Seattle Home Inspector's Blog


Mirror mirror on the wall……


Who’s the fairest one of…….

Wait a minute---that is not what this post is about!

Mirror, mirror on the wall, do you have any idea where the electrical panel is?

Mirror Mirror on the Wall

At a recent inspection I came across this medicine cabinet mirror located above a sink and cabinet.  Why would anyone not assume it was just a medicine cabinet?  A medicine cabinet with a WHOLE bunch of wires going into the top!  I had the thought, “Please don’t tell me they adapted a medicine cabinet for an electrical panel.”

Now THAT would have been some massive blog fodder---but was not to be the case.  It turned out that the mirror had been removed from a medicine cabinet and attached to the electrical panel cover.  It was hinged and had magnets to keep in closed against the dead-front of the electrical panel. 

Electrical service panel 

Opening the mirror, one then had access to the cover over the breakers and the screw could be removed to take the whole assembly off to take a look inside the panel.

It was merely a case of Harry Homeowner being a little too cleaver for his own good.  This mirror cover will need to be removed and the sink relocated so that proper access to the panel can be maintained.


Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle

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Comment balloon 83 commentsCharles Buell • January 11 2013 07:35AM



Posted by Alan May, Helping you find your way home. (Coldwell Banker Residential) almost 6 years ago

Clearly there is no end to home owner "ingenuity".

I wonder which came first there, the sink or the elec. panel.

Posted by Lenn Harley, Real Estate Broker - Virginia & Maryland (Lenn Harley,, MD & VA Homes and Real Estate) almost 6 years ago


Trying to save some space their Harry homeowner. And a sink under the panel? Hmmmm.

Posted by Dana Basiliere, Making deals "Happen" (Rossi & Riina Real Estate) almost 6 years ago

Hi Charles,  Clever but sounds nt very safe.  We recently tried to find a furnace where it was located in a closet and clothes all around it ! 

Posted by Bill Gillhespy, Fort Myers Beach Realtor, Fort Myers Beach Agent - Homes & Condos (16 Sunview Blvd) almost 6 years ago

Very odd that story with the mirror Charles. What were they thinking is what I would say, not clever.

Posted by Gary Woltal, Assoc. Broker Realtor SFR Dallas Ft. Worth (Keller Williams Realty) almost 6 years ago

Now that's indeed strange.  Well, at least there was no duct tape...or was there?

Posted by Tamara Inzunza, Close-In Alexandria and Arlington Living (RE/MAX Executives) almost 6 years ago

Amazing. The things that home owners do to their property never ceases to cause me to wonder what they are thinking. They can do the worst work and think it is great.


Posted by Team Honeycutt (Allen Tate) almost 6 years ago

I guess that is another form of "SHOCKING" someone as they are aging. .lol

in another words. .

could be a 

double whammy!


Posted by Fernando Herboso - Broker for Maxus Realty Group, 301-246-0001 Serving Maryland, DC and Northern VA (Maxus Realty Group - Broker 301-246-0001) almost 6 years ago

Wow...what a power sink!  Just this week I saw a house with a second fireplace -- but there was no chimney -- it was just a tile-covered facade.  Odd thing -- there was an electrical outlet just up the chute a bit -- ? Plug in your Lava Lite?

Posted by Richard Arnold, Realtor - Tempe, Chandler, Mesa, Gilbert, Phoenix (Keller Williams Realty East Valley) almost 6 years ago

Thats a new one and a pity it's not safe as it would have solved some unsightly issues in condo hallways where they are usually located.

Posted by Susan Shaw (Premiere Plus Realty Co.Marco Island, FL) almost 6 years ago

Sink ... water ... plumbing ... mirror ... and electricity!  What could possibly be wrong with that??


Posted by Gene Mundt, IL/WI Mortgage Originator - FHA/VA/Conv/Jumbo/Portfolio/Refi, 708.921.6331 - 40+ yrs experience (NMLS #216987, IL Lic. 031.0006220, WI Licensed. APMC NMLS #175656) almost 6 years ago

Let me guess!


All permits required for the changes made in that area of the home were obtained as needed…right?

Posted by John Juarez, ePRO, SRES, GRI, PMN (The Medford Real Estate Team) almost 6 years ago

Charles -- and that electrical outlet that the mirror was hiding was on a GFI circuit right?

Have a fantastic weekend!

Posted by Steven Cook (No Longer Processing Mortgages.) almost 6 years ago

Seems to be an instance of good intentions not well though out, something I'm sure you see all the time.

