If you are planning to purchase a home or sell a house, then having a thorough home inspection is one of the non-negotiable processes that you should undergo. The aim of a home inspection is to identify all critical issues of the property and pinpoint repairs that should be done. This will also help when it comes to property valuation and determining provisions in your sales contract.
Usually, buyers are the one who shoulders the home inspection though there is an option to waive this. However, this is not of course advisable for safety. In addition, buyers could face expensive repair work after purchase as they unknowingly inherit a variety of possible issues. Having an unbiased, third-party assessment of your target house is extremely beneficial for you.
Who will do your home inspection?
Upon request, there are available professional home inspectors, usually from NACHI or ASHI. There are also Certified Master Inspectors from the Certified Master Inspectors Board. Home inspectors will check all aspects of your home, from the critical structures up to the essential systems of your home e.g., electrical system.
Focusing on the electrical system part of your home, note that a certified home inspector is trained to inspect your electrical issues based on the industry-standard BUT it will not be the same if a licensed electrician carried out the inspection.
They will most likely focus on the National Electric Code and the usual electrical issues.
What is the National Electric Code?
According to the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission, NEC is the main benchmark for the safety of“installation of electrical components and systems. Its purpose is to safeguard persons and property from hazards arising from the use of electricity. It is adopted by 50 states in the US and has been revised 16 times since 1975 (as of 2020) to ensure that the rules are safe with our evolving technology.
So, for a full-scale electrical inspection (and if multiple issues are found), you will have to consult a licensed electrician near you to perform it. Keep in mind that home inspectors will not perform any repairs once there are issues found during the inspection.
Why is having a thorough inspection from a licensed electrician essential?
You should never compromise safety. This is especially true if you are purchasing a home that has been built for 40 years or more. Doing renovations or adding new appliances (which is most likely), could create multiple issues without inspection. In addition, just look at the statistics, according to National Fire Protection Association, “electrical failures or malfunctions were the second leading cause of US home fires in 2012-2016” To avoid being part of the statistics, an electrical inspection is a must, as:
• It will help determine that all your electrical components are functioning well and are in no way hazardous
• Perform analysis on existing wiring and identify if a replacement or upgrade is needed
• Check if there is a need to replace breakers
• It will confirm if there are electrical mistakes done by previous contractors or owners (DIY electrical repairs)
• Recommend ways for energy efficiency and upgrades
With years of experience, here are the frequently seen electrical issues during home inspections:
# 1 Common Electrical Mistake: Exposed Wiring and Splicing
This is number 1 on our list when it comes to the most frequently seen issues during the home inspection. This is a serious matter as arcing (jumping of electricity from one conductive point to another) could happen. Houses with exposed wiring are one step away from a major fire hazard and should be repaired immediately. Though we are categorizing this as an easy fix, it should be done by a professional electrician.
Also note that wires that have been spliced together but with no protection from a junction box, which will act as protection, will be a red mark in your home inspector’s report.
# 2 Common Electrical Mistake: Defective or no GFCI Outlets
GFCI, which is in short for Ground Fault Interrupters, is a must for outlets near sources of water, like your laundry room, kitchen, exterior outlets, basements, and bathroom.
It is very useful in avoiding shocks as it can automatically detect any changes in current flow when certain electrical faults happen.
New houses built after 1973 have this and your home inspector will surely test your GFCI f they are in good working condition. One of the key gauges that your GFCI has issues is when the circuit breaker frequently trips and can force a localized area of your home to shut down.
#3 Common Electrical Mistake: Improperly Wired Switches
Poorly wired switches usually happen when inexperienced electricians or past owners attempted to fix their wiring by themselves. This means that there have been mixed ups on the neutral, hot, and ground slots. Reversed polarity in your house’s receptacles will be deemed as a defect. Damages in appliances, overheating and electrical shock can happen.
#4 Common Electrical Mistake: Electrical Panel Boxers are Outdated
Any home that has been built pre-1990 should have an updated electrical panel box. Usually, electrical panel boxes have only about 20-30 years of lifespan.
If the home that you are planning to purchase has outdated panel boxes (e.g., still uses fuses instead of circuit breakers, has tripping issues, and with visible rust), then it will not be a suitable match to sustain the needs of your appliances.
#5 Common Electrical Mistake: Open Slots in Electrical Panel
If there are unused openings in your electrical panel, chances of electricity escaping and vermin crawling inside the panel could happen (they are actually attracted to the heat of your panel).
An inexpensive solution is to cover the open slots with filler plates.
#6 Common Electrical Mistake: No Proper Cover for Exterior Outlets
The exterior outlet of your home is of course exposed to the elements (rain, wind, snow, etc.) Without proper protection, your outlets could stop working or you are at risk of electrical shocks. This is why proper cover to exposed outdoor outlets is checked. An easy fix for this is having a bubble cover.
#7 Common Electrical Mistake: Painted Outlets
Some homeowners paint their outlets, maybe for an “aesthetic” reason. It might look good but electric outlets should never ever be painted. Aside from the possibility of paints being trapped in the slots, outlets with paints have higher chances of overheating.
For GFCI, paint can even prevent the buttons from properly functioning and could end up with owners being electrocuted.
#8 Common Electrical Mistake: Bushes and Trees Touching Power Lines
This is a big no-no. Shrubs, bushes, and trees should never touch a power line. A home inspector will check areas where trees might be close to wirings or power lines. This is why for houses with trees or bushes, it is important to have it well-maintained, so as to avoid possible damage to the powerlines (e.g, strong wind causing a tree branch to fall into the wires), fire, and electrocution hazards.
#9 Common Electrical Mistake: Double-Tapped Circuit Breakers
A circuit breaker is normally designed to accept only one wire (though there are certain breakers that have special clips for each wire, meaning they could accommodate two wires).
A double-tapped circuit breaker occurs when there are two or even more hot wires running in one circuit breaker slot. This is another safety concern and will definitely get a disproval with your home inspection if you have the normal breakers designed for one wire only.
#10 Common Electrical Mistake: Ungrounded Receptacles
If you are purchasing an older home, this is one electrical issue to watch out for— having ungrounded electrical receptacles. You don’t have to be an electrician or home inspector to recognize this. An ungrounded outlet is simply having two slots. This of course should be upgraded to reduce the chances of fire and electrocution.
Other issues typically found in a home inspection are:
– Electrical panels not modified properly
– Improperly wired subpanels
– Usage of knob-and-tube wiring (so no protection against faults) and aluminum wiring
– Improper drip loops (for excess water build-ups)
– Low-hanging aerial wiring
– Service panel is not properly attached
– Overheating in breakers
During a home inspection, a lot of issues even with newer homes, could be uncovered. From the usual exposed wirings down to your home not having properly grounded three-prong plugs, expect that electrical issues will be highlighted due to safety concerns and sometimes costly repairs.
As mentioned earlier, even if electrical issues are pinpointed, you will need a licensed electrician near you to solve the issues. If you also noticed (and this will be flagged by your home inspector) that there are multiple electrical issues, you have to hire a professional for a more thorough sweep and not just based it on the home inspection report (to find an electrician near you, click here). Based on recommendation and cost, you will also have an idea if you are getting your money’s worth in your desired home.
Watch out for our next article, as we will guide you on what to do in case of a failed electrical inspection.