Circuit breaker panelA contractor removed the FRONT of the metal box encasing the circuit breakers. He started building a floor to ceiling wood enclosure (plywood in front), with a cut-out to reach the breakers. I don't know what he intended to cover the opening with. Surely the front of the metal box cannot fit there - ? Front of box (dusty)

What I originally asked: Isn't this against code? From what I can find (not the actual code), I understand the metal enclosure is for safety (to contain sparking) and because the door must be fire rated. And I don't know where the grounding wire would otherwise go.

Now I'm understanding from the answer received that the front of the box must be put back on to meet NEC code. I also found NFPA codes - beginning at 408.30 for electrical panels.

So this enclosure thing is not going to work, right?

enter image description here

  • 1
    Yeah, we can't tell what the contractor means. We are all thinking "Surely he can't be talking about that"! Because that is so wrong that the guy cannot possibly be a licensed contractor in any craft. How do the wires get to the circuit breakers? What keeps a breaker from rocking out if someone throws the switch hard? Apr 2, 2018 at 17:13
  • Thank you all. I will try to get a photo this afternoon.
    – Ann
    Apr 3, 2018 at 15:31
  • Yeah, that's the thing. Those lugs above and below the main breaker ARE HOT AND WILL KILL YOU. Apr 4, 2018 at 1:08
  • And the answer to "what keeps a breaker from rocking out when you throw it" is "absolutely nothing" ... the breaker can literally fall out. Apr 5, 2018 at 15:26

1 Answer 1


The National Electrical Code is the reference in most of North America. It's a reference but let's read it front-to-back anyway.

Let's skip the formalities: Cover... disclaimers... index... credits... Article 90 is about applicability (it applies to you)... Article 100 definitions... Ah. The meat starts at Article 110..

We immediately hit all this in the first half-page.

ARTICLE 110 -- Requirements for Electrical Installations

110.2 Approval. The conductors and equipment required or permitted by this Code shall be acceptable only if approved.

110.3(B) Installation and Use. Listed or labeled equipment shall be installed and used in accordance with any instructions included in the listing or labeling.

This item was tested by Underwriter's Laboratories (UL). The manufacturer submitted instructions for how the equipment is to be used, and UL safety-tested it in those conditions only. They tested it for fire safety, performance and product safety. As such, uses beyond the instructions are illegal.

That's the answer. You cannot alter an electrical panel unless the instructions tell you to.

There's another rule that says you can't cover up electrical junction boxes, by the way -- that's another specialty of interior designers incompetent in their craft.

The real problem here

The incompetent designer is nothing but the symptom of a core problem today.

The latest fad is to eradicate all utility space. Utility spaces are seen as dirty or undesired, as if it's shameful to admit that your house actually does run on electricity.

These utility spaces are for your house to work. That "unsightly" unfinished basement is what makes it possible for you (via your electrician or plumber) to fix a problem in an hour instead of spending a day busting up drywall and praying you're not busting up the wrong stuff for no reason, then having to re-drywall and repaint (and the paint aged so it no longer matches, so now you have to repaint the whole room).

Paying an electrician to patch drywall is like paying a lawyer to cut hair.

I lived in old Victorians. There, hard plumbing to the tub was an afterthought. The Victorians didn't trust it, so they made a "hatch" for easy access to the spigot and valves (later, mixer and diverter). The hatch is tastefully trimmed in the Victorian way. This makes changing the entire spigot/mixer/diverter a 30 minute job. Now, some interior designer, eager to come up with easy ways to justify his fee, would say "get rid of that useless cabinet-to-nowhere". Sure. And now changing the spigot is so hard that you can't do it prophylactically anymore as a $50 "test fix".

Were the Victorians opposed to "gussying up"? One guess.

enter image description here

I gotta fever, and the only prescription is more gingerbread!

The Victorians had panache, and still respected the value of utility space. You should hire a designer who can too.

  • Thank you. I will try to get photos this afternoon. I certainly appreciate what you are saying about practicality in design!
    – Ann
    Apr 3, 2018 at 15:34
  • Rereading your answer, I see that I didn't need to bother adding photos. To meet code, the front of the box has to be reunited with the rest of the box, correct? And it's best to leave the box as is, without any enclosure (even one with a door) hiding it? Thanks for being patient with me.
    – Ann
    Apr 3, 2018 at 23:32
  • Hold the panel cover up to the drywall. Line up the screws and mark a perimeter 1" beyond the edge of the panel cover. Remove all that drywall so the cover can lay flush on the panel proper, assuming it is intact. If it is not intact, it will need to be replaced. They make outdoor panels. If you can save the panel, yes, you can cover it with a tasteful door, at least I do. All panels and all junction boxes must be accessible without disassembling the house in any way. Apr 5, 2018 at 15:33

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