Do you smell smoke?

Recently inspected a 15 year-old home that was in really good shape and well-maintained. However, when I opened the electrical panel, found that 2 wires were loose in the breakers. It appears the lug had never been tightened, and the wires had insulation melted for a couple of inches…
The seller’s agent was there, and her eyes got big when I showed her and the seller. I don’t normally share anything with the seller, but since this was a safety issue, I felt it needed to be addressed immediately.
I did shut the power down and tighten the lugs on the entire panel, but made the seller agree he needed an electrician to check the circuits…He did wrap the melted wire with electrical tape…

Why did you tighten the lugs?


My opinion

I have to say that prof past experience tightening the lugs on the wires is not a great idea. Unless you are an electrician (licensed and insured as such) you take on a whole lot of liability from that action. Were the house to burn down later that day or someone were to be electrocuted you could end up in a world of trouble and your insurance company would not lift a finger to help you.

I don’t know that he really took on that much liability. The house was safer when he left than when he arrived, and he recommended that an electrician come back to make final repairs.

Not exactly related, but I keep my 6in1 with me at all times, and if I come across loose doorknobs or cabinet doors, I’ll usually just tighten them up. It’s faster than taking a picture and writing a sentence about that, and it makes me look like a problem solver.

If it burnt down they will blame it on the last person who messed with it.

Absolutely right. Good luck proving you we’re not the one who damaged something. Additionally, it may even be considered against licensing law to perform electrical work in the middle of a paid inspection when you are not a licensed electrician. You’re blurring the lines a bit.

Your state standards state that you will make no repairs on the home. You just opened yourself up to a whole lot of liability. Nothing wrong with informing the seller and the realtor, and putting it in wiring that you did so, but making the repair was a no no

You fix, you are liable for the next thing that goes wrong. Are you sure you fixed it right? Turn off the main breaker, call the listing agent, call an electrician. What Paul said.

Just today, I did an inspection where I smelled electrical smoke in just about every room. The aroma bottles plugged in to the walls where hot, and empty. I unplugged them, because it is what a normal person could do to fix a problem. Other than that, what Paul said.

Hey…just to play devils advocate. When you tightened those lugs for the seller did you use a torque wrench or torque screw driver? Terminations that are too tight can be a problem equally to being too loose in many cases.

So the reason I say this is…if you are going to stick anything into an electrical panel as a home inspector be sure you also comply with all safety requirements of your association as well as if tightening terminations that you torque them properly…as an attorney would say, Sir, you adjusted these terminations and then the fire started…did you properly torque them to the manufacturers specifications…If no…your honor HE/SHE caused the fire!

Not pickin on ya fella…just using it as a moment to express an informational thought.

Also another thought is…wrapping melted insulation with electrical tape is not the answer. The recommendation (and this should have come from the electrician so no worries on your end) is to cut the melted portion of the wire and insulation away, splice onto the existing wire using a proper wire binding device (um…wirenut but that’s a tradename of an ideal product…FYI) and install a new jumper over to the OCPD…yes, splices can be in the panel enclosure and in this case would have been the correct fix.

Just some things to think about…I think you did a GREAT JOB in finding these issues and pointing them out…so always take advice as what it is…advice to learn on as I learn something new everyday my friend.