My project this weekend is to get my garage repowered so my tenant will be able to plug his car in during the winter months. When I bought my house it was recently renovated by house flippers who made the basement into a suite and I suspect they used the circuit that was going to the garage to power the new bathroom's lights/fan.

The problem

As you can see in this photo I have a gap between my power pipe and my house.

Power pipe

The questions

Is this a safety issue? Is there something I can use to fix it that is water proof, electricity proof and cold weather resistant?

Area view Noticeable features include dirt from grading and hail damage to the laundry vent... enter image description here

  • 3
    The wire is not protected, and could be damaged by weed whackers and such. Water could get in the conduit, and cause damage. And worst of all, this is a creepy-crawly highway into your house.
    – Tester101
    Oct 19 '12 at 17:29
  • 1
    @Tester101 that's an answer. Oct 19 '12 at 17:30
  • @TheEvilGreebo Not a complete one. I'll write an official answer if I find time later.
    – Tester101
    Oct 19 '12 at 17:33
  • I'd like to see another picture or two less zoomed in to get a better feel for the vicinity. Oct 19 '12 at 17:39
  • 1
    If you try that, wear heavy non conductive gloves please. Oct 19 '12 at 18:21

Yes, it is a safety issue, wiring should always be covered by something, anywhere. The connection should be water tight, the connector used is not. Electric proof is not an issue, that is the job of the insulation of the wires. Cold resistant is not an issue for the wiring, but could be an issue if the cold made some protective material brittle. Protection from weather is an issue, you do not want water or debris entering the wiring space.

I suspect the back fill that the tubing is placed in settled, pulling the buried portion away from the above ground portion. If you can't pull the sections together to reattach, you may have a problem. It may be worth digging up the tubing to get more play to reattach, as the only code compliant fix I know of is to either replace the entire run, reusing materials where possible, or insert a new box to make up for the gap. You'll have to cut the wires to place the box. There may be enough slack to reattach them, otherwise, pigtail them together with short new lengths. Be sure to use water tight box and connectors if you go this route. The box must remain accessible.

I shouldn't even mention this. The hillbilly fix would be to get a length of plastic water tubing, the thin walled gray stuff (PB?) is what I've seen, of adequate diameter. Slit it along it's length, wrap it around the open joint, and seal the overlap and the tubing above and below with silicone sealant. Clamp in place with several screw type hose clamps. Far from code compliant but it adequately protects the wiring. More water tight than the current connector.

  • 1
    NEC 300.14 Length of Free Conductors at Outlets, Junctions, and Switch Points. says you need "6 in. of free conductor, measured from the point in the box where it emerges from its raceway or cable sheath.", so it's not likely you'll be able to splice the wires in a box (unless there is a lot of slack in the line). However the exception to that rule, is if the wire is not spliced it can simply pass through the box (though getting the cable to pass through the box without cutting it, might be an issue).
    – Tester101
    Oct 19 '12 at 20:10
  • Almost +1, except for the hillbilly fix
    – Brad Mace
    Oct 20 '12 at 4:10

I see 3 problems:

  1. The gap, as you noticed.

  2. One of the conductors' insulation is damaged (I think - it's not obvious from the picture)

  3. That's EMT, which is not a good choice for burial. The couplings are not strong enough (as you can see) and they're not waterproof. The tubing can rust away below ground. It is technically allowed, though, per NEC 358.10.

I'd recommend replacing it with PVC, which is very durable and easy to work with. If you do this, I suggest oversizing the conduit a couple sizes, to make pulling the wires easier and to leave room for future upgrades. And while you're at it, put a subpanel in the garage.

  • On point 2, that is spider webbing shadows. As Tester101 mentioned, it definitely is a creepy-crawly highway into my basement. Oct 24 '12 at 17:58
  • @Tester101: You're right, I was being sloppy. Fixed.
    – Jay Bazuzi
    Oct 25 '12 at 2:29

I don't know if it's code compliant but 3M makes a waterproof tape you can find at hardware stores. In my younger days, we used this to protect spliced wiring underground for traffic lights. You wrap the tape around the connection, in my case, and squeeze the substance to seal it.

Seems it might be called "splicing tape". I don't know if this is it. I'm wondering if there is something similar for conduit.

  • Rubber splice tape will insulate and waterproof splices, but it won't protect the wires from damage or restore ground continuity, both of which are concerns here. Oct 21 '12 at 23:24
  • That said, I can't resist sharing this rubber splice tape training video from 3M. It brought to life a lot of paper descriptions I'd read of using rubber splice tape and friction tape and answered some lingering questions. Oct 21 '12 at 23:26

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