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Any one familiar with the law in Massachusetts regarding DIY?

Any one familiar with the law in Massachusetts regarding DIY?

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  #1  
Old 05-18-11, 12:34 PM
SBI
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Any one familiar with the law in Massachusetts regarding DIY?

Can a home owner in MA do any electrical work themselves, and if so - to what extent.

Thanks.
 
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  #2  
Old 05-18-11, 02:15 PM
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Many states allow a homeowner to do their own electrical work in their own home however, this can be overruled by the city your live in. This work is subject to inspections and permits. Your city will issues these in many cases.

Google is your friend: Massachusetts Building Permit Applications
 
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Old 05-18-11, 02:37 PM
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Thank you for your reply.

I know that I need a permit for electrical work, but my question is - is there any part of the job (like pulling wires, install boxes, etc.) that I can do myself (basically to save money)? City inspector said "no", but for some reason I find it hard to believe that a home owner cannot do anything on their own. I am not talking about upgrading a panel :-)
 
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Old 05-18-11, 02:50 PM
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It's my understanding that in MA the state law allows homeowners to pull permits and do the work themselves; however local governments (and by extension their inspectors) have the authority to grants permits only to licensed electricians at their discretion. I believe you have the right to appeal any decision made by a local inspector to the state inspector's office, but of course that's added hassle for you.

I have also heard there is a very common practice in the state of paying an electrician to sign the permit and the homeowner doing the work under the table.
 
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Old 05-18-11, 05:55 PM
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Thanks ibpooks. I would never thought that the local (city) government's inspector has so much power, to the extent of overruling the state.
 
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Old 05-18-11, 06:26 PM
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I don't think it's overruling the state as much as the local municipality always has the option of increasing and/or amending the requirements.
 
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Old 05-18-11, 09:03 PM
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Originally Posted by SBI View Post
Thanks ibpooks. I would never thought that the local (city) government's inspector has so much power, to the extent of overruling the state.
Your municipality should have ordinances that clearly delineate who is considered qualified to do what types of electrical work. For example some cities say anybody can replace a switch, receptacle or light fixture, but any new wiring must be done by a licensed electrician.

Other cities say homeowners can do any work in their own home.

Still others say homeowners can do limited work in their own home, such as wiring outside of the load center only or extension of existing circuits only.

Welcome to local government 101. Ordinances often include statements such as "in the judgment of the inspector" which are so vague they would not withstand a vigorous challenge. However most people will not bother contesting this since they don't want the inspector to have any reason to be vindictive, or it's not worth the hassle or expense.

Locally here, the ordinances had about twenty very specific requirements that were probably indefensible, and they were finally repealed a few years ago.

In WI the state administrative code sets specific requirements for local governments that wish to codify more restrictive regulations than those in the state electrical code. These requirements include such things as right to appeal, right to speedy inspection, and credentials required for inspectors. I seem to recall that there are some code provisions that local governments are not permitted to make more restrictive, but I think they're general stuff.

Good luck to you.
 
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Old 05-19-11, 02:48 PM
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Thanks ArgMeMatey.
Yeah, I'd love to challenge the inspector, but as you said - I might not want to piss him off for what the "savings" might be.

What these "Goddess" inspectors don't understand is that:

1. The fact that someone is a licensed electrician does not mean he knows the job better than me.
2. With this kind of 'dictatorship', many people will opt not to even apply for a permit.
 
  #9  
Old 05-19-11, 06:09 PM
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Originally Posted by SBI View Post
Thanks ArgMeMatey.
Yeah, I'd love to challenge the inspector, but as you said - I might not want to piss him off for what the "savings" might be.

What these "Goddess" inspectors don't understand is that:

1. The fact that someone is a licensed electrician does not mean he knows the job better than me.
2. With this kind of 'dictatorship', many people will opt not to even apply for a permit.
Oh, they know that stuff. I don't know about anywhere else, but here the inspectors get paid the same whether they are in the office looking busy or out on inspections. Every once in a while on DIY boards the subject of pro vs. DIYer comes up. Inspectors prefer pros because it makes their job easier. Inspectors don't care if people don't get permits. They only care that inspections go smoothly so they can sign off and close the permit.

There's always speculation that unions are responsible for these "pro only" rules. I've never seen any proof of this. Plus, most residential electricians are not even union. But both union and non-union trades workers and contractors benefit if a law requires their services. If it looks like a duck ...

