Contractor hit a wire while nailing up moulding in kitchen

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Had a guy come in to help put up wood moulding in the kitchen. Must have hit a wire becaue it blew a breaker. He pulled the nail out (small nail) and hammered it in elsewhere. Flipped the breaker back on. Said don't worry about it.
Now I lie awake at night fearing its a fire hazard.
Is it?
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Shaffer wrote:

No way to tell without opening up the spot and looking, to see what the nail did. It is probably safe, if it hasn't caught fire already, but if it nicked a wire instead of just shorting it, it could overheat at that spot at some point.
-- aem sends...
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My first thought is why did he hit it with a small nail? When you say small you mean short? Finish nails from a nail gun are small as in narrow but can be 2.5" long.
In theory, wires should be running through the middle of studs 1.75" back. That + 1/2" drywall is 2.25. Then add in molding thickness.
Wiring that is run too close to edge of stud should have a metal plate. But that does nothing if the wiring is close to the inside of the drywall between the studs.
Where did it happen? In the field of a wall, top near ceiling, near floor?
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Thanks guys.
He was using a nail gun. The moulding was top of wall against the ceiling. 1920's house. No dry wall in rest of house, so I doubt any in kitchen. This was relayed to me by wifey. I was at work. :( What's wiring doing up there anyways?

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I'm not familiar with 1920's houses but witing will typically run through the attic or between 1st & 2nd floors, go through the top plate of the wall and down the stud to the device.
http://media.photobucket.com/image/house%20wiring/dinocencio/DSC04050.jpg?o=7
http://www.geekzone.co.nz/imagessubs/bloga3f63bc77d916f491f14068218fc40ab.jpg
http://www.etchweb.net/home/images/house-wiring.jpg
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If you have a wife, have her lie awake worrying about fire. You need your sleep.

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Post some photos of the location; overall shots & some closeups
I own a 1930 house & have taken apart, restored / rebuilt most of it.
Was the original K&T (knob & tube) replaced? Did some do it correctly or just jury rig in some Romex (NM)?
I think I ansered my own questions...I think it would be rather difficult to short a K&T run with a single brad. SO it must be rewired with romex such that a single brad shot would create a short.
Shorting a knob & tube system with a nail gun fired finishing nail or brad would be kinda hard to do if: 1) the proper length fastener was used 2) wires were / are properly placed.
I wouldn't "worry" about it but I'd make a mental (or written) note of it, so when (if) problems happen oyu can know where to look.
How big (diameter & length) was the fastener? I hope he picked a resonably sized nail otherwise he's kinda the cause of this mishap.
Brads & finishing nails don't need much more than 1" penetration into the "true" receiving member.....the timber beyond the drywall.
For a 1/16" (16 gage) brad ....3/4" penetration is a bit small, 1 1/2" is a bit too much .....1" or so it just about right.
So when picking fastener length I shoot for about 16 fastener diameters into the receiving member (not including the drywal) but I also consider the over penetration issues on plumbing & wiring. I tend to pick the shortest nail that will do the job
cheers Bob
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"> Had a guy come in to help put up wood moulding in the kitchen. Must have

*In a 1920's house that has had some electrical improvements over the years it is possible to have wiring anywhere. This is the kind of thing that will surface as a problem weeks, months or years from now. By nailing into the wiring and causing a dead short some of the copper wire is probably nicked. The wire may only be connected at that point by a hair, more or less. Depending on the load that travels over that point it can overheat and if it is in contact with combustible materials will burn whatever it touches. Eventually the wire will burn apart and whatever it is feeding will become dead. To answer your question: Yes it is a potential fire hazard.
For safety and piece of mind get an electrician in there and have him take a look.
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EXACTLY! open the wall and inspect the damage. perhaps access it from the other side.
its a real potential fire hazard
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Agree with John and Bob. I would also say the contractor is not responsible for this. As others have pointed out, wiring is supposed to be run far enough back that a finishing nail from molding can't reach it or else have a metal plate covering it.
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On Oct 13, 8:01am, snipped-for-privacy@optonline.net wrote:

