For many homeowners, the electrical code (and building codes in general) are something of an enigma. Many people have a general understanding of the fact that there are sets of standards for building and renovating properties, but may not be certain about when the codes need to be followed, what happens when a building is not up to code, and what they need to do about work which is not up to current standards.
The specific standards for a piece of infrastructure can vary depending on the setting, local municipality, and use of the building. However, all new buildings will need to be constructed according to these regulations. When new homes are built, there will be several inspections where the house will be certified as meeting the electrical and building codes for it’s intended use. When you purchase a new home, you can be fairly confident that it will meet all code requirements as long as the builder was honest.
Once you move in however, there will be two things occurring which can take the building out of compliance over time. First, as the home ages, repairs and changes will be made. Remodeling, fixing a plumbing issue, taking out a wall… all can involve work which might take the building out of compliance with the building codes. When a major renovation is made, the necessary permits will often require not just any new work to meet standards, but for older work to be brought up to code during the renovation. For small changes on the other hand, you can likely get away with leaving older work alone.
The other factor which brings homes out of compliance is changes in the electrical code. As we develop new technologies and safety protocols improve, the electrical code is updated. Incorporating newer technologies and protocols is a major factor in decreasing electrical related deaths or property damage, and so these regulations are incredibly important. However, it would be incredibly expensive to update every property in an area every time a change is made to the electrical code.
Renovations and Electrical Repair
So if changes have been made and your home is no longer in compliance, the good news is that you likely will not have to do anything just yet. Sometimes homeowners afraid of being forced to upgrade a system will fail to involve professionals or skip the permitting for work they are doing. This is a mistake, and a misguided one at that. Not only will skipping permitting and using substandard contractors put them at risk for property damage or injury, but in most cases they will not be required to spend a lot of money improving unrelated areas of their home.
For insurance cases, it is particularly important that all work done will be permitted properly and performed by qualified electricians. Regardless of whether your home meets the current electrical code, you will receive your insurance payouts if you followed all proper protocols during any work you had done.
The one time that you might be required to update aging systems is when they are discovered to be unsafe. If it is discovered that a certain circuit in your house puts you at great risk of fire, this should be fixed right away.
Finally, code compliance will not stop you from selling a property. While having your home well maintained and being able to show evidence that it is modern will certainly help it command a better price on the market, you will be able to sell your property regardless of any outdated standards used in it’s construction. A competent building inspector will find these things and relay them to the buyer, but it should not be a deal breaker unless there is an imminent safety concern.
The two main ways of finding out if your home meets electrical standards are to either ask for an inspection, or examine permits which have been filled out for work performed. If work was recently performed by an ethical contractor, the permits will show that upgrades were made to the home’s electrical system. Modernizing older properties is a wonderful way for homeowners to invest their money. Not only will it have immediate effects via things like increased efficiency, but you will also have peace of mind knowing that you and your family are much safer. On top of that, showing a potential buyer that you have kept your home electrical system modern and well maintained will go a long way into convincing them that the entire property is in good condition. Buyers understand well that when someone takes excellent care of one part of their property, the likely have taken good care of the rest of it.
So if you are worried about code compliance, you can probably relax. For the most part, the electrical code is mostly a way to ensure that new properties are built to the highest safety standards available, not a way to strip money from hardworking homeowners.