The justification for professional work is that electricity can cause property damage and personal injury. In reality, permitting has become a tax collection scheme more than anything else. I mean, if they require pros to do the work, and the inspectors do cursory inspections, there ain't a whole lot left to chance. You can bet if there is a problem with the wiring, the contractor is going to be held responsible, not the inspector.

Local government "sells" inspectors as a service to homeowners to protect them from unscrupulous contractors. There is some nominal value in that, but that inspector is certainly not inclined to testify that he didn't do a thorough enough inspection. My rule has always been that if I don't know what a contractor is doing, I'm going to be paying another licensed contractor or a licensed engineer to inspect it for me.

My view is that since I and my family live in my house, no one has a greater interest in making sure it's safe. Unfortunately nobody certifies owner-occupants, so unless you live in an area where all the laws are logical, you may be out of luck.

In my case I hired a licensed electrician to replace my service. He installed the new load center and meter pedestal and got the permit and I did the branch circuits. Not easy to find such an electrician, though! You may have to know somebody who has a brother, etc.
 
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Old 05-19-11, 06:54 PM
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Originally Posted by SBI View Post
1. The fact that someone is a licensed electrician does not mean he knows the job better than me.
2. With this kind of 'dictatorship', many people will opt not to even apply for a permit.
You won't find any argument with that sentiment here. The only comment I would make is that while most homeowners can learn do basic electrical work correctly, all but the best DIYers would be in over their heads on a service job. From the inspector's point-of-view an electrician is pretty much guaranteed to do the job right the first time whereas it's a gamble on whether the homeowner does it right or not. I personally think the homeowner should be given the chance if he chooses to do it, but not all governments agree with that.

If you're not making any traction with the local inspector I would advise you to at least call the state division to get them to weigh in on the situation. They might say "not my problem", but then again they might say "yeah he's a jerk here's your permit".
 
  #11  
Old 05-20-11, 06:38 AM
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First of - I will definitely not do a service upgrade on my own. I am true to myself and I know that I am not capable of doing this. I need to do a service upgrade and then wire a new "construction", which is my basement. I am finishing my basement and wanted to do the rough wiring/boxes myself to save a few bucks. I am pretty sure I can do that.

Now, I did speak with the state electrical inspector last night. He said there is nothing that prevents a homeowner to do any electrical work on their own. However, a permit can only be pulled by a licensed electrician...it has to be on the permit, there is a special box for that and he said we won't get a permit unless it is filled. He also said that if an electrician is pulling a permit I can then do whatever I want, but obviously the responsibility would be on him, not me.

I did speak with an electrician who basically had no problem of doing the upgrade and then me doing the rough wiring. He said if he doesn't like it, he'll pull everything out, will do it himself and I'll have to pay him (fair enough ).

My issue with the local inspector is that he did not say what the state inspector said; he was pretty straight forward by saying "homeowners cannot do any electrical work themselves".
 
  #12  
Old 05-20-11, 08:30 AM
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Originally Posted by SBI View Post
My issue with the local inspector is that he did not say what the state inspector said; he was pretty straight forward by saying "homeowners cannot do any electrical work themselves".
That matches my experience. I have also discussed these issues with both state and local inspectors. The state inspector was candid and referred me to specific provisions in the state code. The local inspector wasn't so bad, but his supervisor was a complete prick (not my words but I have since discussed his attitude with numerous other homeowners).

The state sets the bar too low for local inspectors, because it's not cost-effective for many local governments to have full-time inspectors paid at a living wage. In my suburban municipality, the electrical inspector is a local electrical contractor who holds office hours and does inspections for a few hours each week. Another electrical contractor is the backup inspector and inspects any work done by the primary inspector. Doesn't this sound like a conflict of interest?

The kicker for me was that the inspector had no issues with any of my work on RI or final, but the electrician had to fix a couple of things he did wrong. Case closed.

That said, I always recommend getting and poring over copies of all applicable codes (NEC, state, local), a good textbook like Ray Mullin's Electrical Wiring Residential, and Wiring Simplified by Richter et al. Plenty of code stuff is common sense but you can't ignore box fill, workmanship, GFCI and AFCI requirements and expect to get away with it.
 
  #13  
Old 05-20-11, 11:22 AM
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Homeowner Wiring

Put yourself in the shoes of the contractor who pulls the permit and is responsible for the job. Would you trust someone you do not know to do any of the work? What does his liability insurance company have to say about such practices? Just my 2 cents.
 
