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  1. #1
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    Default Electrical panel painted closed

    Can a panel that has been painted so many times that the screws are round bumps in the paint be considered functioning as intended? The question being, can I put it in the summary as "not functioning as intended"?

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  2. #2
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    Default Re: Electrical panel painted closed

    How would paint over the panel cover screw heads affect the proper operation of the breakers?

    All answers based on unamended National Electrical codes.

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    Default Re: Electrical panel painted closed

    Quote Originally Posted by Vern Heiler View Post
    Can a panel that has been painted so many times that the screws are round bumps in the paint be considered functioning as intended? The question being, can I put it in the summary as "not functioning as intended"?
    Let's see, first ...

    "can"? Sure, anything "can" be done which "can" be done.

    Second - no part of the panel should be painted, but writing up a panel for the outside of the cover being painted? While "accurate" ... I would not do it.

    Finally - writing the panel as 'cover not properly removable for access to the interior of the panel due to excessive paint and the owner was not there to give permission to chip and scratch the cover trying to get the paint out of the screws so the cover could be removed' ... after having scratched a few painted panel covers trying to get the paint out of the screws to remove the covers and putting up with the wrath of the owners (until they found out that the client was going to charge them for the re-inspection - which I was doing at the time - then the owners calmed down) ... yeah, I could see writing something like that up if you could not get the owners permission to "scratch the painted panel cover as necessary to remove the cover" ... and if you could not get that permission for any reason ... I can see writing up "panel interior not accessible as required and intended - cover could not be removed - cover painted on" (I've done that when the cover was painted to the wall such that I did not want to risk damaging the plaster wall and thus did not remove a cover).

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
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    Default Re: Electrical panel painted closed

    Thanks Jerry, That is about the same rambling I had going on inside my head. The customer would like to see the painted panel in the summary to get the seller to fix it. I am thinking I can use the fact that the panel cover is designed to be removed for inspection and repair, and it can't be removed without damaging paint and drywall. Therefore not functioning as intended?

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    Default Re: Electrical panel painted closed

    Quote Originally Posted by Vern Heiler View Post
    Thanks Jerry, That is about the same rambling I had going on inside my head. The customer would like to see the painted panel in the summary to get the seller to fix it. I am thinking I can use the fact that the panel cover is designed to be removed for inspection and repair, and it can't be removed without damaging paint and drywall. Therefore not functioning as intended?
    I intentionally avoided the 'not functioning as intended' wording.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
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    Default Re: Electrical panel painted closed

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Peck View Post
    I intentionally avoided the 'not functioning as intended' wording.
    Ya, unfortunately that is the wording the NCHILB likes for summary items. I do feel bad when I can't inspect the inside of the panel. Unlike when it is blocked by stored items, the screws and edges being painted looks line a loop hole. Whats the worst that can happen? Seller says I'm screwing his sale, but I am really reporting that the panel cover does not remove as intended?

    Give me a little help with the wording.

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    Default Re: Electrical panel painted closed

    Quote Originally Posted by Vern Heiler View Post
    Ya, unfortunately that is the wording the NCHILB likes for summary items. I do feel bad when I can't inspect the inside of the panel. Unlike when it is blocked by stored items, the screws and edges being painted looks line a loop hole. Whats the worst that can happen? Seller says I'm screwing his sale, but I am really reporting that the panel cover does not remove as intended?

    Give me a little help with the wording.
    "The cover of all electric panels are intended to be accessible for inspection and service. Since this panel has been sealed closed with paint and cannot be opened without damage to the building finish, it is not functioning as intended. Have the panel opened and inspected."

    Jim Luttrall
    www.MrInspector.net
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    Default Re: Electrical panel painted closed

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Luttrall View Post
    "The cover of all electric panels are intended to be accessible for inspection and service. Since this panel has been sealed closed with paint and cannot be opened without damage to the building finish, it is not functioning as intended. Have the panel opened and inspected."
    Thanks Jim

    How about: Recommend breaking the paint seal between the panel cover and wall, and clearing all paint from the fastener heads, to allow full inspection of the panel.

