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  1. #1
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    Default Contaminated panel

    100_4034.JPG100_4032.JPG100_4033.JPG

    I was debating whether to start a new thread or continue with the somewhat heated thread from earlier this year. A new thread won out as the previous degenerated into a little mud-slinging and was primarily regarding paint inside panels, which is commonly seen...

    These pics are from yesterdays inspection.

    I called out the panel as being contaminated and recommended the panel be reviewed by a competent electrician for either an approved cleaning method or replacement as the NEC doesn't specifically identify if integral parts can be replaced after cleaning (in this case vacuuming would seem appropriate) . The contamination is actually grit and at first, I was stumped as to how it got in there. The layer in the bottom was at least 1/4" thick. The panel is actually inside a framed enclosure with a hinged door giving access. Looking on the inside of the panel door I could see, what appeared to be dried droplets of water. We haven't had any significant rain here for months and, in any event, would not likely penetrate both inside the panel and its enclosure.
    The home had been painted two weeks ago and the outside was very clean then it struck me.....The painters had pressure washed the stucco, prior to painting, forcing the gritty sand and obviously high pressurized water into the panel.
    Fortunately the panel did not show and damage due to the water but most of the breakers and terminals were coated in sand.
    I also recommended to my client that the homeowner contact the painting crew's owner for possible remediation responsibility.

    NHIE Practice Exam

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Contaminated panel

    Quote Originally Posted by Ian Page View Post
    ...The painters had pressure washed the stucco, prior to painting, forcing the gritty sand and obviously high pressurized water into the panel...
    Stucco over masonry, I hope.

    With that much grit in the panel, I'd have to wonder if any got inside the circuit breakers, compromising them mechanically.

    "There is no exception to the rule that every rule has an exception." -James Thurber, writer and cartoonist (1894-1961)
    www.ArnoldHomeInspections.com

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Contaminated panel

    Quote Originally Posted by John Arnold View Post
    Stucco over masonry, I hope.

    With that much grit in the panel, I'd have to wonder if any got inside the circuit breakers, compromising them mechanically.
    Nope...stucco over stick.
    I called the home owners association earlier today to advise them of the potential hazard if this is a common practice of the painters. Fortunately they understood their potential liability, having arranged for all the properties in the complex to be painted. I also learned the tile roofs were power washed a week or two before the painting by the same power washing crew so the contamination could have occurred then

    Compromising the breakers was my concern also. Hazard aside, not cheap either, to replace all the breakers in all the 120 properties potentially affected. All for the sake of about 50c worth of duct tape.


  4. #4
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    Default Re: Contaminated panel

    Quote Originally Posted by Ian Page View Post
    Nope...stucco over stick...
    OMG, as the kids say. Power washing stucco over wood frame just seems insane.

    "There is no exception to the rule that every rule has an exception." -James Thurber, writer and cartoonist (1894-1961)
    www.ArnoldHomeInspections.com

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Contaminated panel

    This is likely how the stucco got there:

    - The door to the enclosed area where the service equipment is was not installed at the time the exterior was stuccoed.

    - The covers of the service equipment were not installed at the time the exterior was stuccoed.
    - - I have had this happen on a project I am currently inspecting, all they are permitted to use is a vacuum cleaner to clean the stucco, dirt, dust, etc., off the electrical equipment - if that does not work they get to replace the interiors of the service equipment (have cleaned 8 and replaced 2 ... Duh! ... one would think that they would learn to protect their work, but they apparently have to replace a few more before that sinks in).

    - Was the stucco pneumatically applied? Just curious.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
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  6. #6
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    Default Re: Contaminated panel

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Peck View Post
    This is likely how the stucco got there:

    - The door to the enclosed area where the service equipment is was not installed at the time the exterior was stuccoed.

    - The covers of the service equipment were not installed at the time the exterior was stuccoed.
    - - I have had this happen on a project I am currently inspecting, all they are permitted to use is a vacuum cleaner to clean the stucco, dirt, dust, etc., off the electrical equipment - if that does not work they get to replace the interiors of the service equipment (have cleaned 8 and replaced 2 ... Duh! ... one would think that they would learn to protect their work, but they apparently have to replace a few more before that sinks in).

