I have a new house nearing completion in Manning, South Carolina, with all non-metallic jacket wire. However, the scuttle holes for two retractable stairs and attic lift had wires blocking access until I pointed it out, so the electrical sub just pulled the wires drum-tight to the edge of the opening. This means it's always the first thing you step on going up, and likely what someone will snag their foot on for a 15-foot free-fall to the concrete floor on the way down. This includes the primary service to the house with a pair of jacketed 4-4-4 cables for the 400-amp service under your feet in the first step into the attic. The entire attic storage space is completely covered with a massive web of 8-3 and 12-2 wire where subs have slid the walkway and storage area OSB under the wires, meaning that the only place to walk or store anything is on top of the wiring. Because of the size of the larger wires, it becomes a fall hazard if the floor is raised to clear them due to the increased step height of the top step to the attic floor. I just don't see how this could possibly meet any electrical or fire safety code. Nothing in the house was immune to this level of incompetency from the ground, up. Any ideas?

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    Has the local inspector been on site to see this? Commented Oct 8, 2019 at 19:29
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    Accusations of incompetence aside, was this "storage space" called out in the plans, and are the roof trusses designed for storage loads? There's more to this situation than just electrical code, and it probably comes down to conversations had or not had with the design engineer and general contractor.
    – isherwood
    Commented Oct 8, 2019 at 19:40
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    Permanent stairways retractable or fixed require the different setbacks in the NEC 320.23.a not accessible by permit any stairs or ladders 6’ from the nearest edge 7’ if permanent stairs or ladders the cable can be protected by guard strips that are at least the height of the cable. NM cable refers to this requirement in 334.23 . My state interpretation of this is if the stairway is attached it is permanent and requires 7’ not all see it the same.
    – Ed Beal
    Commented Oct 8, 2019 at 20:08
  • Clarendon county is not exactly up to speed with code enforcement. It is a small southern rural county with only 32k people. Lots of projects are poorly supervised and contractors take advantage of this fact.
    – Kris
    Commented Oct 8, 2019 at 22:56
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    > jacketed 4-4-4 cables > 400A service Either you mean 4/0-4/0-4/0 or your builder really blew it. The correct one should be significantly larger than your thumb, the wrong one smaller. 4/0 comes from the next size up from #1 being #0, then #00, then #000 then #0000. The 0 is pronounced "ought" and the last one is called four-ought" or 4/0. It is fit for 200A. Commented Oct 9, 2019 at 0:12

3 Answers 3


This sounds like an issue from a physical damage standpoint

While the NM cable only needs to be protected by guard strips if it's within 6' of a scuttle hole in your case, as per NEC 320.23(A) (referred to by NEC 334.23):

(A) Cables Run Across the Top of Floor Joists. Where run across the top of floor joists, or within 2.1 m (7 ft) of the floor or floor joists across the face of rafters or studding, the cable shall be protected by guard strips that are at least as high as the cable. Where this space is not accessible by permanent stairs or ladders, protection shall only be required within 1.8 m (6 ft) of the nearest edge of the scuttle hole or attic entrance.

your attic seems to be intended as a storage space. As a result of this, the exposed cabling you describe in your OP would be subject to physical damage, which would require protection from physical damage as per NEC 300.4:

300.4 Protection Against Physical Damage. Where subject to physical damage, conductors, raceways, and cables shall be protected.

and 334.15(B):

(B) Protection from Physical Damage. Cable shall be protected from physical damage where necessary by rigid metal conduit, intermediate metal conduit, electrical metallic tubing, Schedule 80 PVC conduit, Type RTRC marked with the suffix -XW, or other approved means. Where passing through a floor, the cable shall be enclosed in rigid metal conduit, intermediate metal conduit, electrical metallic tubing, Schedule 80 PVC conduit, Type RTRC marked with the suffix -XW, or other approved means extending at least 150 mm (6 in.) above the floor.

Type NMC cable installed in shallow chases or grooves in masonry, concrete, or adobe shall be protected in accordance with the requirements in 300.4(F) and covered with plaster, adobe, or similar finish.


Easiest way to protect them is to fasten a board to the floor/joists on either side. I would paint the boards a contrasting colour so they are highly visible.

Slightly harder, but probably even safer would be to split 1.5" waste pipe in half lay it over the pipe, and secure it with pipe hanger tape (metal pipe with a hole per inch)on either side.


Technically I don't believe these violate the codes as they are written but they do seem to in spirit.

If any of these are bothering you, it is up to you to make them safer. Add runways or shields to protect them or case them with split pipes - anything to get them out of harms way and keep you from tangling with them. The codes are meant to provide guidelines for builders and it depends how the various contractors view their roles in the process but money talks

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