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Old 11-22-2009, 04:22 AM   #1
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Should a Homeowner get a permit for Fans


The situation is that I live in a City in California that requires permits for everything. The house was built in 1989.

Over a year ago I hung four ceiling fans in four separate rooms. I believe I did everything per code, but never took out a permit. Almost everything. If an inspector wants to be picky, the romex doesn't have strips of wood tacked next to it so as to, arguably, reduce the possiblity of tripping and the lowest point of one fan falls 1/2" below the minimum height per code (7' above the floor). Everything else at least meets code.

My question is should I take out a permit, in which case I expect I will at least have to drop the fans in order for the inspector to see what was done and I suppose they could want to climb up into the attic to see where I had to tap into a couple of existing power lines. (Done carefully with approved boxes nailed to the side of joists (you may not call them joists. No nonsense with wires suspended in air from here to there.)

I am not concerne with my work so much as original, and supposedly inspected, construction. Romex is tossed all over the joist without any stapling. Otherwise, as far as I know all is to code.

I am also thinking of hanging a fifth fan and relacing a single light fixture with two one wall.

So my question is, get the permits and call for inspections when ready, or am I opening a can of worms?

Thanks in advance.

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Old 11-22-2009, 07:04 AM   #2
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Should a Homeowner get a permit for Fans


would have been best to get permits if they were required. Can homeowners do their own electric in your area? Does the building department even know if you had fans installed? If you feel unsure of your installation hire a license electrician to check all this work. I would leave the building department out of the picture. I find they are far more concerned with collecting permit fees than any real inspections. I just finished a new bank electrical job and the inspector meet me a Dunkin Donuts, I paid of course, he signed off and never even went across the street to look at the job at all.

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Old 11-22-2009, 07:10 AM   #3
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Should a Homeowner get a permit for Fans


Klawman: Leave the worms alone. Fans are installed around here like one changes a lightbulb. No big deal. If an inspector is called in I doubt that the fans would need to be dropped, but why take a chance? Absurdities happen.
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Old 11-22-2009, 09:06 AM   #4
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Should a Homeowner get a permit for Fans


"romex all over the joist"

Is this a drop ceiling, the wires are not exposed?
As long as no-one can hange a clothes hanger on exposed wire you should be good
In a lot of places you are supposed to get permits for everything - even changing out an outlet
My Inspector would stare me out of the office if I asked about a permit for fans
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Old 11-22-2009, 11:00 AM   #5
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Should a Homeowner get a permit for Fans


I can give you some real horror stories on how bad it can get if you get caught. I'm dealing with one right now, today, Sunday. My firm got a call Thursday, went to meet them Friday, mobilized out yesterday to do the NDT, excavation, and concrete cores. And today we're starting the code check, tomorrow the samples go out for testing. An engineering firm doing short-notice validation work for an after-the-fact permit, on a weekend, is extremely costly and disruptive.

Your situation is simpler by several orders of magnitude, but the same model would apply: if you get caught, you're forced to validate the work, usually by hiring a licensed pro with the experience and will to perform the validation work and sign off on it if it satisfies code (and I tell people in writing "you hire me on retainer, with the understanding there's no guarantee that I'll automatically find it satisfactory").

If you get caught in the future, just remember that you had a chance in November 2009 to be proactive and minimize the fallout. My recommendation would be to call the city and say "I'm a homeowner and I believe I have some fans that were installed in the past without a permit, what should I do?"
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Old 11-22-2009, 11:05 AM   #6
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Should a Homeowner get a permit for Fans


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My recommendation would be to call the city and say "I'm a homeowner and I believe I have some fans that were installed in the past without a permit, what should I do?"
but make the call from the payphone across town.


they still have payphones somewhere in the world, don't they?
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Old 11-22-2009, 01:13 PM   #7
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Should a Homeowner get a permit for Fans


If my installation was sloppy, I would be more hesitant and I know that inspectors can get picky. (A neighbor was made to do some work that really wasn't needed on a jaccuzi install, but that may be because he made the mistake of sounding off as if he knew too much. (He has an AA in electrical engineering and used to operate heavy machinery.) A littl3e humility from a homeowner can be good.

If my installs looked half ass, the inspector may get down on things, but I honestly did some quality work. Not quite pro, unless you include the junk work some get buy with if the inspectors let them.

Aggie. I kind of follow your drift. I used to deal now and then with subsidence issues and leaking undergroud storage tanks (gas stations). I am also concerned if I run into a problem when I sell this place if all is not permitted. I have done a few favors for a guy that does inspections for home buyers. I may call him to see how likely I will get nailed by one when I sell.

Bob, I don't want an inspection to verify my work. I am confident it is better than code and the work an installer a big box store would send or an upscale fan vendor would charge big bucks for. My neighbor went that route. Homeownders can do electrical here. For swapping out a bus box I am not sure, but I think I would get a pro for that.

Scuba, I should have made the type ceiling clear. It is drywall on frame. Wiring for first floor fans is stapled to sides of joists; nnot laying on top of drywall comprising first story ceiling. Where it passes through a header (?), a small hole was cored half way between a half inch spade and a still pipe was ran through the hole. It extends a half a foot into the soffet space on either side of that header. All lilghts are wired to wall swiches installed by builder near entry door to rooms. No wiring is exposed, ran under carpets or behing molding. It is all stapled to the sides of framing members except one place in tha attic. There one line of romex runs up the chipboard framing the slanted ceiling of the master BR. No one walks on it even if they have to get up there and no one goes up there except to install wiring for fans.

own electric here. I suspect there may be limitations, such as swapping out a bus box, but adding outlets is no problem. I here you about inspectors and fees. I came around during inspecitons on the next phase of homes, and never saw inspectors. (Mine was built before I saw it.) Dunkin donuts are good.

