Paint/plaster in panel

Just curious how serious you guys get with foreign substances in the panel?
I know its wrong, and a code issue: (and I cite this code in the report for builders)

110.12(B) Integrity of Electrical Equipment and Connections:
Internal parts of electrical equipment, including busbars, wiring terminals, insulators, and other surfaces, shall not be damaged or contaminated by foreign materials such as paint, plaster, cleaners, abrasives, or corrosive residues. There shall be no damaged parts that may adversely affect safe operation or mechanical strength of the equipment such as parts that are broken; bent; cut; or deteriorated by corrosion, chemical action, or overheating.

But how many think it would actually ever cause an issue?
I called one out on an 11th month warranty, and the builder of course said: “the panel is the only thing not covered in the warranty. Overspray on the electric panel is normal to see on new production homes, and will not affect the function of the panel at all” haha

Yeah, normal for lazy painters and drywallers. Just because its normal doesnt make it right.

To be honest, I dont think it would ever be an issue, I only call it out for my own liability. But now that I did, the client is worried about it, and wants to fight the builder on it.


I would call it out. A little splatter is not a huge deal, but the lower main bus area looks like it is coated pretty good. The painter can come with a little paint thinner and get that cleaned up would be my opinion.


That panel has to go bye bye or the owner will be stuck with it when selling.

Paint contamination observed in interior of electric panel. Safety hazard, fire
hazard, and maintenance concern.
Paint can interfere with proper connections between electric components or proper
operation of circuit breakers, creating conditions where proper grounding and
electrical connections are not present, possibly causing brown-outs, arcing, and
fires. Paint can also cause the wire insulation to deteriorate.
No approved method exists for cleaning contaminants from panel interiors or
components such as bus or terminal bars, circuit breakers or fuses.
The panel and/or components inside may need replacing.


Yep, that was my thought as well


I wouldn’t place any cleaner inside. It may further reduce the mechanical strength of the equipment.
Where’s Robert … … … @rmeier2

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From my understanding, there is no approved method for cleaning the panel. Oh, marc said that too :slight_smile: (Although it seems like that would be fine, but every breaker would need to be pulled out

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Yep, the breakers will have to be pulled (and power off of course, lol). Just gotta clean up the metal buss bars, which paint thinner or acetone is not going to hurt in my opinion. I personally wouldn’t be worried about the splatter on the enclosure. Just the connecting points.


I agree with your statement above. When I was a builder, the electricians around here usually put a temporary cardboard cover over the service panel for safety and contamination. I’ve seen painters cover it with paper too. After this call back by the buyer, I bet this GC/builder will make sure the panel box interior never gets overspray again. A painful le$$on never to be repeated. Maybe the painter/drywaller will end up with the bill…


Call it out every time I see it and use the same NEC reference.

When asked if it will cause an issue I tell the client if I owned a crystal ball I wouldn’t be here doing your inspection.

This issue has actually vastly improved over the past few years as I have seen fewer and fewer cases in new construction.


It’s unfortunate the electrician didn’t say something immediately.

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Absolutely Michael.
When I bump into a new home inspection, I tell the client my logical guess is the panel got wired & cover is left off for part of the electrical final. Power is still off.
OOPS! Here’s comes Miguel with the paint spray & blasts everything in the garage.

Call out the foreign debris in the panel. I would also call out that panel is not installed flush or protruding past the sheetrock.

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We use denatured alcohol to clean bus bars. It won’t harm the plating on the bus if you don’t rub too hard. I’m not sure how well it would work on dried latex paint. From Square D:

How to clean oxidation off tin or silver plated circuit breaker bus bars.

Should oxidation be cleaned from circuit breaker bus bar before attaching bus bar?

Product Line:
Circuit Breakers

MCCB and ACB like Powerpact R and Masterpact NT, NW, MTZ


Yes, the oxidation should be cleaned off before attaching bus bar.

Schneider Electric Services uses denatured alcohol and scotch-brite if needed, making sure not to go to hard on it so you don’t remove the tin or silver plating. However, they do not have this procedure or chemicals in any official document. But it seems to be proven.


Can’t do that though, read 110.12(B). The plastic in the panel that separate the bus bars from each other and from the panel body act as insulation will not take kindly to solvents. The original paint on the panel body may also get damaged. Then you could potentially get hot bus bar to neutral/ground bus bar arcing, hot to panel arcing, or other problems, unless you take a Q-tip and just brush all of the hot bus bar stabs and clean each hole in the neutral/ground bus? Pretty sure that would take way too long labor wise and has a much higher room for error.

Contractor and finesse just don’t go well together. Replacement is the safer option.

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Martin do you think that it’s more than 1/4"? Looks close to be compliant from the photo.

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Gotta do it somewhat carefully and with a little finess.

I wouldn’t recommend trying to clean the overspray off of the painted panel enclosure. The overspray does no harm there anyway.

Truth. :+1:

That’s in a masonry or brick wall. This panel is installed in a wall constructed of combustible material and must be installed flush with the finished surface or protrude from.

Last I checked Sheetrock is combustible.

Drywall is considered a noncombustible material so up to 1/4" setback would be allowed.

Where is drywall considered a non combustible material? So you can run a furnace or water heater B vent in contact with drywall…BS!

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By whom? I’ve taken a lot of classes from some really smart presenters over the years and always ask them this exact question. Answer is always “yes, drywall is considered a combustible.” And, fwiw, when I see the remnants of a house fire I’ve never seen the drywall lying on the ground.

As for OP’s question, I will write up anything more than just a couple specs that I can chip/clean away. I know most times it will never be a problem but as others have said, the next guy will likely call it out and then my phone will ring.

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