Understanding Electrical Inspection

What is the purpose of a residential electrical inspection? The inspection is designed to verify that your installation meets minimum requirements for electrical safety, according to current codes. In other words, its purpose is to protect you, the homeowner, as well as 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 older home, you will need a building permit. This is also the case when you are having the electrical system installed in a newly constructed home.

You are required by law to apply for, pay for, and receive the proper local permit before any electrical work begins. Only the homeowner or electrical contractor who will be performing 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 will need to undergo an electrical inspection and approval, usually by the same body that issued your permit. The rough inspection is first, when installation of the electric box and all the wiring has been done but before the wiring has been covered by your wall material. Second is the final inspection, when all your home construction has been completed. Please note that your electrical system must pass a 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,and 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, existing work.

How should you proceed if your electrical system fails the inspection? The details vary, depending on your locale. However, the basic procedure is the same. If the inspection reveals any problems, you or your electrician will need to correct the issue and have it re-inspected. There might or might not be a fee for the re-inspection. In some regions, this re-inspection is performed by a third party. Generally you are not required to obtain a new permit prior to making corrections, as they are considered part of the original work. If you disagree with the reason for the failure (and the correction involved is time-consuming and expensive), you may be able to appeal.

What will happen if you don’t bother to get 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 it is a safety hazard. You may face steep fines for failing to comply or to rectify any safety code violations discovered during the inspection.