- By InspectorDon
- In Tulsa Oklahoma Real Estate
- Tags aluminum wiring, asbestos, deal killers, fpe panels, tulsa real estate
After inspecting several thousand residential homes, there are a few things that never seem to change. One category that seems to always remain the same is the top 3 things I see that cause home sellers a lot of problems in Tulsa and the surrounding areas. These defects are known as ‘deal killers’ by many in the business. While every home can have its unique problems, these 3 issues seem to be a common factor in many of the instances where a deal falls through.
So if you’re thinking about putting your home on the market, it may be a good idea to get a pre-listing home inspection to determine if there are any surprises awaiting you. Sure, you can put your head in the sand and hope the Buyers home inspector misses these issues or minimizes them to your buyer, but doing so won’t make them go away and they could cost you the sale of your home!
FPE Panel Boxes
FPE Panel Boxes takes credit as one of the most serious issues that cause a transaction to go South.
These panel boxes date back a few decades. They were popular from the 50’s to the 80’s. They have known issues and many Tulsa homes still have them.
One of the biggest problems is that many of their breakers did not meet minimum UL standards. In many tests, the breakers failed to trip, posing a fire hazard.
There are other issues, to read up on them, go to this link. It’s a PDF on the troubles with FPE panels. FPE Panel Boxes
There are other outdated electrical panels that can cause trouble (Zinsco is one that comes to mind) but FPE leads the group.
Some people will seek out what we call “FPE friendly” electricians who say there is nothing wrong with these panels. Yet, when asked to put their comments in writing, stating that there is nothing wrong with the panels and that they are as reliable as modern panels, they refuse. Imagine that!
And to be quite honest, some inspectors do not call them out for fear of upsetting the apple cart. I can’t in good conscience allow a Client to buy a home that is serviced by a FPE panel box without first making them aware of the potential dangers.
Alternatives for Aluminum Wiring
Hundreds upon hundreds of Tulsa area homes are still being served by aluminum wiring. In a nutshell, the problem with aluminum wiring is that it expands and contracts at a greater rate than does copper wiring.
This poses a problem with connectors. Over time, this expansion and contraction of wiring can cause the wires to get loose under connectors. Once they get loose, they can start to arc, which leads to overheating. This is what can cause fires.
Over time, the alloy was changed, but there were still problems.
When using aluminum wiring, special outlets labeled “CO/ALR” must be used. This designation means that the outlet is designed for use with either Copper or Aluminum wiring.
An alternative to replacing aluminum wiring is called “Pigtailing.” This is the act of connecting aluminum wiring to a short section of copper wiring and then connecting the copper wires to outlets, switches and fixtures. Although allowed by most building codes, the Consumer Product Safety Commission does not consider “pigtailing” with twist-on connectors as safe alternative. (which unfortunately is the way a lot of electricians or DIY owners try and do it)
There is a ‘safe’ technique for connecting copper and aluminum called COPALUM, but it is costly and to be quite honest, in the hundreds and hundreds of homes I’ve inspected with aluminum wiring, I’ve never seen it done. But I have seen a lot of poor attempts at repairing aluminum connections!
The COPALUM technique includes the use of a specially designed crimping tool. Electricians have to be specially trained by the manufacturer to use this crimping tool.
Here’s a link to the CPSC Publication 516 concerning Aluminum Wiring.
How To Spot Aluminum Wiring in a Home
Generally, whenever I pull the cover off a panel box, I’ll immediately be able to tell whether the home has Aluminum wiring or not. The wires at the breakers will be Silver or dark grey.
Some home inspectors will only pull a switch or outlet cover off in their inspection for aluminum wiring.
If they don’t see the Silver wiring, the put the covers back on and proceed with their inspection, believing all is well.
But all may not be well!
If the home has had the wiring pigtailed, then only copper wire will show in a switch or outlets. Also, if the wiring has been copper tinned, it will look like copper wiring! To determin, if it is, in fact, Aluminum, you have to look at the cut ends of the wiring.
How To Spot Asbestos in Old Homes!
YES, the dreaded “A” word! Many homes in Tulsa (mainly older homes) have some type of asbestos component either on them or in them.
But thanks to the tons and tons of bad press from the legal industry that we’re constantly bombarded with, everyone runs away with their hands in the air like they’re on some B grade Japanese horror movie starring Godzilla at the mention of asbestos.
Most of the products we see containing asbestos will be either roofing shingles, old tile flooring or shake siding. It can be also found in old vermiculite siding and heating pipe insulation, but I don’t see that as much as the other products I mentioned.
In reality, asbestos only causes a problem when it is in a friable state. This simply means when the asbestos is crushed or broken where the fibers can float around and be inhaled or ingested.
And if you already know it’s Asbestos, then why would you need environmental testing for Asbestos?
There’s not much to be worried about in my opinion in the case of asbestos shakes and shingles as they are hard. It’s the insulation that causes the most concern and rightly so.
Asbestos removal in Tulsa and surrounding areas can be costly. Probably more costly thana Mold Inspection. So be forewarned.
Being proactive with these 3 issues can limit or even prevent problems when deciding to sell your home in Tulsa. Unfortunately, some sellers simply have not heard about these problems or had an inspector “minimize” these dangers when they themselves bought the home!
Information and education are the keys to preventing nasty surprises! If you’re buying or selling a home in the Tulsa or surrounding area, give 1A Home Inspections a call, we’d love to discuss your home with you! 918-927-7698