Results 1 to 18 of 18
  1. #1

    Question Outdated wiring in condo unit

    Did a 1979 condominium unit this morning that had some electrical issues.
    1. It had a PushMatic box, which I wrote up (not that she'll be able to do anything about it).
    2. There were multiple two-prong outlets (which I couldn't test because I only carry a 3-prong tester)*. In two rooms, the outlets appeared to be controlled by wall switches, as none of the 3-prong receptacles responded to the switch.
    3. In one room, the wall switch controlled the top half of three different receptacles. I've never seen that configuration before.
    4. There were NO GFCIs anywhere in the unit.
    5. There was no receptacle at all in the bathroom.

    I thought by 1979 there had to be a receptacle in each bathroom, and by then there were GFCI rules in place, no? None of the breakers were GFCI.

    --Welmoed

    *Please don't bash me for my tool choices. I carry what I carry. I'm going to call out a two-prong non-polarized receptacle as a hazard, so why test.

    Inspection Referral SOC
    Welmoed Sisson
    Inspections by Bob, LLC, Boyds, MD
    "Given sufficient thrust, pigs fly just fine."

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Location
    Wisconsin
    Posts
    274

    Default Re: Outdated wiring in condo unit

    Kind of depends on when the Gov't adopted the code, or edition. Looks like 1975 was the first year GFCI appeared, but the local Gov't may not of had any codes then, or was behind in adopting current editions. For example, for us in WI, we are still under the 2008 NEC.

    I think '71 was the first year NEC required an outlet in the bathroom.

    This chart is for GFCI req. by year.




    Last edited by Mike Kleisch; 09-18-2013 at 07:20 AM.

  3. #3
    Mbrooke's Avatar
    Mbrooke Guest

    Default Re: Outdated wiring in condo unit

    Pushmatics themselves are not an issue. Yes no longer made and old, but so far they have not proven to be a hazard. If anything the bolt on design will outlast the today's pinch styles.


  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Orlando, FL
    Posts
    1,340

    Default Re: Outdated wiring in condo unit

    1. Pushmatic panel is obsolete, not necessarily defective.

    2. 2 prong receptacles in a '79 condo? Seems odd. You can at least test the "hot" side with a non-contact sniffer.

    3. Duplex switched outlets are common; one side always hot, the other switched for convenience. Maybe someone tinkered with the original receptacles.

    4. Not every locale adopted GFCI installation at the same time. Time to add some modern safety features.

    5. Bathroom may have had a receptacle in the vanity light fixture or medicine cabinet and has since been replaced. The bathroom receptacle became required in '71.

    Dom


  5. #5

    Default Re: Outdated wiring in condo unit

    Made one mistake in my post: it was a Stab-Lok panel, not a Pushmatic.

    So if GFCIs were required in 1979, how the heck did they get away with building without them?

    - - - Updated - - -

    Also, why is there a huge ad for Inspector Support Network embedded in my original post? I didn't put it there.

    Welmoed Sisson
    Inspections by Bob, LLC, Boyds, MD
    "Given sufficient thrust, pigs fly just fine."

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Orlando, FL
    Posts
    1,340

    Default Re: Outdated wiring in condo unit

    Quote Originally Posted by Welmoed Sisson View Post
    1. It had a Stab-Lok, which I wrote up (not that she'll be able to do anything about it).
    Why not? We write them up in condos all the time, and they get replaced--all the time.


  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Knoxville, TN
    Posts
    2,446

    Default Re: Outdated wiring in condo unit

    You can test 2 prong outlets with a variety of tools. The little bulb with two wires is a simple, cheap tool. I use a wiggy. Or a non contact tetser.

    Switched outlets are very common. There is a little tab in the middle of the outlet that can be broken off to make one half of the outlet hot all the time, and the other half controlled by a switch.

    Many old bathrooms had an outlet inside the medicine cabinet, or on the side of the light fixture above the sink.

    Many local code authorities do not adopt the codes as soon as they come out. Many times its a few years.


  8. #8
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    Location
    Southern Vancouver Island
    Posts
    4,546

    Default Re: Outdated wiring in condo unit

    Welmoed, pick up a 3-prong to 2-prong adapter at a building supply store. I prefer to use a voltage sniffer, but years ago I used the adapter to test for power with a 3-light tester.

    Re: code in whatever year, who is going to enforce the code now 30 or 40 years later? I just tell them to upgrade for safety. Or convenience, if there is no safety issue.

