electrical panel access

writersblockOctober 6, 2008

We're thinking of a major remodel to our townhouse, which would include removing the wall between the kitchen and dining room to make a large eat-in kitchen. Ideally, we'd like to run cabinets all the way along the long wall that would result from removing the divider, but the problem is that the electrical panel is at one end of the dining room on the perpendicular wall, so we would have to stop the cabinets in a stupid looking place to leave enough room to comply with the access requirements.

Now, we're upgrading the wiring, so theoretically the new box could go elsewhere, but the building is poured concrete, so it wouldn't be worth the effort (wiring is all in conduit, 1979 vintage).

So my questions are these: On the other side of the interior wall where the box is now is the washing machine cubby. Could the box turn around to face into there, given that it's quite high above the actual machine? (I suspect the answer is no.)

Or, would it be within code to run a low cabinet over to end on the wall beneath the box in its current location? There would be full access, nothing directly in front, and the low cabinet far below the level of the access panel. Cabinet would only be 12" deep, so no problem reaching anything, but I'm not sure about the total clearance code requires. The panel is out a few inches from the corner, so there would only be about 8" of the cabinet depth directly below the panel.

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It can not be behind the washing machine. It must have clear space in front of it to stand and work on the panel.

    Bookmark   October 7, 2008 at 9:23AM
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Thanks, joed.

    Bookmark   October 7, 2008 at 11:47AM
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We are going a remodel to our kitchen, and our panel box is currently located over a countertop. The contractor says N.E.C.110.26 code requires us to have full walk up access to the panel with nothing underneath and clearance on either side. In 2004 we replaced and upgraded the panel box and considered doing a kitchen renovation at the time but decided to wait. So, if we want to leave it where it is, we will have to forego cabinetry there. I had in mind putting a pantry closet there and the electrical panel box would be contained therein. I'm having trouble making sense of what I'm being told. Is this a local or national code issue?

    Bookmark   June 12, 2009 at 4:59PM
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There must be an open space floor to ceiling 36" deep and 30" wide.This is a national code.You will have to configure your new cabinetry with these dimensions in mind.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2009 at 9:39PM
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Ron Natalie

One option with regard to the gap is to get a rolling work surface that nicely fits the gap in the cabinets. Just keep it rolled away when the inspector is around :-)

    Bookmark   June 13, 2009 at 8:27AM
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Can this open space be contained in a pantry? We could put a pantry in this space that would be 36 inches deep and over 30 inches wide.

You can actually access the box very well now with the cabinets in front of it. Gives you someplace to put your tools since there is a countertop there. The codes seems silly to me. But code is code.

    Bookmark   June 16, 2009 at 10:03AM
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There is a LOT of code that I find silly, but this is one part that I fully agree with. There is nothing worse than trying to work in a panel when you could barely reach it or are in an uncomfortable position. There are plenty of places around a house where you could put a panel and have 30"X36" in front of it, even if it's in the middle of a hallway with a picture over it.

As for putting it in a pantry, that's a good question. If it were a walk-in pantry (built into the structure) and not a clothes closet I would say yes. But a cabinet built in front of the panel, even if it were 30"X36", I'm not sure. One of the code experts will be along shortly I'm sure.

    Bookmark   June 16, 2009 at 1:11PM
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My problem is that our house was built in 1941, and based on the way the cabinets are layed out, apparently at one time the refrigerator was in the space in front of the panel box. Then there was a base cabinet with counter built under the panel box. Five years ago we upgraded the panel box, and it passed inspection fine because we weren't ripping out the cabinets to renovate the kitchen.

Now we are considering replacing cabinetry. We have a small galley kitchen, and if we have to remove the cabinet it will be a big loss of storage space. There is room to make a pantry there, but I don't think there is quite enough room to accommodate the clearances required by code.

Moving the box will be prohibitively expensive. An electrician is coming next week to give us some estimates, but I'm told we're talking in the thousands of dollars. The only place we would have the kind of access required would be quite a distance and would involve pulling wire a long way.

A few people (including contractors) have suggested doing the renovation, getting the CO, and then replacing the cabinetry in that particular area once the CO is obtained.

Others, including realtors, have said that can sometimes cause issues at resale when a buyer's inspector comes in to check out the house.

I would love to have advice from as many of you as possible on this. It's a real conundrum for us.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2009 at 10:33AM
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OK, I may have found a place that is about 10 feet from the existing panel box. It is on a wall in the adjacent sun room, which was formerly a porch. The wall in this area is 40 inches wide, and there is nothing there except a book case that can be moved. We can make it so there is full walk up access.

It is a brook wall with sheet rock on top, but it is slightly recessed by an an inch. Maybe we could install the panel there and build the wall out.

So new question-how much wall depth do you need for an electric panel box?

    Bookmark   June 19, 2009 at 12:11PM
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The recessed panels I've dealt with will fit in a 2x4 wall cavity. However, I've not installed any 1941-vintage panels. YMMV.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2009 at 2:06PM
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In 2003 or 2004 we replaced and upgraded the panel box and considered doing a kitchen renovation at the time but decided to wait. So, the panel is actually vintage 2003.

By 2x4 do you mean 2 inches deep? I have 40 inches width in the proposed new location, but it is sheetrock over brick because it an enclosed porch, so I am not sure how much depth is there. It is recessed 1 inch in from the adjacent walls, and I imagine there must be an inch between the sheetrock and brick. Not sure, but would be deep enough?

    Bookmark   June 19, 2009 at 3:48PM
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By 2x4 do you mean 2 inches deep?

3 1/2 inches deep. A lot of boxes are designed for a flush mounting in a standard stud bay which is composed of a 2x4 that actually measures 1 1/2 x 3 1/2.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2009 at 7:09AM
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Do you think there is a way to retrofit a box in this brick wall I'm talking about-perhaps by building out studs from the brick? I have a brick wall covered in sheetrock but no studs.

Or would we have to buy a whole new panel box to use in the proposed new location?

    Bookmark   June 20, 2009 at 7:46AM
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New question. Our handman who is also an electrician was here yesterday. He said it would be easy to move the panel to this proposed location, and he thinks there are studs in wall; if not he can build the wall out.

But, he said we will need a junction box in attic to avoid running all new wires to back of house.

Are junction boxes OK? Safe?

    Bookmark   June 22, 2009 at 8:20AM
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Ron Natalie

It's also possible if the brick isn't structural to knock the ones out where the box is going on up to where you intend to fish things down from the attic.

Junction boxes are fine as long as they are accessible.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2009 at 9:54AM
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Junction boxes when sized properly and not overfilled are just fine.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2009 at 2:20PM
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Last week, the electrician who works for the general contractor came out and said we can move the panel to the location that is 10 feet away. We'll need junction boxes in the attic and in the basement crawl space.

We have not signed a contract yet with the general contractor, and we also have a handy man who is a licensed electrician, does HVAC and plumbing etc. He is wonderful. He knows the code because he works for a large institution.

He says there is nothing we would be doing in our kitchen that even needs a permit UNLESS we decide to move the electric panel. The ONLY reason we would move the electric panel would be to meet code and get the inspector's approval. Handyman says all the structural work is done, that installing cabinets, countertops, under cabinet lighting, there is nothing to inspect. That we would be throwing money away to pull permits to do this work. We are not going to even move any vents or anything. The electric in the kitchen is already up to code. Handyman has offered to do the installations for us. It would be so much more reasonably priced - OTOH, we'd be without a kitchen a lot longer because he works on the weekends. Has a regular job during the week.

So I guess the general contractor wants to pull permits to cover himself? He is also going to ask us to sign a contract with allowances, which I think would be foolish on our part.

Does anyone have advice about the advisability of pulling or not pulling permits, or should I post this on a different forum?

    Bookmark   June 29, 2009 at 9:52AM
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Ron Natalie

I don't know where you are, and there are certainly places so rural that nobody gives a hoot about permits, but in many places "MAJOR REMODEL" which includes as you describe ripping out walls is going to require a permit. Maybe your "handyman" is willing to fly under the radar and hope he doesn't get caught but you can be in real deep trouble if the unpermited work is caught. Around here, you couldn't even put in an electrical receptacle that wasn't there before without pulling a permit.

Your other option than allowances is to set down know exactly what cabinets, appliances, etc.. you want so a contractor can do a proper bid.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2009 at 11:01AM
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We are not going to rip out any walls. We are going to:

1. install new cabinets
2. install new countertops
3. install under cabinet lights
4. replace 2 sinks

We are not going to add any new electrical outlets. We did all the structural work including plumbing, electrical, knocking out walls and replacing floors with a permit in a major renovation 5 years ago. Now we are going to do all the finish work. Is this considered a major renovation? What would the city be inspecting? My understanding is that the city inspects things that can threaten health and safety- like wiring, plumbing - but I am not sure what they would inspect in the scenario I describe.

We were only going to move the electrical panel because the bigger contractor said we needed to do so. But I am not convinced that is necessary.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2009 at 1:13PM
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Ron Natalie

Oops Lilleth, I got you confused with the first poster.
You might be able to slide under the their. One would really have to know the jurisdiction. However, here, stretch a new circuit (or tie into an existing lighting circuit) to feed the under cabinet light would certainly require an electrical permit as would moving the panel. If the work six years ago was done to code, I'm not sure why you need a new panel either.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2009 at 1:56PM
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Where I am at - you need a permit.

If you are unsure just call the local inspection department, tell them what you are doing and see if they require a permit.

As a side note I find it really ironic that those out there trying to do work properly, and legally (pulling permits, following code etc) get labeled as the guys trying to stick it to people...

    Bookmark   June 29, 2009 at 2:04PM
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The general contractor is trying to sell us on moving stuff around - stove, vent hood, lighting etc. - that we don't need or want to move. He is also trying to talk us into moving the electrical panel. The panel was upgraded to a new panel 6 years ago and passed inspection. The general contractor is telling us that if we replace the cabinets where the panel currently resides that we will need to now move the panel box to meet code.

We just want new cabinets and countertops and some under counter lights.

We are not accusing the contractor of anything, but he IS trying to get us to add things that we don't want. We are just trying to sort out what is really accurate regarding the panel box and whether we really need to move it.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2009 at 4:02PM
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Ron Natalie

Well get a different contractor or be firm in what you want as far as the other discretionary work you want done. However, despite what allowed your pass before, it's not code now and *ANY* changes are going to invalidate the free ride you got before on the access requirements.

    Bookmark   June 30, 2009 at 8:09AM
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