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  1. #1
    K Robertson's Avatar
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    Default What would you do?

    I did an inspection a few weeks ago on a home built in early 70's. One of the area's I noted was Aluminum wiring. I found out later that the client had specifically told her RE Agent that she did not want aluminum wiring. The disclosure had it listed as Copper. Well, she optioned out on the house and requested a refund on ernest money due to failing to disclose aluminum wiring. Her agent, who we also found out represented the seller, replied with this...

    "...actually the house is copper wired. It is not aluminum wired. Your inspector was wrong. We have the inspection from when they purchased the home in January of 2005 and it does state that it was copper wiring in the home and their sellers disclosure reflects the same thing from when they bought it from the owner."

    and refused to refund the ernest money. After I checked the disclosure, I noticed that under "Has seller ever obtained a written report about the condition of the foundation from any engineer, contractor, inspector, or expert?" it was marked "NO". AND under the disclosure it asks how long the seller has owned the property. It said 1 year. (January 2005 - April 2007, hmmm I count 2+).

    My client asked me if I had proof that it was aluminum, and I advised that the pictures are in the report (another client who doesn't read the reports I guess). Then she asked what actions she should take to get her money back. I pointed out the fact that the disclosure states no inspectino report, they have one, copper wiring, it's aluminum, and length of residency is inaccurate and... "I am by no means an attorney, but the little I know about contracts and real estate, I would guess an attorney would agree you are due 100% of option and earnest money back based solely on the disclosure and the below response. If the seller does not give the refund, you may want to consider contacting legal council on the matter."

    I guess she forwarded that to the agent and the agent replied back with "My broker has this file and he read the email that your inspector sent. He agrees with me - that your inspector crossed the line. We are now researching to see if he has a degree in real estate law, since he gave you legal advice."

    I know, I'm a deal killer, shame on me.

    What would you do now? No, not asking for legal advise, just your own personal opinion.



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  2. #2
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    Default Re: What would you do?

    I wouldn't do anything. I don't think what you did would be considered giving legal advice, or anyone who suggests that someone contact a real estate attorney would be guilty of that. That would include almost every realtor in the US. The seller didn't disclose properly, and the last inspector (if there was one) was incorrect. I wouldn't do a thing except prepare some documentation for a report to the state realtor board if they keep pressing.

    Hey, that's funny. Whenever I type realtor it comes up as a spell check error.

    Jim Robinson
    New Mexico, USA

  3. #3
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    Default Re: What would you do?

    I would have recommended they call an attorney.

    I would NOT have suggested that they are entitled to their deposit back, since I have no idea what conditions or contingencies are in their contract.

    I wouldn't worry too much about the broker's comment, though. It's just scare tactics to intimidate you.

    Dom.


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    Cool Re: What would you do?

    KR, FWIW I agree with Jim in that you repeated know facts, but offered no legal advice, at least that's the way I read your post. Sellers lied, agent lied, broker threatening, and buyer wants rescission of contract, and your report provides evidence of those lies. If your client retains an attorney make sure the attorney retains you as one of his/her experts as in this way at least you will be paid for your time providing deposition and court testimony. Looks like a slam-dunk, but you can never be absolutely sure?

    Jerry McCarthy
    Building Code/ Construction Consultant

  5. #5
    Richard Moore's Avatar
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    Default Re: What would you do?

    Her agent, who we also found out represented the seller, replied with this...

    "...actually the house is copper wired. It is not aluminum wired. Your inspector was wrong.
    "I am now researching to see if the agent has an electrician's license , since he offered electrical advice."

    Seriously...I don't know what the rules are there, but when agents "double dip" here, I'm fairly certain that they have to disclose that they are, first and foremost, representing the seller. Clearly your client's best interests are not being adequately represented. Can she retain a buyer's agent at this point in the transaction? (Added bonus of splitting the first agent's comission )

    The rest is just hot air and I wouldn't lose any sleep over it.



  6. #6
    Richard Rushing's Avatar
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    Default Re: What would you do?

    Korey... question for you. Are you sure it wasn't copper that was tin plated?

    RR


  7. #7
    K Robertson's Avatar
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    Default Re: What would you do?

    Quote Originally Posted by Richard Rushing View Post
    Korey... question for you. Are you sure it wasn't copper that was tin plated?

    RR
    The service panel (which was only a main cut off) was copper, then there was a junction panel just above it. Inside the junction was copalum connectors connecting the copper service lines with the aluminum. Never seen tin plated copper (or heard of it for that matter) but pretty sure they wouldn't use copalum connectors. The Aluminum wiring was old enough to still have the, not sure what it's called, but "cloth" for lack of correct term covering on it. That went to the sub. I'm 101% sure it was aluminum.


  8. #8
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    Default Re: What would you do?

    Was the insulation of the rubber type??

    1970's right...

    Not doubting you for a second, just fishing for more information.

    Back in the day (when tin plated copper was used) the copper had a chemical reaction to the rubber. They found that the tin plating negated the adverse reaction.

    More question(s)-- was the finish dull or shinny??

    Richard


  9. #9
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    Default Re: What would you do?

    Quote Originally Posted by Richard Rushing View Post
    Korey... question for you. Are you sure it wasn't copper that was tin plated?

    RR
    Don't believe tin plated copper was available in the 70's, it pre-dates that time period. Early 70's should sound an alarm to every home inspector in regards to solid-aluminum branch circuit wiring, good thing you caught it.

    I have yet to meet a Realtor or seller who doesn't attempt to play down this potentially dangerous issue.


  10. #10
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    Default Re: What would you do?

    Here ya go Richard, probably should have posted this in the original.

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  11. #11
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    Default Re: What would you do?

    Errrrrr... that's the SEC-- not the branch circuitry wiring. Big difference.

    The aluminum wiring from the service is not an issue (generally). It's the branch circuitry that is of major concern.

    Do you have a picture?

    RR


  12. #12
    K Robertson's Avatar
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    Default Re: What would you do?

    Quote Originally Posted by Richard Rushing View Post
    Errrrrr... that's the SEC-- not the branch circuitry wiring. Big difference.

    The aluminum wiring from the service is not an issue (generally). It's the branch circuitry that is of major concern.

    Do you have a picture?

    RR
    Actually, that's the the sub panel you are looking at. I should have taken more pictures, but did not realize this whole thing would come out and bite me just because I said it has aluminum wiring under "Type of Wiring". I just took this one to remind me to note the gell coat needed.


  13. #13
    Richard Moore's Avatar
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    Default Re: What would you do?

    KR, we are talking about solid conductor aluminum branch circuit wiring here, aren't we?

    http://www.inspect-ny.com/aluminum/ALid16.jpg

    Stranded aluminum is common for feeders and larger amperage circuits. It may still have some issues, but doesn't have the same problems (or stigma) of solid strand Al.


  14. #14
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    Default Re: What would you do?

    Quote Originally Posted by K Robertson View Post
    The service panel (which was only a main cut off) was copper, then there was a junction panel just above it. Inside the junction was copalum connectors connecting the copper service lines with the aluminum. Never seen tin plated copper (or heard of it for that matter) but pretty sure they wouldn't use copalum connectors. The Aluminum wiring was old enough to still have the, not sure what it's called, but "cloth" for lack of correct term covering on it. That went to the sub. I'm 101% sure it was aluminum.
    K,
    Unless I'm misreading the post, you may want to revisit what you said. What is missing in your post is what you saw at the sample receptacles and switches. If an electrician went to the trouble and the owner went to the expense to do what you descibed, it is probable that he also made Copalum connections at the receptacles and switches. Did you look? Did you report?

    The concern from me is not what the realtor threatens. Is or is not Al can be answered by a third party electrician. In ANY EVENT, the seller and the realtor didn't disclose. You are in Texas and my concern for you becomes did you follow the directives of the applicable section of the SOP?

    : Texas Administrative Code

    When encountering aluminum wiring, the reporting standards are more stringent than they are for copper. And it will benefit you and your Client to be very specific about the conditions you find regarding what has or has not been upgraded/modified and how it has been modified.

    If, for example, you inspected a random sample of cover plates and saw aluminum wire at the connecting points, then the system still had aluminum conductors. You would report that. As well you would report whether or not the receptacles were CO/ALR.

    If you saw pigtails, you would report that, as well as the means used for pigtailing.

    If you saw Alumiconn connectors, you would report that.

    And if you saw Copalum crimps at the receptacles, you would report that.
    The house still has Aluminum wiring, no matter what modifications have been made. There is a difference between copper and being considered equal to copper for the purpose of preventing arcs. However, there is also a real difference in what having Aluminum wiring means, depending upon what you observe and how you report.

    In this specific incident, it sounds as though the prior Inspectors were incorrect to report that the house has Copper wire and that you may have been remiss in reporting that Aluminum wiring was present without addressing the completeness or incompleteness of the Copalum crimps at your radom samplings of the switches and receptacles. If those randomly sampled sites were properly Copalum crimped, you would report so along with the explanation of why that is the acceptable means of upgrading the safety of the Aluminum wiring. You would disavow any knowledge of the remaining circuits and fixtures, because they were not sampled.

    You didn't mention any other reasons for your Client terminating the contract. I hope there were other issues, because it will make your defense and offense easier. And, as you know, many contracts have a clause where buyers may terminate for any or NO reason within the option period. That's why the Client purchases the option. The broker knows he has no legs to stand on regarding the option money.

    When a Client asks you questions regarding stuff outside the realm of inspections, it would be perfectly acceptible to give the contact means for filing a complaint with TREC. BTW, (from another thread) TAR plays the pseudo law game of requiring all past inspections, up to four years old, to be attached to the seller's disclosure. Since you know from the realtor that they have them, had they disclosed to your Client and given her copies?

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  15. #15
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    Default Re: What would you do?

    Korey, in the electrical section of my report, I have different service panel wiring options to check: copper, stranded aluminum, or solid core aluminum. If your report does not differentiate between solid core and stranded aluminum, I can see where there may be room for confusion. Did you actually see solid core single strand aluminum or was it all the stranded variety as appears in your pic?


  16. #16
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    Default Re: What would you do?

    K,
    Trust me, I'm no expert. I've proven it many times. You have yourself in a situation here with your Client and the seller, but you'll work through it as long as you deal with the issue and don't try to BS your way out.

    Even though I try really hard and do believe that I provide valid and valuable reports, I am keenly aware that I encounter situations that I am not capable of accurately evaluating. When that happens I do one of two things. If it's something I should know, but don't, I delay giving the report until I have a chance to answer my own questions. NO ONE forces me to give a report before it's ready. When it is something that is beyond the scope of my knowledge and where providing accurate information without having more formal education would be impossible, I refer it out or subcontract a specialist on my dime to perform that part of the inspection and to educate me on site as to that particular situation.

    The hardest hits to my ego come when I look back at earlier reports and realize that sometimes I didn't know enough to know I didn't know. Notice that the last sentence wasn't in the past tense.

    Good luck on this.

    The only reason some people get lost in thought is because it's unfamiliar territory.
    - Paul Fix

  17. #17
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    Default Re: What would you do?

    I think rubber insulation went out in the 1940s with the development of thermoplastics.

    When rubber insulation went out, so did tinned copper - no need to tin the copper with thermoplastic insulation.

    A 1970s house would either be:

    a) copper
    b) aluminum
    c) copper clad aluminum (which looks like copper - so I know you did not have that)

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  18. #18
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    Default Re: What would you do?

    Your thoughts on this "apparent" aluminum wiring?

    It comes out of the flexible conduit at top right of second pic.

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    Default Re: What would you do?

    Erby,

    Can't tell for sure in the photo, but that looks like rubber insulation, which would indicate copper (tinned copper).

    However, in trying to look at the ends (usually you can see the conductor material at the ends) there is only one end facing the camera and the conductor is so dirty looking I can't tell.

    The easy way to check is to scrape the surface with your knife, if it is tinned copper, copper will show through where you nicked it.

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  20. #20
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    Default Re: What would you do?

    Single-strand aluminum branch circuit cable was never cloth/rubber insulated.

    If you see this type of insulation it is never single-strand aluminum conductor. Single-strand aluminum branch circuit cable was manufactured with a 60C thermoplastic insulation only from around 1973 to around 1980 when inflation was skyrocketing.

    The end to inflation and the dangers associated with termination ended its brief run. Unfortunately there was a mini-housing boom going on during its heyday and that is why we see so much of it in areas that participated in the boom like New Jersey & Florida.


  21. #21
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    Default Re: What would you do?

    [

    Getting back to the legal stuff.

    You stated clearly that you are not an attorney and that you "guessed" an attorney would agree.
    I don't think that is legal advice at all, that's just advising someone to get legal advice.
    Another angle is the discloure states copper wire. Shouldn't the tin plating be noted in the disclosure if it is in fact tin plated.

    If it's not pure copper you gotta call it something other than copper.

    I wouldn't sweat it.


  22. #22
    James Duffin's Avatar
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    Default Re: What would you do?

    I have found the best place to observe aluminum branch circuit wiring is on the ground bar in the panel. It stands out like a sore thumb!


  23. #23
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    Default Re: What would you do?

    Yes... the panel does tell you what the branch circuitry is. However, in Texas we are required to do sampling of the receptacles to determine if there is pig-tailing (or whatever type) is present-- NOT OPTIONAL

    Rich


  24. #24
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    Default Re: What would you do?

    Good info....I think NC is not far behind with that requirement. What is the number of samples required? And is the pigtail method a consideration?

    Last edited by James Duffin; 05-09-2007 at 03:52 PM. Reason: Another question

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    Default Re: What would you do?

    From the TREC SOP
    "(11) inspect (if branch circuit aluminum wiring is discovered in the main or subpanels) a random sampling of accessible receptacles and switches and report as in need of repair the absence of appropriate connections, such as copper/aluminum approved devices, pig-tailed connections or crimp connections"
    for reference.

    Jim Luttrall
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  26. #26
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    Default Re: What would you do?

    That is a vague statement.....I only know one way to connect alum to copper for the pigtail. What is allowed in texas...


  27. #27
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    Default Re: What would you do?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Luttrall View Post
    From the TREC SOP
    "(11) inspect (if branch circuit aluminum wiring is discovered in the main or subpanels) a random sampling of accessible receptacles and switches and report as in need of repair the absence of appropriate connections, such as copper/aluminum approved devices, pig-tailed connections or crimp connections"
    for reference.

    That *does not* (I hope) mean you have to pull the receptacles out.

    The problem with that aluminum wiring is that it does not like to be bent and re-bent, it breaks.

    *IF* you pull it out, there is a good chance you could fracture, if not break, the aluminum conductor putting it back in! Who would be responsible for repairing it when the fracture or break was discovered later, or even if it fractured or broke as you put it back in? Your or TREC?

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  28. #28
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    Default Re: What would you do?

    That's a very good question Jerry. I don't know of any other way of checking this "random sampling" with out an Xray. Any suggestions from fellow Texas inspectors?


  29. #29
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    Default Re: What would you do?

    You don't take them out of the box.. Remove the cover and look at the connections - if visible ,, some are not, ie: back stabbed devices, some are painted ( another story). Also check for COALR markings on device. If you see aluminum single conductor connected to the device - it has not been pig tailed. Report as such. Regardless, when I find Aluminum single conductor on 15 and 20 amp light and plug circuits, I tell 'em to have an electrician check the system for safe connections. Light/fan fixture connections should also be checked by an electrician.


  30. #30
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    Default Re: What would you do?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Peck View Post
    That *does not* (I hope) mean you have to pull the receptacles out.

    The problem with that aluminum wiring is that it does not like to be bent and re-bent, it breaks.

    *IF* you pull it out, there is a good chance you could fracture, if not break, the aluminum conductor putting it back in! Who would be responsible for repairing it when the fracture or break was discovered later, or even if it fractured or broke as you put it back in? Your or TREC?
    Failed under normal testing procedures for aluminum wires.


    Captain


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    Default Re: What would you do?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mitchell Captain View Post
    Failed under normal testing procedures for aluminum wires.


    Captain
    Mitchell,

    There are no 'normal testing procedures for aluminum wires', so that would not work in this case.

    More like 'I told you the house needed re-wiring, this proves it.'.

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  32. #32
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    Default Re: What would you do?

    Sometimes you have to pull the receptacle to view the method of attachment as wel of the crimp splice used.

    Last edited by Richard Rushing; 05-10-2007 at 05:05 PM. Reason: brain fart-- didn't post a picture

  33. #33
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    Default Re: What would you do?

    TREC seems pretty clear about checking some of the receptacles and switches.

    Personally, if I suspected aluminum conductors on branch circuits, I would take lots of photos and take a cursory look at some of the receptacles and switches and then suggest that a "licensed electrician evaluate the system". I know some of you are going to say this is a cop out, but if you have at least performed the TREC requirements, you have done all you are required to do. Sure, it may look like aluminum, but you cant be completely sure without a more thorough evaluation (like maybe shutting off a circuit and disassembling a receptacle or switch), which is outside of the scope of inspection.

    Material identification based solely on a visual inspection is pretty subjective. Thats why alloy analyzers exist. Could a color blind person tell the difference? I dont know.

    My flame shield is on, fire away!




    11) inspect (if branch circuit aluminum wiring is discovered in the main or subpanels) a random sampling of accessible receptacles and switches and report as in need of repair the absence of appropriate connections, such as copper/aluminum approved devices, pig-tailed connections or crimp connections;


  34. #34
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    Default Re: What would you do?

    Quote Originally Posted by Richard Rushing View Post
    Sometimes you have to pull the receptacle to view the method of attachment as wel of the crimp splice used.
    'Pulling' it out is not the real problem. This starts to unbend the aluminum.

    Just 'do not push it back in', that's the real problem. This re-bends the aluminum, and that is when it is more likely to fail or fracture.

    Q: How do you know when a HI in Texas has already done their inspection?

    A: By all the receptacles left hanging out of the wall.



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  35. #35
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    Default Re: What would you do?

    Here are the pic's...

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  36. #36
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    Default Re: What would you do?

    Q: How do you know when a HI in Florida has already done their inspection?

    A: By all the neighobrs cats having been impregnated.


    RR


  37. #37
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    Default Re: What would you do?

    My cats are not pregnant thank you.

    Of course they are both males.

    Go figure.




  38. #38
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    Default Re: What would you do?

    I wish you guys had not started this Aluminium wire talk, I read this thread last night and bang today's house had the stuff.
    Fourtunatley there were several outlets hanging out of the walls, just snapped the pictures. And only two pointed screws in the panel cover, ungrounded pool pump casing, cable laying on top of the ground next to the pool running to the hot tub. The buyer was a structural engineer whose brother was an electrician, but it did not seem to scare him off, getting a "deal" on the house. I was wondering how much of a "deal" it was going to be after rewiring, reworking the pool, fixing the foundation, and replacing the roof.

    Jim Luttrall
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    Default Re: What would you do?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Luttrall View Post
    Fourtunatley there were several outlets hanging out of the walls, just snapped the pictures.
    Must have been inspected before and the deal feel through.

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  40. #40
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    Default Re: What would you do?

    Quote Originally Posted by Tim Moreira View Post
    My cats are not pregnant thank you.

    Of course they are both males.

    Go figure.

    Stay away from my cats!!

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  41. #41
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    Default Re: What would you do?

    This thread went to hell-in-a-hand-basket in a hellova hurry...
    RR


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