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Joined: Oct 2002
Posts: 830
I got a call to finish up a job that had been sitting for about a year. The job supposedly had a "rough inspection". At first glance all that the job needed was a 2" riser run out of the meter base, an extra ground rod, and some minor "tidying" up of the service wires. All the light fixtures were already hung,outlet put in and breakers put in the panel. That's where it all started down hill. I noticed there were no AFCI breakers in the panel, so I started to ohm out the panel thinking I would see what was what. My tester started reading a direct short on all the circuits. I at first thought maybe my tester was reading through the light bulbs. I then thought I better pull out one of the outlets to see what kind of job the first electrician had done. There was a light switch right next to the panel and a receptacle. I pulled the light switch out, and WOW, I couldn't believe what I was seeing. The neutrals were tied together with a "pigtail", and the pigtail was connected to one side of the switch, and the hot wire was connected to the other side. That's where it all started, well almost. I guess the first clue was when I pulled out the wash machine outlet and saw the wires were not tight. I then pulled out the receptacle outlet at the panel, an another WOW and double WOW. This guy had the hot and neutral connected on the same side of the receptacle. I couldn't believe what I was seeing again. I then went to the back part of the house and pulled out another receptacle, and just as I suspected, the black and white wire were on the same side of the receptacle there also. To make a very long story shorter, all the outlets in the house were wired like this.
Not only that, but when the man was stripping the wires, he must have used the size smaller than for # 14 wire, because the wires were almost broke into where the stripper "bit" into the wires. Pulling the smoke detectors down, made my "nightmare" even worse. He had a black and white wire tied together and hooked up to the yellow wire on the smoke detector shocked Well after getting in touch with the new owner of the house( which was a contractor who had bought the house and was fixing it up to rent) and relaying this sad story to him, I proceeded to "fix up" the mess. After going through all the outlets
and switches in the bedrooms and living room, I started in the kitchen. Double wammy again. Another sign of this fellows "dumb" was when I found 1 outlet in the living room with #12 in it. I then proceeded to take out all the outlets in the kitchen to ohm them out and see what he done. I found the dishwasher wire coming out of one of the counter receptacles, which fed into the living room, which fed back into the kitchen which fed 2 light switches for the kitchen lights, and that is where I have stopped so far. Oh well, then there's the bathroom receptacle that is fed off the bathroom light switch, and not to mention several walls that are about 3 to 4 ft. long without an outlet on them. Though he did seem to think the outlets were suppose to be about 6ft. apart everywhere else. My story is just beginning. The new owner is very nice to tell me to go ahead and fix it. I called the electrical inspector who was supposed to have checked this job on the "rough", and told him a few things that I found. His comment was that all that inspected was "spacing, and grounds" crazy I wander how he could have missed the #12 wire coming off the kitchen outlets to feed the lights, and the walls that had no outlets on them where they should have had them crazy I was nice and said maybe he done this after it had been inspected. After seeing this much, I knew whoever wired it COULDN'T have been an electrician. Sure enough after further investigation, I found out it was the previous homeowner that had done it. I politely called the inspection office and ask them to NEVER LET THIS GUY NEAR ANOTHER WIRE. The secretary seem to find humor in this. Well my ranting has just begun, and I have not even hardly started on fixing this mess up. Good thing about it is, that it's work and the new owner is willing to pay me to straighten it out. I do thank The Lord for that. I just hope the wires inside the wall are alright eek After I get close to straightening what I see out, I'll temporarily put power on the house and see what happens. I have been in the trade for around 39 years and this has to be the "ultimate dumb" I've ever seen. What's so dumb about it is not that someone didn't know what they were doing, but that they didn't ask anyone who did. Well I'll stop for now. I would be interested if anyone can "top" this throughout your experience with DIY'ers. Well I better pull my wits back together again, there's no telling what I might see before I get finished...Well I guess I've vented a little, maybe I'll feel better now smile

Joined: Jun 2004
Posts: 1,273
I once ran into construction power equipment which had been rewired by a grade school drop-out.