    Every room must have a handy light switch, but a receptacle can take the place of a light fixture. This is common here in older condos, cheaper than installing a ceiling fixture.

    Where people have installed new receptacles, it is common for them to be clueless and lose the switch connection. I call it out and then spend 10 minutes, or until the eyes glaze over, describing the issue to the client. "Is it hard to fix?" If you're asking, yes it will be.

    John Kogel, RHI, BC HI Lic #47455
    www.allsafehome.ca

  9. #9

    Default Re: Outdated wiring in condo unit

    John, thanks for the input.
    The issue with outdated/hazardous panels in condo units is, to me at least, that the condo owner can replace the thing in their unit, but all the other units will still have the bad panels. This is a big issue in a retirement community near us; virtually every unit in this sprawling complex has a Federal Pacific box. The association has flatly refused to replace the ones we've called out, mostly because if they acknowledge that such a panel is indeed a hazard, they will need to replace ALL of the panels -- a huge expense for them.
    I'm familiar with switched outlets; I've just never seen more than one controlled by the same switch.

    Welmoed Sisson
    Inspections by Bob, LLC, Boyds, MD
    "Given sufficient thrust, pigs fly just fine."

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    Location
    Lansdale, PA
    Posts
    876

    Default Re: Outdated wiring in condo unit

    Quote Originally Posted by Welmoed Sisson View Post
    Did a 1979 condominium unit this morning that had some electrical issues.
    1. It had a PushMatic box, which I wrote up (not that she'll be able to do anything about it).
    2. There were multiple two-prong outlets (which I couldn't test because I only carry a 3-prong tester)*. In two rooms, the outlets appeared to be controlled by wall switches, as none of the 3-prong receptacles responded to the switch.
    3. In one room, the wall switch controlled the top half of three different receptacles. I've never seen that configuration before.
    4. There were NO GFCIs anywhere in the unit.
    5. There was no receptacle at all in the bathroom.

    I thought by 1979 there had to be a receptacle in each bathroom, and by then there were GFCI rules in place, no? None of the breakers were GFCI.

    --Welmoed

    *Please don't bash me for my tool choices. I carry what I carry. I'm going to call out a two-prong non-polarized receptacle as a hazard, so why test.
    Sorry Welmoed. I may bash you a little, but only to help you be a better inspector.

    Two-prong usually indicated mid-1960s or earlier. I'm guessing maybe this was a condo conversion of an older apartment. That was common in my area about that time. They did not necessarily require upgrades to new codes if substantial remodeling was not performed (and it often was not).

    In some areas it is or was not unusual to switch 1/2 of each receptacle in a room. It gives you a choice where to put a lamp (and makes using the other half of the receptacle a pain for anything else).

    Many bathrooms in older houses only has receptacles on the light fixture, which is not permitted anymore. Change the light-loose the receptacle. Yes, adding one would be the right thing to do.

    Now, not testing two-prong receptacles? Many are polarized so that is not a good excuse. Besides, even if you tell someone to upgrade to a polarized receptacle, what if the receptacle does not work? I used to carry a simple pigtail tester. I still have one in the tool bag, but do not use it. Now, I take one of my old three-prong testers that went bad (the ground prong loosens) and cut off the ground prong. I don't know about you, but I inspect many houses that have two-prong receptacles.


  11. #11
    Join Date
    Dec 2009
    Location
    Florida
    Posts
    552

    Default Re: Outdated wiring in condo unit

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Reinmiller View Post
    I used to carry a simple pigtail tester. I still have one in the tool bag, but do not use it. Now, I take one of my old three-prong testers that went bad (the ground prong loosens) and cut off the ground prong. I don't know about you, but I inspect many houses that have two-prong receptacles.
    I would strongly suggest that you replace the neon pigtail tester with a non contact one. They are cheap enough, and will tell you that you have power (as the pigtail does), but also tells you which prong is live. Most have a clip that you can stick it in your pocket for easy access. Not to test a 2-prong because you (the royal you) didn't bring something to test with is unacceptable.