    Last edited by Vern Heiler; 04-03-2016 at 11:41 AM.
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    Default Re: Electrical panel painted closed

    Quote Originally Posted by Vern Heiler View Post
    Thanks Jim

    How about: Recommend breaking the paint seal between the panel cover and wall, and clearing all paint from the fastener heads, to allow full inspection of the panel.
    Where is the "not functioning as intended" wording?

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
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    Default Re: Electrical panel painted closed

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Peck View Post
    Where is the "not functioning as intended" wording?
    That was instead of: Have the panel opened and inspected.

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    Default Re: Electrical panel painted closed

    Quote Originally Posted by Vern Heiler View Post
    That was instead of: Have the panel opened and inspected.
    Full blurb:
    The cover of all electric panels are intended to be accessible for inspection and service. Since this panel has been sealed closed with paint and cannot be opened without damage to the building finish, it is not functioning as intended. Recommend breaking the paint seal between the panel cover and wall, and clearing all paint from the fastener heads, to allow full inspection of the panel

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    Default Re: Electrical panel painted closed

    I just scribe around the painted edges with an Exacto blade and crack the painted screws loose with my sharp screwdriver. Gotta see inside.

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

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    Default Re: Electrical panel painted closed

    Quote Originally Posted by John Kogel View Post
    I just scribe around the painted edges with an Exacto blade and crack the painted screws loose with my sharp screwdriver. Gotta see inside.
    Ditto. Except I use my pocketknife.

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

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    Default Re: Electrical panel painted closed

    Quote Originally Posted by John Kogel View Post
    I just scribe around the painted edges with an Exacto blade and crack the painted screws loose with my sharp screwdriver. Gotta see inside.
    Quote Originally Posted by Bruce Ramsey View Post
    Ditto. Except I use my pocketknife.
    Guess you guys have never had the knife/utility razor slip and scratch/cut across the paint/wallpaper or had chunks of plaster come loose from the cover having been caulked in place by someone who felt obligated to use the entire tube of caulking ...

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
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    Default Re: Electrical panel painted closed

    I carry a utility knife with my panel opening screw driver and regularly scribe around the panel to open but as Jerry alluded, there are limits. I won't chisel through 15 layers of paint to find the screws or the panel. Kind of like climbing into the attic using someone else's ladder. The last time I did that I landed on the hood of a fairly new BMW... you live and learn. Risk vs Reward has a new meaning after you mess something up.

    Jim Luttrall
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    Default Re: Electrical panel painted closed

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Peck View Post
    Guess you guys have never had the knife/utility razor slip and scratch/cut across the paint/wallpaper or had chunks of plaster come loose from the cover having been caulked in place by someone who felt obligated to use the entire tube of caulking ...
    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Luttrall View Post
    I carry a utility knife with my panel opening screw driver and regularly scribe around the panel to open but as Jerry alluded, there are limits. I won't chisel through 15 layers of paint to find the screws or the panel. Kind of like climbing into the attic using someone else's ladder. The last time I did that I landed on the hood of a fairly new BMW... you live and learn. Risk vs Reward has a new meaning after you mess something up.
    1) you cut it 3 times , not just once.
    1a) Two hands on the knife.
    2) if the lid is really on there, get 3 sides loose and hinge the 4th.
    3) a wide roll of clear packing tape for broken drywall edges, tape the inside.
    Maybe I just leave a note, sorry I broke it. Biz card, name and #.

    Agreed about the ladder thing, Jim.
    "There's a ladder on the roof to get you to the top level."

    A wood antique with dowel treads, and had spent its entire life up there.

    John Kogel, RHI, BC HI Lic #47455
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    Default Re: Electrical panel painted closed

    Quote Originally Posted by John Kogel View Post
    1) you cut it 3 times , not just once.
    1a) Two hands on the knife.
    2) if the lid is really on there, get 3 sides loose and hinge the 4th.
    3) a wide roll of clear packing tape for broken drywall edges, tape the inside.
    Maybe I just leave a note, sorry I broke it. Biz card, name and #.

    Agreed about the ladder thing, Jim.
    "There's a ladder on the roof to get you to the top level."

    A wood antique with dowel treads, and had spent its entire life up there.
    This panel was a bump in the drywall it had been painted so many times. The best way to get the screws to break loose is to heat the end of a screwdriver with gas torch, but then there is that thing about burning the place down. I think I prefer to let someone else do the work and I can get paid to come back and do what I do, which is look at others work.

