Can you help me with an Inspection problem?

I came across a home today that had an electrical breaker panel where all the ground wires in it had turned black. - See attached Pics.
We checked outlets & switches throughout the home the grounds in the walls we checked were nice and copper colored.
The A/C coils were copper and okay. Checked the drywall - Made in USA
The house was built in 2005 but this not a case of “chinese drywall”.
What else would do this?




Contaminated drywall is my first thought. Is this a relatively new build in Florida, by chance?

We thought of that too. If you read the post you’ll see we checked for it and all the other signs. This is the ONLY place in the home that we found that has discoloration on the copper wires … (Read the post.)

I remember some discussion on here and INews about that. Here are some links.

Jay I have no idea where you are from. But Chinese drywall does react more in a humid area. If this panel is in the garage and the house has been occupied. Maybe it is Chinese Drywall and this is the most humid part of the residence. Google Florida department of health and read about the Chinese Drywall and how to visually inspect and there is a ton of information about it. Guess what, you then have a government agency in writing…backing up what you are saying. That looks like Chinese Drywall to me. We have found about 300 homes here in SW Florida with it. One of them was a $2,000,000 built in the year 2000…

What did the copper lines on the evaporator coil look like?

The house was built in 2005, that looks like a classic case of Chinese Drywall. Was the panel on an interior garage wall (meaning a fire separation wall) or on an exterior wall?

I found a home with bad stuff a couple of weeks ago, and the only receptacles with black wiring were two in the kitchen, one in the bordering foyer and one in the bordering laundry room. It was confirmed that those walls were the only ones in the home with the bad product.

Jay, first of all there is no reason to get an attitude with Jeff. He offered an opinion for you to consider. Second, edit your personal profile so we know what area you are in, this will help us arrive at a better solution to your question. Third, I agree with these guys, looks like chinese drywall to me. Unless you checked every piece of drywall installed in the home, that is what I would guess. Now, the whole house may not be done in the chinese drywall, but somewhere in that home I suspect there is some. With the looks of your panel there I just think you can’t rule it our, unless you have checked every piece of drywall in the home. Was that the case?

Now guys, #1 if you want to jump on my case for having an “attitude” you may. Feel free to do it & by the way egg me on some more … then do it again if you like
#2, I am in Florida so Jump all over that “chinese drywall” some more.
#3, Read the post again, Think for a moment, why did Jay rule out “chinese drywall” in the post, surely he knew you guys would jump all over him. Why did he use the words "We Checked …"
#4 No we didn’t pull every piece of drywall down in the home.
But WE not just ME but We checked and checked and checked and then checked some more.
I have inspected homes with “chinese drywall” and know the tell tail signs and have found the “chinese drywall”.
I have inspected homes in this same development and NOT found any “chinese drywall” previously.
#5 I also have a reason why I am very careful before using the words “suspect chinese drywall” -
Here’s my story:
I once inspected a townhouse that had every tell tail signs of chinese drywall even a smell. But I suspected not as I found no signs of the “chinese drywall” itself. I told the buyer I had to hold the report a day or so while I research the quandary I had with this particular find I had. the buyer freaked out & replied I’ve read about this online it’s CHINESE DRYWALL !!! She had the realtor, the builder & developer over at the home everyone was just stunned & freaking out as this finding would affect all the other townhomes connected …
Everyone mentioned was involved cutting holes in the walls, checking panels, swearing they did not use “chinese drywall” …
and as the builders and developers had said, none was found. Yet the (not 1 but) TWO (2) A/C coils were corroded, pitted along with copper wires … and the smell
It seems the Townhome was not lived in for over a year although the electric and A/C were on and running the water had been turned off at the main to prevent any flooding while the owners were not there …
Well it seems in speaking to the HVAC Tech & the Electrician at the site I had mentioned that when I first came in to inspect the townhome I did notice that all the traps were dried up and that is what I attributed the smell to.
BINGO! The Builder & Developer had the townhome & sewer lines tested and concluded
This is the result of higher than normal levels of hydrogen sulfide** gases (or **hydrogen sulphide) ****in the air constantly passing by / through the air handler at a rapid speed due to the close proximity of the water treatment plant to the development and the open traps in the townhome for (6 - 12 months) long periods of time.

