electrical expert in NJ? (or legal expert)

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I posted a while back that I might have aluminum wiring in the house I bought last May. The original post is here:( http://tinyurl.com/qvdbb ).
Turns out I do have copper clad aluminum wiring throughout the entire house. The sheathing is marked "Al Cu/clad" either 10/2 or 12/2 attached to a 20 or 15 amp breaker respectively. Since the house was built in '75 I specifically asked the inspector to check for aluminum wiring. He told me the house had none. I know, I should have checked further before completing the sale.
I'm thinking he should have known for two reasons, the sheathing is marked Cu/clad throughout the basement (unfinished) and the size of the wires in the panel are 10 and 12 with mostly 15 amp breakers.
So the attorney says I would most likely need two things to seek damages from the inspector: 1. An estimate to repair/replace the wiring. Should be fairly easy to get an estimate. 2. An expert to testify as to the unsafe conditions caused by the wiring.
Number two is where I'm thinking I will have a problem. Aluminum wiring *IS* a hazard even if installed properly in 1975 by a licensed electrician using a proper calibrated torque wrench to tighten all connections. But the CPSC states in it's bulletin, www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/pubs/516.pdf , that copper coated aluminum wire is not covered by any of the repair methods in their bulletin.
So, does anyone know of an 'expert' in NJ that would testify that Cu/clad aluminum is dangerous or of an attorney in NJ that has experience in litigating botched home inspections?
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At this site:
http://www.inspect-ny.com/aluminum.htm
I see this:
J. Safety of HOMES Wired WITH COPPER-CLAD ALUMINUM WIRE
Copper-clad aluminum wire has a thin copper outer skin and a core of aluminum. Therefore it looks like copper, except on close examination of a cut end. Markings on the cable jacket would include "Al" or "Aluminum". There is no known history of connection overheating problems associated with copper-clad aluminum wire. No corrective actions are required for copper-clad aluminum wire.
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On Mon, 10 Apr 2006 22:37:32 -0400, Dan Espen

I"m not an attorney, just a cynic (who has in the past hired lawyers on *three* occasions who turned out to be not good at their jobs, even though one came with a recommendation by someone who for certain did not lie to me. I guess what he asked the lawyer to do, the lawyer knew how to do.)
Things to consider that might or might not be fatal:
Does the contract with the inspection company limit your remedies when they makek a mistake? For example, limit them to return of the inspection fee? Would this be a valid limitation? I bring this up because places that develop film limit damages to the cost of the film, even if something pricelsess, or with a large determinable price, was photographed with it. There is a difference of course. The whole purpose of the inspection is to save yourself from something like this, whereas the purpose of developing is to develop.
More bleow:

Did this suprpise you? Is it known that coppper clad is different from (better than?) plain aluminum? Well known?
If the inspection company says it said there wasn't aluminum and there wasn't, only copper clad aluminum, I don't think that will fly. But if there are no damages, that will be a problem for the pllaintiff.
OP check out alt.legal, which is good. And there is iirc, alt.legal.moderated.
Don't rely on the bar association referral. I just asked a question and then got hounded (2 or 3 calls) by a lawyer who wanted the job. For lack of any other ideas, I hired him and it was a true waste of money. I said the person wouldn't talk to me, and he said "She'll talk to me", but she didn't. He sat there through the entire homeowners meeting charging me, after her first refusal during the meeting, when I was suggesting to him that he leave. He tried again at the end and got no further. I got nothing out of the money I paid him. That's one of the three bad ones. Some lawyers are a lot better.
Let us know how things go.
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RayV wrote:

Hi, I am not near NJ but I think you're over reacting. Properly installed Al wires don't cause trouble. My last house had Al wire built in '76. Until sold it in '94 I did not have any trouble.
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for peace of mind, sounds like you need to sell or rewire. every home has room for improvements and upgrades. Preventing Home Fires: Arc Fault Circuit Interrupters (AFCIs) see: http://www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/pubs/afci.html
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junk wiring well known to cause fires, requires all SPECIAL switches and connectors.
theres a home inspections group they invite public questions. I think the inspector should be on the hook, since the wiring was clearly marked, plus the original homeowner should of disclosed it, if they knew....
worse if the current homeowner sells he MUST disclose it and take a big hit on price.
did the buyer use a lawyer? if he did this is the time to call him
if the buyer used a realtor time to call them
frankly if it were me i would have the home completely rewired
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wrote:

I don't understand, aluminim branch circuit wiring must be disclosed in NJ?
tom

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Yes, indeed, you do have a problem here, because you're starting from a false premise: properly installed aluminum wiring is *not* a hazard. The dangers of aluminum wiring result from its being much more difficult than copper to install properly. Properly installed copper-clad aluminum is even less of a problem.

I imagine if you look hard enough, you can find an 'expert' who's willing to testify to *anything* for the right price, even if it isn't true.
--
Regards,
Doug Miller (alphageek at milmac dot com)
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Doug said:
"Yes, indeed, you do have a problem here, because you're starting from a false premise: properly installed aluminum wiring is *not* a hazard."
Ray replied:
Look through and read the info at this website: http://www.inspect-ny.com/aluminum/pl2p1.htm Just continue clicking page forward on each page to get more information. None of the connections have anti-oxidant applied. None of the connections are pigtailed with the COPALUM connectors. None of the connections have the 3M scotchlock wirenuts (purple ideal 65 nuts are no good). Anyway, *properly* installed aluminum wiring is installed a lot different now than it was 31 years ago.
My situation is different in that I have copper-clad aluminum which may or may not be as much of a hazard. It wasn't on the market very long and the repairs for straight aluminum do not apply.
To me the real issue is that I specifically asked the inspector to check for aluminum wiring and he specifically stated the house had copper wiring. It doesn't matter to me that Doug wouldn't mind having aluminum wiring in his house, I didn't want it in mine. The bottom line is I would have cancelled the sale if I had known about the wiring.
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It isn't.

Don't read things I didn't write.

And you don't. You have copper-clad aluminum, which is *not* the same thing.

--
Regards,
Doug Miller (alphageek at milmac dot com)
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I appreciate your situation. If you can't sue for more, sue for what you paid him, in small claims. If he's a fool he may agree to appear on a tv court show. People's Court is the best. Judge Judy the worst. I haven't watched the others.
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What damages have you incurred since you bought the house? Have you had any house fires? Any problems that required you to hire an electrician to fix. Would you have cancelled the purchase contract if you knew of the aluminum wiring? Did you ask the previous owner if the house had aluminum wiring?
I think that your only recourse against the inspector is to try to recover your inspection fee costs and you can do that in small claims court. Send the inspector a certified letter asking for his fee back based on the faulty report. You should also report him to the attorney general's office. I think the home inspectors are licensed by the same board that issues licenses for professional engineers.
Save your money on expert witnesses and hourly rate attorneys and use it to make home improvements. Thousands of other people have aluminum wiring in their homes and are able to get on with their lives.
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RayV wrote:

RayV:
Honestly, I wouldn't worry so much. Have a competent electrician look over the system to tell you whether it's safe. A home inspector is not going to notice everything. They'll likely notice stuff you won't, but you'll also notice stuff they don't, if you take care to look closely. This also annoys realtors, which makes it all the more fun to do...
Chances are your house's copper-clad wiring system is safer than a lot of solid copper ones in earlier houses. The old wire had purer copper, which was nice, and if properly installed it was safe, but it's often got crumbly and rodent-eaten insulation. You'll find wires twisted together without solder or nuts (just yesterday I found a wire looped around another then bent over. This was carrying current for 30 years). You'll find massively overstuffed junction boxes, no boxes at fixtures, fraying SE cable, rotten old Zinsco or FPE service equipment, 15 amp circuits 'protected' at 30A, rusty BX cable, grounds wrapped and soldered around pipes,
Can you sue the home inspector? Legally, maybe. Ethically, I would say no. You are obviously fairly knowledgeable about wiring, and recognized the 'Cu/clad' markings. Our home insp. missed stuff, some of which I caught later -- but such is life; we can not expect to insure against everything. But seriously, I don't think you should worry too much. The big problem is the oxidation, and the cladding prevents that. Don't use back-wired devices, and keep your screws tight.
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I think many respondents are missing the OP's questions. 1) Is the wiring safe? 2) What remedies are available for the poor inspection?
I'd guess #2 depends on the answer to #1. I'd also guess that the cost of litigating this might exceed the cost of rewiring the house. Cost = Dollars (presumably recoverable if you win) + headache (which remains, win or lose).
RayV wrote:

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you know the homes resale value may be less because of the copper clad wire, just the fact its off the market is a bad sign,
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you know the homes resale value may be less because of the copper clad wire, just the fact its off the market is a bad sign,
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I asked about this at a home inspectors forum. interesting discussion. http://www.nachi.org/forum/showthread.php?pA378#post41378
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Thanks for posting the question. I came across similar discussions on other inspector forums. It is burning me up that I directly ask this guy to check for aluminum wiring and he looks in the panel and says "It is all copper wire". Totally missing the fact that the 15 amp circuits are 12 gauge and the 20 amps are 10 gauge.
It seems as though these guys are totally untouchable. I did find one example where one was held liable for missing mold. Probably since that is the issue de jour on the news.
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RayV wrote:

Ray, you have an opinion based on problems with different wiring - aluminum wiring. The different wiring had the problem, not the stuff you have. Your opinion needs changing, not the wire.
It should please you to note that the wiring size is correct for the copper clad aluminum. It's a sign that the electrician didn't skimp, and a good omen.

This, from your original post, is the most telling part of the story: " I know, I should have checked further before completing the sale.
I'm thinking he should have known for two reasons, the sheathing is marked Cu/clad throughout the basement (unfinished) and the size of the wires in the panel are 10 and 12 with mostly 15 amp breakers. "
Since you had major concerns about the wiring, and since it was readily visible, you're right, you should have checked further. There's nothing wrong with double checking someone, particularly in the critical areas of concern. Lesson learned, I hope.
The typical procedure for checking for aluminum wiring is to open up the electrical panel and an outlet or two. If there's silver visible, there's aluminum wiring. That's most likely what the inspector did, and he probably felt he was being thorough.
He didn't miss aluminum wiring, he missed copper clad aluminum which is entirely different. Could you get your money back in small claims court? Maybe, maybe not. I do know that ethically it's on questionable ground as you're trying to lump different wiring with _no_ known problems into the same category as the wiring with _all_ of the problems. That's sketchy at best.
Like I said at the start, your old opinion was based on a different material, now, with more education in the matter, you may want to rethink it. Or, if you're so inclined, you could let your imagination run away with you, thinking that your house will be the first one on record to burn down due to copper clad aluminum wiring, and let the thought eat away at you and ruin your enjoyment of your new home. The first option is much wiser - rethink the opinion and move on.
R
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You may be right, I may be crazy, but for right now I'll hold on to my anger to help keep me warm.
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