The Inspector's Journal Forums
Username:
Password:
Save Password


Join TIJ Forums
Lost Password?
Subscribe to TIJ's Newsletter

All Forums > Technical Forums > Electrical Forum >

A dirty little secret I uncovered today . . .

Previous Topic: Ok. Help. - Topic - Next Topic: Liquid tight New TopicReply to TopicShare Topic
Posted By  
View Profile
Lexington, KY
Posts: 2585
Joined: Nov, 2004
Currently offline offline
  
Thread Start First Page
[#1] Posted: 06/06/2008 - 3:58:28 PM
Reply with Quote
Does anyone routinely remove outlet cover-plates? I don't, but maybe I'll begin doing so.

I was in an older house this afternoon. The electrical panel had only one or two ground wires connected to the terminal bar. No big deal, right?

But then I began checking the outlets, and my tester proudly displayed that everything was up to snuff. But then I remembered the lack of ground wires in the panel, and removed a cover-plate.

What did I discover? An infamous bootleg ground. I checked only one other outlet, and found the exact same thing, and told the client an electrician should examine every outlet in the place and make necessary corrections.

But then I got to wondering . . . how many of these things have I missed in the past? The $300.00 tester I use is supposed to identify bootleg grounds, but it was completely fooled.



Image Insert:

108.71 KB



Image Insert:

99.11 KB

View Profile
Georgetown, KY
Posts: 2477
Joined: Mar, 2002
Currently offline offline
  
A dirty little secret I uncovered today . . .
[#2] Posted: 06/06/2008 - 4:02:34 PM
Reply with Quote
What $300.00 tester do you use that is supposed to detect bootlegs but doesn't?

Probably missed a bunch of them with the old houses here!

-


Erby Crofutt
B4U Close Home Inspections
Georgetown, KY
www.b4uclose.com
www.kentuckyhomeinspections.com
https://www.facebook.com/B4UCl...pections
Kentucky Home Inspections
Kentucky Home Inspectors
502-570-4054
View Profile
Severna Park, Maryland
Posts: 3730
Joined: May, 2007
Currently offline offline
  
A dirty little secret I uncovered today . . .
[#3] Posted: 06/06/2008 - 6:37:45 PM
Reply with Quote
I havn't found any bootleg grounds yet. The older houses I have done so far have had electrical problems to some extent anyway. When this happens, I call for sparky to check the system. Sparky knows his responsibility when he walks into an old place.

Bain, was there evidence of older wiring in the panel?

John Dirks Jr - Arundel Home Inspection LLC - MD license: 29827
Maryland Home Inspectors - Maryland Home Inspection - Maryland Radon Testing - Baltimore County Rental Inspection
View Profile
Lexington, KY
Posts: 2585
Joined: Nov, 2004
Currently offline offline
  
A dirty little secret I uncovered today . . .
[#4] Posted: 06/06/2008 - 7:14:21 PM
Reply with Quote
Erby,

I have something called the Inspector II, made by Tasco, and purchased from Professional Equipment about ten years ago. I should have gotten a Suretest instead. But if I'd known then . . .

John,

The house was built in the fifties, before grounded cable was required in residences. As for an electrician knowing what to look for in an old house, in real time maybe one out of ten actually does know.

View Profile
Georgetown, KY
Posts: 2477
Joined: Mar, 2002
Currently offline offline
  
A dirty little secret I uncovered today . . .
[#5] Posted: 06/07/2008 - 03:41:29 AM
Reply with Quote
Biggest problem I find is that electricians who've been master electricians for 20 years have spent all that time working on the newer subdivision homes don't know squat about aluminum wiring, Federal Pacific Electric panels, or knob & tube wiring and are more than happy to share their ignorance by telling people none of the above issues are really a problem.
-


Erby Crofutt
B4U Close Home Inspections
Georgetown, KY
www.b4uclose.com
www.kentuckyhomeinspections.com
https://www.facebook.com/B4UCl...pections
Kentucky Home Inspections
Kentucky Home Inspectors
502-570-4054
Linn, OR
Posts: 128
Joined: May, 2008
Currently offline offline
  
A dirty little secret I uncovered today . . .
[#6] Posted: 06/07/2008 - 08:34:18 AM
Reply with Quote
That little jumper to ground can be quite dangerous!

A common electrical problem is a loose connection at wiring connections. Another outlet "upstream" could have a lose wire nut connection on the white wire feeding that outlet for example.

