Crowding Control

Home Inspector with JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC HOI 394

One of the most unpleasant parts of attending a game, concert or other event, is getting into and especially out of the arena. Everyone is of course leaving all at the same time. You shuffle through the building, squished together like sardines in a can. Once you break free from the dense mass of humanity, you feel relieved and unfettered, the giddy high from the event returning.

A bit crowded in here.Being crowded when working is just as unpleasant, actually even more so, than shuffling along with an event crowd. It can also be dangerous.

During a recent home inspection I opened the door to the laundry and found the homes electric panels behind the appliances. The entire basement had been finished into a two bedroom in-law apartment. So I imagine that is how the washer and dryer ended up sharing this room with the electric service.

What you may notice is the washer is in front of the main panel and a wall and shelf partially blocks the sub panel to the right. There is also a waste pipe coming straight in like an arrow from that wall just below.

Things here don't quite measure up.Seeing this tells me that first off, the work was probably not permitted and almost certainly not inspected.

Electric service panels, as well as other electric equipment, require a certain amount of "working space" around and in front of them. Panels can not be stuffed behind walls or put into tiny closets in order to hide that ugly thing. There should be three feet of free space in front of the panel. As you can see this one comes up a bit short. Add in that pipe below and the shelf and I can tell you it was no picnic removing the cover to inspect this panel. There should also be 30 inches of free space to the sides and six and a half feet of head room.

The clearance requirement doesn't just apply to construction. The same goes for the home owner blocking off this zone with that antiquated barbell set / clothes hanger. An impeded the path to the electric panel could mean the difference between a major event or a close call.



James Quarello
Connecticut Home Inspector
2010 - 2011 SNEC-ASHI President
NRSB #8SS0022
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC

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Posted by

James Quarello
Connecticut Home Inspector
Former SNEC-ASHI President
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC

 ASHI Certified Inspector

To find out more about our other high tech services we offer in Connecticut click on the links below:

Learn more about our Infrared Thermal Imaging & Diagnostics services.

Serving the Connecticut Counties of Fairfield, Hartford, Middlesex, New Haven, Southern Litchfield and Western New London.


Re-Blogged 2 times:

Re-Blogged By Re-Blogged At
  1. Dan Edward Phillips 07/05/2011 09:02 AM
  2. D B 07/05/2011 09:11 AM
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Peter Schattenfield
Turning Point Estate Services LLC - Wilton, CT
Estate Dissolution and Preparation (203)388-8092 CT.

James, At least the panel can be seen. I've come across basement situations where it would take 15 minutes just to arrive at the panel.

Jul 05, 2011 02:13 AM #13
Carolyn Nelson
Realty One Carolina, LLC - Burlington, NC
Your Triangle to Triad Real Estate Expert!

Thank you for the reminder. I love reading and sending home inspection posts to family, friends, and those I know in the remodeling biz. I've seen electrical boxes hidden in clothes closets behind 100s of pieces of clothings, blocked by make-shift clothes racks, and hidden behind stacks of boxes. SCARY

Great Post!

Jul 05, 2011 02:20 AM #14
Sherri Berry
Reliant Realty, Murfreesboro - Murfreesboro, TN
Murfreesboro TN Homes & Real Estate

Thank James for pointing out what should be the obvious but is often overlooked!  It is amazing what people overlook that can be an extreme safety hazard!  

Jul 05, 2011 02:35 AM #15
Richie Alan Naggar
people first...then business Ran Right Realty - Riverside, CA
agent & author

I understand the mentality and the owner may do as he wishes...But when their "custom baby" comes up for sale, that chicken comes home to roost soon enough...thank you James

Jul 05, 2011 02:54 AM #16
Robert Butler
Aspect Inspection - Montreal West Island, QC
Montreal Home Inspector | Aspect Inspection

Good point to make Jim. The code actually reads 3 feet (or 1 meter) of space in front of the open panel door edge, so that usually makes it about 4 feet clearance in front of the panel.

Jul 05, 2011 03:13 AM #17
Reuben Saltzman
Structure Tech Home Inspections - Minneapolis, MN
Delivering the Unbiased Truth.

Your first sentence makes me think of seeing the fireworks last night.  This crabby home inspector is thinking the wait to get our vehicle on to the highway made the event barely worthwhile ;)

Jul 05, 2011 03:21 AM #18
Mike Yeo
3:16 team REALTY - Frisco, TX

Safety is important and not sure what the homeowner was thinking? Maximizing each sq ft but putting themselves in harms way is not a smart move.

