As the owner and lead home inspector for Smith & Smith Home Inspections of Murfreesboro, TN, I’ve inspected thousands of houses. The main concerns I have when inspecting a property is to find all fire hazards, safety hazards and anything that would put the home occupants at risk. Rental properties in low income areas are where I usually find a high number of these safety risks and hazards. I can only guess that this is the case due to landlord do-it-yourselfers, and the hiring of cheap, unqualified handymen. Here I’ll highlight the dangers I discovered in one duplex in South Nashville.
Removing a dead front cover, and inspecting the interior of an electrical panel is a very important course of action as a home inspector. At this house’s sub panel, the ground and neutral wires are bonded on the same bus bar. If the load should become unbalanced, and ground and neutral are bonded, the current will flow through anything bonded to the sub-panel (enclosure, ground wire, piping, etc.) and back to the main panel. This is a major shock hazard! It can also cause problems with GFCI breakers, and cause equipment interference issues. You want one path for power to return to the source. If grounds and neutrals are connected at a sub panel, the grounds could take some of the power load and deliver it back to the main panel. This would be very bad. Grounds are never supposed to have any power, except for instances were there is a surge of power. The grounds alleviate the surge by pushing the path of the power to the Earth/ground, so nobody gets hurt.
Defected and wrongly wired outlets are the next hazards found. The updates and remodeling of the place did not include the work of a licensed, qualified electrician. The home had outlets with open grounds, outlets with open neutrals, and outlets with the hot and neutral wires reversed. An open ground is when a three-pronged outlet is not connected to the home’s grounding system. This is unsafe because if a fault were to happen, the surge could damage equipment or people rather than routing to the ground. Hot and neutral wires reversed can cause plugged in items to be electrically charged at all times, which could cause short circuits, shock, or fire. When you have an open neutral, there’s a disconnect in the white wire. Electricity can still flow to the device through the hot wire, but it can’t return to the panel. The device plugged in won’t work, but you can still get a shock from it because it’s energized. Most electrical fires are caused by a loose neutral wire.
In case of a fire or an emergency, the occupants of a home should be able to make a speedy escape from the building. This house had keyed deadbolts on the interior side, and windows taped shut, because they were the original 70s, single pane windows, and were super drafty. The front door and back door to the exterior had a deadbolt which required a key for operation from the inside. This condition is unsafe as it may slow or prevent exit during an emergency, and installation of these types of deadbolts is no longer allowed in new construction. Imagine trying to find a key, so you and your loved ones can escape a burning building. There is no logic for having an interior keyed deadbolt. As for the taped windows, bedroom windows double as emergency egresses. To top everything off, in the attic, the walls separating the duplexes were not fire rated. Meaning that fire can easily spread from one dwelling to the other. Plus, smoke detectors were not installed inside every bedroom.
If you are looking to buy a home or an investment property, you want your home inspector to be experienced in building and construction, InterNACHI certified, and licensed by the state of Tennessee. I am that home inspector. At Smith & Smith Home Inspections, we inspect the entire house, from the foundation to the roof, and we always include thermal imaging and gas leak detection, all at a reasonable, flat rate price. We provide home inspections and radon testing throughout Murfreesboro, Smyrna, Lebanon, Shelbyville, Manchester, McMinnville, La Vergne, Winchester, Woodbury, Columbia, Nashville & The Greater Middle Tennessee Area. Call/text/email to schedule your inspection today!