Home inspectors and agents both use the term “upgrade.”
While inspectors are usually recommending that something be “upgraded,” agents are usually advertising the house as having such and such an “upgrade.”
On the part of the inspector this is done primarily as a recommendation when something might be “OK” the way it is but he or she knows it is getting toward the end of its life and upgrading to something newer might be good idea. For example the driveway is badly cracked but there are no trip hazards, so rather that spending a lot of money maintaining it with sealants the inspector might recommend a new surface be installed—that the driveway be upgraded. Another example: the home has perfectly functional single pane aluminum windows but upgrading to more energy efficient windows might be warranted.
An agent, when listing a property might promote the property as having had various upgrades done to it. Like the house has a new whirlpool bath, or new toilets, or new electrical panel, or new appliances, or new windows—–all of these things might be called “upgrades.”
Handy Homeowners I suspect have their own versions of what they might think are upgrades as well. One particular upgrade that I would like to talk about is this electrical panel from a recently remodeled home. I would hope, that no experienced agent would see this panel as an “upgrade.” The house had a very ancient type of Fuse Box—–made in a day when the panel literally was a box—a wooden box. These wooden box type electrical panels were typically lined with asbestos paper and the fuse blocks would be screwed to the inside where the wires would be run to them.
The “upgrade” of this panel consisted of removing the old fuse blocks and taking the guts out of a new panel and then installing them in the old wooden box. This is nothing any self-respecting licensed electrical contractor would do (or even his apprentice)—-one would hope. I have talked in the past about the UL Listing (Underwriters Laboratory) of consumer products, and one of the criteria of the listed item is that it be used in a way that is consistent with what it took to get it listed. In other words taking apart UL listed components and using those parts randomly would likely violate the UL listing of the product. Part of the UL Listing of the new breaker component installed in this old electrical “box” is that the breakers be restrained by the metal dead-front of the metal box this breaker component was pilfered from. So, this would amount to numerous violations of its listing and therefore would negate its listing.
So while this installation makes good blog fodder—–I have to call it more of a “downgrade” than an “upgrade.”
What grade would you give the installer?
Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector
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