Pretzels, Braids or Twists?

Home Inspector with JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC HOI 394

Pretzels are delicious Everyone enjoys pretzels. They go so well with certain adult beverages, mustard or just by themselves. The most common form of pretzel is the familiar twist. There are also braids and pretzel sticks. No matter the form, they taste delicious.

Pretzel has also become a word associated with something or even someone that is twisted. My favorite being Pretzel Logic.

Electric panel with a pretzel twist

When inspecting an electric panel in a Connecticut home recently I was reminded of pretzels, braided pretzels. Now I'm certain when most people look at the inside of a standard house electric panel, they are reminded of another food, spaghetti. The plethora of wires going hither and yon I would imagine look like an illogical, twisted up mess. Fortunately there are a few humanoids like myself that have the ability to decipher the wire code.

Coming back to that panel I was referring to a moment ago, the reason I was reminded of pretzels was not the normal tangle of wires. No, it was the electrician's method of installing the equipment grounds for all the branch circuits through out the home.

All three wires in a standard circuit in a house have a place in the electric panel. The feed wires (black or red) go to the breaker, the neutral wires (white) and ground wires (bare copper) go to the neutral / ground terminal. Everything has a place.

Ground wires twisted like a pretzel

It seems this electrician was asleep during that part of electrical training. ALL the ground wires in this particular panel have been twisted into a large rope. This took a great deal of effort to do.....


No where could I find a connection from this braided pretzel to the panel or a terminal. All these ground wires are protecting nothing.

This is the original electric panel for this house built in 1975. Apparently no one has up to now found issue with the wire pretzel.

Mustard anyone?


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:

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


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Eileen Hsu
Douglas Elliman Real Estate - Manhattan, NY

Nice braiding job for that old electrian but it does not sound like braiding is part of the requirement for that job to be done properly.

May 25, 2012 10:51 PM #9
Richard Weisser
Richard Weisser Realty - Newnan, GA
Richard Weisser Retired Real Estate Professional


Now that is something that I have never seen! But the fact that it worked this long makes you wonder, doesn't it?

May 25, 2012 10:54 PM #10
Tom Arstingstall, General Contractor, Dry Rot, Water Damage Sacramento, El Dorado County - (916) 765-5366
Dry Rot and Water Damage Mobile - 916-765-5366 - Placerville, CA
General Contractor, Dry Rot and Water Damage


Do the twisted and braided ground wires create its own ground bar once inside the panel? Can I drive a drywall screw through the wires and into the panel wall and be grounded? (Just kidding)

Thanks for the featured post.

May 25, 2012 11:08 PM #11
Richie Alan Naggar
people first...then business Ran Right Realty - Riverside, CA
agent & author

good example of out of sight out of mind too...I remember shoving wires in and closing the panels and other things and leaving it at that....I bet you can count the times one removes a panel on one hand

May 25, 2012 11:31 PM #12
Jon Eliason
EXIT Realty Advantage Pagosa, Pagosa Springs, Colorado - Pagosa Springs, CO

James ~ About ten years ago, they had a saying, :If you find a Hammer, you're a Contractor"... It really is scary, what some, in any trade can do to discredit the rest.

May 25, 2012 11:44 PM #13
Melissa Zavala
Broadpoint Properties - Escondido, CA
Broker, Escondido Real Estate, San Diego County

Okay, I enjoy a hot pretzel, but that mess--not so much. I'm sure that it is always scary for you when you find certain kinds of pretzels.

May 26, 2012 12:01 AM #14
Rob Ernst
Certified Structure Inspector - Reno, NV
Reno, NV-775-410-4286 Inspector & Energy Auditor

I have found this also in panels of that vintage. The grounds all twisted together and then secured with a kearney. I mention it is my reports but most people ask why it was done that way and I have noo good answer for that. Now I can tell them the guy was asleep during that part of the class. Thanks 

May 26, 2012 12:24 AM #15
Susan Neal
RE/MAX Gold, Fair Oaks - Fair Oaks, CA
Fair Oaks CA & Sacramento Area Real Estate Broker

Good grief!  And most people have no idea what it looks like in there, as the wires are behind the panel cover.  Another reason I can give my clients when I urge all buyers to have a home inspection.  If they say no, I have them sign a paper saying I urged it but they refused.

May 26, 2012 01:23 AM #16
Bud & Beth McKinney
Cary/Raleigh/Apex NC - The Team That Cares, RE/MAX United

Lucky you found that when you did! How unprofessional.