Posted by Morgan Evans, LICENSED REAL ESTATE SALESPERSON (Douglas Elliman Real Estate) almost 6 years ago

Cute but it is amazing what a home owner will do to a house.

Posted by Ira Bodenstein, NMLS#: 445143 (PNC Mortgage) almost 6 years ago

I love #12's comment as there is no end to permit issues in these older homes.

Posted by Jill Sackler, LI South Shore Real Estate - Broker Associate (Charles Rutenberg Realty Inc. 516-575-7500) almost 6 years ago

What a crazy idea!  They thought, "Hey why not?!"

Posted by Jan Green, HomeSmart Elite Group, REALTOR®, EcoBroker, GREEN (Value Added Service, 602-620-2699) almost 6 years ago

Now that is a new one on me! I suppose he was trying to maximize space and this was all that was available. Darn shame he is going to lose his sink. 

Posted by Rosalie Evans, The Evans Group, Sioux Falls, SD Homes For Sale (Meritus Group Real Estate) almost 6 years ago

Alan, I will mirror that statement

Lenn, the panel was certainly there before the sink installation

Dana, this was just a strange installation all around

Bill, the biggest issue was inadequate access to the panel and then the awkwardness of trying to get the cover off with the weight of the mirror on it.

Gary, sometimes when an idea gets started it is hard to stop.

Tamara, nope---no duct tape :)

Betty, I am sure they were only thinking about wanting a sink and then figuring out how to do it was all that mattered.  Doing it properly is a whole other issue.

Fernando, makes good blog fodder though---there will be another one about the "inside" of the panel coming up soon.

Rich, I had a similar one only it was a real fireplace---the chimney had been removed below the roof line however :)

Susan, the mirror or picture hanging over them is fine---just don't attach them to the cover or replace the cover with a mirror or painting

Gene, the mind boggles

John, absolutely no doubt---ya think?

Steven, nope---and even without the sink it would be required in an unfinished basement

Morgan, you have it exactly right

Ira---and a few non-homeowners :)

Jill, we don't even like to use the word---might as well call it "mold" :)

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) almost 6 years ago

Rosalie, the thing is---there is another sink just like this one not 10 feet away and a laundry sink 3 feet away.

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) almost 6 years ago

Charles, in one of the developments that I sell in often, the small square footage homes all have their electrical breaker box in the living room. Knowing this location; you would be surprised to see how much furniture, paintings and other camouflaged people use to disguise this ugly utility... 

Posted by Paul S. Henderson, REALTOR®,CRS,, Tacoma Washington Agent/Broker & Market Authority! (RE/MAX Northwest.) almost 6 years ago

I am surprised anyone would have a sink that close to that much electricty!

Posted by Gary L. Waters Broker Associate, Bucci Realty, Fifteen Years Experience in Brevard County (Bucci Realty, Inc.) almost 6 years ago

Well, that looks like a sub panel, so obviously that must be a sub medicine cabinet.  For sure.  That's how you ended it, right.  What kind of medicine goes into thta kind of panel?

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 6 years ago

Charles, this is just shocking to me-well I guess it could be-

I see some crazey thing in these old houses in Seattle.


Ricky D


Posted by Ricky D. Sadler, Trusted Senior Property Advisor & Marketing Expert (Real Estate Marketing Experts &Trusted Senior Advisors on Property Management services, Rentals Leasing, Landlord Tenant ) almost 6 years ago

Paul, yes---sometimes it is a pain finding them

Gary, you never know

Jay, well isn't electro-shock medicinal?  Service panel---not sub.

Ricky, we really do

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) almost 6 years ago

They should have relocated that panel to under the sink... and drilled a hole in the panel so that the water line could run THROUGH it! 

It would have made for some great fireworks one day. =)

Posted by Brian Rayl, Active Agent and Co-founder Of Home Value Leads (Home Value Leads) almost 6 years ago

Charles - Not what I would expect to find with wires coming out of it.

Posted by Christine Donovan, Broker/Attorney 714-319-9751 DRE01267479 - Costa M (Donovan Blatt Realty) almost 6 years ago

That would be one heck of an electrifying experience if something went wrong as one was getting ready in the morning.

Posted by Steve Warrene, Pittsburgh Real Estate Investment Specialists (Your Town Realty) almost 6 years ago

Another great entry on every Realtor''s list titled, "What were they thinking??"

Posted by Dianne Goode, Realtor/Broker (Raleigh Cary Realty) almost 6 years ago
Simply amazing! Thanks for sharing.
Posted by Kathy McAlpin (HomeSmart - Arrowhead) almost 6 years ago

What was someone thinking? Well looking at the rest of the house we know that good design was not their strong suit! Too funny and wow... ;)

Posted by David Evans, HUD NLB Cumming GA (RE/MAX TOWN AND COUNTRY) almost 6 years ago

Too Funny! You just never know what you're going to find next!