Yep. Even if you had a contract, and the contract was any good, there'd be a clause in there about "latent and concealed conditions". The contractor doesn't have X-ray vision, and can't determine what is behind a wall. He has a reasonable expectation to believe that there aren't wires too close to the surface.
If the contractor was using unnecessarily long nails - say 3" to attach some trim - then there's some responsibility there, but it's basically the owner's.
R
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wrote:

Yep. Even if you had a contract, and the contract was any good, there'd be a clause in there about "latent and concealed conditions". The contractor doesn't have X-ray vision, and can't determine what is behind a wall. He has a reasonable expectation to believe that there aren't wires too close to the surface.
If the contractor was using unnecessarily long nails - say 3" to attach some trim - then there's some responsibility there, but it's basically the owner's.
R
Say WHAT?
Steve
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I don't know what that is supposed to mean. If you have a question, ask it.
R
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wrote in message

I don't know what that is supposed to mean. If you have a question, ask it.
R
Your statement that the owner would bear the responsibility for this act befuddles me. The fact is that no matter what the location of the wire, the wire was in good shape before the contractor did whatever he did. At the least, he should have offered to open up a small area just to be safe. He did not even do that, and gave the person, a layman, advice from an expert professional that nothing was wrong, and it was safe, which may or may not be the case. In my opinion, that was not a professional thing to do, and a reasonable person would have cause to be concerned.
To the OP: Call your local Contractor's Board and the Fire Department and see what they say. Find out if this man is in fact a licensed contractor. I believe in your original question, you stated he was. If he is, they will mediate, and bring on a fair solution. If someone else has to fix this and open it up for inspection, it goes on him or his surety bond. They may be interested in the hijinks of this fellow, who may or may not be licensed. I, like you, would be concerned until I had a final impartial 100% sure answer. What you got was not the actions and behavior of a "professional contractor." And now you are living under stress from a potentially deadly situation.
Steve, a retired contractor
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SteveB wrote:

It's said that the entire corpus of contract law theory can be mastered by studying: The Fence, The Bull, and The Pit.
Here, we have a case of "The Pit," that is, a hidden hazard.
Some would argue that it is the responsibility of the owner to know, and inform others, about this sort of thing. While a person with access may exercise normal diligence, he cannot be expected to know all the problems. If, for example, a visitor fell though a rotten porch step, liability would lie with the owner of the porch. If, in this case, the carpenter shot a nail into a live wire and was electrocuted, most, if not all, of the fault would with the homeowner.
Admittedly, arguments can be made on either side. If I were on a jury, however, I'd vote with the carpenter.
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You are confusing two different issues. 1). The contractor saying, "Don't worry." is a cavalier attitude and is scary. You'll get no argument from me that the guy behaved badly after shorting the wire, it certainly is not professional behavior, and a reasonable person should definitely be concerned in such an event. 2). The wire being in an unusual location is a "latent and concealed condition". The Owner did not know about it, the contractor did not know about it. It is the Owner's house.
Look at it another way. This is how it _should_ have worked. The contractor is legit, and the homeowner has a signed contract. The contract has the standard latent and concealed condition clause. The contractor hits the wire and it shorts out. The contractor stops work and informs the Owner. The Owner calls in an electrician to open the wall and fix the wire. You can't have a concealed electrical junction box, and the wire won't magically grow a foot so you can cut it and have the required wire length inside the box anyway, so rewiring is in order (unless everybody is cutting corners). The contractor would charge the Owner for the delay, unless he's in a good mood or has other things to work on, and for patching the wall/ceiling the electrician opened up. Then it's back to installing trim.
That is contracting and that is the textbook way it should work. Obviously it doesn't always work that way on smaller jobs, with unlicensed/hack contractors and without contracts. It does not change the fact that the Owner is on the hook for something the contractor would not reasonably expect to encounter. Since code requires wiring to be a certain distance back from the face of the framing, any typical nail used in attaching trim shouldn't have been long enough to reach the wire if it were in the correct location.

I don't know if you should be fanning the flames of paranoia with an already admitted spooked homeowner. They should be concerned, and they should get it corrected sooner rather than later, but there's little benefit in talking about deadly situations.
The OP mentioned getting a guy in to help with the trim. I am using the word contractor, though he may not be anything more than an unlicensed handyman, or a "skilled" neighbor. There are few homeowners who are totally oblivious to licensing issues. The decision to hire a guy without checking on their qualifications, licensing and insurance is usually made based on the guy's price being good, he's available, and, hell, what could go wrong with putting up a little trim? There's not a lot of liability like he'd fall off the roof, right? This situation should help clarify the error of such thinking.
About the comment of using a stud finder as a foolproof method of finding wires, and scanning everywhere before nailing. As Roger mentioned, there's a top plate running along the wall, and there are (toe)nails attaching the stud to the plate. Nobody except a blithering idiot would run a wire in a location that would require them to drill through the (toe)nails. More likely the wire was either set into notches, or just draped or stapled up in the soffit.
R
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You are confusing two different issues. 1). The contractor saying, "Don't worry." is a cavalier attitude and is scary. You'll get no argument from me that the guy behaved badly after shorting the wire, it certainly is not professional behavior, and a reasonable person should definitely be concerned in such an event. 2). The wire being in an unusual location is a "latent and concealed condition". The Owner did not know about it, the contractor did not know about it. It is the Owner's house.
Look at it another way. This is how it _should_ have worked. The contractor is legit, and the homeowner has a signed contract. The contract has the standard latent and concealed condition clause. The contractor hits the wire and it shorts out. The contractor stops work and informs the Owner. The Owner calls in an electrician to open the wall and fix the wire. You can't have a concealed electrical junction box, and the wire won't magically grow a foot so you can cut it and have the required wire length inside the box anyway, so rewiring is in order (unless everybody is cutting corners). The contractor would charge the Owner for the delay, unless he's in a good mood or has other things to work on, and for patching the wall/ceiling the electrician opened up. Then it's back to installing trim.
That is contracting and that is the textbook way it should work. Obviously it doesn't always work that way on smaller jobs, with unlicensed/hack contractors and without contracts. It does not change the fact that the Owner is on the hook for something the contractor would not reasonably expect to encounter. Since code requires wiring to be a certain distance back from the face of the framing, any typical nail used in attaching trim shouldn't have been long enough to reach the wire if it were in the correct location.

I don't know if you should be fanning the flames of paranoia with an already admitted spooked homeowner. They should be concerned, and they should get it corrected sooner rather than later, but there's little benefit in talking about deadly situations.
The OP mentioned getting a guy in to help with the trim. I am using the word contractor, though he may not be anything more than an unlicensed handyman, or a "skilled" neighbor. There are few homeowners who are totally oblivious to licensing issues. The decision to hire a guy without checking on their qualifications, licensing and insurance is usually made based on the guy's price being good, he's available, and, hell, what could go wrong with putting up a little trim? There's not a lot of liability like he'd fall off the roof, right? This situation should help clarify the error of such thinking.
About the comment of using a stud finder as a foolproof method of finding wires, and scanning everywhere before nailing. As Roger mentioned, there's a top plate running along the wall, and there are (toe)nails attaching the stud to the plate. Nobody except a blithering idiot would run a wire in a location that would require them to drill through the (toe)nails.
"More likely the wire was either set into notches, or just draped or stapled up in the soffit."
*I worked on a kitchen remodel back in march. It was a total gut job. While adding one additional recessed light to existing ones that were installed by a previous homeowner I found a romex cable running up from a switch that was wedged between the drywall and the top plate with no notch and no protection. I drilled a hole and ran it through the plate.
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On Wed, 14 Oct 2009 08:11:22 -0700 (PDT), RicodJour

And the "contractor" would still have known there was a possibility of hitting wire if he had used his scanner first. The wire may not have been running along the plate at all - it may (and most likely was) have been coming THROUGH the plate to go down to a switch or receptacle in the wall - and the nail ANYWHERE but where he put ir would have been a total non issue.
Knowing there was a live wire in the immediate area, the nail would have been moved 3 or 4 inches one way or the other and no problem..
When working in older homes in particular, you ASSUME there is a wire there untill you prove to your satisfaction there is none. With today's low-cost technology readily available there is NO EXCUSE for a contractor or a handyman to EVER put a nail , a drill, or a saw into a live wire.
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On Oct 14, 5:56pm, snipped-for-privacy@snyder.on.ca wrote:

You're putting another layer of drywall or paneling over an existing wall. Do you scan the entire room to locate the wires? Do you scan every stud and joist along its entire length? How long does that take? What about if there were a pipe in the wall? A wire that wasn't live until a switch was flicked on?
Contract law is full of cases that were determined based on "reasonable expectations". Code is full of requirements that dictate where and how wires should be run. In the vast majority of cases its not an issue as nothing ever happens - even if the wires are run incorrectly. You're backtracking and cherry-picking this one example and using it to make a blanket statement that would suck down a lot of time with very little benefit. If 100 carpenters didn't scan the walls, probably one or two would hit a live wire, none if it were run correctly. So to prevent the one occurrence you want all 100 carpenters to scan all the walls all of the time. Please. Why not just recommend using construction adhesive to attach the trim? That's even safer!

Hey, any hints on who won last week's big game?
The fact of the matter is that someone ran a wire where it shouldn't have been, or the guy installing the trim used too long of a nail.

I've been swatting nails for 35 years. I've never hit a live wire. I also have never used a scanner to scan all the surfaces. If I did, guess who'd be paying for my time? Every job I did I'd have to charge for that 'extra' service, and it would only pay off in extremely rare cases. I'd still get paid.
This all goes to risk management. Do you want to pay up front to me, whether or not there is a problem, or, _if_ there is a problem pay to fix it? A case could also be made that hitting the wire is doing the owner a favor by locating a shoddy wiring job.
R
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On Wed, 14 Oct 2009 16:00:59 -0700 (PDT), RicodJour

I look at the room and the layout of the electrics and say "where did they connect that?" and I know whether the wire went up or down (or both) from a switch or receptacle, and if wires run across between receptacles through the sruds, and at what height. I also mark where the studs are - putting in drywall screws where there is no stud does no good at all. When hanging items I also try to locate hanger nails in studs whenever possible - and with the studfinder I also know if there is a metal pipe (or other metal article) in the wall, as well as the wiriing and the location of the studs.
I then stay away from the location of wires and pipes when driving screws or nails, and use extreme caution when opening a hole in a wall where either exists.
Not very productive to cut a hole in a wall to install a box for a light switch, only to find a forced air duct taking up all the space either.
Helps to know where the "fire stops" are too, when trying to pull new wiring into a wall. - and if other wires share the space before attempting to drill through the "fire stop" to pull in a new wire. The stud finder lets me know where they are and if they exist. Gives me an idea how long the job might end up taking.
By "fire stop" I mean the 2X4 nailed in across between 2 studs, usually between where you can access to feed a wire (whether attic or basement) and the location of the switch/outlet/box you are trying to connect to.
So it takes half an hour longer to do the job (or even to quote it if you are a contractor) - you KNOW what you are up against before it happens - and believe me - THAT is good.
My Dad was a professional electrician - I worked with him many times on both new construction and renos - and KNOW that wires are not always in the center of the stud, and when they aren't they are not always protected by a "scab plate". If you did the original wiring, you have control over that. If you didn't, you don't..
I also know that not all electricians are as neat or logical in their layout as others. My dad was a pro - many are not. If I need to work in my house or a friend's house I don't just assume everything is as it should be, or that I'm going to be "lucky"
Now, when you have to break out concrete to do drain work in a basement, and you don't KNOW where the existing pipes run, That can be a challenge. Last project I had my plumber look at it and give me his "best guess" - then we laid out what we figured was a "safe" cut - cut it with a diamond saw, and carefully broke it out with the Kango, making sure not to let the chisel get in too deep. Good thing, because the ABS pipe was NOT where we thought it was. and we could easily have broken the pipe.
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