    - Was the stucco pneumatically applied? Just curious.
    I don't know how the stucco was applied, I suspect by hand but this is all old work. Home built (and stuccoed) in '86. The exterior cabinet door and service equipment were installed and in place. The property was vacant but in the throes of painting and washing during (or just prior to) listing for sale. Even vacuuming wouldn't necessarily remove any debris from inside the breakers.


  7. #7
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    Default Re: Contaminated panel

    By any chance was any sandblasting done? Just a guess on my part. Was the Challenger breaker called out in that ITE panel?


  8. #8
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    Default Re: Contaminated panel

    Quote Originally Posted by Rollie Meyers View Post
    By any chance was any sandblasting done? Just a guess on my part. Was the Challenger breaker called out in that ITE panel?
    No sandblasting.

    I did catch the Challenger breaker but the contamination seemed to over-ride the wrong breaker issue. My thoughts at the time was that they would all likely need replacing anyway but deferring the remediation to a Sparky.

    Last edited by Ian Page; 07-28-2014 at 03:37 PM.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Contaminated panel

    If it were my panel I would want all new circuit breakers. I doubt that circuit breakers are rated to get soaking wet and filled with sand. My concern would be how much sand and water got into the breakers. Best approach is to see what the manufacturer says about this. Deferring to an electrician may be passing the buck. If he says it is fine does that mean its fine?


  10. #10
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    Default Re: Contaminated panel

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Reinmiller View Post
    If it were my panel I would want all new circuit breakers. I doubt that circuit breakers are rated to get soaking wet and filled with sand. My concern would be how much sand and water got into the breakers. Best approach is to see what the manufacturer says about this.
    Better yet, go here, download the document: Evaluating Water-Damaged Electrical Equipment
    (see top of page 3)

    Deferring to an electrician may be passing the buck. If he says it is fine does that mean its fine?
    Absolutely correct.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
    www.AskCodeMan.com

  11. #11
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    Smile Re: Contaminated panel

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Peck View Post
    Better yet, go here, download the document: Evaluating Water-Damaged Electrical Equipment
    (see top of page 3)



    Absolutely correct.
    Thanks for the download, Jerry. Very useful and valuable info. I know the H.O.A. Is going to want to dig deeper into this (pun intended)

    Mark
    Did you have some other trades person in mind to do the necessary repairs?


  12. #12

    Default Re: Contaminated panel

    If this was along the east coast I would have suspected Hurricane Sandy

    Jeff Zehnder - Home Inspector, Raleigh, NC
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  13. #13
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    Default Re: Contaminated panel

    I've opened up panels with mud dauber nests. Removing those nests make for a lot of dirt in a box. And because the dirt is adhered to all kinds of components in the box, it can be very difficult to clean.

    If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Contaminated panel

    Quote Originally Posted by Ian Page View Post
    Thanks for the download, Jerry. Very useful and valuable info. I know the H.O.A. Is going to want to dig deeper into this (pun intended)

    Mark
    Did you have some other trades person in mind to do the necessary repairs?
    No, I did not mean that an electrician was not the proper person to perform repairs. I just do not like to defer to contractors in a case where there can be a dispute over whether something is a problem. I see too many contractors giving opinions not based on any facts.

    A bit of thread drift, but yesterday I performed an inspection on a property where I recently performed a structural evaluation. A header over a two-car garage door had deflected an excessive amount and was significantly undersized. The 2x6 Utility grade rafters at a portion of the roof also spanned an excessive distance and had deflected an excessive amount (they also spaced the last rafter at 22" o.c. instead of 16). As a Structural Engineer I had called for repairs and had specified that larger rafters were needed. The owner did not replace the garage door header because the roofing contractor told him it was not necessary. The same roofing contractor installed new 2x6 rafters that are still undersized. He did add vertical supports bearing near the center of the 2x6 ceiling joists that span about 15 feet. This has nothing to do with electrical, but I see this with many contractors. People rely upon them for their opinion and often there opinion is not based on any codes, standards, or research.


  15. #15
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    Default Re: Contaminated panel

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Reinmiller View Post
    No, I did not mean that an electrician was not the proper person to perform repairs. I just do not like to defer to contractors in a case where there can be a dispute over whether something is a problem. I see too many contractors giving opinions not based on any facts.

