Can A Homeowner Perform Electrical Work In MA? - Electrical - Page 6 - DIY Chatroom Home Improvement Forum

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Old 04-10-2012, 01:16 AM   #76
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Originally Posted by chieftaing View Post
I've read this 5 page thread, read the MGL sections that apply, and have the following question:

The actual ability for a homeowner to pull a permit in the governing town/city/etc seems to vary. If I live in a town whose inspector says - "No, we don't give permits to homeowners" - what is my recourse?

I have done home electrical work that has been inspected and passed a bunch of times before, a few here in MA, once in NJ. I would like my work to be inspected, not only to ensure its correct, but also so that homeowners insurance is not compromised.

Before I approach my town's inspector, what are the *facts* here? Thanks.
527 CMR 12.00 (Massachussets Electrical Code) Admendment 90.6
90.6 Interpretations and Appeals. To promote uniformity of interpretation and application of the provisions of this Code, interpretations may be requested from the Board of Fire Prevention Regulations. Requests for interpretation shall be in the form of a question that can receive a "Yes" or "No" answer. This in no way supersedes the right of any individual who is aggrieved by the decision of an Inspector of Wires to appeal from that decision to the Board of Electricians' Appeals in accordance with M.G.L. c. 143, 3P. The Board of Fire Prevention Regulations shall, upon the request of the Board of Electricians' Appeals, render interpretations to the Board of Electricians' Appeals.

Ask the question: Can the owner of a standalone, owner occupied single family residence perform their own eletrical work?
If owner of a standalone, owner occupied single family residence perform their own eletrical work performs their own eletrical work, do they require a permit?

In Massachusetts Cities and Towns derive authority from the state. Under MGL 143 Section 3L, for uniformity permitting, the permiting process is a State Function, enforced by the local Inspector of Wires. In theory this means that determining if you can perform your own electrical work should NOT vary from one town to the next.

Problem 1: No where does the law allow or deny a home owner from performing there own electrical work.
MGL 143 Section 3L specifically says "for hire" and MGL 141 Section 1A (Electrician Licensing) says "engage in, or work at the business or occupation of installing wires...". So the law only deals with professionals not home owners and unlike the plumbing code which specifically prohibits unlicensed work, the electrical codes do not address non-professionals.

Problem 2: 527 CMR 12.00 Rule 1
All installations, repairs and maintenance of electrical wiring and electrical fixtures used for light, heat, power, signaling and communications purposes in buildings and structures subject to the provisions of M.G.L. c. 143 shall be reasonably safe to persons and property.
Many Inspectors of Wires interpret this to mean they have broad authority, including authority to require licenses electricians, especially in the Democratic Republic of Cambridge and the like.

Problem 3: The permit application requires the signature of a licensed electrician. It's a catch-22. You don't need a permit becasue you aren't a professional, but if you "do the right thing" you can't apply for a permit. So, in reality the inspector is not rejecting your application, becasue you are a homeowner, but because it fails to meet form.

Problem 4: The rights of the home owner are not in the code, but in case law (court decisions). I'm still looking for the case, that basically didn't so much grant homeowners the right to do their own electrical work, but for public safety extended the permitting and inspection process to owner performed work. When I find it I'll add it.

Problem 5: Don't piss off the inspector, he can make your life miserable. A good way to win him over is to show him a detailed plan that shows 1) you know what your doing and 2) you know and planned for the quirks of your house. The MA application does not require plans.

Useful links:
MA Adoption of NEC 2011 public notice as required by law:
MGL 143 Section 3L (The Official Unofficial Law on Electrical Inspection)
527 CMR 12.00 (Massachussets Electrical Code and NEC Admendments)


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Old 04-11-2012, 05:35 AM   #77
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Came on this thread with interest and it even prompted me to sign up here... I've always lived in much "mellower" states than MA but now facing a situation where I might want to do some work on my own house... I've kinda been warned about the anti-DIY sentiment you can run into in places but hoping its not too bad.

To the inspector who says "I give homeowners one shot to get it absolutely perfect and if they don't then I screw them" - well thats a really great way to encourage people to not ever go near you. Real smart. I mean you COULD actually give people valuable input and advice so they learn from your inspection and learn to do things right and get rewarded for dealing with you... and you COULD constructively point out why you can't pass them yet and even advise them to go work with a licensed electrician to finish the job without being punitive about it, but nawww who'd want that. Instead just prove how smart and powerful you are - that's a much better idea.

Anyway... our place is old ungrounded stuff everywhere and with more than a few legacy polarity faults from original construction 70 years ago or whatever it was. I can't afford to pay an electrician to do everything, but we ARE paying him for parts of a renovation and putting in a new service entrance and main service panel. I am hoping to both enhance the safety as well as the capacity of the system over time myself - replacing the ungrounded service that the electrician won't be doing in the first round as well as things like expanding the service in the garage for instance.

Sadly if it comes down to the only choices be "go with the union / inspector monopoly cartel and pay full freight" or nothing, the answer for us would have to be "OK then we'll stick with crappy old less safe and more overloaded wiring". But I'm hoping there's a more sensible route in the middle.

BTW unlike some in this thread who were obviously abused by bad electricians when they were young, I have every respect for good tradesman and for safety and for high quality craftsmanship. But I also know that I am smart enough to learn the basics and do a quality job as long as I don't get over my head and I get good advice and coaching. I work with high voltage electronics sometimes (400-500-600V vacuum tube amps anyone? 1KV CRT supplies?) so I have a full appreciation of the dangers as well as some of the specific considerations involved like why ground loops are bad etc etc...

My intended approach was going to be to pay my electrician for some time to be sure my design / materials plan is up to snuff, and then have him come out and give the job an eyeball again after I'm done before having the inspector come out. I know lots of friends/family that have done that in other states, but any comments on that? Does that work in MA or am I likely to run into trouble?
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Old 04-11-2012, 06:48 AM   #78
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Originally Posted by levtron View Post
I had an electrician pull a permit, and do all the rough work. all was inspected and we put up the walls. He came back to start the finish work, got most of it done, and then disappeared. I finally got a hold of him and he informed me that his company is being sued (internal conflict between partners) and he wont be able to finish.

There are a few outlets and switches left. Can I finish it up and call for the final myself and remove the original electrician from the permit?

I am in Natick Ma.
Don't ask us - we cannot speak for your town.

There is a good chance the inspector may allow it, but then also want you to designate which switches and outlets you finished.....

Check with your local electrical inspector to get the yay or nay on that.


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