My Home Inspector Blog: Sharp-Tipped Screws Are A Hazard To A Home Inspector!

Sharp-Tipped Screws Are A Hazard To A Home Inspector!

Sharp-Tipped Screws Are A Hazard To A Home Inspector!- Thank God I'm still alive! I just finished conducting a Poway home inspection that could have finished me! I look into the face of danger every day in the form of vicious dogs, high rooftops, 150-degree attics and so on, but at this particular home inspection I was almost done in by a sharp-tipped screw. Let me explain why sharp-tipped screws are a hazard to a home inspector:

 

 

When you open a typical electrical panel, you are looking at the dead-front cover. The dead-front cover holds the circuit breaker identification labeling and protects people from the wiring, bus bars, and other shock hazards behind it. A panel manufacturer always provides blunt-tipped screws to secure the dead-front cover. To inspect the internal components, a home inspector must remove the dead-front cover.

 

 

It is quite common for a dead-front cover screw to be dropped on the ground and lost when work is performed in a panel board. The homeowner or handyman may unknowingly replace the lost blunt-tipped screw with a sharp-tipped screw. When this is done, it puts everyone who works on the panel in the future in great danger. Such was the case with the electrical panel at this Poway home inspection.

 

 

 

After inspecting the panel, I attempted to re-insert one of these sharp-tipped screws in the dead-front cover and ZZZAAAPPP!!! Sparks flew everywhere! The sharp-tipped screw had penetrated one of the wires inside the panel box! The electrical current melted the end of the screw off! I am very grateful for the insulated handle on my screwdriver!

 

 

 

Now you know why sharp-tipped screws are a hazard to a home inspector! From now on, you will find an assortment of blunt-tipped screws in my inspection bag! A day above ground always beats one under! Steve Stenros- First Choice Inspections serves San Diego, Orange, and Riverside Counties in southern California. Steve is a CREIA MCI home inspector and can be reached for appointment at 888-335-3040. Clients receive a FREE lifetime appliance RecallChek with every standard home inspection.

 


             Steve Stenros, MCI         Biz card photo

             Master CREIA Inspector #0115

             ICC Residential Combination Inspector #5251439

             Certified Infrared Thermographer #7791

                                       FHA/HUD Inspector- #V975

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Comment balloon 18 commentsSteve Stenros • July 02 2011 08:48PM

Comments

Well, I didn't know about this. Now I do, and I hope I never come in contact with that situation. Have to watch my inspector a little closer.

Posted by Jon Quist, Tucson's BUYERS ONLY Realtor since 1996 (REALTY EXECUTIVES ARIZONA TERRITORY) about 9 years ago

Good information.  I figured a screw was a screw.  Glad you are okay.

Posted by Steven Wright, CRS - Home Real Estate - 720-989-5283 (Home Real Estate) about 9 years ago

Steve, you would think that the Panel Box Manufacturers could come up with a block or something to stop a screw from going "into the box".

Glad you are okay.

About that plastic-handled screwdriver...  When I was in the Air Force, I was working on a 480 Volt Box "Hot" with a screwdriver.  My hand slipped down the Shaft of the screwdriver.  Even wearing Leather Work Gloves, the Shock still knocked me senseless.  Thank God it was a low-amperage lighting circuit, and not something more potent.

Posted by Fred Griffin Tallahassee Real Estate, Licensed Florida Real Estate Broker (Fred Griffin Real Estate) about 9 years ago

Jon, I got that "tingling" sensation on the back of my neck as I was re-inserting the screw, so I made sure I wasn't touching any metal. Good thing.

Posted by Steve Stenros, CREIA MCI, ICC, ACI Home Inspector,San Diego (Poway,La Jolla,Del Mar,Mira Mesa,Carlsbad,Escondido,Temecula) about 9 years ago

The devil's in the details, Steven!

Posted by Steve Stenros, CREIA MCI, ICC, ACI Home Inspector,San Diego (Poway,La Jolla,Del Mar,Mira Mesa,Carlsbad,Escondido,Temecula) about 9 years ago

I'm also ex-Air Force, Fred. I'm glad you survived the "slip"!

