Warns Residents to Avoid Unskilled and Unlicensed Repairman
Sparks shooting out of a bedroom wall socket, arcing from the main electrical panel, flickering lights, and exposed light fixtures with hanging wires – all the result of a slick repair sales pitch that made Angela Bryant’s first home a nightmare.
Faced with up to $6,000 in electrical repairs to her home in St. Louis’ Mark Twain neighborhood, Bryant opted for what appeared to be a cheap solution from an unskilled repairman. It made her home even more unsafe and unlivable.
With no hope for a solution, Bryant was directed by a social agency to contact the International Brotherhood of Electrical Worker (IBEW) Local 1. She connected with business representative Chris Clermont and he engaged IBEW and St. Louis Chapter of the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) leadership, which agreed to fund Bryant’s much needed repairs through their Electrical Connection partnership.
“I was blown away after talking to Chris. Somebody actually cared,” said Bryant. “I don’t have to be afraid of living in my home anymore. IBEW/NECA cared enough to make my house livable through their incredible generosity.” Clermont engaged IBEW-signatory contractor RJP Electric to assess the Bryant’s needs and perform the repairs.
“This was a more than 80-year-old home that already had a history of jury-rigged electrical repairs by the unskilled,” noted Tom Piotrowski, project manager, RJP Electric. “The latest attempt at repairs made it even worse. The main breaker and busbar were corroded and there were exposed wires with improper splicing throughout the home.”
“Half of my home wasn’t powered,” said Bryant. “I had to unplug every electrical device just to do laundry. The most frightening thing was sparks flying out of my bedroom wall socket and the arcing at the electrical panel.”
“It is an all too common problem,” noted Frank Jacobs, business manager, IBEW Local 1. “People fall for a sales pitch on electrical repairs by someone who is devoid of the skills needed to make safe repairs that comply with electrical codes. That creates not only a shock hazard but a fire hazard.”
On December 12, 2022, RJP made extensive repairs to the home, fixing the electrical panel, the improper splicing and secured all connections within junction boxes, bringing the home up code.
“There are other issues beyond the hidden dangers created by unskilled so-called ‘handymen,’” noted Kyle McKenna, executive vice president, St. Louis Chapter of the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA). “When it comes time to sell the home, any reputable electrical inspector is going to find and require the faulty repairs to be fixed. So why live with the hazard?”
McKenna noted that many of the issues in Bryant’s home are similar to what the Electrical Connection partnership finds each year when it donates services to help Rebuilding Together St. Louis make low income homes safer.
The Electrical Connection and local inspection agencies say most electrical problems created by the unskilled involve attempts to tie in new equipment and wiring with existing electrical infrastructure. That includes:
- Too many circuits for the number of positions in an electrical panel and electrical service panels located in a bathroom or a habitable room, often a room addition. It should be in a utility area. Panels are also found mounted on moist walls where water leaks in, leading to corrosion and rust.
- GFCIs added to kitchen countertops in an existing metal box that’s too small. Many homes built before 1978 have this issue.
- Improper splices and splices made outside of electrical boxes. Cables entering enclosures without the connector. Old style service entrance cables are often found with deteriorated jackets
- Attempting to integrate old knob and tube wiring with new electrical wiring.
- Decks added without permits, leading to unsafe overhead electric drops that are low enough to be a hazard to anyone on the deck.
- Outdoor receptacles installed with the wrong weatherproof cover and outdoor light fixtures installed without the required electrical box.
- Illegal circuit runs to outbuildings.
- Ampere rating of an overcurrent device exceeding the rating of the circuit conductors
The Electrical Connection offers the largest data base of licensed electrical contractors and skilled electricians dedicated to building in compliance with the National Electrical Code. Learn more at www.electricalconnection.org.