead service entrance conductors needed to be sealed where they entered the service mast. I cited this in my report for obvious safety reasons.

If you have questions or comments about electrical issues or home inspections in general, tweet me (@AIHomeInspect).

IS YOUR ELECTRICAL HANDYWORK SAFE?

Handyman electrical work is something I come across on a regular basis. Electrical work can be expensive, so DIY work in this arena makes perfect sense if possible.

During a recent inspection on Lopez Island, I found yet another example of handyman electrical work when I discovered exposed Romex electrical wiring within a covered porch that needed to be sleeved in conduit or otherwise protected from mechanical damage.

Wiring should always be protected from the elements, and properly installed. If you are going to be a handyman, make sure your work is safe.

If you have questions or comments about electrical issues or home inspections in general, tweet me (@AIHomeInspect).

GIVE YOUR VEGETATIVE OVERGROWTH A MUCH-NEEDED HAIRCUT

Electricity and flammable objects don’t play well together—unless you define “playing well together” as starting a house fire.

If you take the traditional view on what “playing well together” means, however, I would suggest you pay attention to vegetative overgrowth in direct contact with overhead electrical service entrance conductors. Allowing this type of contact is a bad idea. 

I came across this issue recently on a home inspection in Bellingham, and I noted in my report to provide proper clearance for safety reasons.

Do you have questions or comments about electrical issues? Go “All” in and tweet us (@AIHomeInspect).