Caution is Best When Dealing with Wet Wires from Flooding
Corrosion may lead to damaging electrical fires
Last year’s flooding on the Lake Ontario shoreline created a perfect storm of damage for homeowners and businesses who live and work by the water. Some structures along the lake were catastrophically damaged and needed to be torn down, while others needed extensive remediation. One question that arose time and time again, do wet wires and panel boxes need to be replaced?
The answer is YES!
First, electrical wires and their coatings wick up water. So even though the majority of the wires may be above the water line, a significant portion of wire may be wet above where the flooding lies. This is why cutting the wire and making the connection at the flood line once the water recedes is not sufficient.
Second, flood water isn’t just water. Flood waters carry dirt, oil, minerals and debris into homes and businesses. These impurities can accelerate wire corrosion leading to damaging fires.
Recently the New York State Department of State Division of Code Enforcement and Administration released a document addressing this issue. In summary, the document states that wires exposed to flooding must be replaced unless wire is rated for under water exposure. Most wiring is houses and businesses are rated for dry conditions, therefore wiring and panel boxes exposed to any type of water must be replaced.
The document also goes on to explain who is qualified to determine whether or not wiring needs to be replaced. Municipalities may require code inspectors and/or third party electrical inspectors to make the call. In the case of the 2017/2018 flooding issues, the Town of Greece required all wet wiring needed to be replaced.
The push back comes from the insurance industry of course, and homeowners. The insurance companies are looking to fix the issue quickly and cheaply. Homeowners have the perception that replacing wires will create an even bigger mess than they have.
The reality is, safety must come first. Between 2010 and 2014 the NFPA* estimates that U.S. municipal fire departments responded to 45,000 home structure fires that involved electrical failure or malfunction. To provide your customers the highest level of service and safety, any wiring or panel boxes exposed to water, must be replaced.
After all keeping our community safe is really what it is all about.
You can read the entirety of the New York State Department of State Division of Code Enforcement publication at our website.
*NFPA – National Fire Protection Agency, Electrical Fires March 2017
As wires corrode, rust begins to form, thus creating resistance. This resistance creates heat. When the heat becomes too great, fire is possible.
Houses such as this one near the shore of Lake Ontario were under water for several weeks.