Wires "pushed" into the holes in the back of outlets rather than wrapped around the screws frequently come lose.

If you lose the white wire (neutral connection) to that outlet, then the metal case of an appliance plugged into that outlet (direct connection to ground wire on outlet) would become energized!

Zapppp!

Basically the metal case on the appliance would have a direct connection to the black "hot" wire via the plugged in appliance.


Bakersfield, California
Posts: 5
Joined: Jun, 2008
Currently offline offline
  
A dirty little secret I uncovered today . . .
[#7] Posted: 06/07/2008 - 8:51:19 PM
Reply with Quote
this is why I do not remove cover plates. In this case that outlet & its box could have become hot.Bad day for everyone. I always advise client of older houses to have sparky check system to be safe. To many possible probs in older elec. sys.

RJ
Bakersfield,Ca.

www.RKHomeinspections.com

View Profile
Lexington, KY
Posts: 2585
Joined: Nov, 2004
Currently offline offline
  
A dirty little secret I uncovered today . . .
[#8] Posted: 06/08/2008 - 05:21:37 AM
Reply with Quote
No disrespect, rkhi, but my customers pay me to check out the electrical system. That's why I'm in the house.

And I'm eminently more qualified than the 20-year master electrician Erby described in his post.

Chester, VA
Posts: 9
Joined: Jun, 2008
Currently offline offline
  
A dirty little secret I uncovered today . . .
[#9] Posted: 06/08/2008 - 06:49:25 AM
Reply with Quote
Quote: Originally posted by Bain


And I'm eminently more qualified than the 20-year master electrician Erby described in his post.


I'm sure the what, 40 hour class to be an HI certainly qualifies you for this. I doubt any licensed electrician(journey or master) did this. We would be following NEC article 406.3 This was obviously a homeowner or a friend that "knew a little about electrical work".

Jim
Master Electrician
Lic. Electrical Contractor
Upstate, NY
Posts: 92
Joined: Jun, 2008
Currently offline offline
  
A dirty little secret I uncovered today . . .
[#10] Posted: 06/08/2008 - 07:41:53 AM
Reply with Quote
Quote:
I'm sure the what, 40 hour class to be an HI certainly qualifies you for this. I doubt any licensed electrician(journey or master) did this. We would be following NEC article 406.3 This was obviously a homeowner or a friend that "knew a little about electrical work".
I could NOT agree more!

View Profile
Lexington, KY
Posts: 2585
Joined: Nov, 2004
Currently offline offline
  
A dirty little secret I uncovered today . . .
[#11] Posted: 06/08/2008 - 08:21:34 AM
Reply with Quote
One, it's foolish for you to presume you know anything about me or my qualifications.

Two, I wasn't referring to all electricians, merely the ones described by Erby.

Three, the house containing the bootleg grounds recently had its entire electrical system "completely upgraded" by an electrical contractor. Whether the contractor overlooked the flubs in the photos--along with several others--or created them, we'll never know.

Chester, VA
Posts: 9
Joined: Jun, 2008
Currently offline offline
  
A dirty little secret I uncovered today . . .
[#12] Posted: 06/08/2008 - 08:34:29 AM
Reply with Quote
If a licensed individual did this, they should be reported. There is absolutely no excuse for this except to deceive and is dangerous. If they did this one, they're probably doing others.
Jim
Master Electrician
Lic. Electrical Contractor
View Profile
Kenmore, WA
Posts: 15722
Joined: Dec, 2003
Currently offline offline
  
A dirty little secret I uncovered today . . .
[#13] Posted: 06/08/2008 - 09:25:57 AM
Reply with Quote
OK, OK,

Enough with the testosterone. John initiated the thread to point out an issue that's common with all of us - we inspect the interior of panels and then go through the homes, attics, crawlspaces, and basements doing a visual on the wiring methods used and making certain that the things we see are done correctly and safely, but we don't routinely remove the covers of every switch and receptacle in the home to inspect the connections - nor do we open up and examine the interior of every J-box found in an attic or crawlspace - so it's possible that we'll miss stuff. Not exactly news but a "visual" inspection is what it is. By the way, according to the feedback I've had over the years, electricians also don't routinely remove every switch or receptacle cover, and open up every junction box and fixture to check for proper strain relief and connections, when they're called out to inspect a system based on our recommendations.