[FONT=Arial][FONT=Verdana]So if you know of something else that may cause this problem … Please speak up.**[/FONT]
[FONT=Verdana]Thank you.[/FONT]

If there are no other signs it:

  1. may still be Chinese drywall, but you seemed to have ruled that one out

  2. Could be a loose neutral.

  3. There is also a contaminate in the soil that will cause the wires to turn black (cant think if the name right now).

Let me know where you are in Florida. I might be able to get more information.

I found an answer similar to your “Bingo moment” on Mike Holt’s forum. I started to post it but I thought why waste my time with your attitude. Something to think about…

Thanks Bill - This ones in eastern Orlando area.

That condition is a chemical reaction on the copper from “some” environmental condition. It just so happens that drywall is the most prominent culprit currently.

You’re right, I didn’t read your entire post. You can have an attitude with me, I don’t mind. I’ll still give my opinion :wink:

Thanks Jeff,
I just want to say.

I apologies to all who think I have an “attitude”.
I don’t.
I am just strong willed when it comes to concluding a "quick conclusion on the “chinese drywall” and walking away which I have heard about many a “home inspector” do when stumped .
I started the inspection checking for chinese drywall myself, (I checked) then called for help, thus made it a We checked. We put more eyes on it and still didn’t find any or any more signs that pointed to “chinese drywall” (I actually have a piece of the drywall from around the breaker box). We spent 3 hours (6 man-hours looking just for signs of chinese drywall) so yes that plus my above statement is why I have ruled it out from post #1.

Personally I think sometimes if it supposed to be a Duck but it is kind of a ugly duckling, things sometimes turn out to be different.

Here are a couple of replies I have recieved from local electricians:


When something is burned that means the connection has overheated, typically because of a loose connection. Since all the ground wire are equally colored then they all would have to be loose. They all couldn’t be loose. It looks like to me the neutral wires are discolored as well and the Aluminum ground bar doesn’t show sign of overheating.

The drywall is a possibility. Maybe the contractor used one bad sheet near the panel.

If the ground wires are in fact “burned”, The only thing could be a bad neutral connection between the panel and transformer. Thus causing the current to travel across the ground wire.



I agree the wires do not look right….only two things would do this ( 1 ) chemical ( 2 ) heat
I would look at first means of bonding where the power companies neutral and the grounding electrode are connected together . make sure they are not loose and that they are connected together properly and that the bond is tight at the ground rod connection. Has the homeowner experienced and flickering of lights?


That would be my opinion as well. If the problem is localized to the panel and not throughout the home(and no other electrical wiring issues), it is very possible that only a few(or one) sheet of “chinese” drywall happened to be at the panel. Anything is possible.

I would agree with the electricians if the wires were burnt, which I don’t believe to be the case. I’m sticking with “chemical reaction.” I can’t offer any additional theories for the source.

After a little research, this is what I came up with.

Cupric sulfide. Usually a bad ground, loose ground or neutral, or not enough grounding due to soil like acidic soil. Since it is only in the panel I would not rule out a lightning strike or chemicals stored in the garage.

Thanks Jay. No problem, welcome to NACHI;-)

No problem Jay. I was just pointing out that it could be a possibility that a few sheets were used in the area of the panel. I read your original posts several times before I posted to make sure I hadn’t misunderstood you. Welcome aboard.

Hey Jeff - Thinking “chemical reaction.” Is in fact Okay as long as we think outside of that “chinese box”. It’s really hard to find something that is just not there. -
I went back over to the house this afternoon to check further as suggested by electrician & all …
Everything is good.
Checking all wires in the breaker box again I can see different degrees and colors of oxidation and now believe this is a result of some sort of chemical reaction. As this is in the garage perhaps the former owners stored something toxic in there that caused this reaction. (?) But as this is a Foreclosure the “what” may remain unknown.

Thanks for everyones help.

A foreclosure? Well maybe this was a meth lab!