Does this seem high? Can I do this by myself?

Discussion in 'Electrical Forum discussion & Blog' started by ironspider, Aug 7, 2009.

  1. ironspider

    ironspider Member

    Messages:
    68
    Location:
    Michigan
    Greetings all,

    The wife and I just bought a new house and during the electrical inspection the inspector noticed that something was not correct in the way the barn (detached about 75 feet from subpanel to main service panel) was wired. I think he said they had used 3 wire instead of 4 wire and there are no grounding rods at the barn. The current wiring is fed through conduit buried in the ground.

    So, after the inspection, we had a couple of local electricians come by and do their estimates on fixes. We had some other fixes in this as well such as an A/C disconnect and a service upgrade to 200AMPS from 100AMPS. Both electricians had that line item (replacing the wiring to the barn and doing the ground rods) at around ~$850. That seems like a lot to me.

    So, my question is whether or not I can do this myself. Now I know that any time someone asks a question like that, pros are going to have visions of exploding houses and DIYers running around with flames on their backs but I have done a lot of electrical before in our current house (by a lot I mean that I've run several new circuits and understand the process [not that I am a master electrician or anythign like that!]). Am I missing something here? This is what I *believe* would need to happen:

    Purchase materials: (60 AMP sub panel and breaker in main box and conduit already exist) so 75x4 (2 hots, neutral, and ground) = 300ft of #6 THWN @ $0.60ft = $180. 2 grounding rods = $30. Grounding clamps = $6 total ~$215.

    Labor: obviously free since I'd be doing it. I know this might be a lot of work but it's still free if I do it myself.

    Permits/Inspections: Now I have no idea about this part of it. I assume the township wants to inspect work like this to make sure you aren't going to blow your house/barn up but does that usually cost money? And does obtaining a permit usually cost money? Is a permit even needed, or just an inspection?

    I don't know if I'm missing anything there but that seems like my elbow grease could save me around $600.

    Am I missing somethign here? Are those higher numbers from the electricians because of the labor to pull that wire and some padding in case they need to dig anything up?

    Thanks!
  2. FloridaOrange

    FloridaOrange Plumbing Designer

    Messages:
    1,317
    Location:
    SW Florida
    I'm not an electrician but just wanted to comment on the statement above.
    Labor+permit+insurance+license fees+business occupational licenses+etc.
    There's usually more cost involved besides someones hourly pay.
  3. Jeff1

    Jeff1 New Member

    Messages:
    102
    Location:
    So Cal
    I'm not an electrician either but have done a lot of this work (taught to me by my uncle who was an electrician). You may also have to change the conduit which could include digging and either bending or gluing. A big question is: how much is your time worth? I just had to re-do some work done by a pro. It took me 2 hours and a couple runs to the hardware store. I'm sure a pro could have done it in half the time. (The pro replaced a sub panel and didn't do a very nice job with the wires entering the panel. It also didn't have a separate ground wire - old work).

    The actual work is not rocket science, but it is labor intensive. If you are not sure you might want to have the pro do it and pay for the piece of mind. Just make sure you both agree on the total work to be done.
  4. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Messages:
    21,889
    Location:
    New England
    You'd need to determine the fill rate of the conduit to see if it could support an additional wire. Pulling that much through a conduit can be grueling if there are any bends. Add in some wire lubricant...you'll need it.
  5. mattbee24

    mattbee24 In the Trades

    Messages:
    100
    Location:
    Fremont, OH
    Maybe I'm missing something here, but since it is an un-attached building couldn't he just put in a ground rod at the barn and run a ground wire from the rod to the panel? Of course, he would still have to make sure the grounds and neutrals are separated in the box.

    I always thought that is what you were SUPPOSE to do when you have a building is not attached.

    But maybe I'm just plain wrong...it's been known to happen.
  6. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Messages:
    21,889
    Location:
    New England
    A subpanel is to be boned at the supplying source, thus you are supposed to have 4-wires. At a sub-panel, ground and neutral are supposed to be separated in the panel. Will it work, yes, is it as safe as it should be or meet current code, no.
  7. mattbee24

    mattbee24 In the Trades

    Messages:
    100
    Location:
    Fremont, OH
    Not trying to argue here jadnashua, you probably are more familiar with this than I am. But isn't it only required to run 4 wire from the main panel to the sub when the sub is within the same building?
  8. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Messages:
    21,889
    Location:
    New England
    Not sure...one of the pros will likely pick up on this later. It was my understanding that a subpanel was wired the same, regardless of whether it was an attached building or not.
  9. codeone

    codeone Code Enforcement

    Messages:
    160
    Location:
    North Carolina

    Under the 2005 NEC it allowed you to use the grounded conductor to be connected to the seperate building disconnecting means and the grounding electrode. The 2008 NEC does not allow this you have to run a seperate grounded conductor and a grounding conductor. Article 250.32 However there is an exception.