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    Default Re: Electrical panel painted closed

    Like others, I also cut along the edges, it usually works fine. Agree with the "cut 3 sides and hinge the 4th", works well. Slip once in awhile with the blade, but the heavily over painted panels are never in higher end homes anyway, one more scratch probably won't be seen.

    But why is it that there is always just one random screw on that painted dead-front that won't budge, not matter how hard you try?

    Dom.


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    Default Re: Electrical panel painted closed

    If the agent was present during inspection then they could have called vendor to obtain permission for inspector to remove screws.


  20. #20
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    Default Re: Electrical panel painted closed

    I use a screwdriver and knock the paint out of the screw slots, then carefully cut the caulking or paint around the edges.
    Yes I have slipped, and scratched the surface of the panel.
    Yes I have dislodged a blob of caulking that covered a 3/4" gap at the side of the panel.

    No, I have never (NEVER!) been called by a seller for doing any of this.

    An electrical panel is too important to just skip over it because of paint or caulking. I HATE coming back to a house to get to something that should have been accessible in the first place. I would rather spend extra time getting access to something I need to inspect, than to have to arrange to come back another time. I value my time too much to make return trips for this stuff.


  21. #21
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    Default Re: Electrical panel painted closed

    Quote Originally Posted by Jack Feldmann View Post
    An electrical panel is too important to just skip over it because of paint or caulking. I HATE coming back to a house to get to something that should have been accessible in the first place. I would rather spend extra time getting access to something I need to inspect, than to have to arrange to come back another time. I value my time too much to make return trips for this stuff.
    I value my client's wishes over mine in opening a painted/wallpapered over (everyone seems to not address the wallpapered over ones I've mentioned) when the client is willing to pay for my trip back or is of the thought that they will get an electrical contractor there to look at it after the seller makes the cover removable.

    "I value my time too much to make return trips for this stuff." ... said with an attitude which is taken as you think your self-worth is more than that of the client ... maybe that is how I ended up doing high end market inspections where my hourly rate exceeded yours?

    Just sayin' ... it's not what I think I am worth ... it is what my clients think I am worth.

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    Default Re: Electrical panel painted closed

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Peck View Post
    "I value my time too much to make return trips for this stuff." ... said with an attitude which is taken as you think your self-worth is more than that of the client .
    Jerry, you huffing paint fumes???

    Jack stated clearly that he spends the extra time on site for his client. No need to return if you can spend 10 minutes doing it while on-site.

    And wallpapered panels are rare in my area, maybe saw 1 in 15 years.

    And FYIW:

    maybe that is how I ended up doing high end market inspections where my hourly rate exceeded yours?
    ...sounds conceited and arrogant to me, you don't know anyone's "hourly rate", or what someone's business goals are in their respective markets.


    Dom.


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    Default Re: Electrical panel painted closed

    Quote Originally Posted by Dom D'Agostino View Post
    Jerry, you huffing paint fumes???

    Jack stated clearly that he spends the extra time on site for his client. No need to return if you can spend 10 minutes doing it while on-site.

    And wallpapered panels are rare in my area, maybe saw 1 in 15 years.

    And FYIW:



    ...sounds conceited and arrogant to me, you don't know anyone's "hourly rate", or what someone's business goals are in their respective markets.


    Dom.
    Dom,

    Not huffing paint fumes (or Freon either).

    Jack also very specifically added "I value my time too much to make return trips for this stuff." to the end of his post to let us know that HE values HIS time TOO MUCH to ...

    I simply, in the same context and frame of mind, replied that *I* prefer that MY CLIENTS value my time ...

    No more arrogance intended than what was presented in Jack's post ... the same arrogance maybe, but no more.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
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    Default Re: Electrical panel painted closed

    Dom has a much better idea of what I was trying to say than Jerry.

    Jerry, please don't try to pretend to know how I feel or what I am thinking, or how I feel about my clients.

    Good for you that you used to inspect castles.


