I often get asked if I give some sort of priority or ranking to issues that I find when inspecting a home.
I absolutely do. My inspection reports have a summary section that appears before the rest of the report, and issues that need to be addressed first (sometimes I’ll say “before occupying”) go into the summary. Safety related issues always get priority, even over more expensive issue. Think: repainting a house vs. faulty outlets. The first is expensive, the second potentially dangerous but relatively inexpensive.
Of all the systems that make up a home, electrical issues appear in the summary section of my reports more often than any other. The reason for this is obvious. Electricity has more potential for immediate harm than any other system in the house, save only a building that is actively falling down. Therefore, even relatively inexpensive electrical issues get emphasis.
I’ve already written about one electrical issue at our new house, but I have another that presents a good opportunity to remind readers about the caution that needs to be exercised with electricity.
The picture below is of a wire that was running under the kitchen sink, feeding the disposal and the dishwasher. As you can see, the wire sheathing has completely worn through and bare wire is exposed. This is a very dangerous situation, exacerbated by the wire being a relatively wet area that is frequently accessed.
The covering on the wire most likely wore through because it was not well secured. Years of the wire rubbing around the rim of the access hole in the subfloor to the basement eventually caused the protective sheathing to fail. If I had to bet, I’d say that the vibration of the disposal probably had a hand in the wear too.
So what is the lesson to take away from this? As a homeowner, be especially attentive to wiring that is exposed in basements, attics, crawlspaces, and other out-of-the-way areas. If you see or suspect damage, call an electrician. Do not take it upon yourself to correct electrical issues. Most electrical contractors have someone who is on-call and can come out to your house fairly quickly. The link below is a great overview of what you need to be aware of regarding the safety of the wiring in your house: