Roughly a month being in business, my phone rings around 7pm. It was my first call for a kitchen remodel. I coordinated a meeting with the General Contractor (GC) in the morning. The GC informed me that he had the drywall and cabinets removed and cabinet layout onsite. “You don’t have to add circuits; the wire is already there.”
Like any good blue-collar craftsmen, I arrive on time. At idle, my impulsive electrician’s brain takes hold, observing overhead service entry drops, service sizes and slanted porch lights. First, I guess the year the house was built. My stab is around 65′-70’s and remodeled several times. Second, I noticed services in the area had been mostly upgraded; this one has not. My observation of the service
drop cable (triplex) was that it was discolored, and the mast sticking out of the house, rusted.
Waiting around for the GC in my Nissan Leaf, reminiscing the Journeyman grind on several 200 amp service upgrades, I found the service entry cable was compromised. Shiny aluminum peaking through the cracks of the unfused conductors, was trying to make first contact. The compromised conductors were possibly due to over amprage. However, free ambient air conductor’s ampacity ratings are ridiculous high. It could have been the cause, but unlikely. Most likely, it was not the proper UV rated insulation. Most service entry cables are rated for direct sunlight, but you have to look at the outer jacket or the manufacturer’s website. XHHW and XHHW-2 is rated for sunlight resistance, but you have to be careful because some manufacturers make sunlight resistant specs for only gauges #1 and up. The wire should say something along the lines of “SUNLIGHT RESISTANT” or “SUNRES”. I know all UF and PV wire is properly rated for direct sunlight exposure at any gauge. A good inspector should look for the proper rating in the service meter enclosure, on the load side of the service meter, on the insulation.
A truck with 4 pieces of scotch tape still on the back window, nosed into the driveway. We got out of our vehicles and had a meet-and-greet; he had brought his wife with him. We looked at the kitchen remodel that I was originally called about; the cabinets were removed and all I saw were beautiful Douglas fur, 16 inches on center studs, 1970’s silver/black asbestos wire and, of course, ugly plumbing. A typical scenario: drywall removed, cabinets gutted, easily a $4,000+ project for a well established electrical contractor. I didn’t immediately give him the good ol’ boy price; I needed to have a look-see at that main disconnect panel first.
I got to the basement, pulled off the cover, and I saw the image below. What do you see? It is a major one.
Click to enhance
If you’re a Master Electrician, you may have noticed:
Rust on the breaker
Plastic around the panel
Water discoloration around the panel
The general contractor was standing next to me. I had to clue him in; electricity and water don’t mix (unless you have a GFCI protecting the circuit or the proper NEMA rated enclsoure). Water in your main electrical panel? It’s compromised and needs to be replaced. I told the general contractor to let the homeowner know that this is a major problem and that the kitchen can wait.
Later that night, I called him up and told him the price for the kitchen remodel, and apparently it was too high ($2558). And as for the Soggy Panel? His response, unfortunately, was, “The home owner is on a budget and can’t replace it.”
At that moment I realized, owning my own electrical contracting business is going to be harder than I thought.