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    Default Re: Electrical panel painted closed

    Quote Originally Posted by Jack Feldmann View Post
    Good for you that you used to inspect castles.
    Jack,

    Check with your clients - I suspect you'll find that we all inspect castles.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
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    Default Re: Electrical panel painted closed

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Peck View Post
    Jack,

    Check with your clients - I suspect you'll find that we all inspect castles.
    Getting back to the original question: I've not caught grief from scratching the paint over 30-plus years. (That I recall, at 66.) Another trick that you can try is pulling a utility knife along the edge of the cover towards a piece of metal--I use a screwdriver blade--that will halt its motion.

    But as for stuck screws, sometimes they wont budge because my screwdriver blades glide out of slot made too shallow or narrow by paint, even after I've tried to chop them clear; and sometimes the screws also are frozen. Sometimes the latter free up, sometimes they just won't budge, even when grabbed by pliers, and sometimes they sheer. Do all of you give up rather than twist so hard to free a screw as to sheer off its head? Or do you, like me, accept the rare occasions when this happens and deal with it? I recently found very serious rust, evidence of long-term water damage not otherwise evidenced, in opening basement receptacle boxes. Very worthwhile finding.

    I know that opening device boxes is beyond ASHI expectations, but I know some conscientious HIs sample them. As an electrical consultant, I of course am inclined to peek.


  27. #27
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    Default Re: Electrical panel painted closed

    Quote Originally Posted by david shapiro View Post
    Getting back to the original question:

    As an electrical consultant, I of course am inclined to peek.
    As did I.

    I've even removed large, heavy covers which, in retrospect (after having removed the covers), I realized I should not have (by myself) as I now had to find a way to put the cover back on.

    The question, though - as you went back to, was about painted on covers ... and there were some I found which would have likely have created a lot of damage had I done the attempts to cut through the paint and caulk.

    I did not remove the covers 'at all costs', 'at reasonable costs' - yes.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
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    Default Re: Electrical panel painted closed

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Peck View Post
    As did I.

    I've even removed large, heavy covers which, in retrospect (after having removed the covers), I realized I should not have (by myself) as I now had to find a way to put the cover back on.

    The question, though - as you went back to, was about painted on covers ... and there were some I found which would have likely have created a lot of damage had I done the attempts to cut through the paint and caulk.

    I did not remove the covers 'at all costs', 'at reasonable costs' - yes.
    Fair enough. Though still, with scads of experience, willing to turn away some jobs, sometimes I misjudge the cost to the building to what I'm doing. The ultimate requirement remains leaving it as safe as or safer than I came upon it when possible. And THIS sometimes has meant leaving a cover off because I find the wiring inside so fragile. I have protected myself to a small degree from objections over this by positioning myself as a safety type. Most often when doing a supplementary report following a home inspection, I have a customer/owner rep with me to give me the go-ahead or not. (Meanwhile, the camera can be going click-click-click.)


  29. #29
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    Default Re: Electrical panel painted closed

    Quote Originally Posted by david shapiro View Post
    The ultimate requirement remains leaving it as safe as or safer than I came upon it when possible.
    Agreed.

    I have a customer/owner rep with me to give me the go-ahead or not.
    That is the key. If there is a customer/owner rep with you and you are not given permission to cut/do whatever to remove the cover ... do you remove the cover any way?

    I suspect that you do not.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
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    Default Re: Electrical panel painted closed

    I wanted to make this a separate post.

    I always, as I recall, put a cover back on as I considered it unsafe to leave off.

    Sometimes I only used two diagonally opposite screws, but I wanted to keep hands out of the panels.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
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    Default Re: Electrical panel painted closed

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Peck View Post
    Agreed.



    That is the key. If there is a customer/owner rep with you and you are not given permission to cut/do whatever to remove the cover ... do you remove the cover any way?

    I suspect that you do not.
    Damn straight. Of course, I may explain that at that point I cannot proceed forward; or I may have to blotch my report with a large orange caveat (maybe with the odd bunny nibble off the edge).

    Now there are a range of attitudes going from "proceed based on your best professional judgment unless distinctly forbidden to do something" to "don't do anything not absolutely certain without getting permission signed in (somebody else's) blood." I like permission, but I usually get a good sense of the person I'm working for, and how they want me to proceed where things are uncertain. With cell phones, it gets somewhat easier.


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