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?! Jan 30, 2012 at 16:17
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    @ThePopMachine Assuming a standard 96 DPI, that's 0.041 inches.
    – vcsjones
    Jan 30, 2012 at 16:41
  • @vcsjones: Direct this at oscillatingcretin, not me... Jan 30, 2012 at 20:49
  • Curious if you ever asked your AHJ and what there response was? Aug 23, 2018 at 17:00

8 Answers 8


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.

  • 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? Jan 31, 2012 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, 2012 at 15:50
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    @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, 2012 at 13:45
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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, 2012 at 20:50
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    I've installed many outlets and switches in closets never had a problem with the inspections. Plus, I can't think of anything in the code that has ever said not to do it.
    – Kris
    Oct 8, 2015 at 20:55

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.

  • 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. Jan 30, 2012 at 23:35
  • Actually at $35.00 it would be cheaper to replace the wire.
    – lqlarry
    Jan 31, 2012 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. Jan 31, 2012 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, 2012 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, 2014 at 22:05

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, 2012 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. Jan 31, 2012 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. Jan 31, 2012 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. Jan 31, 2012 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. Jan 31, 2012 at 21:29

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).

Wow, obviously nobody on this thread has ever met a code inspector. In my town, you'd have your license yanked for doing that. No, the ONLY correct way to repair damaged wire is to 1) re-run the entire length (which of course you don't want to do, cuz that's lots of work), OR 2) cut the wire, and install two junction boxes (accessible) with a new similar gauge wire joining the two boxes. Number two is the only way you can do this legally and to code, and let's be frank, SAFELY so the house doesn't burn down one day.


If you cannot install junction boxes (for example, with blank covers) then you must do number one.

This stuff happens all the time. Why else do electricians charge $100 per hour? It's to make up for the occasion oops that they have to fix on their own time. Gee whiz, guys, wrapping the wire just isn't going to cut it with any inspector or code book in the USA.

  • Can you please clarify why two junction boxes would be necessary for this repair?
    – mjohns
    Oct 8, 2015 at 19:41
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    @mjohns - If there's no slack, you'll need a small length of wire in between. Which means two connection points. That is, IMO, if the wire is damaged, not its insulation. I believe the wording is: "equivalent of the original insulation", but I can't find it in the code, and that may only pertain to connections and splices. 3M and lqlarry's answer don't seem to have a problem with it, though. BTW, Robin, the accepted answer already states that an inspector "[absolutely will not pass this]".
    – Mazura
    Oct 8, 2015 at 20:47

The only fix to be NEC compliant is "REPLACE THE WIRE". You'll never have to worry about the repair when you're going to take a nap or go to bed. We've all heard the horror stories about "jury rigging" and "baling wire" electrical fixes. If you are physically unable to get under your house, ask a neighbor like me that is electrically proficient, to help you. I'm retired and 70 but I still crawl under houses and in attics to help people. A cup of coffee and a good sandwich at lunch is the fee and of course you have to furnish the correct wire and staples.


There is a splice for Romex, Tyco CPGI-1116415-2, and I think 3M may make one too. It's a little controversial whether it's code compliant in a repair like this, if an inspector doesn't like it it will have to go. But I think most would agree it's definitely more code compliant than taping it up and crossing your fingers.


3M makes a splice for UF cable which should work for all NM cable. Assembly UF-1 works for 14 - 10 gauge wire and produces a water tight direct burial splice. I would install this and keep the data sheet handy in case the inspector questions it. The splice is UL. https://www.gordonelectricsupply.com/p/3M-Uf1-Uf-Splice-Kit-Hazardous-Material-Request-Data-Sheet/39734

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    The UF-1 kit is intended for direct buried splices only! Jan 22, 2021 at 4:04

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