Posted by Steve Stenros, CREIA MCI, ICC, ACI Home Inspector,San Diego (Poway,La Jolla,Del Mar,Mira Mesa,Carlsbad,Escondido,Temecula) about 9 years ago

Steve,  Thank goodness you're OK.  Sounds like it could have been much worse.  I also can not believe that these boxes are not made so as to eliminate any screws by the wires.  Sounds hazardous the way it is set up.  Thank you for giving us this information, it will most likely prevent some accidents in the future.

Have a happy 4th of July.  Celebrate!

Posted by Kathleen Vetrano, Helping YOU Achieve YOUR Dreams (RE/MAX Gateway) about 9 years ago

Kathleen: You would think so! I will!

Posted by Steve Stenros, CREIA MCI, ICC, ACI Home Inspector,San Diego (Poway,La Jolla,Del Mar,Mira Mesa,Carlsbad,Escondido,Temecula) about 9 years ago

Steve, wow that could have been serious. Glad you are ok. Thanks for posting this info. I always learn something from your posts. Keep up the good work.

Posted by Pamela Seley, Residential Real Estate Agent serving SW RivCo CA (West Coast Realty Division) about 9 years ago

Good Morning Steve, you make an excellent point in your post.  Home owners DO NEED to replace screws, like for like, or there could be a disaster.

Have a great 4th!

Dan 36170

Posted by Dan Edward Phillips, Realtor and Broker/Owner (Dan Edward Phillips) about 9 years ago

Hi Steve glad you survived--I really never thought about it..thanks

Posted by Tim Peterson, Realtor Safety Training Classes (Wisconsin Realtor Safety and Concealed Carry Classes) about 9 years ago

Pamela: My pleasure!

Dan: Anytime you modify something, you're asking for trouble!

Tim: You're welcome. Thanks for your comment!

Posted by Steve Stenros, CREIA MCI, ICC, ACI Home Inspector,San Diego (Poway,La Jolla,Del Mar,Mira Mesa,Carlsbad,Escondido,Temecula) about 9 years ago

Steve,

What a great post. I'm going to bookmark this and keep it in my files. I've seen inspectors write this up on their reports and the sellers refuse to get it fixed. I didn't know how dangerous this could be. I'm clicking suggest because I think everyone should know about this problem and can benefit from your expertise as a home inspector.

Thank you very much Steve. Be safe out there inspecting houses.

Posted by Patricia Feager, MBA, CRS, GRI,MRP, Selling Homes Changing Lives (DFW FINE PROPERTIES) about 9 years ago

Patricia: It's amazing to me that a seller would refuse to fix a safety concern when all it will take is a screw replacement!? They can't find a qualified contractor to perform the fix? The repair is too expensive? What about their genuine concern for the buyer's safety? Wow!

Thanks for your comment and for the "suggest"!

Posted by Steve Stenros, CREIA MCI, ICC, ACI Home Inspector,San Diego (Poway,La Jolla,Del Mar,Mira Mesa,Carlsbad,Escondido,Temecula) about 9 years ago

I have had the same thing happen when a BLUNT end corkscrew style screw pinched a wire between the side of the panel and the screw.  Fortunately the breaker that tripped was NOT the one for the lights in the area that contained the panel, but the short did make quite a pop, tripped the breaker, created a little smoke, and shut off the lights in the adjoining room.  Fortunately I carry black electrical tape with me and repaired the damaged insulation on the wire, repositioned the wire, and all was good.  A good lesson:  Look at the position of all wires near the fasteners before placing the screws back on the cover.

Posted by Roger Hankey (Hankey & Brown Inspections) about 9 years ago

Roger: Electrical panels are one of the most dangerous components we inspect! Stay safe!

Posted by Steve Stenros, CREIA MCI, ICC, ACI Home Inspector,San Diego (Poway,La Jolla,Del Mar,Mira Mesa,Carlsbad,Escondido,Temecula) about 9 years ago

This has happened to me so... many... times...  Glad you are ok.  :-)

Posted by Justin Nickelsen, CMI - (p 360.907.9648), Vancouver/Portland/WA/OR Home Inspector (NICKELSEN HOME INSPECTIONS - Vancouver WA Home Inspector) over 8 years ago

Thanks Justin. Any day above ground is better than one below!

Posted by Steve Stenros, CREIA MCI, ICC, ACI Home Inspector,San Diego (Poway,La Jolla,Del Mar,Mira Mesa,Carlsbad,Escondido,Temecula) over 8 years ago

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