Posted by Mitch Muller - Charlotte NC Real Estate, Certified Residential Specialist (ProStead Realty Charlotte, NC CRS SRES almost 6 years ago

Another case of "just when you think you've seen everything." Bam-lookie here.

Posted by Scott Seaton Jr. Bourbonnais Kankakee IL Home Inspector, The Home Inspector With a Heart! (SLS Home Inspections-Bradley Bourbonnais Kankakee Manteno) almost 6 years ago
Too funny. Just when you think you've seen it all.
Posted by Lisa Ackerson, CRS - Dallas Fort Worth Area Expert (Fathom Realty DFW) almost 6 years ago

Clever idea for the homeowner-but way to wirey for my liking. I guess it also served as a space saver. I past owner of my home was think out of the box handy man too!

Posted by Brenna Dalton almost 6 years ago

I have to say this is one of the all time, all time first! We see so many different things in this business but this is a first, hope the rest of the inspection was a little smother.

Posted by Donna & Larry Johnson, Chester & Delaware County (Keller Williams Real Estate) almost 6 years ago
You have an interesting job, never the same, each day a surprise, and as you say... excellent blog fodder.
Posted by Dana Basiliere, Making deals "Happen" (Rossi & Riina Real Estate) almost 6 years ago

Well, Charles, that is a new one on me.  I thought I'd seen just about everything in the electrical field, but that is new.  Now, I'm just waiting for the electrical panel underwater. 

Posted by Mike Cooper, Your Winchester, VA Real Estate Sales Pro (Cornerstone Business Group Inc) almost 6 years ago

Water and electricity, that is a good mix.  I am sure you see some really interesting things during your inspections.  Keep up the interesting posts.

Posted by Rob Renk, AE | Fast Fix/Flip Loans for Residential Investors (Center Street Lending) almost 6 years ago

Brian, I will be looking for that arrangement :)

Christine, yes--pretty odd looking

Steve, potentially I suppose---but lots of things would have to go wrong for it to be really dangerous.  The danger would have more to do with someone opening the panel and what could happen then.

Valerie, most of the issues here seemed to be confined to the basement :)

Dianne, we sure see a lot of that condition don't we?

Kathy, you are welcome

David, the house needed a little TLC and is headed for a complete remodel

Mitch, keeps the job interesting for sure

Scott, where would we be without our daily laughs? :)

Lisa, it would appear that there is no end to it

Brenna, I am all for thinking outside the box---just keep the "box" in sight

Donna & Larry, I do have to admit I love finding stuff like this---good blog fodder

Dana, yup :)

Mike, most electrical components don't do well under water :)

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) almost 6 years ago

Can you imagine buying a home and finding that?

Whew...I love inspectors.


Posted by Monica Hess, Kentucky's Feng Shui Master (Feng Shui This Kentucky) almost 6 years ago

Rob, will do

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) almost 6 years ago

Homeowner do it yourself job...near water? Red Tags everywhere on this home I'm sure!

Posted by Kathy Dowd, Consider it SOLD (RE/MAX Realty Team, 239 220 4133) almost 6 years ago

Interesting what people do sometimes. Not nice to fool with electricity. 

Posted by Bill Reddington, Destin Florida Real Estate (Re/max Southern Realty) almost 6 years ago

haaaaa - Gives a new meaning to the old term "Smoke'n'mirrors". If something shorted, there would be smoke coming from that mirror!

Posted by Travis "the SOLD man" Parker; Associate Broker, email: / cell: 334-494-7846 (Team Linda Simmons, Enterprise, AL 36330) almost 6 years ago

I hope this arrangement was in a basement - pretty strange decor for a bathroom.

Posted by Marte Cliff, Your real estate writer (Marte Cliff Copywriting) almost 6 years ago

Perhaps the mirror was necessary and that was the only space available at the time.

Posted by Kimo Jarrett, Pro Lifestyle Solutions (WikiWiki Realty) almost 6 years ago

What an odd camouflage. I would never have thought of this one. It doesn't really look like a good idea

Posted by Nan Jester, Realtor, Exit Real Estate Gallery (Exit Real Estate Gallery Jacksonville Beach, FL ) almost 6 years ago

I think I have seen it all now... WHEW

Posted by John Dotson, The experience to get you to the other side! (Preferred Properties of Highlands, Inc. - Highlands, NC) almost 6 years ago

Wow....who has the time, or inclination to dream up something like THAT?