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Old 05-20-11, 01:00 PM
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I don't see a problem if we both agree that if the electrician "doesn't like" what he sees, he'll pull everything out and re-wire (and charge me for that).
 
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Old 05-20-11, 01:48 PM
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Sounds like a good deal for your situation SBI since you had the electrician coming out anyway for the service panel. Follow up with him and ask him how he likes the holes drilled and romex stapled. Little details can make a big difference between an amateur and professional job. The inspector will spend a lot less time looking up close when everything looks good from 10' away.
 
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Old 05-20-11, 02:10 PM
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Will definitely do. Thanks for the tip!
 
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Old 05-20-11, 02:28 PM
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Originally Posted by ArgMeMatey View Post
That said, I always recommend getting and poring over copies of all applicable codes (NEC, state, local), a good textbook like Ray Mullin's Electrical Wiring Residential, and Wiring Simplified by Richter et al. Plenty of code stuff is common sense but you can't ignore box fill, workmanship, GFCI and AFCI requirements and expect to get away with it.
Thanks for the books reference. They both look very informative. I ordered Ray Mullin's in the library and will stop at Barns and Nobel on my way home to check Wiring Simplified.
 
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Old 05-20-11, 02:32 PM
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Originally Posted by SBI View Post
t Barns and Nobel on my way home to check Wiring Simplified.
You can also find it at a lot of the big box home stores in the electrical section.
 
  #19  
Old 05-20-11, 06:13 PM
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In my opinion, a HO will do a better job in his own house beings as he lived there so he knows his personal requirements, and he will put his best foot forward as it is his house.

I have read wiring simplified, as well as my grandpa's old wiring books when I was younger, and found them very helpful and learned alot of the basics. Wiring simplified also has references to code sections, so you can read on in the code if you get it or borrow one.
 
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Old 05-20-11, 06:25 PM
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I agree with most of what I have read in this thread, but I take issue with one statement, not because it isn't usually right, but because of the economy and slow construction work being experienced across the nation.

Inspectors prefer pros because it makes their job easier. Inspectors don't care if people don't get permits. They only care that inspections go smoothly so they can sign off and close the permit.
From what I have observed in the last year or two, some inspectors are out making work for themselves by nitpicking code interpretations, balking and finding deficiency where little or none exists so they can return at a later date for a re-inspection and also charge a $40 re-inspection fee. In my area, inspectors have been layed off for lack of work and some of the remaining inspectors are protecting their own jobs by making it difficult on reputable contractors and making more work for themselves. In addition, some inspectors are traveling the streets and back alleys looking for contractors performing electrical work without permits. Note I said SOME inspectors, not all inspectors.
 
  #21  
Old 05-23-11, 08:39 AM
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Originally Posted by CasualJoe View Post
I agree with most of what I have read in this thread, but I take issue with one statement, not because it isn't usually right, but because of the economy and slow construction work being experienced across the nation.



From what I have observed in the last year or two, some inspectors are out making work for themselves by nitpicking code interpretations, balking and finding deficiency where little or none exists so they can return at a later date for a re-inspection and also charge a $40 re-inspection fee. In my area, inspectors have been layed off for lack of work and some of the remaining inspectors are protecting their own jobs by making it difficult on reputable contractors and making more work for themselves. In addition, some inspectors are traveling the streets and back alleys looking for contractors performing electrical work without permits. Note I said SOME inspectors, not all inspectors.
So based on this theory, inspectors would encourage homeowners (or lets say - will not object as much) doing their own work because it gives them opportunity to "require" further inspections, whereas when a 'licensed electrician' does the work, more likely than not it will be done correctly.
 
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Old 05-23-11, 06:00 PM
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So based on this theory, inspectors would encourage homeowners (or lets say - will not object as much) doing their own work because it gives them opportunity to "require" further inspections, whereas when a 'licensed electrician' does the work, more likely than not it will be done correctly.
No, based on my observation, the typical inspector is failing more inspections than ever before regardless of who did the work.
 
  #23  
Old 05-24-11, 06:28 AM
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Originally Posted by CasualJoe View Post
No, based on my observation, the typical inspector is failing more inspections than ever before regardless of who did the work.
I don't doubt your observation, but epistemologically, that does not negate SBI's assertion that DIY work would require more inspections. In other words, what he said and what you said are not mutually exclusive.

I would simply say that DIY work is more likely to require more inspections than work by licensed electricians.

Inspectors are human; just like the rest of us, a certain percentage of the time, they want to have their cake and eat it, too.
 
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