Electrical Box in Bathroom

Just had an inspection done on a home I’m looking to buy and the inspector told me that there was corrosion in the electrical box and he wasn’t sure where it was coming from. Later he called me said that they must have built the basement bathroom around the existing box and not told the city; but he wouldn’t go so far as to say it was against any code (Northville, Michigan BTW).

Now I’m negotiating to get a licensed electrician in there, but since I don’t own the home I’m not willing to pay for this by myself. But generally speaking it seems to me that having an electrical box in a bathroom is definite no-no, but where could I find out (in Michigan) if this is strictly illegal? That would be a great negotiation point.

Anybody out there have an electrical box in their bathroom? Do you feel safe with it?

By electrical box, do you mean a junction box, or something like an electrical panel, i.e., a breaker or fuse box?

The main breaker box. It’s coming straight off of the meter on the other side of the wall.

Breaker panels were permitted to be installed in bathrooms up until the early '90s. You need to find out when the work was done and when your area adopted that version of the code to know if it was legally done.

Sorry for the double post but here’s a link from Mike Holt’s forums which seems useful.

I am not surprised by anything in houses any more. Unless you think you can get the owner to come way down on the price, I’d pass on the house. You’ll just have hassles with the wiring later on. Having the main box in the bathroom may be reasonably safe (unless you want to play chicken by sticking your foot in a tub full of water while you change a circuit breaker), but it will inevitably cause a mess. Why pay good money for something like that?

Now if you can get the owner to drop the price to cover the cost of a re-wiring, it’s another story. Just tell him that the house doesn’t meet code, and therefore it’s illegal for him to be selling it…:smiley:

I wouldn’t worry about it as a safety issue. Sure it is not as safe as other places in the home but on the list of things to worry about its really low.

Older code allowed them in bathrooms. New code doesn’t. New hotels still manage to get away with it not sure how they work the 2008 Code to do it. Hotels often have the sub panels for rooms behind the bathroom vanities.

Don’t have time to look it up atm(code books in my truck and I’m lazy). Off hand I think a panel must be 5 feet from any open water(sinks tubs spigots etc) though if separated by a permanent wall its OK. You could literally put a panel in a wall and have a shower on the other side.

Spot on! Exactly my situation. The inspector wasn’t overly concerned about the status of the rest of the homes wiring, in fact said that it was it pretty good shape, worst case I’d have to have the box moved literally 2 feet to the other side of the bathroom door; best case, is do as the inspector recommended and have a licensed electrician clean the wiring and remove the small amount of visible corrosion that is evident. That and the rest of the home is in excellent condition and meets my vision of an ideal home for me.

I’ll be re-negotiating the deal today. I believe that the seller is going through a divorce and is motivated to sell due to other financial reasons.

Almost surely this is legal. When codes are changed, older wiring is ‘grandfathered in’, meaning that it is still legal and does not have to be changed.

Though often, there is a requirement that when significant changes/additions are made, that it be brought up to meet current code. So it’s possible that sometime in the future you may have to move this.

In the meantime, the option of just cleaning off the corrosion is quite reasonable. If the house otherwise meets your needs & finances, go ahead & buy it.

Well a licensed electrician came over and looked at it with me. He of course get’s paid to do electrical work, not clean wiring, and straight out started talking about moving the box for $1000. The two wires that are showing corrosion are the two coming out of the meter where they are screwed onto the terminal block; the rest of the wiring and breakers in the box is clean. Looks like I could just replace the wiring between the meter and box and put new terminal blocks in; but getting a licensed electrician to just do that seems far fetched. I believe most would feel obligated to move the box and get a full paycheck.

I’m taking his quote to the seller and see if I can force them to pay for this, knowing that they would have to disclose this to future buyers might sway them. That and bringing up why it wasn’t brought up to code when the bathroom was built or renovated might scare them into avoiding a talk with the local code authorities . . .

I actually saw one house which had the breaker box in the shower, which seems like all kinds of bad thinking.

Actually just found out that the sellers renovated the kitchen directly upstairs and installed a dishwasher right above the box! I’m telling them to have this box moved at thier expense or I’m backing out and calling a building inspector.

You might be better off just asking them to take the $1000 off the price, and having the work done yourself. Then you can make sure that it is done to your satisfaction, and at the same time could do any added circuits, etc. that you might want.

Like this?

You’re probably looking at replacing the entire panel, plus replacing the feed from the meter, unless main lugs for that panel are readily available.

$1000 to move a panel (and replacing the corroded parts) is probably a fair price. There is, to use the trade lingo, a metric assload of work involved. Personally, I would not go through the hassle and expense of moving an existing panel - I’d use the opportunity to upgrade the panel and maybe your electrical service to provide space for future expansion.

40-space panels seem to have become the default size now. They may look huge at first, but with all of today’s requirements for dedicated circuits, they’re more like “just right” - my kitchen consumes nine or ten spaces on its own, for example, and it’s nothing fancy. Add in an electric dryer, air conditioning, general lighting, general outlets, bedroom outlets, bathrooms, etc, and the space fills in quick.

This is what I am going to do. It presently only has a 100 amp service; going to upgrade the service to 150 amp.

Or just thinking ahead; if the breaker trips while you are in the shower, you can fix it without stumbling around in the dark soaking wet!


Makes sense! You’d never have to worry about a breaker tripping again!!