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Old 12-14-2011, 12:14 PM   #1
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permit needed to re-position electrical fixtures


Part of my unfinished basement was setup by the previous owners as a utility room / workshop. Over the workbench area there are a couple light fixtures (basically ceramic sockets attached to junction boxes and screwed to the joists) as well as one electrical outlet above the bench (all on a 20amp circuit).

My question is: I'd like to re-position the overhead light fixtures and the electrical outlet to more convenient positions. This would entail disconnecting the fixtures, possibly drilling holes in the joists to run the existing cable to the new location which is not very far from the existing location (there is plenty of cable to do this), and re-connecting the fixtures. Is this disconnect/reconnect exercise subject to a permit? I did similar re-positioning in my previous house and did not get a permit. From my perspective, this is not major electrical work and I would consider it to be stretching the "ordinary repairs" allowance in the Code. I'd rather save the $50 permit fee.

(As a side-note...There are other 're-positioning' projects that I am considering. I see permits as pointless for my particular cases, but I am inerested in other's opinions.)

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Old 12-14-2011, 12:28 PM   #2
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permit needed to re-position electrical fixtures


I can see no good reason to pull a permit for this job, other than insurance considerations. Should your house ever burn, your work could be questioned and the insurance company could refuse to pay your claim.
Do you know what you are doing? That would be of the utmost importance. If you do it to code, you should be fine as long as you know what to do and how to do it right.

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Old 12-14-2011, 01:00 PM   #3
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permit needed to re-position electrical fixtures


Thanks for the reply J.V. I definitely know what I'm doing in this case. I sometimes struggle with the 'angel on one shoulder, devil on the other' situation. I am no fan of the electrical code (NEC), but I like to think I am a law-abiding citizen and try to be a good boy whenever possible. However, with me common sense rules the day, and I see some 'required' permits as simply a revenue stream for my city.
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Old 12-14-2011, 01:44 PM   #4
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permit needed to re-position electrical fixtures


I wouldnt worry about a permit for minor project either as long as you feel safe doing the job.
If inspectors had to look at every repair or minor modification done to a house theyd never have time to get anything done,its hard enough to wait on an inspector for a big job!
I had problems years ago with a city plumbing inspector whos no longer around about me not pulling repair permits.
So everytime I did a repair no matter how small it was in his area I started faxing in repair permits just to play with him.
After about 3 months of me sending in repair permits and him having to come out and inspect stop valves under sinks/faucet cartridge change outs and delta faucet repairs(i made him get up under a lot of sinks! ) he got mad and told me to quit calling in permits for jobs under $500.00!
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Old 12-14-2011, 02:06 PM   #5
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permit needed to re-position electrical fixtures


Obviously you should always check with your AHJ and pull a permit when it's required.

Your situation, like life, is somewhat of a grab bag. Hopefully I'm not getting too philosophical here.

- You could very well do everything completely to code without a permit and your house could be perfectly fine.
- You could very well completely screw something up without a permit and burn your house down.
- You could pull a permit and do everything correctly, get it finaled, and be on your merry way.
- You could pull a permit, screw up some tiny part that the inspector misses, and set your house on fire.

Good luck!
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Old 12-14-2011, 02:10 PM   #6
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permit needed to re-position electrical fixtures


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You could pull a permit, screw up some tiny part that the inspector misses, and set your house on fire.

Good luck!
Even licensed electricians are not immune from that!
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Old 12-14-2011, 02:17 PM   #7
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permit needed to re-position electrical fixtures


The insurance issue has always kind of intrigued me.

When I bought my house we negotiated with the seller to upgrade from 60 to 100 amp service and it was passed by the city. (Although I've come to find a lot of questionable stuff here and there which should have been covered by a complete panel changeout and add/alter circuits permit).

Since then I remodeled my basement and pulled the elctrical permit for it and had it finaled.

So now in the last two years for my property I have two finaled electrical permits. (And a host of others from the past five years from the previous owner: AC upgrade, new furnace, new water heater, etc.)

But what if something fails that was supposedly covered under one of these permits? Are there statute of limitations on permits? Am I completely absolved because I can just tell my insurance company I did my part and pulled permits?

Or maybe squirrels chew up my Christmas lights and my house burns down and the insurance company tells me I'm an idiot for putting out lights where they could get chewed and then the fact that I pulled a permit to change a light switch means nothing.

