Common Electrical Problems found during an inspection – October 27, 2014

Common Electrical Problems found during an inspection – October 27, 2014

Electrical problems called out in an inspection report should always be repaired.  However, not all electrical items called out in an inspection require a qualified electrician.

Many Electrical problems can easily be addressed by a handyman or a proficient do-it-yourselfer.  Other problems such as a double-tapped main should only be addressed by a well-qualified electrician.

We find most of our infractions in older homes or homes that have had DIY projects completed without a code inspection.  The National Electrical Code (NEC) is updated every three years.  However many municipalities do not implement the new changes for as many as 10 years.   We use nationally accepted standards for our inspections because local enforcement varies so widely.

Some of the more common electrical problems we find are;

  • missing cover plates: exposes you to the risk of contact with energized wires
  • reverse polarity (hot and neutral wires installed backward): actually turns the power off after the appliance  instead of before it
  • open grounds (usually 3 prong receptacles on two-wire circuits): this gives a false sense of security believing the receptacle is grounded when it is not. for more information
  • false grounds or bootleg grounds: are even worse than an open ground because someone has placed a jumper from the ground screw to the neutral screw on the receptacle making it appear the receptacle is grounded but it isn’t, for more information
  • missing or inoperable GFCI receptacles: Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters are there to prevent electrical shock and should always be operational.  for more information
  • electrical splices make outside of junctions boxes: exposes wires and connections to possible damage by unintentional contact
  • openings in breaker boxes: may allow rodents and insects to enter the panel and build nests. In addition, panels are designed to contain electrical sparks or fires, open slots and knockouts defeat this built-in safety
  • double lugged breakers and neutrals (more than one wire): each current-carrying wire should be under its own lug to ensure proper connections. for more information

More serious conditions that may require the use of a licensed electrician include;

 As we move through the inspection process we will note;

  • any of the items listed above
  • lights and receptacles that are not operating properly
  • noisy vent fans and ceiling fans
  • any three-prong receptacles with open grounds or false grounds
  • suggest areas where GFCI receptacles should be installed
  • any other normal and customary deficiencies

Electrical codes are constantly changing as new problems and solutions are identified.  Generally speaking, most changes are not required unless changes are made to the electrical system.   One exception to this general rule is GFCI protection.  GFCI protection is relatively easy and inexpensive to implement.  Therefore most municipalities are requiring this upgrade when properties change hands.

check us out at:

the Better Business Bureau

The State of Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulations


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