I will add that all fans are hung with approved fan hangers, not on existing pancake fixtures rated for lighter ceiling light fixtures and not toenailed to framing.

No one asked, but I even layed out a schematic mappinig what fixtures are on which lines and which circuit breaker and estimated the amperage drawn by each.

I talked on the phone with someone at the city and wil probably opt to take out a permit. For what I have done they are pretty laid back. I jsut remebered that I also hung florescent lights in the garage. All over minimun ceiling height from framing with the wiring all inclosed in metal conduit. The wiring comes off of an existing lighting fixture.

Thank you all for your expertise.
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Old 11-22-2009, 01:36 PM   #8
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Should a Homeowner get a permit for Fans


First question: did you hang the fans using a box approved for the manufacturer for this purpose,or did you mount them to existing electrical boxes?

If the latter there is a good chance you will end up cracking the ceiling, and these is a real chance the fan can pull completely free of the ceiling.
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Old 11-22-2009, 01:41 PM   #9
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Should a Homeowner get a permit for Fans


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First question: did you hang the fans using a box approved for the manufacturer for this purpose,or did you mount them to existing electrical boxes?

If the latter there is a good chance you will end up cracking the ceiling, and these is a real chance the fan can pull completely free of the ceiling.
There were no exixting boxes and if their were I would no to swap them out for dedicated ciling fan boxes and supports. The kid with a steel screw jack like the old fashioned bump0er jacks.
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Old 11-22-2009, 01:42 PM   #10
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Should a Homeowner get a permit for Fans


When you get a permit for electrical or other work, you are getting an expert to check your work to be sure it is safe. A good deal for as little as permits cost if you ask me!

But inspectors are busy. With something like a ceiling fan and if they can't easily get into the attic, there would not be much for them to see. I can't imagine they would want anyone to remove anything to peek inside at the connections? They would typically first look at the wiring before the fan was installed, then come back after it was installed.

I would say ask if they will issue a permit. And get a permit for everything they want to issue a permit for, then you have someone double checking your work for safety. And while they are there you can usually sneak in a couple of questions and learn a few things.
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Old 11-22-2009, 01:52 PM   #11
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Should a Homeowner get a permit for Fans


If after reading the electrical and physical comments made here:
  1. If you feel the electrical and physical installation is not safe and sound - correct the situation - but I would not get a permit.
  2. If you feel they are already safe and sound - do not get a permit - done.
IMHO...
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Old 11-22-2009, 04:16 PM   #12
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Should a Homeowner get a permit for Fans


Here is my opinion:

If someone is not an electrician or an electrical inspector, it really doesn't matter if they "think it is safe." The sad truth about electricity and electrical installations -- the electric can work and be installed totally wrong, be a shock hazard, fire hazard, or an electrocution hazard.

The post starts out talking about "hanging" ceiling fans but later goes into detail that new wiring had to be run in the attic. In this case where it is not merely "hanging" the fans, most building departements would require a permit.

I would get one if it was me. If you want, you can still hire an electrical contractor to:

1. Get the permit.
2. Look over your work.
3. Fix any obvious violations.
4. Call for and obtain the required inspections.

It's a little bit of a hassle, but then again doing the right thing isn't always the easiest route . Good luck.

Regards,
Nick Sasso
Electrical Contractor, Electrical Inspector, Electrical Plans Examiner, Chief Electrical Code Analyst & Building Code Administrator
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Last edited by Termite; 11-26-2009 at 12:31 AM. Reason: site rules violation, link removed
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Old 11-22-2009, 05:24 PM   #13
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Should a Homeowner get a permit for Fans


good point Nick.

Chances are since this did require additional wiring, it very likely would require a permit. Almost every jurisdiction I work in would consider this to be either adding a circuit or extending a circuit which would require a permit.

btw; not sure the link is allowed. You might want to contact admin about it.
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Old 11-22-2009, 05:43 PM   #14
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Should a Homeowner get a permit for Fans


Billy_Bob,

While I hope I would learn something, I am very confident it is safe. Access to the attic is a pain and once up there is hard to move around.

vsheetz,

My purpose in getting the permit is too avoid a snafu when I sell this barn and it is alsways possible that I missedsomething could be done better. Inspectors will sometimes say this meets code, but this is better. My guess is that they barely look at anything and may ask me to pop one fan. When the see the circuit map I drew up and that fan is hung with a braced box and all wires are neatly connected with the proper size connectors, I think it would be clear sailing. Same with the fluorescent work lights hung in the garage with the wires ran through metal conduit and screwed to framing.

Chiefs830,

I am going to pull the permit, but slightly disagree with part of what you siad. While what a licensed electrician or engineer thinks is more likely to be correct than what someone else thinks, pros have been known to make mistakes. Ultimately what counts is not what anyone "thinks" but if it is up to code and if it is indeed safe. If it meets code it most likely is safe.

It is interesting that approximately half say get the permits and half say skip it, when I supect all of you are knowledgeable.
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Old 11-22-2009, 05:57 PM   #15
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Should a Homeowner get a permit for Fans


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good point Nick.

Chances are since this did require additional wiring, it very likely would require a permit. Almost every jurisdiction I work in would consider this to be either adding a circuit or extending a circuit which would require a permit.

btw; not sure the link is allowed. You might want to contact admin about it.
I don't believe I added a circuit (thought about adding one just to handle ceiling fans and decided it wasn't needed), but I think I defitely extended a couple of circuits. I know that a permit is at least required for adding ceiling fan boxes, if you aren't replacing a regular light fixture box.

What can be messy is if they want me to open up the walls and ceilings so they can see how lines were ran to light fixtures. I think they are Kosher, but it can be a mess if they want to see it all.

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