Hazardous Scenarios- Water and Electrical

by | Mar 17, 2016

I was inspecting a house recently, and I came across a potential deadly combination: water and electrical. When I saw this it took a few moments for my brain to register what I was looking at. At the time I was on the search for the washing machine faucets, both hot and cold, but I couldn’t find them because the default for my brain doesn’t expect to have to push aside a “nest” of electrical wiring to find these items. What made it even more camouflaged was that rags were tied in a knot around the valves I was looking at. As the reality of what I was staring at unfolded itself, I was dumbfounded. I didn’t want to believe what I was seeing.

First, I noticed the tangle of electrical wiring sitting on a homemade shelf of some sort, then I noticed the shelf had rags tied in knots under the wiring. Those were the quick observations. then after several moments passed, and I even looked away for a moment still on the search for the faucets, I looked back and realized. That shelf isn’t a shelf at all, and those rags were the tale tale sign of a water leak and their intended purpose was to stop a dripping water faucet.

Now, I have respect for electricity. I have been shocked, bitten and blown back from the improper use of electrical wiring. We like to call those “life’s lessons”. So when I was faced with the result of a terrible decision made by another, I did what any cautious inspector would do.20160315_142737 I took a picture of it. Ok, Ok. sure, it’s easy to see it now that I have already warmed you up to what was coming, but can you see where this would be hard to identify when you aren’t expecting it? These are the everyday opportunities of an inspector, we just have to be ready to accept them.

Now, the question is, what is the defect write up? Is it obvious? Well, only when you think about the sale of a home to another individual. The current occupant will be packing up and leaving soon, which means they will be taking all of their belongings with them, including this power strip and tangle of cords…I hope. The defect I recorded was that the valves were probably leaking and needed to be replaced. Since I included this picture in the report, I did have to clarify that the wires would have to be removed before they took ownership, which leaves only one defect of a leaky water fixture, not a critical safety issue of water and electricity potentially making contact.

I brought my client, the perspective buyer, over to see what I had uncovered, and I even had to explain it to them because they didn’t have the benefit of reading this blog post. The look on their faces was very similar to mine the first time I saw it. Fortunately, I had time to adjust and make sense of the whole thing for them, and not have the look of concern that I had the first time I figured it out.

My hope is those of you who are reading this already know this would be a bad idea. Those of you who are looking at this and thinking to yourself, ‘Hmm, I think this is the same situation I have in my laundry room’, quietly get up, and go turn the breaker off in the electric panel first. Then think of another way to mount that power strip. Possibly mount it onto the wall securely while you figure out if all of those cords are really necessary in the first place. Maybe what you really need is an electrician to come and install a few more plugs into the area with GFCI protection. Because, let’s face it, is the cost of hiring a professional higher than the value you put on you and your family’s life?