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  1. #1
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    Default Old, sealed main panel

    I'm looking for feedback about what y'all have done when coming across an electrical panel cover that is painted shut. I've been surgically cutting into them with a box cutter because it seems worth it but thought i'd put out a line.....

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  2. #2

    Default Re: Old, sealed main panel

    Depends on the type of paint used, quality of the existing paint job, where the panel is located, quality of the house I am inspecting, type of agent I am dealing with, etc., etc.

    On an old beat up home, I typically just cut them open.
    On a newer home with a nice paint job, I typically have the agent get permission from the seller or their agent.


  3. #3
    Roger Frazee's Avatar
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    Default Re: Old, sealed main panel

    Quote Originally Posted by Luc Lamarche View Post
    I'm looking for feedback about what y'all have done when coming across an electrical panel cover that is painted shut. I've been surgically cutting into them with a box cutter because it seems worth it but thought i'd put out a line.....
    Removing a cover even when it is not painted on is something that requires your focus and care. A panel that slips from your hands can and has fell into the mains causing instant flying molten metal from the arcing.

    How I deal with your situation is to remove the lower screws and see if I can break the cover loose while leaving the top screws installed or slightly backed out. The idea is to break the cover loose without it suddenly coming off completely.

    Now having said that not all covers are the same so I have a few tools that I use to break the cover loose. My favorite is a automotive gasket scrapper made by craftsman.



    Last edited by Roger Frazee; 11-23-2010 at 10:45 PM.

  4. #4
    Doug Haglund's Avatar
    Doug Haglund Guest

    Default Re: Old, sealed main panel

    I think I would report no access, not inspected cover painted shut. Just like scuttlehole for attic if painted shut.


  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
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    Default Re: Old, sealed main panel

    I ask either the homeowner or the agent if it is OK to open the cover. If they say yes, I have several implements that can cut through anything. A razor knife is what I use in most cases.
    If they say no, I note on the report that the panel was inaccessible at the time of inspection and that it should be inspected prior to purchase.

    A long time ago, I had a homeowner who after I cut the panel cover off, came out of his garage with a can of paint and a brush. He asked if I was going to re-paint the area. I said, no problem, but you get to clean the brush!

    Eric Van De Ven Magnum Inspections Inc. (772) 214-9929
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  6. #6
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    Default Re: Old, sealed main panel

    The worst ones are where they are located in a finished living space and in full view. Home owners seem to do everything they can to make the deadfront cover blend in with the walls and will use spackle and caulk on the edges. I will always make an attempt to remove the cover by scoring around the edges of the deadfront first with a utility knife. I leave the screws in place before doing anything to free the cover from it's bond with the wall, then I back the screws out.

    "It takes a big man to cry. It takes an even bigger man to laugh at that man". - Jack Handey

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Old, sealed main panel

    Here's what I use. Only after asking permission, of course.

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  8. #8
    Roger Frazee's Avatar
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    Default Re: Old, sealed main panel

    Quote Originally Posted by John Arnold View Post
    Here's what I use. Only after asking permission, of course.
    That's not what I use for panels but I do have one of those in the truck for road rages.....


  9. #9
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    Default Re: Old, sealed main panel

    Quote Originally Posted by Roger Frazee View Post
    How I deal with your situation is to remove the lower screws and see if I can break the cover loose while leaving the top screws installed or slightly backed out. The idea is to break the cover loose without it suddenly coming off completely.

    I did the same thing. I used a utility knife with a sharp blade (the tips would break off or go dull fast, especially when cutting through plaster or drywall compound they would build up around it to make it blend in better).

    If permission was refused I would write everything I could think of which *might* be wrong in that panel and then recommend an electrician take the cover off and address whatever they found, including any of what I wrote down and anything else they found.

    I typically found that if the owner knew an electrician was coming to remove the cover that they might as well allow me to remove the cover - the list would not be as long that way (I can think of all kinds of things which "might" be wrong in any given panel ).

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
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  10. #10
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    Default Re: Old, sealed main panel

    I cut them open. I remember this one in particular, because the home owner had just gotten off work and was standing there watching me. I didn't ask, just went about my business, making sure the panel was accessible, right? There were some white patches showing when I closed it up, oh well they're selling the place.

