Understanding Electrical Inspection

By Dmitry G (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 ], via Wikimedia CommonsWhat is the purpose of a residential electrical inspection? The electrical inspection verifies that your installation meets minimum requirements for electrical safety, according to current codes. In other words, its purpose is to protect you, the homeowner, and anyone else who will be occupying the premises, from fire or electrocution.

When is a building permit required for work on your home's electrical system? When you plan to alter your existing electrical system or retrofit an entirely new installation in an old home, you'll need a permit. This is also the case when the electrical system is installed in a newly constructed home. The law requires you to request, pay for, and receive the proper local permit before any electrical work begins. Only the homeowner or the electrical contractor you hire to perform the installation is authorized to apply for the permit.

What is the difference between a rough and a final inspection? There are at least two stages at which you'll need to undergo electrical inspection and approval, usually by the same body that issued your permit. Rough inspection is first, when installation of the electric box and all wiring is finished but before the wiring's been covered by your wall material. Next is final inspection, when all your home construction has been completed. NOTE: Your electrical system must pass final inspection before occupancy is permitted.

Which areas does the inspection cover? Guidelines specifying the electrical inspection criteria for your location may be obtained at the time you apply for your permit. The basic areas are:

  • equipment listing and labeling
  • electrical services
  • general circuitry
  • AFCI (arc-fault) protection
  • GFCI (ground fault) protection
  • grounding and bonding
  • underground wiring
  • wiring methods.

Be aware that if the inspector is called in to inspect a specific upgrade, he may notice -- and write up -- a violation in other, already existing work.

What to do if your electrical system fails inspection? Details vary, depending on your locale. However, the basic procedure is this: If inspection reveals a problem, you or your electrician will need to correct it and have the system inspected again. There might or might not be a fee for re-inspection. In some regions, a third party performs re-inspection. Generally you don't need a new permit to make corrections, which are considered part of the original work. If you disagree with the rationale for the failure (and the correction is time-consuming and expensive), you may be able to appeal.

What happens if you don't bother with a building permit or an inspection? Failure to complete the permit, inspection, and approval process can seriously jeopardize your ability to finance, sell, insure, or collect on insurance claims related to your home. That is, of course, not to mention the fact that faulty electrical work is a safety hazard. You may face steep fines for failure to comply or to rectify any code violations discovered during the inspection.

Laura Firszt writes for networx.com.

Updated December 30, 2018.

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