what should I find in an old permit?

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  #1  
Old 08-21-06, 10:22 AM
wgc
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what should I find in an old permit?

I have many questions about the safety and capability of the wiring in my family room addition, and have asked a bunch of them here. I'm slowly getting to the point of doing something about it but have questions about old permits. No, this is not for any lawsuit, but just to cover all the bases.

My city (outside of Boston) has some permit records online, but this addition was added 12 years ago and they have not digitized any of those records. I'd like to see the old permit but can't get there myself when they are open. They gave my wife a runarouns and a useless printout of the same "street card" that I sent her there with. I need to know more about what to expect before I can send her back, or even whether there is any point in actually getting copies of permits for my house.

- The "street card" shows there is a building permit, but there is no separate permit or inspection listed for electrical. Is it normal for that to be combined or does that mean it wasn't permitted or inspected?

- Will I find paperwork that will give me plans or other useful details to work with, or just signatures and brief text descriptions?

- Is there any chance of an old permit having enough details to have a useful conversation with the inspector about what changes I need to include?

I'm fairly comfortable with the _fixes_ and _upgrades_ I need to do and that those changes will pass an inspection, thanks partly to the help of people here. However I am anxious about the "bring everything up to current code" clause of making a major change and the things that I may not have noticed.
 
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Old 08-21-06, 10:45 AM
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Depending on your local building code, it is not uncommon for permits/inspections to be of the all in one type. Unless just electrical was done, it may not be listed as electrical.

I doubt that if you do find the old inspections report you will find any more info than say the number of outlets and lights, if it is even that detail. I seriously doubt that they have any as build drawings that will help you.

I suggest that you approach this from a where to go from here angle.

Post details on what you are trying to do, and we will try to help.
 
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Old 08-21-06, 11:37 AM
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Where I live, the building and mechanical inspections are handled by the city and the electrical inspections are handled by the state through local offices. It's possible that the electrical portion of the permit is on file in another office, was rolled into one master permit that covered the entire construction project or was never inspected.
 
  #4  
Old 08-22-06, 09:38 AM
wgc
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replace subpanel

Originally Posted by jwhite
I suggest that you approach this from a where to go from here angle.

Post details on what you are trying to do, and we will try to help.
Alright, but hopefully this won't take the thread off into the woods. I have posted several times on this to cover the details of the work, but currently mostly question the paperwork/inspection/permit details, so I'll try to keep on that topic.

I have an attic subpanel feeding a family room addition. I have fixed several obvious dangers but that has left me no confidence in what is there, plus I'd like space for more circuits and I'd like breakers instead of fuses. I'd like to replace the 6 circuit fusebox with a modern subpanel with breakers and more circuits, plus split out a couple of the circuits and add a few more.

Things I do _not_ want to do include:
- moving the subpanel if someone doesn't like that the slanted roof allows standing a little to the side but not directly in front of (depending on how tall you are) or that it does not back against a wall (between two vertical 2x4's).
- opening the family walls to bring in new wiring (fishing is out)
- replacing/splicing other wiring in the attic that may not have adequate support or nailing protection (one project at a time please)
- replacing the feed from the main if there is anything I don't know about it not being current (damaged and dangerous are one thing but if it's grandfathered as good, I don't want to expand the scope this far yet).

So what are your thoughts about being able to legitimately update what I know about and can comfortably do within a reasonable time without being forced into something larger or requiring hiring someone?
 
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Old 08-22-06, 09:55 AM
wgc
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should cover it all

Originally Posted by ibpooks
It's possible that the electrical portion of the permit is on file in another office,
I specifically asked that. They said that the "street card" lists all permits on the house for any reason whatsoever. However the first electrical inspection listed is the smoke alarm inspection when the previous owner sold the house to us.
 
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Old 08-22-06, 10:02 AM
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Pardon my blunt reply, but it does not sound like you want to do this project. Any project worth doing is worth doing properly.

A sub panel without the proper clearances (it doesn't sound like yours has them) needs to be moved. If the wiring to the sub panel is inadequate or improper, it needs to be replaced.

You cannot always separate circuits without fishing wires or opening walls. Sometimes you can, but even then it is usually better to at least fish a wire or two, else you end up with needless junction boxes in the attic.

Back to figuring out where you are. You can figure out where you are by looking at the work that was done. If you don't have the knowledge to understand what you are looking at, then you hire an electrician. Yes it will cost you, maybe an hour's time, maybe two hours time,but you will the understand if what you have is safe.

Just looking at a permit or an inspection report will not tell you everything was done properly. It most certainly won't tell you if the work is up to today's code. Inspectors generally do not always inspect every connection, every junction box, or every device.
 
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Old 08-22-06, 10:04 AM
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Originally Posted by wgc
However the first electrical inspection listed is the smoke alarm inspection when the previous owner sold the house to us.
In Massachusetts, the smoke alarm inspection is NOT an electrical inspection. It is ofetn done by the local fire department. All they care about is that there are smoke alarms at the proper locations.
 
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Old 08-22-06, 10:17 AM
wgc
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yet it's there

Originally Posted by racraft
In Massachusetts, the smoke alarm inspection is NOT an electrical inspection. It is ofetn done by the local fire department. All they care about is that there are smoke alarms at the proper locations.
I don't know what to say ... it is there under electrical. I was able to get a copy of that online and it has a text description saying that the smoke alarms were inspected and they added a couple (just independent battery operated ones, not even interconnected). Maybe it was a general electrical inspection or something.

As part of the pre-sales walk through I had noticed a few things that I pointed out. They were originally going to fix them but dropped that in favor of money back if I took care of them. Maybe their electrician had to post something to justify his work.
 
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Old 08-22-06, 10:24 AM
wgc
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scope

Originally Posted by racraft
Pardon my blunt reply, but it does not sound like you want to do this project. Any project worth doing is worth doing properly.
I appreciate the honesty and I agree with the sentiment. I very much want to do this, as a learning experience and as the basis of other projects, and I very much want to do it right (even to the paperwork, which I'll bet homeowners don't do very often).

However I want to define the scope of the project. At the very least I want to know if doing it right will expand the scope beyond what I am prepared to do.
 
  #10  
Old 08-22-06, 10:41 AM
wgc
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up to AHJ

Originally Posted by racraft
A sub panel without the proper clearances (it doesn't sound like yours has them) needs to be moved.
This is one of the details I didn't want to ride off into the woods with this thread, but the only answer I have is ...

That is one of the questions I previously posted to this forum. The NEC specifies a rectangular area of clearance which this panel does not have. However you can stand essentially in front of it and there is nothing except empty space (aside from the roof slant). Until I am able to demonstrate the lack of a permit/inspection I have to assume this was legal at the time so is now grandfathered.

The answer I took from this board was that this was a grey area up to the AHJ. The reason this is pertinent is that moving the panel changes the scope of my project, possibly beyond what I want to do. It is certainly not something I want to find out on an inspection.
 
  #11  
Old 08-22-06, 11:16 AM
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Whether or not you have to replace the old panel will not depend on it being or not being part of the previous permit and inspection. That's not important.

The inspector, if the panel is examined, will know that it is older. He or she may or may not flag it as a problem that's a judgment call. If they flag it, you will have to try to argue that it was existing when you bought the house, and that your work did not involve moving or significantly modifying the panel.

If you are adding circuits to the panel, then all they can really inspect are the new circuit breakers and the connections.

Ask ahead of time. Asking here and looking at old permits will not help you at all.
 
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