From the kitchen to the bathroom to the living room and bedroom, electricity plays a vital role. We use it so much, in fact, that we get used to taking it for granted – the same way we take oxygen for granted because we constantly breath it, day and night, even when we are asleep. But when the electricity goes out, as it often does in the winter months, we suddenly realize how much we rely upon it. Without safe, dependable electricity, in fact, our health and safety can be quickly threatened or jeopardized. So it is no wonder that one of the most common subjects of a home inspection that winds up highlighted within the inspector’s report is the electrical system. That’s because most homes operate thanks to electrical power and an observant home inspector will pay close attention to how a home is wired.
Common Red Flags
Electrical systems are complex, so there are numerous reasons why an inspector may want to make recommendations for repairs or deeper investigation by a licensed electrician. But some of the common reasons why inspectors report on electrical systems include a lack of sufficient safeguards, obsolete wiring, or not enough capacity to safely and reliably operate home systems and appliances that need electrical power.
If the outlets near sources of water like sinks are not protected with built-in circuit interrupters that kick-in to prevent electrocution, that’s a red flag. When 220 V appliances are not properly installed or when there is not enough current to safely operate all of them, that’s another reason to upgrade the wiring. When circuit boxes are out of date or overloaded, or when the wires themselves are old or have cracked or insufficient insulation, that presents a potential fire hazard. Are there soot marks on wall outlet covers, made from sparks that fly when you plug something into the wall? That is yet another reason to take a closer look and possibly repair or upgrade your wiring.
What to Do Next
When you find such mentions in a report, read it carefully and ask the inspector if you have any questions. In most cases you’ll need to then ask licensed electricians to bid on the work of repairing or otherwise remedying whatever problems exist. Or you may need to have an electrician take a closer look at something the inspector noticed, just to provide a more specialized opinion and diagnosis. If work is necessary, have it done by a qualified electrician or, if you are in the middle of a sales transaction as a buyer or seller, negotiate to see who pays for the work. Once work is completed you may want to have the inspector return to do a follow-up inspection and make sure that the issues first noted were properly addressed.
Solutions to Typical Problems
Many electrical issues are relatively simple to fix. You may need to add a ground wire to an outlet or simply put a face plate over an exposed outlet. Maybe you’ll need to have an electrician add more capacity to your circuit breaker box, which will cost more, or perhaps you’ll have to have the wiring brought up to date throughout the entire home – which can be a major project and a rather expensive one. But keep in mind that without good wiring you could be at risk for a much more serious problem such as an injury or accidental fire.
Issues Going Forward
As always, consider your inspection report a valuable document for helping you keep up with home maintenance issues. Sometimes your inspector will mention things pertaining to the electrical system that may not need to be immediately addressed. But if you start adding high-wattage appliances to you house then you might want to revisit the report or ask the inspector to return and do a fresh inspection. Similarly, if you remodel a room or want to add outdoor electrical outlets or fixtures, that may be another time to talk to an inspector or an electrician to study your options and help you make smart, safe decisions.