When To Upgrade Your Electrical System to Current Code

The following is an excerpt from a recent complaint posted on a consumer reporting website by a homeowner regarding an electrician in Atlanta:

He told me (the electrician)  he couldn’t connect the pool pump unless he did all this work and  that the house wasn’t up to code (turns out he meant up to current code, but I later found out from a builder that houses are just suppose to be up to the code at the time they were built so he deliberately misled me). He said he had to rewire the main panel in the house and totally redo the way the pool was set up or we could get electrocuted in the pool or the house could catch on fire from the wiring. He said it would take two days and cost around $3,100. He worked about six hours and then told. me it would cost more money than he thought he said I and I had to pay him the $3,100.

The National Electrical Code is a United States construction standard and is part of the National Fire Codes series published by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). While the Code is not itself law, it is used by local inspectors as a guideline for the safe installation of electrical wiring and equipment and many of the requirements are commonly mandated by state or local law.

NEC 2011

NEC 2011

First published in 1897, the NEC is updated and published every three years. The 2011 NEC is the current edition (effective date August 25, 2010).

Most states adopt the most recent edition within a couple of years of its publication; however, a few jurisdictions regularly omit or modify some sections, or even add their own requirements, e.g. Georgia didn’t adopt the 2008 requirement for Arc Fault Interrupters until January of 2010.

Code upgrades are not normally required except in new construction unless significant changes like a panel replacement are made to the electrical system and then the local inspector will normally only require some upgrades to be made.  That’s why it’s important to work with an Atlanta electrical contractor who is familiar with the electrical inspectors in each local county or municipality and is knowledgeable as to which code upgrades will most commonly be required.  Of course, any new wiring or equipment installed in an existing home or business must be completed to current code standards.

Even  if not required, some upgrades like GFCI or AFCI protection are a good idea because they significantly increase the safety of the electrical system and are relatively inexpensive. If someone tells you your electrical system is not up to code contact a qualified electrician who is a Licensed Georgia Electrical Contractor.  Try out our ASK AN EXPERT page if we can help.

6 replies
  1. Tim Jackson
    Tim Jackson says:

    Great topic. With so many contractors paying their employees on commission, it’s hard to know if they are trying to pad their own pockets with unnecessary upgrades or if they are truly looking out for your best interest.

  2. Susan
    Susan says:

    well..your link tells us when we have to upgrade (or rather, that we don’t have to unless we initiate new construction, etc), but I can’t find any info as to HOW the old house wiring can be upgraded. If you don’t have to tear out and fish new wires, then how will it be done? Nowhere can I find an answer to that question.

    • Tim Jackson
      Tim Jackson says:

      Hi Susan,

      If you want to upgrade the wiring in the walls, there is no other way than to open the walls and start pulling out the old wires and installing the new. It is a very invasive and costly undertaking.

      In most cases it is not necessary to do this. The wire inside the walls remains fairly protected from the environment and usually ages pretty well. The exception to this would be a house that may have had a fire or flood at one time or that had a severe rodent problem in the past. Most of the problems encountered with wiring occurs at the termination points, light fixtures, switches, receptacles, and junction boxes. All of these areas should be accessible for inspection and maintenance without having to do any wall damage.

      • DCP123
        DCP123 says:

        In most jurisdictions, you shouldn’t have to open the walls to replace wires in the walls in the relatively unlikely circumstance that the wiring in the walls needs to be replaced.

        If a wall is closed, fishing cables through the wall cavities without stapling them to studs, as is required when the wall is open and you have access to do the stapling, is permitted by code under at least some circumstances.

        Now, if you later open that wall up, do you have to staple the cable? I don’t know, but I’d guess that you do and I’d recommend it anyway, so if you fish cable, leave a little slack to allow stapling so you don’t have to replace that cable if the wall is ever opened for another purpose.

        Caveat: I’m not an electrician and I’m just repeating my understanding of wheat I’ve read electricians and inspectors say on other forums. Obviously, check with your electrician about what is permitted in your jurisdiction, but if the electrician says that fishing is not permitted, I’d check with another electrician (or the building department) before paying anyone to rip open my walls.

        • DCP123
          DCP123 says:

          That’s NEC 334.30(B):

          (B) Unsupported Cables. Nonmetallic-sheathed cable shall be permitted to be unsupported where the cable:

          (1) Is fished between access points through concealed spaces in finished buildings or structures and supporting is impracticable.

          (2) Is not more than 1.4 m (4 1 ⁄2 ft) from the last point of cable support to the point of connection to a luminaire or other piece of electrical equipment and the cable and point of connection are within an accessible ceiling


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