    It looks like I managed to hinge it on the left side plaster and paint, no easy task with a Federal cover.

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  11. #11
    George Wells's Avatar
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    Default Re: Old, sealed main panel

    Quote Originally Posted by Luc Lamarche View Post
    I'm looking for feedback about what y'all have done when coming across an electrical panel cover that is painted shut. I've been surgically cutting into them with a box cutter because it seems worth it but thought i'd put out a line.....
    I would list it as not being accessible. I have a checklist that I go over with the buyer before the inspection so that they understand the importance of the inspector having access to areas to be inspected. We are guests in the home. While it is important to do a thorough inspection, we cannot alter any part of the house without the owner's permission.

    I have had some instances in which the real estate agent called the home owner during an inspection to ask permission for different things. Home owners almost always agree to let us do what we need to do but there have been times when they would not grant permission.

    When I worked as an electrician I sometimes encountered electrical panels in living areas that were painted over or had been covered with wallpaper; not wrapped with wall paper but covered in such a way that the wallpaper would have to be cut to remove the cover. Even though I was there to do electrical work, there were times when the home owners would tell me that if I had to cut the paint or wallpaper to get into a panel, they didn't want the work done. That happened more times that I care to think about.

    Home owners can be downright bizarre at times. Once when I worked as an electrician, I was hired by my parent's former neighbor to put in some new circuits and receptacles in living areas. Just as I was about to start cutting holes for the boxes, he saw my tools and asked what I was doing. When I said I was going to cut the holes for the boxes he said "Oh, I don't want you doing that". Huh? I asked him how he thought I would mount boxes in walls without cutting holes. He said that he hadn't thought about it but he was sure he didn't want me to cut holes in his walls. What was really bizarre was that he was a salesman at Sears. He sold tools!

    He had later expressed concern to my parents that he had wasted my time but he told them he didn't know I had to cut up his house. I saw the guy a few times after that when I would visit my parents and he was still trying to figure out how to get some new receptacles without cutting up his house.

    I often think of that guy when I am doing home inspections.


  12. #12
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
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    Washington
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    Default Re: Old, sealed main panel

    Quote Originally Posted by John Kogel View Post

    It looks like I managed to hinge it on the left side plaster and paint, no easy task with a Federal cover.
    Well it seems as if the situation is quite variable. The home that precipitated the post was a longtime vacant foreclosure with the panel in the unfinished garage. In that case it seemed appropriate to make some surgical cuts to get in there and inspect but thanks to all your perspectives it'll be a case by case call in the future. John, ill try the plaster & paint hinge technique some day and let you know how it goes.

    Thanks all for your reply's so far...


  13. #13
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    Mar 2007
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    New Mexico
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    Default Re: Old, sealed main panel

    I cut them open. Only once was the paint job so nice that I asked the buyer if they wanted me to open it up. They said to skip it. I consider it part of providing access, and haven't had a seller say anything yet. I'm sure they will some day.

    Jim Robinson
    New Mexico, USA

  14. #14
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    Mar 2007
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    Atlanta, Georgia
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    Default Re: Old, sealed main panel

    I carry a utiilty knife in the tool belt and a pocket knife in the pants. Cut around the panel and then remove the screws. If the panel is painted shut, it is usually an older home and the panel usually has numerous issues inside. The buyer needs to know about all those issues so they can negioate antoher grand to replace.

    "The Code is not a peak to reach but a foundation to build from."

  15. #15
    George Wells's Avatar
    George Wells Guest

    Default Re: Old, sealed main panel

    Quote Originally Posted by Luc Lamarche View Post
    Well it seems as if the situation is quite variable. The home that precipitated the post was a longtime vacant foreclosure with the panel in the unfinished garage.
    I should have mentioned that in foreclosures, I would be more likely to cut the paint. I also take before and after pictures.

    On a different, but related note, I've had sellers complain that I did not set the thermostat setting exactly where it was upon my arrival. It doesn't happen often but it happened enough times that I now take a picture of the setting. Then, if I forget what it was, I can look at my picture.


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