Obligation to open a service panel during a Home Inspection

Hi Fellow Inspectors,

I’m trying to find out what is the average Home Inspector’s practice when inspecting a residence during a pre-purchase inspection with respect to opening i.e. “taking off” the front panel to see how the connections are made etc.

My question to you is:

  • Do you do it as part of your inspection?
  • Are you obligated to do it where you inspect?
  • Which Standard of Practice / law governs this where you inspect

I inspect in more than one jurisdiction and the practice varies even within one jurisdiction and your answers would be informative and most welcome.




I inspect in Minnesota state (occasionally Iowa)…

  1. Yes, always, unless there is a condition present that potentially effects my personal safety.

  2. No, there are no licensing requirements at this time.

  3. As an inspector in Minnesota (Iowa) with no licensing laws, my personal SOP is all that is needed, but as a member of InterNachi, the InterNachi SOP is what I comply with.


  • Do you do it as part of your inspection? Whenever possible.
  • Are you obligated to do it where you inspect? “Expected” (not obligated) when the panel is safely accessible.
  • Which Standard of Practice / law governs this where you inspect? We have no state law/requirement with regard to Home Inspections in CA, so nationally recognized standards are the normal guide.

I would question a report that didn’t involve inspecting the inside of a panel. Unless if were unsafe of course.

I agree with Robert M!

My Inspectors would use the same screwdriver (For WDI Probing)
that they used to remove Electrical Panel Covers.

If a 24 inch Screwdriver did not fit
to remove panel cover screws…
Panel did not have proper access (30 inch required)…

End of Panel Inspection…

I’m not aware of any national or state standards of practice that do not require an inspector to remove a panel cover to inspect the interior components, unless there is a valid reason not to like an unsafe condition.

Even in states without licensing, where an inspector also does not belong to an inspection association which require members to follow the association’s standards, the inspection agreement better reference a nationally recognized SOP for liability reasons.

JMO & 2-Nickels … :wink:

The only time I never removed the panel it was caulked shut and removing would damage the wall. Asked owner of home to remove and they refused. If the cover is not removed what is hiding in there. I always remove unless I run into another situation like this

North Carolina is a Licensed state and the SOP requires removal of the cover unless its not readily accessable or its unsafe. There is no difference between an inspection for the seller or buyer.

In Wisconsin:http://legis.wisconsin.gov/rsb/code/rl/rl134.pdf
(7) ELECTRICAL SYSTEMS. (a) A home inspector shall
observe and describe the condition of all of the following:

  1. Service entrance conductors.
  2. Service equipment, grounding equipment, main over current
  3. Main and distribution panels, including their location.
  4. Amperage and voltage ratings of the service, including
    whether service type is overhead or underground.
  5. Branch circuit conductors, their over current devices, and
    the compatibility of their ampacities and voltages, including any
    aluminum branch circuit wiring.

I don’t know how many of these items can be reported on, especially number 5, without removing the dead front.

Your question raises another issue that should be addressed, IMO.

If you have a comfort issue that causes you to hesitate to remove the dead front — don’t do it until you are comfortable. Killing yourself and/or damaging someone’s property is never the proper manner in which to conduct a home inspection.

Until you are comfortable, however, refrain from doing home inspections for this part of an inspection is very important and should not be excluded unless it cannot be done safely. Find someone to tag along with until you feel up to snuff.

I frequently remove panels / BUT not always.

Last week, I had a 5’ high panel (600amps / 3 phase) with a 24" wide steel tool bench (about 12’ long in front of it). It had water dripping out of the corner of the panel (conduit had pulled loose from meter base outside). I debated for probably 7-8 seconds / Then told buyer and realtor I was not going to access the panel. Both threw a hissy and told me that was MY job.

I politely laid my 6-in-1 screwdriver and electric screwdriver on the tool bench, went and sat down on a bar stool and said “I’ll discount my fee $100 and watch either of you 2 do it”.

5 minutes later with no takers we proceeded onward. I’ll bet there is some young DUMBO inspector that thinks opening that would be his DUTY.

I’m guessing Gilles being in Canada asked the question with regard to the electrical codes not allowing anyone but a Licensed Electrician legally able (by law) to remove a Panel Cover…

I believe I’ve seen this discussed several times regarding Canadian Electric Codes and/or Violations.

Oh my wouldn’t that shorten my inspections?

I had an inspection where the generator lockout was installed and also on the same panel they cur (altered the panel cover to fit a 90 degree fitting into the front of the panel. I decided against so much disassembly of the altered panel but noted it so and tested all of the outlets, lights etc. Good Call???:mrgreen:


Legally I don’t know, but instead of trying to write down in words, let me just show you what I found on an inspection a couple of weeks ago.

Now just think if I only viewed them the front and the cover in place…

Pretty normal looking from front view…

Now the rest of the story…without panel removal you would not have seen this…

See what I mean?

I will chime in on this one! The answer is no we have no ability to open a panel however from my personal talk with the ESA authority they cannot interfere with a Home Inspector because they are not in control of any individual that does not have to be Licensed. Home Inspectors fit into this category. Insurance adjuster also said it is not our job either however they have no control over the Home Inspectors. Now if the Home Inspector did not follow all the requirements in safety and did not take the basic training to understand the dangers then they may be faced with charges if something does go seriously wrong because of carelessness.