• Gabe Semenza

Common Issues: Exposed wiring

Updated: Jul 17, 2018

Of all the systems in a home, I view the electrical system as one of - if not the most - important.

Homes resting on shaky foundations or under faulty roofs can obviously cause expensive headaches. But if the electrical system falters, even worse things can potentially happen in my opinion.

That's why, when I buy a home, I first make it a point to correct issues with wiring, electrical panels, switches, fixtures, receptacles, smoke detectors and, if applicable, carbon monoxide monitors. Safety first. Then I tackle issues related to the other major systems of the home.

One common and relatively easy-to-fix issue I find: Improper electrical splices, or exposed wiring, and junction boxes lacking cover plates.

A view of a common finding in an attic:

Missoula home inspector Gabe Semenza commonly finds improper splices during inspections.
All electrical splices should be housed in an accessible junction box with a cover plate.

An electrical splice is simply the connection of two or more wires. That connection should be housed inside a junction box, which is closed with a cover plate. Other rules apply to the junction box and wire installation, but for our purposes here just know a splice should not be "open" but rather closed in a protective box.

There are a few very good reasons for this:

1) An approved junction box (generally a metal or plastic box that would be considered fire-resistant) helps to stop the spread of fire should loose wires spark. Because loose wires can spark, the ends of splices should form a solid connection via an approved connector. Usually, wire nuts are used. If I see wires connected solely with electrician's tape (and not wire nuts), I report that because tape has a much greater possibility of becoming loose and exposing the ends of the wires.

2) The box protects you and service people from contacting live wiring, leading to shock. If installed correctly, that box will also help to keep rodents from chewing on the ends of live wires.

For all those reasons, the junction box should also be closed with a cover plate. Unfortunately, I regularly see boxes that lack a cover plate.

Here's what that looks like:

Gabe Semenza, Missoula home inspector, on common findings in an attic.
It's common to see junction boxes lacking cover plates.

In my view, these issues are easy to fix. The cost of a junction box and cover plate is minimal. If the wiring is easy to access, an electrician can typically correct the problem relatively quickly (though reputable electricians aren't necessarily cheap).

When you buy a home, you have to decide with which issues you can and can't live. There never was nor will there ever be a perfect home. For me, correcting even the simplest of electrical issues gives me some peace of mind.

After all, I am a hyper-overprotective dad of my 7-year-old daughter, Parker Belle. I try to ensure our home is as safe as it can be. She barks at me that I "need to be more brave with her." She's probably right.

It still didn't stop me from making her wear protective eye wear and gloves when we trimmed the bushes together this weekend. I'm still working on that "brave" suggestion.

Thanks for reading -

Gabe Semenza, Certified Professional Inspector and owner of River City Inspections, LLC


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