As usual, never consider the following commentary associated with these photos as a formal interpretation of the National Electrical Code (NEC). Without criticizing anyone or any product, the following scenarios present us with serious safety questions.

All references are based on the 2005 NEC.

Architecturally Appealing, But Electrically Deficient

Franco Loughnan Morneault, owner, Construction and Remodeling, Brooklyn and Staten Island, N.Y., snapped these photos at a luxury house that sold for $2.2 million about 18 months ago. “The house is located in a vacation community on Fire Island,” says Morneault. “When it was built back in 1985, it graced six pages of Architectural Digest magazine. We're gutting it out in the fall.”

Here are the Code violations he noted at this location.

“The sticker on the main panelboard rates it for 40 circuit breaker poles. I counted 61! A second panelboard (the house has 400A service) is half empty. It only had 21 circuit breakers in it. The half-empty panelboard is located in the basement, and this overflowing panelboard is located in the laundry room.

“The two photos taken under the deck show a nice spiderweb pattern. I especially like the hanging junction boxes, and the way somebody left one open, not even bothering to tuck the wires into the box.

“Garden lighting is located under a walk leading up to the deck. Aren't these conductors supposed to be buried or placed in conduit? This is pretty typical of what I saw throughout the property. Where I did find buried wires, they were typically placed only 3 or 4 inches below the surface, and otherwise unshielded.

“Although there were more, these were the most obvious violations I documented.”

Here are some specific Code references we can relate to this particular installation.

As per 408.35, “Not more than 42 overcurrent devices (other than those provided for in the mains) of a lighting and appliance branch-circuit panelboard shall be installed in any one cabinet or cutout box. A lighting and appliance branch-circuit panelboard shall be provided with physical means to prevent the installation of more overcurrent devices than that number for which the panelboard was designed, rated, and approved. For the purposes of this article, a 2-pole circuit breaker shall be considered two overcurrent devices; a 3-pole circuit breaker shall be considered three overcurrent devices.”

As per 300.11(A), “Raceways, cable assemblies, boxes, cabinets, and fittings shall be securely fastened in place.”

As per 340.10, “Type UF cable shall be permitted as follows:

“(1) For use underground, including direct burial in the earth. For underground requirements, see 300.5.

“(3) For wiring in wet, dry, or corrosive locations under the recognized wiring methods of this Code.”

Found a Code violation? E-mail your text and photos (no cell phone images, please) to Joe Tedesco at