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I purchased a recently renovated home about six months ago (in Illinois). Prior to the sale, I had a home inspection done. I'll admit, I did not actually crawl around the tiny attic space with the inspector, but I was told 'Everything looked good'.

More recently my wife has decided we need to add some overhead lighting. We had an electrician come out, but he's identified a whole laundry list of problems and quoted us a very high (in my mind) total to fix them.

The home was built in the 50s. I don't know the history of the house, beyond the previous owners renovated it.

I tried to take some pictures, but my cellphone was not up to the task. This was about the only clear image I managed.Questionable wiring

Some examples from his To-Do list include:

  • All of the 'flexible' metal cabling (there is a fair bit) needs to be 100% replaced with rigid metal conduit.
  • All of the existing wiring is 'above' the ceiling joists. They all need to redone so they are protected by running through the joists or retrofitted with some sort of protection.
  • Basically every lighting fixture that we do have needs to be ripped out and re-positioned because they aren't 'flush' with the drywall. Some of them are just slightly setback, the worst offender is just over 1/4th of an inch in (it's actually slanted a bit, so one end is much closer, but the other end is further back).

I'll admit, seeing a twist-tie thing holding the cabling together is a little concerning. But I'm also surprised that none of this came up during the home inspection.

Needless to say, money is tight. I was looking to spend ~$500 installing a light in the master-bedroom. Now we're talking several thousands of dollars. Do I really need to do all of this?

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    Pfft. None of those things seem like real concerns to me unless you plan on holding parties in your attic. The light fixture flush thing is a con, plain and simple. Even brand new homes have boxes that end up as much as 1/4" behind flush due to tape joints, 5/8" drywall, etc. I'd be looking for a different electrician who isn't out to fleece you. – isherwood Jan 22 '17 at 16:51
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    Oh, and home inspectors aren't often worth their weight in sawdust, either. A few are, but most don't have the practical experience to make useful assessments. – isherwood Jan 22 '17 at 16:54
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    Is this in the Chicago metropolitan area, or somewhere else in Illinois? – ThreePhaseEel Jan 22 '17 at 16:59
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    I am curious how the electrician plans to get the rigid conduit through the joists? If it was a code thing, it would either be flexible cable of one sort or another through the joists or rigid conduit on top of the joists in a worst case scenario, IMHO. Get another electrician. – Jack Jan 22 '17 at 17:21
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    Inspectors typically have a general understanding of the various building trades, not a deep knowledge of them. This means that they often miss things, especially things that are not blatantly obvious. – Tester101 Jan 22 '17 at 18:40
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There are others who know the code better than I, but the code allows for some variation from the wall surface by up to a 1/4" max, and there are extensions that will help get past ones that are set too far in. That is a con play.

As far as the wires on the joists, it looks like your attic is not meant for storage. If not the wires can run on top of the joists that I am aware of. There is a requirement for space below rafters that help dictate the rule if the attic is usable for storage, let alone the sizing of the ceiling joists

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Because you ask, "Do I really need to do all this?", let me briefly comment on the various concerns:

1) Each U.S. State can decide whether or not it will adopt any given Code or Code revision; in whole or part, though most do. There may be some exception in Illinois that we don't know.

2) In New York State, we (home inspectors) are prohibited, by State law, from "certifying" the appropriateness of electrical, plumbing, HVAC, and engineering specifications.

However, good home inspectors will know what these specs should be; to the extent of knowing when to advise, on the inspection report, something "should be evaluated by [the appropriate trade professional] for possible [state issue of concern]".

Having the flex conduit would raise concern for possible grounding issues (which I would recommend an electrician to evaluate). The NEC has been revised in regard to metal flex conduit as per max. length and another issue is concerning grounding; not that flex is intrinsically bad. Having wiring run over the joists would raise concern for having them damaged (which I would write up as a problem without needing an electrician to evaluate).

3) "Lighting fixture", to me, is the replaceable, aesthetic (seen) part of a light. I think you were referring to the ceiling light fixture boxes which support the light fixtures and where the circuit wires are spliced with the fixture wires. These do need to be recessed no more than 1/4", if the surface material is non-combustible, per 314.20 In Wall or Ceiling

Overall, my impression is the home inspector could have been more diligent. If the home inspection was a referral by a realtor, prior to sale, there's a fine line between being cautious vs squashing a sale (and future referrals by the realtor).

I suspect the electrician may be over diligent rather than practical in his recommendations. For example, if the flex is grounded sufficiently there may be no reason to replace. And the wires running over the joists could be protected by

a) installing parallel 2x4s, one on each side of the wires, and securing the wires to the top of the joists,

b) place a 1x under the wires for horizontal support, to which the wires are secured, then placing the parallel, standing 2x4's as above,

c) just one standing 2x4 and secure the wires to the side of it.

All of these suggestions prevent someone from "walking-the-joists" and stepping/tripping on a wire.

  • That's a flexible metal cable, not flexible metal conduit, most likely -- and that's a big difference under Chicago codes. – ThreePhaseEel Jan 22 '17 at 18:18

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