    A bit of thread drift, but yesterday I performed an inspection on a property where I recently performed a structural evaluation. A header over a two-car garage door had deflected an excessive amount and was significantly undersized. The 2x6 Utility grade rafters at a portion of the roof also spanned an excessive distance and had deflected an excessive amount (they also spaced the last rafter at 22" o.c. instead of 16). As a Structural Engineer I had called for repairs and had specified that larger rafters were needed. The owner did not replace the garage door header because the roofing contractor told him it was not necessary. The same roofing contractor installed new 2x6 rafters that are still undersized. He did add vertical supports bearing near the center of the 2x6 ceiling joists that span about 15 feet. This has nothing to do with electrical, but I see this with many contractors. People rely upon them for their opinion and often there opinion is not based on any codes, standards, or research.
    ....but Mark, Home Inspection is a 'generalist' profession. Some Inspectors, such as yourself, may have expertise and qualification with a certain field and can provide professional opinion. Others, probably the vast majority, may not have such an ability but should have enough experience and training to know their limitations. I would say the vast majority, if not all, s.o.p's require any necessary repairs to be performed by qualified personnel. In that regard, they also provide their own expert opinions as to what remediation is necessary to effect the repair...as they see it. For sure differing opinions will abound. Each one claiming to be the correct remedy, not excluding cost containment being a factor.

    For instance, let's say a few of the breakers in the panel show absolutely no sign or indication of damage. Under normal circumstances, in any other panel would be perfectly serviceable. One electrician says they must be replaced at a cost of an additional $60 and the other states they are okay and is willing to assume any liability for their re-use. The homeowner makes their own choice based on assurances, cost and the electrician's knowledge, experience and salesmanship. Should we, as H.Is usurp either electrician's expertise who may be vastly more experienced than ourselves? Assuming that role will eventually, in all likelihood lead down the road of litigation. We can certainly suggest what we think is appropriate but ultimately it's the homeowner's decision.

    IMO it's ill-advised for any HI to require a specific manner or method of repair because there will most likely be an alternative, equally viable remedy that the Inspector may not be familiar with (or even agree with). Construction materials change and improve frequently and along with that so too does their application. I therefore defer to an expert in that field (Yes, passing the buck but also the liability) and hopefully, because there are no guarantees, the work is performed to at least a safe, hazard-free, code conforming professional standard.

    Last edited by Ian Page; 07-30-2014 at 12:40 AM.

  16. #16
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    Default Re: Contaminated panel

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Zehnder View Post
    If this was along the east coast I would have suspected Hurricane Sandy
    Pun intended?

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  17. #17
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    Default Re: Contaminated panel

    I think what Mark is saying is the same thing I, and many others here, have been saying for years:

    Don't "defer" to the contractor.

    List what you know is not right.

    List what you suspect is not right.

    The call for repairs/corrections as needed, which includes all of the above.

    If no corrections are made, there is nothing you can do about it, but you still have those items listed in the report.

    If you "defer" to the contractor and the same bozo who installed it comes out to correct it ... ain't nuttin gonna git changed ...

    Your list is toast because you "deferred" to that bozo who said there ain't nuttin wrong.

    There is a big difference in the above two methods, some can see it, some can't.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
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  18. #18
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    Default Re: Contaminated panel

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Peck View Post
    I think what Mark is saying is the same thing I, and many others here, have been saying for years:

    Don't "defer" to the contractor.

    List what you know is not right.

    List what you suspect is not right.

    The call for repairs/corrections as needed, which includes all of the above.

    If no corrections are made, there is nothing you can do about it, but you still have those items listed in the report.

    If you "defer" to the contractor and the same bozo who installed it comes out to correct it ... ain't nuttin gonna git changed ...

    Your list is toast because you "deferred" to that bozo who said there ain't nuttin wrong.

    There is a big difference in the above two methods, some can see it, some can't.

    I don't think we disagree. My 'deferring' was only in reference to the appropriate tradesperson, in this case an electrician, performing the work. There are many very competent contractors capable of performing the task in hand to the highest degree - they are not all bozos out for a quick dime. It simply behoves the client to find the right one, using our recommendations as to what repair/ replacement is necessary. Of course we are not always correct in our assessment and a fully qualified professional may have alternate, perfectly satisfactory solutions. Unlike some, I do not profess to know it all and defer to those who may have greater knowledge in furtherance of my own education.