    The exception states. For existing premises wiring systems only,the grounded conductor run with the supply to the building or structure shall be permitted to be connected to the building or structure disconnecting means and to the grounding electrode(s) and shall be used for grounding and bonding of equiptment or frames required to be bonded where all the requirements of (1),(2) and (3) are met.

    (1) An equiptment grounding conductor is not run with the supply to the building or structure.
    (2) There are no continious metal paths bonded to the grounding systems in each building or structure involved.
    (3) Ground-fault protection has not been installed on the supply side of the feeder(s)
  10. mattbee24

    mattbee24 In the Trades

    Messages:
    100
    Location:
    Fremont, OH
    If I am reading that right, you used to be able to use a ground rod but now you have to run the ground from the panel? Unless it is an existing structure, then you can use a ground rod?

    Why was one way safe in 2005, but not in 2008?

    I guess that's why you guys take all those damn classes. It sure does confuse the hell out of me.
  11. ironspider

    ironspider Member

    Messages:
    68
    Location:
    Michigan
    Thanks for the replies, as always on these forums I love that it gets some good thinking and talking going!

    I'm going to keep checking this to see where the questions immediately above this reply go but, if I did do the work myself, I think I would be using the THWN2 cerrowire from Lowes to do the work. On the Cerrowire page, their ampacity chart says that #8 THWN2 will support 55AMPs. Now, if I recall, since there are no 55AMP breakers, you are allowed to use a 60AMP breaker on something rated for 55AMP correct? (I think this is written as "protected to 60"). #6 wire will support 75AMPs so, obviously, there would be no issue in using that for a 60 AMP subpanel. I most likely would just use the #6 since it is only .06 more a foot but I just want to know exactly what is allowed.

    Also, would the ground I run from the main service panel have to be a #8 as well (if I used #8 wire) or a #6 (if I used #6 wiring for the other 3 wires [hot, hot, neutral]) or could it be smaller? I ask because when I look at some 6/3 UF-B romex the wires are obviously 6 gauge but the listed ground is 10 gauge. Now that would be a savings if I could use #6 for the 3 hots and a #10 for the ground because the #10 is almost .20 cheaper a foot.

    So, in summary, would this be the least expensive "meets code" way to do this: Buy 3*75' each of THWN-2 #8 [red, black, white]and 1*75' of THWN-2 #10 [green], 2 grounding rods, and two grounding clamps?

    Then disconnect the run at the main service panel, connect the 4 wires from the wiring caddy to the existing wire, tape them together, lube it up and pull it through on the barn end and pray to god it's a straight run? :)
  12. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Messages:
    21,889
    Location:
    New England
    As you can see, it depends on what code your area uses, so the first thing it to check with the local inspector to find out...then follow it.
  13. jbfan74

    jbfan74 Electrical Contractor

    Messages:
    131
    Location:
    Newnan, GA
    #8 wire is rated at 55 amps in the 90 degree column, but you will not find any breakers of lugs rated at 90 degrees. This column is used to derate the wire.
    Most cases you would use the 75 degree column to size the breaker, in this case 50 amp.
    If you want to run 60 amps to the barn, you will need #6 wire. You can use #10 for the ground.

    You also need a min. of 3/4 conduit to pull these wires.
  14. ActionDave

    ActionDave Electrician

    Messages:
    345
    Location:
    Colorado
    all structures require a ground rod. it is connected the grounded bus at the service but to the grounding bus when you have a sub panel if it is fed four wire.

    that's not exactly true. all structures require a grounding electrode system which commonly consists of a ground rod and water pipe. sometimes you need only one ground rod, a lot of times you need two. sometimes you don't need any ground rods.

    under '05 or '08 you must feed a sub panel with a separate equipment ground if you have a metalic conection between the two buildings.
  15. Speedy Petey

    Speedy Petey Licensed Electrical Contractor

    Messages:
    991
    Location:
    NY State, USA
    First off this is yet another case of a H-I not knowing what he is talking about.
    It is quite possible that this is a code legal installation. NO, not all feeders were required to be "3-wire" with the grounds and neutrals separate.
    Codeone gave you the earlier supporting code section.