He used the color codes found in automobile circuits: black is ground, green is hot, white can be anything....

So it was necessary to re-wire every connection he'd touched.

Every now and then you'll read of some victim of this kind of thinking. About three years ago some non-electrician rewired the cord-cap to a power drill -- black as ground, of course. The fella fired it up while standing in a puddle -- and services were held shortly thereafter.


I rather suspect that some of those walls will need to be opened up. The more you scare the inspector the more you may have to display.

Anyone who is so far off the rule book is most unlikely to strap properly. I'd want to meg every run -- what damage lies underneath.

Joined: Jan 2005
Posts: 5,316
Cat Servant
While I share your amazement that anyone couls bollux things up so thoroughly, I think your experience really illustrates two 'administrative' issues far better than the technical ones.

"Just finish up." Or any variation of the request. Presented in such an easy, reassuring, innocent manner. Balderdash. The guy knew sonething was seriously FUBAR, and has already tried to sort things out himself. Or, there was a conflict, and someone decided to make a few surprises on purpose. This is both your time to shine - and to make sure you're not being cheated. Remember- you're the guy who will be getting the call-backs for the next year, and every new fault found will be seen as proof of your incompetence ("You should have found it before").

The second relates to inspections. As far as I'm concerned, an inspection is nothing but a billing point. I'm sorry, but I've been through enough inspections to appreciate just how limited they are. In terms of things actually performing, or being safe, inspections are irrellevant. The best that can happen is for the inspector to be sent on a crusade against such an incompetent hack.

Joined: Oct 2006
Posts: 745
I agree that permits and inspections are just like speeding tickets any more. Nothing about safety; it is all about revenue generation on tight budgets. It is not uncommon for inspectors around here to get 30 jobs per day to inspect, which just can't be done. They try, but there's only so much time in the day.

As for topping this story, I really can't. About the worse that I've seen as far as an entire house is concerned is one that I encountered about 25 years ago. The house was long-since finished, but probably never saw any kind of inspection. My suspicion is that the house was built by the homeowner over a long period of time. He probably kept the permits (if any) active for so long by just renewing them. After a while, it probably got to where the same inspector never came there twice, so nobody knew what had and hadn't truly been inspected. In this case, the guy wired it with 12/4 BX everywhere. I'd say he was probably a maintenance man who "found" the cable at work. Anyway, not one single box used included BX clamps, in fact some had no clamps at all. There were red neutrals, white hots and barely any form of grounding. The panel was three-phase with every third space skipped (that is actually why I was called out there). There was no fixing this mess, since even most of the boxes were going to have to be changed. Some single gang boxes had as many as four 12/4 cables in them. I left there shaking my head. From what I overheard, there was serious discussion about taking the whole house down since the electrical work was just the tip of the iceberg.

Now I've seen plenty of Harry Homeowner basement finishing jobs. Perhaps the worst one I ever saw was wired 100% with 18/2 zip cord. For receptacles and switches, there were no boxes; just surface-mounted wiring devices. The feed for roughly 30 receptacles and light fixtures was tied into the disconnect switch for the oil burner. The reason I was even there was because the new homeowners were surprised that when they shut off power to the boiler, the entire basement went off. The "electrician" even used this same wire for speakers and you guessed it: One wire hanging out of the wall for a speaker was live with 120 volts! The homeowner said he expected that this was going to be an expensive fix based upon what he had seen upstairs with the plumbing. His anticipation of a $500.00 cost was hardly enough to scratch the surface!


"But the guy at Home Depot said it would work."
Joined: Sep 2002
Posts: 920
Likes: 1
Originally Posted by renosteinke
While I share your amazement that anyone couls bollux things up so thoroughly, I think your experience really illustrates two 'administrative' issues far better than the technical ones.


