Home inspector and electrician disagree
Q. The lady who bought our home hired a home inspector and then nearly drove us nuts with repair demands. The main problem was a faulty finding in the inspection report. Our home was built five years ago, and we had an excellent electrician install the wiring. The home inspector said the garage outlets have no ground fault protection. Our electrician said the garage outlets were wired according to code, and he certified this in writing. It wasn't easy, but we finally got the buyer to accept this assurance. What I'd like to know is, how can sellers protect themselves from annoying mistakes by know-it-all home inspectors?
A. What you currently have are the contradictory opinions of two professionals. The buyers' home inspector reported a faulty electrical condition. This was apparently resolved by written assurances to the contrary from your electrician. What is missing from your story is the part about the electrician coming to your home and testing the garage outlets to confirm that they are truly equipped with ground fault protection. Regardless of qualifications and competence, no electrician is exempt from potential human errors.
Rather than rushing to judgment against the home inspector, it would be prudent to test and examine the garage outlets, to consider the possibility that there was an unintended oversight when the home was built. It is also possible that one of the ground fault devices, installed and functional at the time of construction, became defective at a later date.
Here is a simple test that anyone can perform, with or without electrical expertise. Each of the ground-fault outlets in your home is equipped with a built-in test button. When the test button is pressed, the power to the outlet circuit is interrupted. If you push the test buttons on each of the ground-fault outlets, the power should be off at each of the garage outlets. Once this is done, plug an appliance, such as a lamp or radio, into each outlet. If the outlets still have power, then they lack ground fault protection and the electrician has some corrective work to perform.
The home inspector should also be given an opportunity to defend the findings in the inspection report. The inspector, or course, is just as prone to possible errors as the electrician, but in all fairness, shouldn't the inspector be afforded as much chance as the electrician to present his case? The issue being disputed is not academic; it's a matter of personal safety.
Ground-fault outlets, known as ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCI), are intended to protect people from electrical shock or electrocution in the event of a ground fault. For example, if a person were using an electrical tool while standing on a wet floor in the garage, ground fault protection could be a life saver. That is why you should determine with certainty whether the electrician or the home inspector is correct in this situation.
• To write to Barry Stone, visit him on the web at www.housedetective.com, or write AMG, 1776 Jami Lee Court, Suite 218, San Luis Obispo, CA 94301.
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