I guess that's what one does when one is sleepless in Seattle (lol)!

Posted by Dennis J. Zisa & Associates, Inc., 27 years in So. Jersey and the Greater Camden area (Dennis J. Zisa & Associates, Inc.) almost 6 years ago

LOL :)  what people will dream up.

Posted by Ric Mills, Integrity, Honesty, and Vast Real Estate Knowledge (Keller Williams Southern Az) almost 6 years ago

That really is incredible! Thanks for sharing.

Posted by Rob Rosa, Personal Real Estate Expert (Berkshire Hathaway) almost 6 years ago

What's the guy in the green jacket up to?

Posted by Matthew Johnson (Keller Williams Premier Realty) almost 6 years ago

The seller probably figures the rest of the world just doesn't have its eyes open.

Posted by Dwight Puntigan, Dwight Puntigan (DRP Realty, LLC) almost 6 years ago

A little too much HGTV for them I think!!!! LOL


Posted by Karen Gray Plaisted, Staging Spaces, Renewing Places, NY (Design Solutions KGP~ Home Staging and Interior Decor) almost 6 years ago

I have seen some strange things on home inspections and this ranks right up there.  The home owner probably did think he was very clever.  If there was a sink just below it, that is pretty scary.

Posted by Brien Berard, Maryland Real Estate Agents - Laurel Real Estate (Remax Professionals Laurel MD) almost 6 years ago

I love the things you uncover in your inspections, Charles, and your wry sense of humor!

Posted by Melissa Brown, Realtor - South Charlotte NC Homes for Sale (Helen Adams Realty) almost 6 years ago

I know you have many interesting stories to tell from your inspections.  My inspector has kept me enthralled with many tales over the years of what he's seen and heard.  But the bottom line is you perform an indispensable function  so you ought to get a bit of humor from it now and then. 

Posted by Tom Esposito (Alpharetta Home Solutions) almost 6 years ago

Thanks Charlie Another great commentary.  I have to admit I like the idea of the cover up from a design perspective, but certainly not the sink and lack of access.

Posted by Kim Mulligan, Selling Homes for the 21st Century (Homesmart TRG) almost 6 years ago
That is a complicated way to get to your circuit breakers if you needed them in a hurry. Or have someone else even try to find them.
Posted by Hella Mitschke Rothwell, Hawaii & California Real Estate Broker ((831) 626-4000) almost 6 years ago

OK, I have to ask. . . Is that "Harry the home owner" or is a just a "Hairy home owner" that needs a shave? I love the idea to hide the panel. We had a panel in one house that we made a custom cover for to hide the ugly box and it was not a code violation. I think inspectors need to relax on such a creative solution.

Posted by Richard Foster, Broker Owner, BS, ABR/M, CREN, CRS, GRI, RRG, SFR (Nevada Perfect Homes) almost 6 years ago

An execution close to electrocution. Wheew. That is a real hazard there. Thanks for sharing.

Posted by Maria Gilda Racelis, Home Ownership is w/in Reach. We Make it Happen! (Home Buyers Realty, LLC-Manchester, Bolton. Vernon,Ellington) almost 6 years ago

Charles, we represent a fair number of buyers, who want see many homes....  It is amazing how hard it can be to find electric panesl in finished basements.  There have been so many hiding places!

Posted by Pat & Steve Pribisko (Keller Williams Greater Cleveland West) almost 6 years ago

Monica, hopefully a buyer would take it in good humor

Kathy, the house needed a lot of updating

Bill, I loved that they even put magnets on it to keep in closed

Travis, I like it---smoke and mirrors :)

Marte, yes---in the unfinished laundry area of the basement

Kimo, there was a mirror 10 feet away in the bathroom :)

Nan, nope---good idea to re-think it

John, I am sure there is more to come :)

Dennis, this is most likely not just a Seattle affliction :)

Ric--the answer to that is as close as my next inspection most likely

Rob, you are welcome

Matthew, that is my buyer and I have descreetly made her out of focus :)

Dwight, me thinks the guy that installed this is long gone from the scene

Karen, do they teach this kind of stuff on HGTV?  That may explain a lot of things :)

Brien, there seems to be no end to homeowner inventiveness

Melissa, thanks---glad you enjoy them

Tom, for sure---there is no shortage of opportunities for a good laugh

Kim, it took me a few moments to figure out what was going on

Hella,  I agree

Richard, there are lots of ways to conceal covers without it being a code violation.  In this case no adequate access to the panel and then voiding the UL listing of the panel by attaching the mirror to the panel is a problem.

