Dead Front Screws?

Home Inspector with Superior Home Inspections - Greater Albuquerque Area InterNACHI 10041206

Screws.... yes, screws. Mr. Inspector, you mean to tell me that you are writing up that the screws that hold the dead-front cover on the electrical panel are wrong? That seems pretty picky sir! There is a reason for using the correct screws, and yes, it is an electrical defect if the correct screws are not used! Why? Well, let me tell you, I just had this happen to me the other day.

I got to the electrical panel, and noticed that the bottom right screw was different than the rest of them, not to mention it required a flat blade screwdriver to remove it and the other three was a square drive screw head.

Also, one of the breakers were tripped. Wonderful I thought. I was a little afraid to touch the panel cover, knowing the wrong screw was in place. Was the screw touching live current? Well, the breaker was tripped and the panel is grounded, so I removed the panel cover... voila! The one odd screw had a pointed tip, and right behind it was a wire with a burnt and bare area exposed. When the person that used that screw screwed it in, the pointed tip pierced the insulation on the wire and shorted out to the electrical panel. The breaker that had tripped was the one that had the burnt wire coming from it. The pic on the left is the correct type screw, with a blunt end on it. Can you see the difference? Yes, it could still pinch a wire if it were directly behind it, but a pointed screw will pierce it easily! Poof!

I went and got the owner to show him. The tripped breaker was for the smoke alarms and was labeled "smokies", lol. He was surprised to see the burnt wire and when I showed him the screw he was shocked... bad choice of words...surprised! He had recently gotten some HVAC work done and he said they were in there and they must have lost a screw and just found the first one that would fit the hole and screwed it in. The smoke alarms were still working because they had battery backup. He called them and they were to come out the next day to see what happened.

So yes, that is a defect. One can plainly see why using a pointed screw is a hazard...             Right?



Posted by

Fred Hernden 


 Superior Home Inspections





 Albuquerque, Rio Rancho New Mexico and surrounding areas...


“My mission is to provide superior quality home inspections to my clients to ensure peace of mind so they can confidently make the largest investment they may ever make!"


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Patricia Kennedy
RLAH Real Estate - Washington, DC
Home in the Capital

Fred, I recently had a transaction where the inspector found the wrong screws. And there was no argument about getting it fixed.

Oct 26, 2016 12:10 PM #1
Myrl Jeffcoat
GreatWest Realty - Sacramento, CA
Greater Sacramento Real Estate Agent

That is something I had not heard of before.  The good news is that procuring a proper screw shouldn't be an expensive remedy!

Oct 26, 2016 12:45 PM #2
Fred Hernden, CMI
Superior Home Inspections - Greater Albuquerque Area - Albuquerque, NM
Albuquerque area Master Inspector

Patricia - And my blog is the reason why! It happens alot...

Myrl - Not expensive at all... unless you use the wrong screws and short something out! 

Oct 26, 2016 11:52 PM #3
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Sorry I missed this the other day!  Apparently I missed a lot that day, and it was a busy day for me.

Once I saw 2.5" drywall screws holding the panel cover on!  I refused to put them back on once I removed them, afraid I would cause a short.

Ignorance might be bliss, but can also be very dangerous.

Good post!

Nov 02, 2016 09:15 PM #4
Fred Hernden, CMI
Superior Home Inspections - Greater Albuquerque Area - Albuquerque, NM
Albuquerque area Master Inspector

Jay - I have seen many a wrong screw used, this is the first one I had proof that it can happen!

Nov 03, 2016 12:22 AM #5
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Fred Hernden, CMI

Albuquerque area Master Inspector
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