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Electrical inspections: Why they’re critical for home safety

What are home electrical inspections?

To ensure the safety and functionality of a home renovation involving electrical modifications, you must obtain a permit and conduct an electrical inspection. These code inspections are first conducted to comply with the home’s initial construction and should occur whenever electrical circuits are added, changed, or altered. During an electrical inspection, a certified electrical inspector from Labor and Industries (L&I) or a local building department will closely examine the home’s wiring.

Three separate inspections occur during the electrical installation. The first inspection is called a “Cover,” and takes place when all the electrical wiring has been pulled through the home’s wall framing and the junctions and boxes have been installed. The inspector will ensure all the wiring is correctly installed before covering it with drywall.

The second inspection is referred to as the “Service and Feeder” inspection. At this time, the electrical inspector will inspect the electrical mast, electrical panel, grounding, bonding, and branch circuits of the electrical system.

The third inspection, called the “Final,” occurs when the electrical system is fully installed and operational—think move-in ready.

The electrical inspector will either pass or fail the wiring installation for all three inspections, which is why it’s essential to have a licensed and qualified electrician perform the electrical work.

While the State of Washington allows homeowners to obtain permits and perform their own electrical work, it is strongly discouraged due to the complexities of electrical wiring. If any electrical work is needed in the home, be sure to have it done by a certified professional who can ensure compliance with electrical codes and regulations. All too often, our home inspectors find improper wiring that was either installed by a homeowner or a non-professional, creating a dangerous fire hazard.

How do home inspections and electrical inspections differ?

Understanding the difference between home and electrical inspections is essential, as they serve different purposes.

Washington State home inspectors have general knowledge about electrical systems, allowing them to identify problem areas. Alternatively, electrical inspectors specialize in the governing codes and complexities of wiring a home. While home inspectors inspect a home during the purchase or sale of a property, electrical inspectors will inspect the wiring of new homes and remodels for the homeowner before it is concealed behind drywall and other finished surfaces.

Home inspectors visually inspect and test the electrical system to ensure electrical components function properly. During these inspections, finding improper wiring is a very common occurrence, especially for existing residences that are ten years or older. In fact, the older the property is, the more likely there will be electrical issues, such as improper homeowner wiring. This is why it is so important to have a home fully inspected by a licensed home inspector prior to purchase.

It’s important to note that code-compliant electrical inspections are not part of a regular home inspection, and the electrical permit has nothing to do with purchasing a house. It is solely for homeowners who want to upgrade their electrical systems during a remodel or during a new construction project to ensure the wiring is safe and compliant with local code regulations.

Before any electrical work on a property is started, check L&I’s Electrical Work on Residential Property, which provides an overview of the type of work that requires permits, how to make an electrical inspection request, and much more.

Why home inspections are critical for home safety

Electrical hazards in the home can pose a serious threat. Zoom’s certified home inspectors are trained to uncover various electrical issues, including outdated wiring, improperly wired circuits, exposed wires, and arcing wires.

Having a certified home inspector inspect your home’s electrical system ensures your home and family are safe by identifying potential hazards caused by faulty wiring, overloaded circuits, and outdated components so a licensed electrician can make the necessary repairs.

Benefits of a home inspection

A home inspection is the first step toward a safer, more efficient home and can give you peace of mind knowing that your home is up to snuff.

A home inspector also:

  • Inspects the service entrance, wiring of electrical panels, sub-panels, grounding, and branch circuits
  • Tests GFCI receptacles, appliances, and fixtures
  • Identifies the type of wiring used in the home
  • Notifies the client of outdated wiring and components
  • Locates and documents instances of improper wiring
  • Identifies needed electrical repairs of non-functioning components
  • If you’re selling, it helps to avoid potential problems and issues arising during the sale process

If we identify improperly installed wiring, we will detail the concerns in the written report with photos, and recommend the issue be properly corrected by a qualified electrical contractor.

Electrical questions your home inspector can answer

You can obtain useful information about the home’s electrical system by asking your home inspector some of the following questions:

  1. Where is the main electric shutoff located?
  2. How old is the electrical panel?
  3. What is the capacity of the electrical panel?
  4. Does the electrical panel smell, heat up, or make sounds?
  5. Is the kitchen’s electrical system set up properly?
  6. Are kitchen, bathroom, and exterior receptacles GFCI-protected?
  7. What type of wiring does the home have?
  8. What should I do if the inspection reveals electrical issues?

With Zoom Home Inspections, you can rest assured that your home is in good hands with our thorough inspections—allowing you to make an informed decision about the purchase of a home. To schedule your inspection with us, click here to find a time that works best for you!