Jul 05, 2011 03:37 AM #19
Robert and Lisa Hammerstein -201-315-8618
Keller Williams Valley Realty - Hillsdale, NJ
Bergen County NJ Real Estate

James - This is a very good reminder to all buyers out there on newer homes. Thanks for sharing this

Jul 05, 2011 03:55 AM #20
Mike Jones
SUNSTREET MORTGAGE, LLC (BK-0907366, NMLS 145171) - Tucson, AZ
Mike Jones NMLS 223495


Here in Tucson, code puts our Electrical Panel on the OUTSIDE wall of the home!

Mike in Tucson

Jul 05, 2011 04:42 AM #21
Charles Buell
Charles Buell Inspections Inc. - Seattle, WA
Seattle Home Inspector

Jim, it amazes me how often it does not get communicated to the seller that these panels have to be accessible---all the time---not just for the inspection.

Jul 05, 2011 05:14 AM #22
Gina Tufano
Ask Gina & Company with Pearson Smith Realty - Sterling, VA
Ask Gina & Company, Northern Virginia Real Estate
Very true! Thanks for posting.
Jul 05, 2011 06:12 AM #23
Morgan Evans
Douglas Elliman Real Estate - Manhattan, NY

The common sense of giving the electrical panel clear access is something that is probably overlooked when somebody is doing a remodel.

Jul 05, 2011 06:24 AM #24
Ray Waisler
Finance of America - Atlanta, GA
NMLS #6621 - Specializing in Jumbo FHA & VA

James, I think the homeowners were afraid the electrical panel might get lonely so they decided to keep it company with the washer. What are people thinking?????

Jul 05, 2011 06:25 AM #25
Donald Reich
Prudential Centennial - New Rochelle, NY

I wonder what they will think of next! It's amazing some of the crazy things people will do in their homes!

Jul 05, 2011 07:30 AM #26
Steven L. Smith
King of the House Home Inspection, Inc. - Bellingham, WA
Bellingham WA Home Inspector


Many of the places we have to go, I think that a person with claustrophobia could not do it.

Jul 05, 2011 11:34 AM #27
Mel Ahrens, MBA, Kelly Right Real Estate
Kelly Right Real Estate - Hood River, OR
Customized Choices for your Real Estate Needs

I didn't realize before reading this post that there must be "working room" in such areas. Not that it's been an issue for us yet, but thanks for the head's up.


Jul 05, 2011 02:33 PM #28
Christine Donovan
Donovan Blatt Realty - Costa Mesa, CA
Broker/Attorney 714-319-9751 DRE01267479 - Costa M

James -  It does look awfully crowded in there.  It's important to have inspections so these things can be pointed out.

Jul 05, 2011 04:31 PM #29
James Quarello
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC - Wallingford, CT
Connecticut Home Inspector

Michael, Way too often is right.

Gita, And don't forget when storing things as well.

Anne, You are right, it's too bad I can't charge more :)

Shelia, Isn't that the truth!

Lenn, Or throw more of their stuff away :)

Morris, My understanding is in your area basements are rare, so I can imagine the storage nightmares you run into.

Richard, Thanks, safety is always priority one.

Andrea, You know you wouldn't get with in 20 feet of any electric panel. No chance of crowding one in at your house :)

Jul 06, 2011 12:26 AM #30
James Quarello
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC - Wallingford, CT
Connecticut Home Inspector

Michael For sure it does.

Bruce, yes the set up is a bit wacky.

Jay, some one needs to put a leash on Uncle Bob :)

Susan, I agree.

Peter, I've been in that basement :)

Carolyn, Electric panels do not, are not supposed to be in closets, period.

Sherri, It would seem to make obvious good sense not to block the panel...It would seem.

Jul 06, 2011 01:08 AM #31
James Quarello
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC - Wallingford, CT
Connecticut Home Inspector

Richie, It always does eventually.

Robert, Yes, that is understood.

Reuben, That would make anyone crabby :)

Mike, As you may have guessed, this wasn't the only safety related issue in this home.

Lisa & Robert, I hope it's a reminder to every home owner.

Mike, that's interesting.

Charlie, For sure, how often do we have to struggle to get to a panel or work in it?

Gina, Thanks.

Morgan, I believe often the intent is to hid it, while maximizing space. Not a good plan.

Ray, The two panels had each other :)

Donald, Don't I know it!

Steve, For sure.

Gretchen, glad you learned somrthing from this post.

Christine, It was! I had a very difficult time removing both panel covers.

Jul 06, 2011 01:27 AM #32
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James Quarello

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