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Old 01-28-2010, 11:27 PM   #1
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Building Dept says homeowners can't do their own electric. WHAT??!


So, I spoke to my local building dept in Birmingham AL and they said homeowners can't do any of their own electrical or pluming.

You need a licensed electrician or plumber. Ridiculous. How many other municipalities are out there like this? I shouldn't have to hire an electrician just to run a couple of outlets or a plumber to move some pipes.

Just about every city website I researched allowed homeowners to do their own work as long as you have your permits and inspections. They even have electrical guidance (NEC) on their sites.

What ever.

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Old 01-28-2010, 11:44 PM   #2
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Building Dept says homeowners can't do their own electric. WHAT??!


I'm a building official and I couldn't agree with you more!

A lot of the time, cities with rules like that have a pretty strong union presence. Kind of like Chicago's stupid conduit requirement in residential work.

When I inspect a homeowner's work I use the same code book and look at the work in the same way I look at a pro's work. It doesn't matter to me who did the work. Ride with me for a day's work and I'll show you some "professional" licensed electricians and plumbers that do hack work, that's for sure. "Licensed" means nothing to me. Nothing.

The only thing that stupid policies like that do is encourage DIYers to do the work "under the radar" and not get the necessary permit and inspections. That scares me to death. I'd rather let Joe Blow do his own work and then be able to inspect it to make sure it is safe.

You posted here the other day asking very basic electrical questions. Veeeery basic. Case and point....If you circumvent the permits process and never have your work inspected due to your City's rule, that ain't good.

Write a letter to your City's councilpeople, mayor, building official, and the local press. I'd be curious to hear how they respond to the idea that people will avoid the process altogether, when the City's goal should be to protect the owner from substandard work as opposed to keeping the local contractors in business.

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Old 01-29-2010, 12:06 AM   #3
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Building Dept says homeowners can't do their own electric. WHAT??!


Amen, termite! You said a mouthful
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Old 01-29-2010, 12:06 AM   #4
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Building Dept says homeowners can't do their own electric. WHAT??!


In Birmingham they've spent a lot of time wasting time and keeping their heads way up there.


I've seen very shotty work as well from so called licensed contractors. Have nothing against them. I'm originally from NY (big union state) and even there in most parts of the state homeowners can do their own work with permits and inspections.



Like you said, Inspectors and contractors working together.
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Old 01-29-2010, 01:58 AM   #5
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Building Dept says homeowners can't do their own electric. WHAT??!


Need licensed electricians and plumbers to sign off on work in Central Illinois but you can do the work yourself if you find one willing to do so. For liability reasons, most will not for work they do no know. Part of it is insurance companies suing municipalities when things go up in flames because of inspected but faulty wiring. Involving a licensed contractor puts another ass on the line.

I am in mentioned conduit land now.

Last edited by user1007; 01-29-2010 at 02:02 AM.
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Old 01-29-2010, 06:54 AM   #6
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Building Dept says homeowners can't do their own electric. WHAT??!


In still other cities, DIY may be permitted by the owner occupant of a single family house but not for duplexes or other multi-family's and/or for rental property.

Could the conduit requirement in Chicago have something to do with being unusually aware of rat damage to cables or spectacular fires happening as a result?
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Last edited by AllanJ; 01-29-2010 at 06:56 AM.
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Old 01-29-2010, 07:08 AM   #7
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Building Dept says homeowners can't do their own electric. WHAT??!


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Could the conduit requirement in Chicago have something to do with being unusually aware of rat damage to cables or spectacular fires happening as a result?
There are always lots of reasons given for it including reduced fire risk. As far as chomping rodents? This place is no more rat infested than anywhere else that allows Romex and rats do not seek the stuff out as even a dietary supplement. It has to do with this being a strong labor town with much of it union (nothing against this in principle by the way). Conduit takes more labor to put in and take out, therefore it must be a good thing.
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Old 01-29-2010, 11:14 AM   #8
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Building Dept says homeowners can't do their own electric. WHAT??!


I was going to get a permit for a subpanel and wire of my garage. I wanted to have someone else check things, just to make sure I was doing things correctly and to CYA. I wrote up a plan and was told, 'sorry, you have to be licensed contractor.' According to city code you have to pull a permit for any work relating to electrical, plumbing, or HVAC. (Something as simple as a light switch or shutoff valve replacement requires a permit.)

I've had half a dozen reputable contractors make repairs to those systems in my house since I've lived there. Only one pulled a permit, and that was because the PoCo required it before turning service back on. So in practice the city's stupid policy means that no one pulls a permit unless its unavoidable.

I would challenge the rules but my city would probably send the inspector out and bust me for all the bad wiring the previous homeowner did.

Robert
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Old 01-29-2010, 01:03 PM   #9
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Building Dept says homeowners can't do their own electric. WHAT??!


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According to city code you have to pull a permit for any work relating to electrical, plumbing, or HVAC. (Something as simple as a light switch or shutoff valve replacement requires a permit.)

Robert
I one lived in a place like that (Eastern Washington state). Pretty ridiculous to need a $20 permit to replace a $2 light switch. Fortunately, where I live now (West Virginia) isn't so anal. My wife and I are building our own house (literally doing it ourselves) and the only things we can't do without being licensed are the well and the septic system.
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Old 01-29-2010, 04:08 PM   #10
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Building Dept says homeowners can't do their own electric. WHAT??!


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Originally Posted by skellies View Post
So, I spoke to my local building dept in Birmingham AL and they said homeowners can't do any of their own electrical or pluming.

You need a licensed electrician or plumber. Ridiculous. How many other municipalities are out there like this? I shouldn't have to hire an electrician just to run a couple of outlets or a plumber to move some pipes.

Just about every city website I researched allowed homeowners to do their own work as long as you have your permits and inspections. They even have electrical guidance (NEC) on their sites.

What ever.
Are you actually in the city limits of Birmingham, or are you perhaps in one of the many suburbs that surround the city (or perhaps even an unicorporated area of Birmingham)? After all, the city limits of all the municipalities down here are sometimes like a plate of spagetti.

When I went to our municipality inspector (suburb of Birmingham), I learned that the codes adopted by the State of Alabama allow for home owners to do wiring in their own home if it is a single residential unit and you plan to continue living in the house for a certain amount of time.

But, a county can impose it's own set of codes that superseeds the state, and a municipality can impose it's own set of codes that superseeds the county.
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Old 01-29-2010, 04:30 PM   #11
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Building Dept says homeowners can't do their own electric. WHAT??!


Check this out: http://www.informationbirmingham.com...hnicalCode.pdf

From what I could find with a quick read, the information you have been given does not seem to be supported by the documents provided from the city of Birmingham.

Specifically, the Technical Code of Birmingham appears to have an excpetion for certain types of plumbing work that do not involve a modification to the waste sytem, and it seems to specifically state that things considered minor repairs (such as the replacing of a faulty switch without other modifications to the electrical work).

I also looked at the section regarding the issuing of permits. That section specifically stated that a home owner or his authorized agent may apply for a permit, and that when a permit is granted, the permit gives permission for the work to be done. But it doesn't seem to indicate who has to do the work. In otherwords, a QUICK look at this document seems to me to indicate that a home owner can apply for a permit, and that if the permit is issued, the home owner can do the work. The only limitation I could find SO FAR that was to the contrary was for work expected to cost more than $50,000. Then the technical code gets into the need for a bonded contractor to apply for the permit.
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Old 01-30-2010, 08:28 AM   #12
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Building Dept says homeowners can't do their own electric. WHAT??!


Different municipalities=different rules/laws. In my area, within city limits, the homeowner (residing in the home) may not "run any new circuits, run any new plumbing branches, actual construction is very limited, and NO HVAC work. Step over the line drawn on the maps into the County, and there's not much regulation. But- - I'm still glad to live in the U. S. A. Thanks, David
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Old 01-30-2010, 10:54 AM   #13
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Building Dept says homeowners can't do their own electric. WHAT??!


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Need licensed electricians and plumbers to sign off on work in Central Illinois but you can do the work yourself if you find one willing to do so. For liability reasons, most will not for work they do no know. Part of it is insurance companies suing municipalities when things go up in flames because of inspected but faulty wiring. Involving a licensed contractor puts another ass on the line.
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I've heard several references to having electricians/plumbers "sign off" on work, but I really not sure what that means. I've also heard of contractors who have "lent" their license out to friends, etc, but I've generally understood this to be illegal and to jepordise the contractors license, so I assume that you are talking about something different. I'm assuming the home-owner is still the one who pulls the permit, and the license pro just signs something? Will the insurance of the electrical/plumber who did the "signing off" cover the work, even though they didn't do it? What purpose does having someone "sign off" on the work accomplish that an inspection doesn't? Is this an admission that the inspector lacks competence? Is this just a comprimise position with unions to allow but discourage home owner work but unsure that a licensed pro gets some money out of the job. I guess I just don't understand what is being done here.
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Old 01-30-2010, 11:01 AM   #14
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Building Dept says homeowners can't do their own electric. WHAT??!


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I've heard several references to having electricians/plumbers "sign off" on work, but I really not sure what that means. I've also heard of contractors who have "lent" their license out to friends, etc, but I've generally understood this to be illegal and to jepordise the contractors license, so I assume that you are talking about something different. I'm assuming the home-owner is still the one who pulls the permit, and the license pro just signs something? Will the insurance of the electrical/plumber who did the "signing off" cover the work, even though they didn't do it? What purpose does having someone "sign off" on the work accomplish that an inspection doesn't? Is this an admission that the inspector lacks competence? Is this just a comprimise position with unions to allow but discourage home owner work but unsure that a licensed pro gets some money out of the job. I guess I just don't understand what is being done here.
As long as a homeowner can legally do the work its not a problem
Many people here will sign on an electrician, then the homeowner does most of the work
Electrician comes back & verifies the work & then the inspection is scheduled

The electrician "signing off" justmeans that he has verified the work
Still needs to be Inspected by an Inspector, has nothing to do with the competence of the Inspector
This method can save the Inspectors a lot of time when homeowners do not wire to meet code
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Old 01-30-2010, 11:14 AM   #15
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Building Dept says homeowners can't do their own electric. WHAT??!


But I don't understand why this sign off is required prior to inspection. I home owner wanted someone to double check things prior to inspection that is fine (although I've never found inspectors that scary), but what is accomplished by requiring it?

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