    Also, yes, any detached structure served by a feeder requires a grounding electrode of some sort. This is not required if the structure is served only by a circuit.

    Jbfan gave you the lowdown on ampacity. You CANNOT simply go to some website and look up conductor ampacity, you will get it wrong 99% of the time unless you know what you are looking at.
    To add to what Jbfan said, if you are looking to use SER or even NM cable, such as UF, then you are limited to the 60 deg C column which lowers the ampacity even more.
  16. Alectrician

    Alectrician DIY Senior Member

    Messages:
    689
    That's about 8 hours labor here. If you want to do it yourself, knock yourself out :). It will be a learning experince.

    It may take you a couple hours just to drive the ground rods by hand. It would only take me a few minutes because I own an $800 power tool.

    The new wiring may not pull thru the conduit. It may not even be conduit all the way. You can't see underground.

    Do you expect a contractor to work for wages? Do you expect a contractor to sell and warranty materials at cost?

    If you want someone to work for $25/$30 an hour, you are going to have to provide him with work 40 hours a week, health and unemployment insurance, match his FICA taxes and provide a truck (maintained and fueled) and tools.

    That said, I'd just leave it as is :cool:
  17. ironspider

    ironspider Member

    Messages:
    68
    Location:
    Michigan
    There's definately conduit there. When doing the inspection, there was a guy there who had helped on the original owners by helping them dig the trench. That being said I do not know the size of the trench.

    I wasn't saying that the price was unreasonable because I assume that is about what I'd be quoted by anyone--and a lot of that would be labor for sure. What I was getting at is that *my* labor is free :)

    I don't want to replace it all, my question though is if the service is upgraded to 200 AMP then does that mean that, code-wise, everythign else in the entire system needs to be brought up to code which, I believe, now states there has to be a 4 wire feed out there with grounding rods. Or, since the feed to the barn comes into the house and terminates in a subpanel that is then connected to the main panel do I have to change it at all since it is in a subpanel and not the main service panel?

    if I made it sound like I thought the cost was unwarranted that's not what I meant. Absoltely no way, these guys have to make a living! My thought was that this piece of work was less the kind of work that an electrician needed to do and was beyond the scope of a non-electrician (like a service upgrade) or if it could be done by a non-electrician to offset the high labor cost due to the number of hours it might involve.
  18. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Messages:
    21,889
    Location:
    New England
    You only have to make any new stuff comply with the current code...the existing stuff you don't touch is (usually) grandfathered. I don't think just removing the feed wire from the main panel and inserting them into a new panel means everything downstream needs to be upgraded at the same time.

    Now, if you were upgrading the subpanel, yes - that would require the new feed to be brought up to code.
  19. Scuba_Dave

    Scuba_Dave Extreme DIY Homeowner

    Messages:
    885
    Location:
    South of Boston, MA
    If you are going to drive ground rods I hope your ground is not rocky
    Electrican here had a tough time driving 2 for buried service feed
    Took me a while to find a soft spot out by my shed for my sub
    After that it went in fine
    But a royal PIA if you get it 1/2 way in & then hit a rock or tree root & its stuck

    My new service feed In spector was only looking at the SF & panel
    Nothing else was required to be brought up to current code
    But I brought everything up to code anyways
  20. tjbaudio

    tjbaudio Sound and Light Suppervisor for a School District

    Messages:
    162
    Location:
    Wisconsin
    First off NEVER consider your own time as worthless. The time you spend on that project could be spent on other projects, with your friends and family, or relaxing. I started off looking at it as free labour and it sucks. Now I still do much of my own work but I do look at hiring help/pro from the stand point of "how much is it worth not to have to spend that time."

    As to the code question. Ask the AHJ in your area. I find that when you bring them in up front and get there input you are much better off. They will know the local codes. They will also be more comfortable with compromises if they had some say in them. I have also had the inspector go to bat for me when a contractor tried to skimp. I agreed with the inspector but I did not have to confront the contractor. That way I keep a good relationship with both.
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