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While trying to pry loose a stubborn cable staple that fastens a 14-gauge electrical cable to a stud, I accidentally tore a very small hole through both the outer jacket and the insulation around the neutral wire, exposing the bare conductor inside. The damage is located halfway between the electrical box and the 5/8" hole in the frame's bottom plate where the wire disappears to beneath the floor somewhere. The hole is but a mere dot measuring at about 1/32" in diameter.

Is it okay to repair this tear with electrical tape? The copper wire itself was not damaged. I am hoping someone isn't going to tell me that NEC requires me to repair the damaged section by replacing it with a new wire and installing a junction box or something.

Update: Right now, it's between shirlock homes and SteveR for the answer. SteveR brought an excellent option to my attention, and that is to expose the junction box on the other side of the wall since, in my case, it happens to be a closet. shirlock homes recommends wrapping the damaged neutral wire with insulating tape then taping up the jacket. I like this idea, but if it's not NEC compliant then I think SteveR will get the answer.

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"the tear itself is probably the size of four pixels on a 24" monitor (couldn't find a better example)" .... you couldn't use a ruler?! –  ThePopMachine Jan 30 '12 at 16:17
    
@ThePopMachine Assuming a standard 96 DPI, that's 0.041 inches. –  vcsjones Jan 30 '12 at 16:41
    
@vcsjones: Direct this at oscillatingcretin, not me... –  ThePopMachine Jan 30 '12 at 20:49
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5 Answers

up vote 8 down vote accepted

Like Shirlock said, this does happen. I have taped a few staple mishaps along the way. Each incident is evaluated differently. If it is a neutral with just the insulation rubbed away (not a compromise to the conductor!). And I was also sure that it was used as a neutral (and not a switched lead). Then I have layed the insulation back and given it a few wraps with the Scotch 33 (600V insulation per wrap!, not the cheap stuff) and felt confident it was safe. Is that code compliant? Will an inspector fail the job if he saw it? Absolutely! The inspector does not know what is behind the tape and is not going to take your word for it. Okay, so obviously you want to sleep at night so here are a few code compliant ideas.

  • Add a "deep Handy box" (single outlet box) at outlet height and splice the wire coming from the floor to a new wire going up if you can replace that wire. If the wire is a feed, perhaps include an outlet in the box. If not, just put a blank cover on it. As long as you can get to the box, a proper splice will be code compliant.
  • Can't add a box there? How about the other side of the wall? Maybe you will even get lucky and end up in a closet! Only if you're in a closet, you must make it a J-box w/blank cover, outlets, switches are not allowed in closets.

EDIT: I was told by a licensed Electrician awhile ago that it is a code violation to put outlets or switches inside the closet. I never questioned that because all new construction I have seen here in many years has the light switch outside of the door! It made sense, with posible arcing from a switch and clothes and all. I'm thinking it may be a local code requirement. I know he also talked about how you need to do it as the inspector wanted, in addition to NEC code. I did find however that code clearly states that no electrical breaker panels can be in a clothes closet, perhaps its a variation of that?. I have to stand by my friends interpretation, I know he is competent Electrician.

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Good call on a closet potentially being behind that wall because, in my case, there is! My main issue with installing a junction box is because it will just server to add yet another hole in the wall I am soundproofing. If I can put a junction box on the other side in the bathroom closet, I won't care. So I can basically use a spare outlet box as a junction box? –  oscilatingcretin Jan 31 '12 at 14:57
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If its in a closet, you can not put an outlet in. I see no problem with using the box, with a blank cover. No switches or outlets are allowed in closets. I think its because they could possibly arc. This is why you see closets with light switches on the outside wall. –  SteveR Jan 31 '12 at 15:50
    
@SteveR Can you please point to the section in code that prohibits switches in closets? I was not able to find anything in NEC. –  Tester101 Feb 1 '12 at 13:45
    
@Tester101 - Please see my edit. –  SteveR Feb 1 '12 at 20:06
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@SteveR It may indeed be a local twist on the code. According to this thread on Mike Holt's Forum, there is no problem installing switches or receptacles in a closet (as far as NEC is concerned). Also, arcing should not be a concern since the switch has to be contained in a box and a proper face plate is required. So any arcing or sparking will be confined to the box. –  Tester101 Feb 1 '12 at 20:50
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I would:

  1. Take a photo
  2. Separate out the conductors enough I can get a quality tape over the flaw.
  3. Take a photo
  4. Wrap it all in tape. Write in sharpie a note on the cable.
  5. Show the photos and patch to the inspector.
  6. Do what the inspector says (if that's a junction box, then so be it).
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A smart electrician would place a dab of silicone sealant over the scar and wait until the next day for it to cure out before twisting the coax around so the dab is against the stud before installing retaining clips. Out of sight, out of mind.