Sorry, getting really rhetorical today!
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Old 12-14-2011, 02:20 PM   #8
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permit needed to re-position electrical fixtures


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Originally Posted by buckybadger View Post
The insurance issue has always kind of intrigued me.

When I bought my house we negotiated with the seller to upgrade from 60 to 100 amp service and it was passed by the city. (Although I've come to find a lot of questionable stuff here and there which should have been covered by a complete panel changeout and add/alter circuits permit).

Since then I remodeled my basement and pulled the elctrical permit for it and had it finaled.

So now in the last two years for my property I have two finaled electrical permits. (And a host of others from the past five years from the previous owner: AC upgrade, new furnace, new water heater, etc.)

But what if something fails that was supposedly covered under one of these permits? Are there statute of limitations on permits? Am I completely absolved because I can just tell my insurance company I did my part and pulled permits?

Or maybe squirrels chew up my Christmas lights and my house burns down and the insurance company tells me I'm an idiot for putting out lights where they could get chewed and then the fact that I pulled a permit to change a light switch means nothing.

Sorry, getting really rhetorical today!
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Old 12-14-2011, 02:58 PM   #9
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permit needed to re-position electrical fixtures


In the event of a problem, would anyone even be able to tell you had done something?

Even if someone could tell it had been done, could they prove it was you? How would an insurance company know you had done the work and not a previous owner. For that matter, how would they know it wasn't done that way when the house was built?

Both of our remodel projects that involved licensed electricians & permits had fixtures that were moved. Wife looked at the rough in and said, no, I need it to be over here instead. Guys said, OK. Wife had a plumber move a sink after a rough in too. That was a bigger deal, 'cause it was copper pipes and they were behind drywall. But it still got done.

In our new house you can see they initially put in the stairs in a different location.
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Old 12-14-2011, 03:21 PM   #10
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permit needed to re-position electrical fixtures


I've been in a bit of a tizzy (yeah, it's a sweet word, I'm bringing it back) since the weekend when I went to add a pullstring light to a round j-box under our basement stairs. Looked like the j-box had specifically been located there for a light, but no light present. 14-2 coming in, 14-2 coming out. Ground wires just flapping in the breeze, touching nothing. I nutted them together.

Since then I've been poking around at other switches/receptacles and have found a few other unusual setups. Was it the homeowner who sold me the house? The homeowner before that? I have no idea, but now I feel like I need to go through every inch of the electrical to make sure there's not anything hazardous. And this is after getting a 60 to 100 amp panel upgrade that supposedly included repairing/altering existing circuits.
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Old 12-14-2011, 03:37 PM   #11
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permit needed to re-position electrical fixtures


If you follow the law for your city (including pulling permits and passing inspection) then the insurance will cover you.
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Old 12-14-2011, 03:46 PM   #12
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permit needed to re-position electrical fixtures


I guess I would like to hear of a specific example. My house has never burned down so I don't know what happens. I'm guessing the insurance company doesn't just grant you a free pass because at some point in your home's history an electrical permit was pulled for one thing or another.
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Old 12-14-2011, 05:33 PM   #13
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permit needed to re-position electrical fixtures


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I can see no good reason to pull a permit for this job, other than insurance considerations. Should your house ever burn, your work could be questioned and the insurance company could refuse to pay your claim.
Please cite even one instance where this has occurred. Ain't gonna happen.
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Old 12-14-2011, 05:46 PM   #14
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permit needed to re-position electrical fixtures


Come on, now. If I leave a burner going on my stove or a candle burning under some curtains and burn down half my house, that's covered. Insurance companies pay out for people being stupid all the time. That's the privilege we pay for.
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Old 12-14-2011, 06:10 PM   #15
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permit needed to re-position electrical fixtures


Hah, good points!

I pulled and finaled an electrical permit for some new circuits I ran in my basement remodel. Now I've decided in the 11th hour to add in a bar, which I want to run a separate circuit for. Luckily the service panel is right behind the bar so I have a super short run for a new 20a AFCI circuit. GFCIs for receptacles, obviously.

After how much money I paid for a building/electrical permit ($200) for a dinky 400 sq/ft basement remodel and how little inspecting I feel they actually did, it makes me question whether to pull another electrical permit for the same project. On the final they didn't even open up the service panel; just used the built in test features of the AFCI to test it. Plugged in an outlet tester. That was about it.

I think it's far more straightforward to run a a brand new circuit than to try to tap into and figure out an existing one.

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