jump to example.com

Sorry for the grainy photograph, but I actually saw this at a buddy’s house and snapped a pic to share. The extension cord went behind that wall to the boiler room where he has his network devices — router, Vonage VOIP box, etc. — installed and wired out to the rest of the house.

He said he used what he had on hand — an extension cord and hole saw. I’m hoping seeing it on Toolmonger will shame him to remedy this. Feel free to help shame him in comments by, say, explaining why this is prohibited by code.


22 Responses to Doh! How Not To Wire Your House

  1. l_bilyk says:

    I’m not sure if that is infact prohibited by code?

  2. You’re right, technically, the only code violation (at least around here) is that there’s no cover plate on the outlet.
    Doesn’t make it a good idea though 😉

  3. Jake says:

    I’m sure there is some warning from the manufacturer on the cord about running it through walls or holes that removes them of any liability for the resulting fire.

  4. Waylan says:

    You think that’s bad — I had a friend who was wiring a new electrical system (new meter, breaker box, wiring, outlets … everything) into an old house. The only reason he was able to have the old service turned on was because no one was living there. So after he gets some of the new wiring done, he runs an extension cord from an old outlet and plugs it into a new outlet to feed the new system while he continues to work so that he can have power for tools and work lights. Yikes!! The fuse for the old circuit that was feeding the new blew at least once a day, so he just kept putting higher amperage fuses in. I still don’t know how that house didn’t burn down.

    One day I went to help him with the electrical, but when I realized how bad things were, I refused to do any more. In fact, I generally refused to go into that house until is passed inspection. Speaking of which, I never heard anyone complaint about a picky electrical inspector as much as he did. Thank you, inspector!

  5. Nordmann says:

    At my last house I had the same thing but run under the carpet. It worked.

  6. It’s hideously ugly and shameful, yes, but doesn’t seem all that dangerous as long as the cord isn’t moving around cutting itself against those sharp edges.

    Not as ghetto looking as how I have my kegerator-in-the-pantry hooked up, I’ll tell you that much.

  7. Boo..
    Patrick, your comment is worthless without pics 🙂

    Post ’em up! We want to see the kegerator in the pantry.

  8. SuperJdynamite says:

    I believe that extension cords are only approved for temporary use.

    Why didn’t he just punch a hole in the other side of the wall and wire a new outlet to this existing one?

  9. Bill says:

    No, it doesn’t meet code, at least anywhere that uses a national code, but thats nothing. I was called out to investigate a complaint where the home owner had wired an extension cord to a 220 outlet where the stove used to be to a homemade (made out of wood and duct tape) junction box where he split the 2 phases out to 2 outlets so he could power an electric hotplate. At least he wired in 2 screw in fuses to protect the outlets. I have photos but I don’t know how to post them, too bad it was a very professional amatuer installation.

  10. I was actually reading abut this recently, but in regard to wall mounted LCD power cords. Extension cords are designed for home usage and flexibility, not inner-wall environments. Usage in an improper manner, such as demonstrated above, is in fact against building codes since it increases the risk of fire. If a flexible cord is used in an improper manner and there is a fire, it is likely that the insurance policy will be voided after an investigation.

    To confirm this, I checked up on the building codes. National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Code document 70: National Electric Code. You can find a soft copy of the code at the following link.


    Here is the text prohibiting extension cord usage like that of Rick’s buddy:

    NEC ARTICLE 400 Flexible Cords and Cables
    400.8 Uses Not Permitted.
    Flexible cords and cables shall not be used for the following:

    (1)As a substitute for the fixed wiring of a structure

    (2)Where run through holes in walls, structural ceilings, suspended ceilings, dropped ceilings, or floors

    (3)Where run through doorways, windows, or similar openings

    (4)Where attached to building surfaces
    Exception: Flexible cord and cable shall be permitted to be attached to building surfaces in accordance with the provisions of 368.8.

    (5)Where concealed by walls, floors, or ceilings or located above suspended or dropped ceilings

    (6)Where installed in raceways, outside of the wall, floor, ceiling except as otherwise permitted in this Code.