If an electrician was supposed to have recently "completely upgraded" the electrical system in that home, than he is the most likely suspect to have done this - not the homeowner. One could assume that the homeowner pulled out all of the old 2-slot receptacles, replaced them with 3-slot types, and then added the bootleg pigtails, but it would have been the electrician who would have been in a position to know that the wiring in the pre-60's house didn't have any EGC's and, if it wasn't the electrician who installed them, it would have been the electrician's responsibility to check all of those new 3-slot receptacles to determine how they'd been grounded. Not finding any EGC's and finding the bootleg grounds, it would have been the electrician's duty to have corrected those.

So, we have to presume that either 1) it was the electrician who installed all of the bootleg grounds in order to get around the work necessary to "completely upgrade" the electrical system, 2) the electrician was either negligent or an idiot, or 3) the story about the electrician recently upgrading the system is hyperbole from a realtor or seller and that the only thing that the electrician actually did was replace the service panel 'cuz that's what they'd ordered. Personally, I'd suspect the last scenario 'cuz that's what I see most often being the case.

Thanks John for assuaging my fears that when I chose the SureTest over that other gizmo many years ago I was making the wrong choice.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

View Profile
Lexington, KY
Posts: 2585
Joined: Nov, 2004
Currently offline offline
  
A dirty little secret I uncovered today . . .
[#14] Posted: 06/08/2008 - 11:02:15 AM
Reply with Quote
Well said, Mike. And yes, you made the right choice.
View Profile
Nazareth, PA
Posts: 1148
Joined: Apr, 2002
Currently offline offline
  
A dirty little secret I uncovered today . . .
[#15] Posted: 06/08/2008 - 1:18:47 PM
Reply with Quote
This has been a valuable thread. I have to admit to getting really lazy by relying on a three light tester. Yesterday I vowed to ditch the three light tester and use only the suretest, which admittedly hasn't come out of the bag as often as it should have.

I hit pay dirt at the very first house.

Image Insert:

74.05 KB

Joe Hancaviz
Nazareth, PA
View Profile
Samantha, AL
Posts: 1569
Joined: Sep, 2004
Currently offline offline
  
A dirty little secret I uncovered today . . .
[#16] Posted: 06/09/2008 - 04:49:31 AM
Reply with Quote
There was a home that I inspected that they sellers where saying that was completely rewired.

New service, main panel and interior panel. New wiring inside the interior panel. GFCI tripped with my tester.

I did fine two outlet that was not grounded. (3 light tester.) When I inspected the attic I found a lot of new junction boxes with new wire going in and old wire coming out (2 wire ).

It turn out that who ever did the wiring did run new wires to the bathrooms and kitchen. Everything else was tied in at the attic and had bootleg grounds.

Have a good day inspecting.
Phillip R. Smith Sr.
Samantha (Tuscaloosa) AL
www.homesweethomeinspectionsal.com
"When you inspect crap, you find crap." Phillip 2010
"Always desire to learn something useful."
- Sophocles
Linn, OR
Posts: 128
Joined: May, 2008
Currently offline offline
  
A dirty little secret I uncovered today . . .
[#17] Posted: 06/09/2008 - 09:08:25 AM
Reply with Quote
Perhaps a solution to this would be to look for "clues". For example I bought a house which had all sorts of hack work electrical wiring. Outlets added without a box and lamp cord used. Splices into romex with lamp cord and hidden in ceiling, etc. Most of this stuff was hidden and I only found it when I tore out walls, etc.

Anyway there were two visible clues that work in this house was done which was not to code. One was a cardboard cover over an electrical junction box (instead of metal). Another was a hack work main panel without a ground.

So maybe a few spot instections of removing outlet covers and peeking with a flashlight, but if "not to code" hacks found elsewhere, then maybe inspect everything with a fine tooth comb?

The idea being that if some work was not done to code, then maybe there are other areas of the house where work was not done to code.

Or like mommie dearest, a spot inspection for wire hangers in the closet, then if one found, tear that closet apart looking for more!

View Profile
Jefferson Twp., NJ
Posts: 423
Joined: Apr, 2005
Currently offline offline
  
A dirty little secret I uncovered today . . .
[#18] Posted: 06/10/2008 - 11:20:52 AM
Reply with Quote
Quote: Originally posted by Inspectorjoe

This has been a valuable thread. I have to admit to getting really lazy by relying on a three light tester. Yesterday I vowed to ditch the three light tester and use only the suretest, which admittedly hasn't come out of the bag as often as it should have.

I hit pay dirt at the very first house.

Image Insert:

74.05 KB



Joe - Just incase your not aware, the suretest can give you a false reading of a false ground if you are too close, within 10' of the main panel due to the fact that the Neutral and ground are bonded there. If the panel was just under your feet in the basement you may have had a false reading.