  19. #19
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    Default Re: Contaminated panel

    Quote Originally Posted by Ian Page View Post
    I don't think we disagree. My 'deferring' was only in reference to the appropriate tradesperson, in this case an electrician, performing the work.
    I still would not "defer" any thing you see or do not see but should see - write up what you see, then recommend repairs, corrections, etc. ... but I highly recommend not using anything similar to "defer" as that means what you wrote down is meaningless because you "deferred" your call to the other person.

    I understand there many excellent contractors, but there are also many less-than-excellent contractors ... when you "defer" you are taking your chance on who walks in that door after you ... not something I would do.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
    www.AskCodeMan.com

  20. #20
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    Default Re: Contaminated panel

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Peck View Post
    I still would not "defer" any thing you see or do not see but should see - write up what you see, then recommend repairs, corrections, etc. ... but I highly recommend not using anything similar to "defer" as that means what you wrote down is meaningless because you "deferred" your call to the other person.

    I understand there many excellent contractors, but there are also many less-than-excellent contractors ... when you "defer" you are taking your chance on who walks in that door after you ... not something I would do.

    I defer to you you superior knowledge and intellect ...


  21. #21
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    Default Re: Contaminated panel

    Quote Originally Posted by Ian Page View Post
    I defer to you you superior knowledge and intellect ...
    It's not superior knowledge and intellect, it is experience ... even everyday people like me gain knowledge from experience.

    The best way to gain from experience is from the experience of others ... not having to have the same experience oneself.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
    www.AskCodeMan.com

  22. #22
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    Default Re: Contaminated panel

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Peck View Post
    It's not superior knowledge and intellect, it is experience ... even everyday people like me gain knowledge from experience.

    The best way to gain from experience is from the experience of others ... not having to have the same experience oneself.
    I defer to your experience...


  23. #23
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    Default Re: Contaminated panel

    Ian,
    I was not saying you were wrong, but just issuing a caution to you and others about using the standard wording in a situation which is not so standard. If I am advising a client on something like that I try to make it a learning experience and search the web for something like Jerry posted, or email the manufacturer. I do this because I get tired of referring clients to contractors who then give them bad advise. Another approach is just to advise them to contact the manufacturer regarding the appropriate repair. This is different then my (fill-in-the-blank) is broken-repair or replace it. I'd just guess that half the contractors would say its fine, half would say replace it, and maybe none would have researched the issue.


  24. #24
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    Default Re: Contaminated panel

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Reinmiller View Post
    No, I did not mean that an electrician was not the proper person to perform repairs. I just do not like to defer to contractors in a case where there can be a dispute over whether something is a problem. I see too many contractors giving opinions not based on any facts.

    A bit of thread drift, but yesterday I performed an inspection on a property where I recently performed a structural evaluation. A header over a two-car garage door had deflected an excessive amount and was significantly undersized. The 2x6 Utility grade rafters at a portion of the roof also spanned an excessive distance and had deflected an excessive amount (they also spaced the last rafter at 22" o.c. instead of 16). As a Structural Engineer I had called for repairs and had specified that larger rafters were needed. The owner did not replace the garage door header because the roofing contractor told him it was not necessary. The same roofing contractor installed new 2x6 rafters that are still undersized. He did add vertical supports bearing near the center of the 2x6 ceiling joists that span about 15 feet. This has nothing to do with electrical, but I see this with many contractors. People rely upon them for their opinion and often there opinion is not based on any codes, standards, or research.
    Regarding your thread drift: The most expensive repair is the one performed improperly and to save a little money. The most insane people will not listen to trained engineers and instead listen to a tradesman.
    The crazy part is that since you are both HI and structural engineer, the person now has a permanently disclosable condition unless an engineer actually evaluates and signs off on it. This means that if they sell the house and dont disclose the deficiency and dont have it signed off from an engineering point of view they have liability in perpetuity. I just pray that no one gets hurt when the garage door header fails and I hope that you are around to give testimony if it happens. This was egregious action on many levels and by many people.


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