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Out of site, out of mind, is not an NEC compliant solution. -1 –  BMitch Aug 28 '12 at 1:21
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Here is a practical answer for ya. This type of thing happens all the time and it is often impractical to replace the wire or install exposed j-boxes. Here is what you can do that will be safe. Turn off the power. Remove apx 2 to 3 inches of the outside jacket of the romex with a sharp utility knife. Remove the paper spacers and bow the black and white conductors apart enough to pass some good (scotch 33+ or splicing compound tape) insulating tape around the nicked conductor. Put a few tight wraps around each conductor. Now position the conductors back together and double tape the entire area missing the outer jacket with 33+. Another good product to cover nicks is Larson self adhesive splicing tape. This stuff sticks to itself and whatever it touches and virtually will never come off, and is rated at 1000v.

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Is this method code compliant? When the inspector sees it, is he going to pass it? –  Tester101 Jan 31 '12 at 11:42
    
I am curious about that, too. If it is compliant, I am certainly going this route instead of opening up Junction City in my bedroom. –  oscilatingcretin Jan 31 '12 at 12:43
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as long as the splicing material meets voltage and temp requirements it is good. Since this is not new construction and most likely not permitted, it won't be inspected. A junction needs to be in a box, but I see nothing about a simple repair of an uninterrupted conductor. As long as it is done well with good materials, it will be fine. –  shirlock homes Jan 31 '12 at 17:28
    
When you say "it is good", does that mean it is NEC compliant? I know a lot of people -- myself included -- who cut corners when they know no one will be looking, but I want to do this job within code parameters if at all possible. –  oscilatingcretin Jan 31 '12 at 17:49
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I just read the edit/add to your question. If you have a closet behind the problem area, then, by all means, put in a j-box, and be sure everything is code. Then you will be sure. –  shirlock homes Jan 31 '12 at 21:29
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You can repair anyway you want, but for it to be repaired and the UL still good, you have to use something like 3M 2234 Cable repair kit.

2234 3M Cable repair kit

Here's some info on it

If it is romex you are best to cut the bad part out and use a junction box (or 2) to put in the good piece. If it is in the wall then you might have to change out the whole run. With ARC Fault breakers (AFCI) slowly becoming code in more than just bedrooms it could create a problem.

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I updated my question with more clarity. You can actually see the bare copper wire of the neutral wire, so it's more than just the jacket that's damaged. I think this tape is for repairing a damaged outer jacket to prevent further damage from chafing. –  oscilatingcretin Jan 30 '12 at 23:35
    
Actually at $35.00 it would be cheaper to replace the wire. –  lqlarry Jan 31 '12 at 1:57
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I want to replace the wire, but I have no idea where it runs to. I initially said it goes up into the ceiling, but I was looking at the wrong wire. The damaged wire actually goes down into the floor of my second-floor bedroom. I don't know if it runs directly downstairs or beneath the floor to another upstairs room. I am thinking a junction box is my only option here unless there's a legit, NEC-compliant method of repairing the actual insulation around the exposed copper wire. I can't believe that, in the 2012, there's all this madness over a simple tear that should be easy to repair. –  oscilatingcretin Jan 31 '12 at 2:28
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Part of the problem is in 2012 is the tort laws that rule the court system, so that is why things will get more difficult instead of easier. If you going to use a junction box, these connectors could be handy by making it where you only need one junction box. DIY box stores probably have them in small boxes. Doing things yourself sometimes can make you want to pull your hair out, but in the end you can't beat the feeling that you did it. –  lqlarry Jan 31 '12 at 2:44
    
Electrically the butt splice is not as good as solid copper wire. Here's a case where meeting the letter of code does not necessarily produce a superior work product. Your best option as people have said is take photos, patch it well with tape, and tell it to the judge (the city inspector). –  Bryce Mar 28 at 22:05
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