On a side note. I chose the Suretest over the three light years ago for the fact that it detected false grounds and gave other info I thought might be useful, but since then have been continuously frustrated with the poor quality of the instrument itself. It is by no means 100% reliable. Mine is on limited time before it makes a trip to the rifle range with me to serve as a target of satisfaction. Not sure what I will replace it with.

Kyle Kubs
Benchmark Home Inspection Services
New Jersey NJ
Lexington, KY
Posts: 71
Joined: Mar, 2008
Currently offline offline
  
A dirty little secret I uncovered today . . .
[#19] Posted: 06/10/2008 - 3:58:14 PM
Reply with Quote
Quote: Originally posted by Erby

Biggest problem I find is that electricians who've been master electricians for 20 years have spent all that time working on the newer subdivision homes don't know squat about aluminum wiring, Federal Pacific Electric panels, or knob & tube wiring and are more than happy to share their ignorance by telling people none of the above issues are really a problem.


That's because our State had Grandfathered them in as a Master Electrician more than likely. I know Master Electricians who can only bend pipe and aren't familiar with the NEC. I wasn't happy with how KY defined Master Electrician. But iti is what it is. Most people assume that if you are a "Master" as defined in your/my trade that you are competent in your trade. Unfortunately this is not always the case.

I tested in as a Master before the State took over. I'll be the first to admit I don't know all there is to know about electricity. I learn something new every day.

KY Master Electrician
KY Electrical Contractor (inactive)
View Profile
Nazareth, PA
Posts: 1148
Joined: Apr, 2002
Currently offline offline
  
A dirty little secret I uncovered today . . .
[#20] Posted: 06/10/2008 - 6:35:02 PM
Reply with Quote
Kyle:

Yes, I know about possible false readings when in close proximity to the main panel, but now that you mention the scenario of a panel on the level below, I have to wonder if there have been any times when that might not have 'registered' with me.

As far as not being 100% reliable, I know what you mean. Mine will work fine, but then suddenly go dead. Then, the next time I pull it out, it will work just fine. Maybe that's why I've been mostly leaving it in the bag for a long time now.

Joe Hancaviz
Nazareth, PA
View Profile
Georgetown, KY
Posts: 2477
Joined: Mar, 2002
Currently offline offline
  
A dirty little secret I uncovered today . . .
[#21] Posted: 06/11/2008 - 03:18:50 AM
Reply with Quote
There's good and bad in every field, Sodapop. Your's, mine, realtors, mechanics, etc.

I like hanging out with the good ones who know there's things they don't know and try to learn.

That's why I'm here!

-


Erby Crofutt
B4U Close Home Inspections
Georgetown, KY
www.b4uclose.com
www.kentuckyhomeinspections.com
https://www.facebook.com/B4UCl...pections
Kentucky Home Inspections
Kentucky Home Inspectors
502-570-4054
View Profile
Virginia Beach, VA
Posts: 551
Joined: Nov, 2007
Currently offline offline
  
A dirty little secret I uncovered today . . .
[#22] Posted: 06/11/2008 - 09:40:02 AM
Reply with Quote
Quote: Originally posted by Erby

.....I like hanging out with the good ones who know there's things they don't know and try to learn.


I have a little saying about myself. I'm the smartest man in the world because I know I'm stupid.




Lexington, KY
Posts: 71
Joined: Mar, 2008
Currently offline offline
  
A dirty little secret I uncovered today . . .
[#23] Posted: 06/13/2008 - 7:01:10 PM
Reply with Quote
Quote: Originally posted by Erby

There's good and bad in every field, Sodapop. Your's, mine, realtors, mechanics, etc.

I like hanging out with the good ones who know there's things they don't know and try to learn.

That's why I'm here!


Agreed!

KY Master Electrician
KY Electrical Contractor (inactive)
   
Previous Topic: Ok. Help. - Topic - Next Topic: Liquid tight New TopicReply to TopicShare Topic
Jump To:
The Inspector's Journal Forums © 2002-2013 all topics or replies that are posted on The Inspector's Journal
are copyrighted material of the original author that posted the topic or reply.
Go To Top Of Page 
 
Pick an RSS Feed

The views expressed on this website are the views of the authors and
do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the sponsors.
© 2002-2013 Copyright DevWave Software Inc.
Find a Home Inspector

Powered By: Snitz Forums 2000