May 26, 2012 02:33 AM #17
Jennifer Prestwich
Henderson, Thornton, Broomfield and Westminster - Henderson, CO
Madison & Co Properties

Well, James, I think pretzels are delicious, but no way would I bite into this!  lol!  This just looks scary.  Yet another reason why buyers should have an inspection.

May 26, 2012 09:01 AM #18
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Wow, that hot dog of an electrician needs a lot of mustard, and a few other condiments too.  How in the world has nobody seen that since 1975!?

May 26, 2012 10:06 AM #19
Carla Muss-Jacobs, RETIRED
RETIRED / State License is Inactive - Portland, OR

For some reason, I like pretzel sticks -- you can scrap the salt off easier.  And that electrical panel is anything but easy looking ;-)

May 26, 2012 10:13 AM #20
Steven Cook
No Longer Processing Mortgages. - Tacoma, WA

James -- great connection to food -- which everyone is thinking about this weekend.  Fortunately, nothing untoward happened to the previous owners of this house.

May 26, 2012 11:34 AM #21
Eric Michael
Remerica Integrity, RealtorsĀ®, Northville, MI - Livonia, MI
Metro Detroit Real Estate Professional 734.564.1519

Like Carla (^^ up there), I like the sticks, too. I can't believe that someone would do all that and it not make a difference.

May 26, 2012 11:38 AM #22
Christine Donovan
Donovan Blatt Realty - Costa Mesa, CA
Broker/Attorney 714-319-9751 DRE01267479 - Costa M

James - Your title made me have to come take a look.  I'm no electrician, and that's still not a box I'd want.

May 26, 2012 04:35 PM #23
Joy Daniels
Joy Daniels Real Estate Group, Ltd. - Harrisburg, PA

Great title - sad electric panel.  I enjoy your posts.  Thank you!

May 27, 2012 03:43 AM #24
Donald Hester
NCW Home Inspections, LLC - Wenatchee, WA
NCW Home Inspections, LLC

Jim, That is one sweet mess ; ) You are right that did take someone some time to twist that all togther.

Oh by the way love the Steely Dan link. I have great memories of that album when it came out.

"Rikki don't lose that number, you don't want to call nobody else!" Well in this case you need somebody else "Sparky"

May 27, 2012 05:38 AM #25
James Quarello
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC - Wallingford, CT
Connecticut Home Inspector

Josh, Okay.

Kevin, "Working" is really the wrong term in this case. If anyone of the grounds in those numerous circuits had been "worked", it simply wouldn't. Scary for sure. 

Mona, Thank you! You said or wrote some of my own thoughts. Hard to believe I was the first one to lay eyes on that mess. 

Fred, When I see a panel like you describe, I get excited too :) Nothing wrong with admiring good work.

Mike, The hard way. This took a lot of effort to accomplish wrong. 

Gary, Yes I know the sellers would have had it fixed. The house was very well maintained. 

Charlie, For sure. 

May 27, 2012 09:48 PM #26
James Quarello
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC - Wallingford, CT
Connecticut Home Inspector

Michael, Probably what he had on the truck.

Eileen, You would be correct. No braiding allowed for wires. 

Richard, It actually hasn't worked at all. If a circuit ground had been needed work, it wouldn't. 

Tom, Funny! You've been reading too many of Jay's posts. 

Richie, No homeowner should be fooling around with an electric panel, but as we know some do.

Jon, Yes the few can make the many look bad. 

Melissa, Not scary so much as very concerning. This represents a potential risk to the occupants of the house. 

Rob, Yes I have seen this before inside other panels. I also don't have an answer. Really it doesn't matter, just get it fixed. 

May 27, 2012 09:57 PM #27
James Quarello
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC - Wallingford, CT
Connecticut Home Inspector

Susan, Electrical is one area most people, including many contractors are weak on. Which is why hiring a home inspector instead of their friend or uncle the contractor is so important. 

Bud & Beth, Yes I like to think so, thanks.

Jennifer, That pretzel would be a bit hard on the teeth :)

Jay, My thought exactly. Amazing on so many levels. 

Carla, Yes I like the sticks are better too.

Steve, Yes it is fortunate. Now it will be corrected for the new owners who btw have very small children.

Eric, Like I said a lot of effort to do it wrong.

Christine, Who wouldn't be intrigued by pretzels :)

Joy, Thanks.

Don, Love Steely Dan, have many of their albums and cd's. 

May 27, 2012 10:06 PM #28
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