Seattle Home Inspector's Blog


How to make unsafe wiring safe?

Well the best way to make any electrical appliance or device safe is to disconnect it---turn off the electricity!

Of course, every appliance, or piece of electrical equipment, is designed to “just sit there” and behave itself, waiting for us to use it.  We do not want to have to go to the electrical panel and turn on a circuit breaker in order to recharge our smart phone, fire up our electric toothbrush or find the bathroom for a potty emergency in the middle of the night.

We have come to expect that our electrical equipment will be safe until we want to use it.  Fortunately, it generally is.  Of course part of the problem is that there are so many ways for it to be unsafe and still “work” and then we end up relying on luck to stay safe.

Luck and electricity should probably never be used in the same sentence.  Maybe it is OK if we are talking about surviving being hit by lightning---then being lucky is a good thing.

So knowing that we want to keep things safe, the person that put this guard around a light bulb in a space under the stairs, was either smart enough to know that the bulb needed protection from mechanical damage or that the bulb needed to be protected from coming in contact with stored items that could result in a fire.  Or perhaps it was to put there to protect people from coming in contact with the poor wiring to the fixture itself and the installer had no clue about the other things.

All of these components have a UL listing and none of the components is likely installed in a way that meets the requirements of those listings.  We must be “lucky” though, because it is doing the intended job of lighting up the space under the stairs.


Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle

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Comment balloon 12 commentsCharles Buell • August 29 2014 05:03AM


Good morning Charles. I read your title and thought, call an electrician. This is scary....

Posted by Sheila Anderson, The Real Estate Whisperer Who Listens 732-715-1133 (Referral Group Incorporated) almost 6 years ago

Good morning, Charles....electricity is so dangerous and yet it's the most frequently abused phase of the home.....

Posted by Barbara Todaro, Marketing Agent for The Todaro Team (RE/MAX Executive Realty ) almost 6 years ago

Charles, I had to take care of that little Follow problem. Funny how we think we are following and we are not. These electrical issues are so dangerous. I don't mess with electricity and call an electrician.

Posted by Debbie Reynolds, Your Dedicated Clarksville TN Real Estate Agent (Platinum Properties) almost 6 years ago

Charles: In my decades of renovating homes and feeling first hand the shock of the prior owner'spoor electrical abilities, I could not agree with your comments enough!

Posted by Sandy Padula and Norm Padula, JD, GRI, Presence, Persistence & Perseverance (HomeSmart Realty West & Lend Smart Mortgage, Llc.) almost 6 years ago

I know when we bought our house there was some very interesting wiring!

Posted by Kristin Johnston - REALTOR®, Giving Back With Each Home Sold! (RE/MAX Realty Center ) almost 6 years ago

It is a great information to share , thanks for this.

Have a great day.

Posted by Christopher Lotte, Central Ohio Realtor, 614-390-9243 (Red 1 Realty) almost 6 years ago

Sheila, yes---always a good plan when there is an electrical issue

Barbara, I don't know why that is---perhaps because electricians are so expensive?

Debbie, thanks for taking care of that!

Sandy & Norm, those surprise "bites" can be disconcerting

Kristin, it seems like it is an epidemic at times

Christopher, thanks and you are welcome

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

WE see some really bad stuff out there.  And we wonder why a house burned down sometimes.

Posted by William Feela, Realtor, Whispering Pines Realty 651-674-5999 No. (WHISPERING PINES REALTY) almost 6 years ago

Lucky thing that all this guy has to do is break the bulb to get it out of that cage when it burns out.

That looks like something Edison would have wired to light up the old gold mine!

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

William, there seem to be plenty of reasons and lost of luck.

Jay, it do indeed---or my dad

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

Yikes. This is a real interesting representation - safety minded and yet, not really. Fix the wire first, then worry about protecting the bulb. Wow. 

Posted by Debb Janes EcoBroker and Bernie Stea JD, REALTORS® in Clark County, WA (ViewHomes of Clark County - Nature As Neighbors) almost 6 years ago

I see the work of lots of lucky "electricians". 

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