Mobile home

bus_driverJuly 9, 2009

Need some creative input. Was called to owner-occupied mobile home to correct multiple electrical problems. 2 x 4 stud exterior walls, sheathed outside and with with vinyl siding. Interior is 3/8" drywall with smooth vinyl facing, printed like wallpaper. Wall electrical devices are self-contained switched and receptacles, supported by the drywall. In two cases, the drywall is broken and damaged around the devices, an area much larger than any old work box will cover. Thus no mount for old work box or self-contained device. What would you do?

Obviously if this was unoccupied and time permitted, drywall repairs/replacement, patching and painting would be feasible. But those were not the conditions in this case.

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Ron Natalie

If the vinyl siding is the only exterior sheathing, I might be inclined to pop a plank off and work on it from the back. The downside on things like this is they get pretty brittle over time.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2009 at 9:53AM
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There are plastic access panels available that can be installed on finish walls, you could probably find them as small as 6" x 8" & they are paintable. Do a google search for "plastic access panels" , plenty of places on the web sell them. Install a junction box inside the wall with a non-metallic sheathed cable run to an old work box in the same stud cavity mounted far enough over so it will not interfere with the access panel. Install the access panel over the junction box

    Bookmark   July 9, 2009 at 11:14AM
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Thank you for the answers. Additional ones are welcomed. Regarding the self-contained devices, I cannot find a code reference, but apparently these are limited to use in manufactured housing. The contact method is similar to the back-stab. I have looked in vain for specifications for the limitation as to the number of conductors for each such device. I found some of them had three 14-2NM W/G cables in one device. The cable installed last was easily dislodged and very difficult to reinstall, so I suspect that the third cable was not permissible.
Finally, separating individual conductors for testing, such as short circuits, is not easy nor convenient.
Other speedy wall surface repair suggestions?

    Bookmark   July 10, 2009 at 8:10PM
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If the boxes are wanted in the same place then I would find/make something like a picture frame where the work box would slide in the opening and the frame would be larger than the cover. A couple of 1x2 on the backside of the drywall to screw the frame into and you would have a very sturdy place for the box.

The frame could be any size to eliminate wall repair and could be 1/4" plywood type decorated nicely.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2009 at 8:47PM
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Thanks for the suggestions. My solution is nearer the suggestion of hendricus. Trimmed the drywall edges to sound material. Pieces of 1/4" plywood cut to largest size possible to insert through the opening, large enough to cover some of the undamaged area behind the drywall plus part of the opening, coated one side with white glue to bond to the back of the drywall and drywall screws used to secure it in place. Then used Bondo to fill for flush front thickness. Sawed out opening to fit old work box. Premises had other electrical problems and some earlier inept repairs. Dealt with those. The Bondo sets quickly, is strong and sandable. I smoothed it with spatula and left it at that. That repair took some time. Due to the general condition of the premises and the present financial situation of the owners, sanding and decorating of the repair will be for them to do. They are better pleased with the repairs than I imagined. I hope they can pay the modest bill. Thanks again.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2009 at 4:44PM
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For the potential benefit of the pros on this forum, here is the final on this mobile home. Multiple problems, one of which was a short circuit in the circuit that supplied most of one side of the unit. The wall devices are the self-contained type. Isolating sections of cable requires removing the conductors from the devices, which use springy slots to contact and hold the conductors. I do not trust these to hold adequately if reused after testing. Plus the sometimes-difficulty of installing the conductors in the devices without a special tool. So I replaced them with old work boxes and conventional devices. The bad cable had staple damage at the factory, visible after removal, and was removed/replaced by removing the vinyl siding and sawing out a section of the sheathing. Not an especially easy nor quick repair. Electricians really get involved in several other building disciplines.

Here is a link that might be useful: P&S

    Bookmark   July 30, 2009 at 12:58PM
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You can see the lack of quality that occurs when you allow a group like HUD to write the standards covering 'manufactured housing.'

There are all sorts of splices and tap fittings allowed with no requirement they even be in a junction box.

Remember that guy posting about using them in his house a while ago?
They are ONLY listed for use in manufactured housing and do not comply with the NEC.

No wonder the things have problems.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2009 at 2:24PM
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I do not offer much argument to those statements. But affordability is also a consideration. Governments do not ever make housing more affordable, but they do make it more expensive. From a childhood as a tenant farming family, I determined to own free and clear everything I ever would own. So the first roof that was mine was a mobile home purchased with limited fire damage inside, but extensive smoke and water damage. Rebuilt it and no debt. Lived in it 2 1/2 years, rented it for 1 year and then sold it for all the original cash investment to buy and repair. Higher standards are laudable, but the choices to consumers are also limited thereby, freezing out of the market those of more limited incomes and increasing the need for public housing and assistance. Sometimes I worked 20 hours per day, but all my (more than one) houses are debt-free.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2009 at 5:03PM
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To be sure there is no misunderstanding, I do not like the self-contained devices for the reasons already stated. But I examined one of the ones removed. Has UL and CSA listings. Articles 90.7 and 110.3 of the NEC address those listings. Properly installed, those devices are highly unlikely to have a short circuit or ground fault within the device. But their use is no doubt primarily one of initial cost saving.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2009 at 5:27PM
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My friend has a single wide mobile home and has no power in the receptacles in the living room and part of the kitchen. We checked the circuit breakers and fuses and they tested ok with a multimeter. Does anyone have any suggestions or ideas about this. Thanks.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2011 at 5:02PM
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Ron Natalie

A lot of manufactured houses are pretty poorly wired. In others they use connectors to make the terminations. First I'd look at the outer shell of the thing to look for obvious damange. If not, you'll have to start from the panel and open up the receptacles and other outlets looking for a bad connection. Sometimes it's just a connector worked loose.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2011 at 7:59PM
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