I was about to wire up my new basement subpanel when I realized I had put it directly under a toilet.

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I don't think this is a code violation. I can relocate it with some difficulty. I'm also considering a hack like cutting a slightly larger piece of PVC in half and putting it under the plumbing pipe to carry any water to the other side of the joist.

Is the present installation unsafe? If so, what should I do?


The National Electric Code strictly prohibits the installation of water piping above the service equipment you described. Art. 110.26(F)(1)(a) states:

National Electrical Code 2008

Article 110 Requirements for Electrical Installations

II. 600 Volts, Nominal, or Less

110.26 Spaces About Electrical Equipment.

(F) Dedicated Equipment Space.

(1) Indoor.

(a) Dedicated Electrical Space. The space equal to the width and depth of the equipment and extending from the floor to a height of 1.8 m (6 ft) above the equipment or to the structural ceiling, whichever is lower, shall be dedicated to the electrical installation. No piping, ducts, leak protection apparatus, or other equipment foreign to the electrical installation shall be located in this zone.

(b) Foreign Systems. The area above the dedicated space required by 110.26(F)(1)(a) shall be permitted to contain foreign systems, provided protection is installed to avoid damage to the electrical equipment from condensation, leaks, or breaks in such foreign systems.

You can place the piping from the toilet above the electrical panel provided it's located above the 6 foot high dedicated space, and provided it "is installed to avoid damage to the electrical equipment from condensation, leaks, or breaks in such foreign systems."

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  • Is the first floor sub-floor the "structural ceiling" for the basement? – DJohnM Feb 2 '14 at 2:18
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    The last 2 sentences of your answer seem contradictory... My reading of that code section is that your last sentence is the correct one. – Hank Feb 2 '14 at 3:14
  • Paragraph (c) says that structural ceilings must strengthen the structure. Suspended ceilings, etc do not count as a structural ceiling. It means to me that if he puts the protections in place he mentioned to redirect leaks, AND put a structural ceiling on the bottom of those joists (drywall), then he could keep everything where it is. I'm not familiar with what would constitute sufficient protection as mentioned in paragraph (b). The plans he submitted to the permit office should show both the plumbing and the electrical panel. If they approved it, then it should be good to go. – dslake Feb 2 '14 at 3:31
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    Suspended ceilings, etc do not count as a structural ceiling. Cellotex drop ceilings stop water as effectively as used toilet paper, and there's nothing as useless as used toilet paper. Structural floor also needs to not have anything piercing the flooring membrane (sheeting). I can tell you that from experience. Our hyper-intelligent building contractor put the heating closet above the telecom closet and then installed the water heater there. Drip trays mostly work unless the water is spraying out of the casing seam. Nearly KO'd our $30k PBX and routers. – Fiasco Labs Feb 2 '14 at 3:41
  • After flooding the heating closet, the water down through the plumbing and wiring routing holes bored through the 1 1/8" plywood floor. Some of the holes led down into the main circuit breaker panels. The rest rained on the drop ceiling, saturated it, we saw the water coming out under the telecom closet door, opened it to find the drop ceiling thankfully lying on the floor which kept the water from going that addtional 6 inches that would have been disaster. Nobody could go near the breaker panels till it had dried up a bit. – Fiasco Labs Feb 2 '14 at 3:46

Putting the panel under a toilet is a disaster waiting to happen. I have replaced a hundred wax rings and closet flanges over the years. From looking at your pic, it looks like you could move the panel to the right one or two bays and avoid the potential problem. As seen right now, it does not meet code and poses a serious safety hazard or shock or fire. DSlake gave you the right answer. Just move it and sleep soundly at night.

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My answer is this: Code is clear - nothing above the service panel except a structural ceiling. In viewing this install I see the panel set INTO the stud space with a 2x4 plate (header like) above it. Therefore that should represent a structural ceiling as far as the panel is concerned. Code does not specify any area in front of the panel - only the width and depth (which are inside the stud-space). The closet drain enters the overhead in front of the panel - not direcly above it. In the strict interpretation the panel appears to be legal (though a a hard-ass inspector might disagree). There is no plumbing directly over the panel as would be if the panel was surface mounted. If it can moved that would be best if only to appease a particular inspector. This appears easy at this point with only 1 non-connected cable hanging in it in the photo. Can't see the wall on either side?

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    Hello, and welcome to Home Improvement. Good answer; keep 'em coming! – Daniel Griscom Mar 16 '19 at 0:34

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