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We're selling our home and the buyer's inspector says the white cable in these photos must be protected from damage, by either a conduit or instead using a metallic cable. It's connected to the furnace, which is in our attic (no stairs/ladder access -- a ceiling hatch 6.5 feet away, instead).

The furnace installer, the electrician, and another home inspector all say it doesn't need protection. If these folks are right it could save me an expensive electrician visit that it sounds like I don't really need!

I would love it if somebody could cite the code for me so I can give the inspector more than just a bunch of opinions.

Thanks, - Rich in Woodinville Top of furnace; note white NM cable

Cable goes behind the furnace and down through floor.

  • 3
    This answer might be helpful. – Tester101 May 5 '16 at 11:34
  • There's really no reason you should be talking to the buyer's inspector. I wouldn't be surprised if he simply doesn't take your call. His job is to find every little thing he can for his report for the potential buyer. If you don't agree with his findings, you need to convince the buyer of the overzealousness of the report because chances are he's not going to revise it. Remember, after ruling the house out as a complete disaster, his job is to find areas where the seller will make concessions. In this respect, overzealousness is a virtue. – Dean MacGregor May 5 '16 at 19:23
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They are apparently considering the attic accessible although it is not readily accessible. Most furnaces in basements have NM cable protected with EMT conduit and that is probably where they are equating that situation to this one. However, in a normal basement the cable would be readily accessible, meaning you can walk right up to it without any tools or ladders.

So, it doesn't need protection since it is not readily accessible being that it is in an attic that needs a ladder for access. However, it does need to be secured and supported according to the code. Meaning within 12" of of the switch box in your picture and every 4 1/2 feet thereafter.

From the 2014 National Electrical Code:

334.30 Securing and Supporting.

Nonmetallic-sheathed cable shall be supported and secured by staples, cable ties, straps, hangers, or similar fittings designed and installed so as not to damage the cable, at intervals not exceeding 1.4 m (41⁄2 ft) and within 300 mm (12 in.) of every outlet box, junction box, cabinet, or fitting. Flat cables shall not be stapled on edge.

It is up to the HVAC technician and electrician to agree on a method and location of securing it to the AC cabinet.

Good luck!

  • Thanks -- is there a code citation for your statement, " it doesn't need protection since it is not readily accessible" that I can refer the inspector to? Is the code citation in this pertinent: diy.stackexchange.com/questions/57698/… – Rich Gartland May 5 '16 at 15:15
  • "334.15(B) Cable shall be protected from physical damage where necessary..." Other than that it is open for interpretation as to what is necessary. Wiring in basements and attics that is out of reach is usually not requir d to be protected. As in millions of homes across the country. – ArchonOSX May 5 '16 at 16:21
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This answer has some of the applicable codes for protecting NM cable in an attic. Since there's no stairs or permanent ladder, and the cable is more than 6' from the entrance of the attic. Protection is not required in this situation.

If the inspector tries to call you out on not securing the cable within 12" of the switch box, simply have them read 334.30(B).

334.30(B) Unsupported Cables Nonmetallic-sheathed cable shall be permitted to be unsupported where the cable:

(2) Is not more than 1.4 m (4 1/2 ft) from the last point of cable support to the point of connection to a luminaire or other piece of electrical equipment and the cable and point of connection are within an accessible ceiling.

  • I think the Code's interpretation of "accessible ceiling" means a drop ceiling, not an attic. Just saying. 😊 – ArchonOSX May 5 '16 at 16:22
  • @ArchonOSX Maybe, but I think it's a similar enough scenario. – Tester101 May 5 '16 at 17:05
  • If the inspector really pushed the issue, I'd use a clamp similar to the one securing the thermostat cable, and secure the cable to the unit within 12" of the box. – Tester101 May 5 '16 at 17:15

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