Starting the "How to perform residential electrical inspections" course

Greetings everyone. I have a quick question about some verbiage that in in the first portion of this course. My background is as a fire marshal for local municipality so I deal with code enforcement on a day-to-day. I am brand new to the residential portions, and I am looking to pursue this career path.

So my question is this:
In the course “how to perform residential electrical inspections”, the slide for “Safety First” states that “this is also one of the few areas which most inspectors would report as a defect – systems or components that were acceptable when the home was built, but would now be considered a defect” It gives a lack of GFCIs in the kitchen as an example of a defect.

I may be looking at this the wrong way, but in code enforcement as a fire marshal, I have to look at the adopted code for when the structure was constructed to enforce certain items. If the structure was built to the then-adopted code, no changes made that would require bringing it to modern code, it is accepted. I can’t ask for an occupancy constructed in 1958 to install a fire alarm system if nothing has changed. Is this different for residential inspections?

Welcome Steven!

Good questions and I think it’s still up to the local jurisdictions call. Some may require systems to be updated to current code, while others do not require it. The area I’m in doesn’t require any updates, but I tell my clients that even though they don’t, it is recommended doing it this way based on current codes or standards of practice.

Thank you! So more or less you are marking it as a defect for general knowledge? It made more sense after reading it a couple of times. Just wanted to make sure I was understanding it correctly. Thank you for the response!

We can always mark things as a defect if they do not comply with how it is/or should have been done. But correcting the issue would be up to whether the local authorities require it or not.

I am always telling my clients that this is a defective installation, but there are no “Authority” that says it has to be corrected.

That’s why it’s important to understand what your local authority requires.

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NO GFCI protection in kitchen & bathrooms.
Recommend installing units for enhanced safety

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Here is an example sort of up your alley.

I was building back in 2004-2008. One county I was building in didn’t even have phase building inspectors until 2006. I think we did 3 or 4 home prior to 06’ with drive under garages with living space above. In 06’, they adopted a code that required all drive under garages with living/convertible living areas above, have an approved sprinkler system installed in the garage area. No retro fits for anything built prior to.

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Steven, the word you need to forget here is “code.” I personally use the phrase “modern safety standards.” Most people would like their homes to be as safe as possible for their families.

I’m an old fart. This means I grew up without the comfort of bicycle helmets, seat belts, smoke alarms, tamper proof outlets, GFCI, AFCI and a lot of other acronyms. I don’t remember eating paint chips or sticking things in outlets and had the usual assortment of bumps scrapes and head bangs growing up. I can hardly recommend that my clients follow that example, So I recommend those items that have become "Modern Safety Standards."

Picture of my wife in the 50’s on her Grandma’s front porch in Hermitage, PA You can bet that’s lead paint flaking off the porch. Not acceptable today!


IMO as a code official you’re looking at it correctly but as a HI I believe that the SOP would be to include in your report things that can enhance safety. For me I don’t like the word defect when reporting something that was code complaint when installed. That’s just my opinion and may not be in line with the wording required in one’s SOP.

Thomas made a good point about jurisdictions. Here in NJ there is no general requirement to bring everything up to the current code. In fact we have a separate part of our building code called the Rehabilitation Code where even during renovations things that fall under the rehab code are not required to be brought up to the current code. So you could inspect something that was just completed (permitted and inspected) under the rehab code and still find “defects”.

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Exactly. Remember, (unless hired to perform) you are NOT doing a ‘Code’ inspection. That is left to the AHJ/Government to enforce. We ‘enforce’ nothing, and have no authority to do so. My (our) job as hired is to advise our clients of systems and components that are failing and in need of repair, and are not considered safe for my clients families benefit. Consider this… the majority of my inspections are of Century Homes without most all modern safety features. Does that mean my clients do not deserve to have those safety features in their home today? Just because ‘Code’ didn’t exist 125 years ago (mostly) my clients should lives their lives fearful of a plethora of grandfathered, outdated acceptable methods? I-think-not!

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I’m not sure how I feel about that word either. I do like what Robert stated when he said he uses the phrase “modern safety standards”. After reading everyone’s responses, I am looking at it from a different point of view.

You are right. You will find that there are words and phrases that home inspectors often use incorrectly. “Defect” is among the words that are often misused by inspectors. If something is performing as it was intended to perform, it is not a defect regardless of when it was made.

An imperfection or abnormalitythat impairs quality, function, or utility:


You are looking at this the wrong way. Use your background within the scope of a InterNACHI CPI home inspector. You are no longer a Fire Marshal. SOP Exclusions: H. compliance with codes or regulations.