  12. #12
    Join Date
    Nov 2010
    Location
    Safety Harbor, FL
    Posts
    68

    Default Re: Outdated wiring in condo unit

    Quote Originally Posted by Dom D'Agostino View Post
    Why not? We write them up in condos all the time, and they get replaced--all the time.
    Dom is correct as most insurers here in FL will not write a policy if there is an FP panel in place. On homes which are 30 years and older and condos which are older than 50 years, insurers require a 4 Point Inspection before writing or renewing a policy. The 4 Point Inspection will identify the panel in place bringing it forefront to the insurers attention. I write the FP panels up as being a Safety Issue and an Insurability Issue. As Dom indicated, this usually results in the Seller paying to have the panel replaced as the house will not be sold if the buyer cannot insure it.


  13. #13
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    Location
    Lansdale, PA
    Posts
    876

    Default Re: Outdated wiring in condo unit

    Quote Originally Posted by Rich Goeken View Post
    I would strongly suggest that you replace the neon pigtail tester with a non contact one. They are cheap enough, and will tell you that you have power (as the pigtail does), but also tells you which prong is live. Most have a clip that you can stick it in your pocket for easy access. Not to test a 2-prong because you (the royal you) didn't bring something to test with is unacceptable.

    I do carry a non-contact tester and also a screwdriver tester with a neon bulb in the handle. I sometimes use these to check polarity. Most two-prong receptacles I see are original installation. I don't worry too much about polarity on these. From past experience I seldom find they are wrong (excluding homeowner finished basements, additions, etc.).


  14. #14
    Join Date
    Dec 2009
    Location
    Florida
    Posts
    552

    Default Re: Outdated wiring in condo unit

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Reinmiller View Post
    I do carry a non-contact tester and also a screwdriver tester with a neon bulb in the handle. I sometimes use these to check polarity. Most two-prong receptacles I see are original installation. I don't worry too much about polarity on these. From past experience I seldom find they are wrong (excluding homeowner finished basements, additions, etc.).
    You can actually see the polarity with a neon tester, if you can see the bulb clearly. There are two anodes in the lamp--the one that glows is the hot side. I just like the non contact as they are easier to use--one hand. Actually, my comment was a generic one, not directed to you.


  15. #15
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    Location
    Lansdale, PA
    Posts
    876

    Default Re: Outdated wiring in condo unit

    Quote Originally Posted by Rich Goeken View Post
    You can actually see the polarity with a neon tester, if you can see the bulb clearly. There are two anodes in the lamp--the one that glows is the hot side. I just like the non contact as they are easier to use--one hand. Actually, my comment was a generic one, not directed to you.
    You can also use the pigtail tester like a screwdriver tester with a neon bulb in the handle. Put one pin into the hot slot and hold the other pin in your hand. Just another one of many ways to check receptacles.


  16. #16
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Oregon
    Posts
    2,365

    Default Re: Outdated wiring in condo unit

    No GFI and two-slot outlets? I'd be thinking an older build date than 1979 for sure. Unless someone went for the ultra-retro "remodel"

    As for the electrical tools I'm not sure the reason for only carrying a 3-prong tester but as the others have said there are very inexpensive devices to test all outlets you run across. I mainly use the 3-prong but also carry a standard "wiggie" and a sniffer. The sniffer is great for testing two-slot outlets (hold your finger over one side to rule it out if you find you're getting a reading off each side). I also use the sniffer to test 240V outlets that the wiggie can't get into. I just stick my screwdriver into each hot slot (insulated handle - don't tell my mom) and hold the sniffer close to the metal blade of the screwdriver.

    Also, the sniffer is invaluable as a safety device when crawling places or just wanting to know if something is still live or not.


  17. #17
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Maryland
    Posts
    2,777

    Default Re: Outdated wiring in condo unit

    Quote Originally Posted by Rich Goeken View Post
    I would strongly suggest that you replace the neon pigtail tester with a non contact one. They are cheap enough, and will tell you that you have power (as the pigtail does), but also tells you which prong is live. Most have a clip that you can stick it in your pocket for easy access. Not to test a 2-prong because you (the royal you) didn't bring something to test with is unacceptable.

    Using a non-contact tester will not tell you if the outlet is actually functional; which is why the outlet is being tested in the first place.


  18. #18
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    Location
    Lansdale, PA
    Posts
    876

    Default Re: Outdated wiring in condo unit

    Quote Originally Posted by Garry Sorrells View Post
    Using a non-contact tester will not tell you if the outlet is actually functional; which is why the outlet is being tested in the first place.
    You are correct. That is why I use a three-prong tester with the ground prong cut off (you could also use a two-prong adapter). I use the other methods if I want to check polarity, which is usually do not do.


Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •