Junction boxes and "accessibility"


Apropos another thread now running in Theater III ("Electrical Code question:"accessibility"), let me pose this general question to all you experts out there:
Does the code (NEC) require that all junction boxes inside walls be accessible? Or only certain ones? And why?
Let me first say that I have put junction boxes in walls that were not accessible. Am I now guilty of a crime because of this?
Does this even make sense? Is the general idea that all such boxes be accessible in case future additions or repairs become necessary?
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I'll take a stab at this, not so much from a code point of view but a common sense & experience point of view.
It's not so much that boxes be accesible but that the junctions (splices / connections) made in the junction boxes be accessible.
I can honestly say I've never made a connection not in a box or covered up a box once the connections were made. I've been sorely tempted (& really wanted to do it, because of the potential time savings) but I never did it.
That said, here's why I think it's a really good idea that this practice is required by code AND why doing the opposite is a real No_No.
I was recently helping a friend do some wirng at his ex-wife's house. Instead of using any extension cord to power a sprinkler timer, I suggested we tie into an existing run. Set a proper box and GFI. I checked the run at a junction box..good power. Not to be fooled by a digital meter, I even did a lamp test. Lamp worked!. Wired GFI up & was good to go.
The following day the sprinkler timer showed no AC power, checked the receptacle (with a 3 light tester), it now showed open neuttral, where the day before it showed good?!
Spent the next hour or so trying to figure it out. Removed the breaker, disconnected the wires & did a resitance check for the hot, neutral & ground. Sure enough, a bad neutral but the hot was ok. How could this be? The run was supplied by a single 12-2 w/ G Romex.
Finally, for what ever reason I got out my flashlight and looked up into the service panel (up behind the meter) & show a couple of yellow wire nuts!
Whoever had done the work must have cut the Romex too short. And then decided to splice onto run and bury the splice up inside the panel hehind the meter ...."no one will ever know"
Well now the splice connection has gone bad & there is no easy way to access the junction....pull the meter, or more corectly tear into the interior wall opposite the panel & place those connections in a junction box.
Based on this experience, I will never even contemplate pulling a stunt like this.
Like I said, I'm no code expert but this what can happen why this sort of thing is done.
I guess the question I have is: how accessible is "accessible"?
cheers Bob
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On 8/14/2008 10:53 PM BobK207 spake thus:

Maybe I misunderstood, but I took your reply to mean that one should always make connections inside a junction box.
Believe me, I would *never ever* make a splice in a cable outside a junction box. Never. No matter how tempting it might be. That wasn't the thrust of my question.
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will bomb the cities of Vietnam, defoliate the jungles, herd the
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Maybe I misunderstood.
Connections need to be made in a box BUT the box must be accessible so that the connections are accessible. Access to the connections is the intent I believe.
The "in a box" requirement enforces the accessibility, as long as he box is accessible.
In my example, the connections are in a box but the accessibility is greatly compromised. The connections were really hidden, difficult to find and you need to pull the meter to work on the connections. Certainly not what the code intended.
Hopefully a code expert will jump in.
cheers Bob
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David Nebenzahl wrote:

past and there were never problems. What makes you think a box is safer? It may be neater and hide your shoddy work but safer? I doubt it.
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A properly installed box *is* safer, because the cables are clamped to the box. This means that any pulling, tugging, impact, etc. on the cables cannot possibly dislodge the splice -- definitely not true when there is no box.
Failing to use a box is in and of itself "shoddy word". Not to mention a Code violation.
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Regards,
Doug Miller (alphageek-at-milmac-dot-com)
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Huh?
Sorry, sport, but those plastic boxes routinely used in new home construction are hardly proof again "any pulling" or "tugging." Apparently even those staples aren't always necessary: those plactic "stacks" (or whtever holds several romex cables) are considered "gud enuf."
THE reason for the rule is because splices do go wrong and "they" don't want them to go wrong inside walls.
In "new" work there just isn't any reason to permit inaccessible splices. At most they would allow very cheap electricians to use the end of a cable reel.
But in "old" work at some time I suspect that some "approved" (as in UL, etc) means of splicing romex type cable will be available. It would require that the "splice" be: 1) as physicall strong as the un-spliced cable; and 2) be electrically indistinguishable from the un-spliced calbe.
In old work it's routine that "sh*t happens. Someone wants to move a ceiling fixture a "little over." What do so? If you can't "stretch" one or two of the cables you might end up poking a few holes in the plaster and running a new cable and just abandening the old cable. Maybe the time has come to open the door for approval of a romex splice and permission from NEC to use them in "old work" and for repairs when, say, someone accidentally drills a hold through a romex type calbe when instaling some speaker wires. I suspect that because an "approved" splice can't be made, quite a few really sloppy splices are made in the hope that they will only be discovered when the house is eventually torn down or completely remodeled. And then who will care?

In "new work" it will always be considered "shoddy work." But I can see a place for it with "old work."

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Note the phrase "properly installed" in my post...
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On Aug 16, 9:58pm, snipped-for-privacy@milmac.com (Doug Miller) wrote:

Is there a "promotion" on "using" quote marks this "week"? :)
R
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I tend to be an overly paranoid type... worried that a bad splice could overheat and cause a fire...though Ive never seen one catch fire they just burn off inside the electrical tape wrap...
comment on that will be appreciated.
Phil scott

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"I tend to be an overly paranoid type... worried that a bad splice could overheat and cause a fire...though Ive never seen one catch fire they just burn off inside the electrical tape wrap..."
A bad splice can start a fire regardless of where it is.
"Old Work" splices that are hidden in walls would most likely be installin in "pairs" just as when the power company uses splices in the service wires and a "new" section would be added between the dressed and prepared ends of the existing cable.
"Field splices" tend to be quite reliable. They are routinely used is above and below ground (as in dirt) work. They are even used to connect deep well water pumps to the supply. Two years ago we pulled our old water pump. The supply wires (including the splices" have been underwater for 30 years.
But before the code is changed, there would have to be an "approved" splicing means a lot better than a few wire nuts and a half roll of plastic tape.
"comment on that will be appreciated."
You got it.
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Check out this discussion and the products referenced there:
http://forums.mikeholt.com/showthread.php?t 617
Cheers, Wayne
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thanks Wayne...
you are not *the Wayne Witney of picket the hell out of em in SF calif are you? ..
Phil scott
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wrote:

yes Ive seen that too..it was comon in the old days...Id even seen some overheated connections, but the tape used was fire proof as is all electrical tape, so the connections just burned off.. no fire.
It seems though that enough fires have been caused by loose and burnt wire connections that the NEC requires them to be in a box.
On other issues, trouble shooting a system with covered up or hidden Junction boxes is nasty, creates uncalled for trouble.
Phil scott

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That's correct.

Here's what the NEC has to say on the matter:
"Boxes ... shall be installed so that the wiring contained in them can be rendered accessible without removing any part of the building."
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Yes, it does. The reason should be obvious: so that the junctions inside the box can be reached.

Technically, yes, you probably are, if the community where you live has adopted the NEC as an ordinance.

Exactly.
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David Nebenzahl wrote:

don't have to worry about accessibility, It's accessable.
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