    In summary, yes it is a code violation, it increases the risk of fire, and it voids any insurance policy in case of fire.

    Rick’s buddy, SHAME ON YOU! Don’t worry though, you’re not alone – many people do this, and at least you now know why it’s wrong and why you should do things differently.

  11. Fred Clausen says:

    Reminds me of the Naval Safety Center’s ‘Photo of the Week’ site:

    Or This Old House’s ‘Home Inspection Nightmares’:

  12. Brian says:

    Silly guy. Just tell him to put a cover plate on that receptacle and everything will be just fine.

  13. Zathrus says:

    It’s bad, but I’ve seen far, far worse. Looked at a house once that (amongst the many other deal-killing issues) had an orange outdoor extension cord buried along some steps and running to something. No idea what.

    My first house had the basement lights (fluorescent tube) hooked up via 18 or 20 gauge extension cords to screw-in socket adapters, with the entire thing turned off by a pull-chain — attached to a string, with a washer on the end and hanging under the stairs.

    My current house had an untrained monkey do the electrical in the basement. Every single outlet (but, weirdly, not the switches) had the ground wire cut off in the box. Several splices were done outside of boxes (including one in the middle of the wall as best I could tell — I cut off both ends and ran a new wire instead of figuring it out). About 80% of the outlets had hot and neutral reversed in addition to no ground (take that double insulated tools!). And, of course, no GFCI anywhere — not in the bathroom, the kitchenette (which has space for a mini-fridge, but no outlet for one), or on the outside.

    At this point I dread what I’ll find if I ever move again.

  14. Bill says:

    C’mon… get a grip. This installation might be tacky, laughable and yes, even against “code”, but who cares? Just because it is against the “code” does not automatically make it dangerous, regardless of what some experts seem to think.

    The extension cord does not know it has been run through big holes in two layers of sheet rock, and I defy anyone to explain to me how a cord can fail from the terrible environment of the inside of an interior stud wall. Powering a router that draws a few watts is not exactly the same as say a window air conditioner or other heavy appliance.

    Sheesh, guys… gimme a break.

  15. Noah Ramon says:

    It’s just my situation, but I’m actually more astounded to find free online access to NFPA standards across the board. I sell codes, standards and technical documents all day, and finding this out is kind of a a punch…

    (Ghod help me if ICC ever does something like this…)

  16. Tony Clifton says:

    Another good source for pictures of electrical nightmares:


  17. Brau says:

    I questioned my local electrical inspector over a very similar event I saw and was told as long as they don’t permanently wire into any circuits, the code doesn’t apply and they can do almost anything they want. In this case a person had plugged into an outdoor outlet, buried the wire through the front lawn and installed a light over their pathway. I was told if he had wired into the outlet he would then be required by law to use direct burial cable inside PVC conduit. I was flat out stunned.

    As far as this fellow goes, there’s not much difference than if he had run the extension cord down a hallway … at least he doesn’t seem to be running any high current devices … yet.

  18. Milo Bloom says:

    He could use a hole saw to put the extension cord through the wall, but not to properly wire a new plug on the other side of the wall and connect it to the existing one? Shame.. 🙂

  19. wolfsburg_de says:

    Okay, I fess up, that’s my house. I did that ghetto surgery at the time when FiOS got installed, and I never bothered to correct it. Instead of adding an outlet, I decided to make use of the existing outlet and just relocate my routers from the furnace room (where they were probably not too happy anyway) into a little shelf box that I fabricated from some left over plywood. The ghetto hole found new life as the path for some CAT5 to a modular RJ11 jack. Here’s a photo:


  20. Squidwelder says:

    @wolfsburg: Theory – excellent. Execution – well, let’s not. However, you did give me some ideas, so extra credit for that!

    @thread: Um, what? If you’re gonna do it, at least do it right: http://www.thisoldhouse.com/toh/photos/0,,1632942_1384878,00.html like that!

  21. DanZee says:

    I just had to comment. I read about a FIOS installer who drilled through a closet wall to get to an AC plug on the other side. So wolfsburg_de was not the first person to think of installing a FIOS box this way!

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