I’m getting solar panels installed, and the electrician who was here today mentioned that the inspector will need a 3 ft clearance in front of the electrical panel. The problem is, there’s a shelf mounted to the wall directly beneath the panel, and I’m not sure how to go about removing it.

The shelf is a permanent fixture, and I’ve attached some photos to this post to show the setup. Has anyone dealt with a similar situation before? Do you think the inspector will be strict about the 3 ft clearance even though the shelf is a bit lower? If it does need to be removed, what’s the best way to do it without damaging the wall too much?

The shelf is quite secure and does not budge at all. I don't see any fasteners when looking inside; it appears to be adhered & caulked to the wall.

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  • what does the question have to do with solar panels?
    – jsotola
    Commented May 15 at 2:42
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    it has to go, start by removing the molding around the bottom. The next question is do you want to save it or not
    – Traveler
    Commented May 15 at 3:24
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    @jsotola Solar Panels => Electrical work requiring permit/inspection => Inspector will see and likely have an issue with working space. Totally logical. Though when I had my heavy-up, I moved things and marked 30" x 36" on the floor with painter's tape - which my electrician thought was a bit much and better to not indicate just how close things really were. In the end the inspector didn't have an issue. But I had nothing permanently installed in the required space. With permanent shelving - which the baseboard confirms - this is a real problem. Commented May 15 at 3:47
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    I'm guessing my best bet is, after removing the molding, take a blade and start scoring around the edges?
    – Tom Chen
    Commented May 15 at 10:53
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    Well it's absolutely a code violation. Code requires that a clear working space in front of electrical panels be kept clear AT ALL TIMES that is the width of the equipment (but at least 30"), 36" standback room, and 78" high and on a flat floor not a stairway etc. Commented May 15 at 18:48

1 Answer 1

  1. Score the joints/edges around the trim and the cabinet/shelf with a utility knife
  2. Remove trim
  3. If any fasteners can be found, remove them. Try running a magnet along the inside of the cabinet; with luck, you'll find a screw or two that was filled and painted that can be cleaned out and removed (or a plug bit for a drill if you can't get it cleaned out). If there is a gap at the wall, something thin like a hacksaw blade might be useful for finding any screws into the walls.
  4. Try being gentle at first by simply pulling hard. If that fails, try a pry bar at the back where the stud is located and pry out.
  5. If you can't find fasteners and it doesn't pull from the wall, we're gonna break it. Hit the non-wall side of the cabinet from the inside until that board pulls free. Then middle shelf, top, and bottom.
  6. The side and back adjacent to the wall can be a real problem. You will most likely have some minor wall repair. Again, try a pry bar where the studs are located and on the floor.
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    Note that the repair doesn't need to be done before the electrical inspection. The removal does. Of course you can put a similar but freestanding shelf back into that corner.
    – keshlam
    Commented May 15 at 11:47
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    If you're really careful about removing the trim you may be able to reuse it on the wall. Commented May 15 at 15:11
  • Thank you for the detailed response! This shelf was present from the previous homeowner, and I do prefer to reuse if possible.
    – Tom Chen
    Commented May 15 at 16:42
  • @keshlam putting anything there is a code violation, as the shelf (apparently) was in the first place, (possibly not, depending which panels are new but it does not look like there's 30 inches to the wall, so probably) as it infringes on the required working space that is to be kept clear, always. That space is specifically NOT to be used for storage.
    – Ecnerwal
    Commented May 15 at 18:14
  • @Ecnerwal: Ah. My electrician and inspector had no problem with a desk being in roughly equivalent position. I don't know what rationale they applied.
    – keshlam
    Commented May 15 at 19:15

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