The second relates to inspections. As far as I'm concerned, an inspection is nothing but a billing point. I'm sorry, but I've been through enough inspections to appreciate just how limited they are. In terms of things actually performing, or being safe, inspections are irrellevant. The best that can happen is for the inspector to be sent on a crusade against such an incompetent hack.

In a lot of areas inspections are just a "revenue source" that has absolutly nothing to do w/ safety which is a sad state of affairs.This is IMO the case locally where a local developer of "affordable homes" aspires to build them as cheap as they can get away with, here is a minor example of the fine electrical work....

[Linked Image from]

I refuse to say they try to meet minimum code.

Joined: Dec 2000
Posts: 4,289
Originally Posted by renosteinke

As far as I'm concerned, an inspection is nothing but a billing point. I'm sorry, but I've been through enough inspections to appreciate just how limited they are. In terms of things actually performing, or being safe, inspections are irrellevant.

I disagree with you.

Each inspector is different, just as electricians are. To paint all inspectors with such a broad brush is, IMO unfair. Some are just better and more conscientious than others.

It's the same as stating "all electricians are hacks, they're all a bunch of ripoffs".

Joined: Jan 2005
Posts: 5,316
Cat Servant
This is a tough point to get across ... but I am not trying to infer anything improper on the part of the inspector, or system with that comment.

It's simply that no 'quality control' mechanism, even in a factory, can examine every detail without shutting everything down. Since the very purpose of production is to accomplish something, a 'shut down' is out of the question.

There is no substitute for the guy doing the work being competent and caring. Absent his co-operation, inspections are an exercise in futility.

All any inspector can do is 'hit the high spots.' That is, check a few details in a few points, and hope the theory behind such statistical methods has not been deliberately circumvented.

I don't count on the inspector to check me, to correct me, or to keep me honest. That's my job. For me, inspection is not a game where we see how much I can sneak past the guy.

That's why anyone beginning a defence with 'it passed inspection' is, in my book, showing faulty logic. To me, that alone infers nothing as to the quality of the installation.

Joined: Oct 2000
Posts: 5,390
try making a living where inspectors are scarce, and i gaurantee you'll eventually will want to see them....~S~

Joined: Jan 2005
Posts: 5,316
Cat Servant
Oh, I understand your point ... it's hard to compete with a $15/hr handy dandy!

Yet, again, it's a bit misleading. None of us needed years of training to learn how to change ordinary light bulbs.

Our advantage is in doing what the cheap guys can't. Before I left Reno, my main customers over the years included:
- A very large apart ment complex, that called when their maintenance guys were stumped;
- A property management firm that likewise knew the limits of their guys (I'd usually get called after months of failed efforts);
- A plumbing comapny that called me when the boiler or pump controls got a bit involved; and,
-Several restaurants that were still suffering from years of 'third world' repairs.

As most of this stuff was 'maintenance,' I generally did not need to pull a permit, and could not rely upon the laws to guarantee me a market.

That's why I said that a mess like the one described above is an opportunity for a real pro to show the customer the value of having a real pro!

Joined: Apr 2002
Posts: 7,296
Likes: 5

The quality of an inspection is dependent on the quality of the person performing it, and the experience and training (both book & field) of that person.

As to quantity of inspections, 30 in one day is IMHO impossible; 16 minutes each, inclusive of travel time, based on 8 hour day. Yes, perhaps IF it was 30 hard wired appliances in one apt complex, it could happen.

Revenue generation? Yes, the building depts here in NJ are supposed to be 'self sufficient', using permit fees for expenses, not tax dollars.

'Billing points' for the EC? Sure, I did it throughout my EC business career. Dependent on the job scope, some 'approvals' were worth 5 figure sums. Yes, there were 'Reds' that were revenue delayers also, some unwarranted, some deserved.

Most if not all of us inspectors keep an 'eye' open for people who should not be doing certain things.

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