Maria, thanks---glad you found it useful.

Pat & Steve,  sometimes it is almost as if I am being challenged to find it!

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) almost 6 years ago

Hello Charles:  I understand the mirror removal, but does the sink need to be moved too?  While inconvenient, I wouldn't think the sink impedes the performance of the panel, but I'm not a licensed inspector either.  Just asking.

Posted by Brian Rugg, Sun City TX Real Estate - Georgetown, TX Real Est (Rugg Realty LLC Sun City Texas 512-966-3200) almost 6 years ago

Brian, yes of course the sink needs to be removed.  Nothing is supposed to be located in front of the panel for a depth of 36" or a width of 30" or a height from the floor of 6'-8".

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) almost 6 years ago
Aw Come On..give the guy a little credit. His wife probably said to hide the ugly box......and he did! LOL
Posted by Nancy Hankin (RE/MAX Real Estate Consultants) almost 6 years ago

At least you had the wires to clue you in.  Its amazing the things people use to hide the "ugly panel".  At leat they could quickly reach the breakers in an emergency.

Posted by Rafi Footerman, Home Inspector, Mold Inspector, Radon and More! (Mid Jersey Inspections) almost 6 years ago

That is too funny. 

One thing I don't mess with though is the panels, I have no desire to stick anymore fingers in those (yeah, learned the hard way)...

Posted by Terkel Sørensen, Realtor, 951.805.0773 , Bank owned and Short Sales (Real Estate Places) almost 6 years ago

very creative.  What a wonderful design idea

Posted by Jeremy Joslin, Professional Real Estate Marketing and Sales (Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage) almost 6 years ago

Fun post, Charles.     I always enjoy your posts about the silly and scary things you find in the homes you inspect.


Posted by Dagny Eason, Fairfield County CT, CDPE Homes For Sale and Condo (Dagny's Real Estate) almost 6 years ago

Nancy, I have heard that one before too :)

Rafi, there was that split second when the wires going into the medicine cabinet freaked me out :)

Terkel, they are good places to keep ones fingers away from---unless you know what you are doing of course

Jeremy, perhaps they should come that way---designer service panels :)

Dagny, thanks---glad to make you laugh or cry as the case may be :)

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) almost 6 years ago

Like Maria, all I could think about looking at the photos was a possible major shock or worse!

Posted by Sharon Parisi, Dallas Homes (United Real Estate Dallas ) almost 6 years ago

I have a similar story- historical cottage with a hot water heater concealed in a corner bookcase that is screwed shut! 

Posted by Jean French-Turner (Southport Realty, Inc.) almost 6 years ago
Hi Charles, great post and some strange panels all right. We love the ones that are daisy chained off another!
Posted by Bob Miller, The Ocala Dream Team (Keller Williams Cornerstone Realty) almost 6 years ago

I've always said about the real estate business that every time you think you've seen or heard everything and that nothing can suprise you, something jumps out and totally surprises you! I guess that's what keeps it all so interesting.

Posted by Nina Hollander, Your Charlotte/Ballantyne/Waxhaw/Fort Mill Realtor (Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage | Charlotte, NC) almost 6 years ago

Charlie, That one was good. I had a new closet build over the panel once. That may your issue easy smeezy.

Posted by Donald Hester, NCW Home Inspections, LLC (NCW Home Inspections, LLC) almost 6 years ago

Sharon, the dangers are mostly for someone working on the panel.

Jean, yes---makes for "readily accessable" a little problematic :)

Bob, this is really true of the old fused panels with several other panels added to the original.

Nina, never a dull moment as they say :)

Don, I think my panel is more funny than dangerous---except for the poor person that has to work inside the panel.

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) almost 6 years ago

A mirror and sink, just what should be in front of every electric panel :)

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) almost 6 years ago

Boy, are you one picky inspector . . . thank goodness.

Posted by Thomas McCombs (Century 21 HomeStar) almost 6 years ago

Jeez. You think you've seen it all, and then along comes Charles to show you something new yet again. This owner really WAS too clever for his own good.

Posted by Jon Quist, Tucson's BUYERS ONLY Realtor since 1996 (REALTY EXECUTIVES TUCSON ELITE) almost 6 years ago

That home owner was just a little to clever. Just one more reason why permits are a good idea.

Posted by Wayne B. Pruner, Tigard Oregon Homes for Sale, Realtor, GRI (Oregon First) over 5 years ago

Jim, yes---the perfect storm

Thomas, yup---the nit picker:)

Jon, there is apparently no end to the cool stuff people come up with

Tigard, an example of how someone did not know what they did not know

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) over 5 years ago