Is it a "vault" that I am looking for?

Discussion in 'Electrical Forum discussion & Blog' started by Homeownerinburb, Jul 13, 2013.

  1. Homeownerinburb

    Homeownerinburb New Member

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    525
    Location:
    Los Angeles, CA USA
    Got called because a gardener got shocked by some wires in among some plants.

    Turns out: 50 year old galvanized comes up, next to it another goes down toward switches controlling pool lights and other wires for a pool pump.

    A weather proof box had been erroneously installed below grade. It long ago rotted away and was torn off the conduit.

    There are three or four wires that pass from one conduit to the next with almost no slack. So I cannot replace the box.

    I am inclined to find a fiberglass vault to envelop the conduits, say 12" deep, with an open bottom and a lid that says "electricity!" on it and some bolts to make it tough for kids to open it.

    I'd install it such that it stood about two inches above grade. I'd pour three or four inches of gravel in the bottom of the pit.

    I simply cannot believe that I can pull the wires out of the conduit, I am sure it is beat. I am looking for a solution to make the wires safe and keep them dry.

    Is it a "vault" that I am looking for? Anybody got a url where I can view one?

    Thanks.
  2. Homeownerinburb

    Homeownerinburb New Member

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    525
    Location:
    Los Angeles, CA USA
    Nobody? No suggestions?
  3. Smooky

    Smooky Member

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    NC
    I often see junction boxes at pools that are 12 inches above grade. A vault is something you would put water pipes such as a pressure manifold in, not electrical connections at a pool. For liability reasons, in this case I would hire a licensed electrician.
  4. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

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    You want to do this on your home, or someone elses? Neither is a good idea, and the later could get you sued should something happen, and would not pass code, as I understand it. You cannot use things in an electrical circuit that have not been tested and certified for their operation. Then, you have to install it according to accepted methods and procedures.
  5. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

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    An "open bottom" vault with gravel in it will NOT keep the wires dry. And have you addressed WHY and how the person got the shock?
  6. DonL

    DonL Jack of all trades

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    I would start by getting the correct ground fault interrupt.
  7. Homeownerinburb

    Homeownerinburb New Member

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    525
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    Los Angeles, CA USA
    There is a wire that has lost all it's insulation and is just sticking out.

    It serves nothing but to shock people, and has been disconnected at the panel.

    The rest of the problem is the rest of the problem, if you see what I mean.
  8. Homeownerinburb

    Homeownerinburb New Member

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    525
    Location:
    Los Angeles, CA USA
    The fact remains that the whole installation dates back to 1970, and there is about $25k worth of concrete and retaining wall between the fault and the panel.

    The customer wants to pay $500 or $1000 and get something that is safe.

    Please look back at my description and see the issues at hand: there is not one chance in hell that I can pull fresh wire thru this rotted conduit.
  9. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

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    It's time to pass on this job! One that cannot be completed in a safe, code-compliant manner should be one you are willing to pass up. It's likely they would not like an overhead run, but that could be done without disrupting much if any of the landscaping (other than the visual effects!). If the wires and conduit are that degraded, it needs to be replaced. I do not know, but it may be possible companies that can run a cable through the conduit, then pull a new piece of pipe in (as is sometimes done for water pipe replacement), might be able to pull a new piece through. THat would require being able to pull the electrical wires out, as you'd never (as you already said) pull new wires through it.
  10. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

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    quote; it may be possible companies that can run a cable through the conduit, then pull a new piece of pipe in (as is sometimes done for water pipe replacement), might be able to pull a new piece through. THat would require being able to pull the electrical wires out

    It would be the miracle of the century if that could be done in any code approved manner, or materials.
  11. Homeownerinburb

    Homeownerinburb New Member

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    525
    Location:
    Los Angeles, CA USA
    I absolutely agree, there is no technology that is going to router thru rusted 3/4" galvanized in anything like the path that it currently takes, and create a path in any way useful.

    This is why I really prefer plastic to galvanized.
  12. Homeownerinburb

    Homeownerinburb New Member

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    Los Angeles, CA USA
    OK, here's the thing:

    Underground services to houses can come up in vaults. These vaults are pretty big and a bit expensive.

    I worked on a repanel that was exactly that: the utility's line only came just so far, and they insisted that we trench out about 30' to their feed.

    The two conduits curved up and ended in the vault. The cables were spliced and insulated by the utility. The power was switched on.

    That was for a 200 amp panel. I need something to stand in for a rotted 4x4 exterior box that got buried in the flower garden.

    I am going to get this done. I just want to get a box that is small enough to do the work.

    Oh, and the conduit end only about 2" below grade. If the vault is 12" deep, the wires will stay dry.
  13. ImOld

    ImOld New Member

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    In the rumble seat
    The term you are looking for in residential is handhole or Quazite box, rather than vault.

    I'm sorry to say but your plan, as presented, would scare the life out of an electrician due to the total disregard for the NEC.

    Wires in any exterior conduit get wet, if for no other reason than condensation, therefore requiring THWN or other wet rated wire.

    Where are jwelectric or Speedy Petey who I know are licensed and working electricians?
  14. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Messages:
    21,814
    Location:
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    Depending on the inspector, modifying this requires bringing things up to current code...probably can't do that without new wires and conduit.
  15. Homeownerinburb

    Homeownerinburb New Member

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    525
    Location:
    Los Angeles, CA USA
    The wires are getting wet any way you figure it. The conduit is rusting away underground. The wires are almost certainly living in dirt, not in a valid conduit. Whatever wire is in there is in there. Again, I am certain that it would be impossible to pull fresh conductors in there.

    I suppose I should install GFI breakers in the panel.

    Problem is: the electrician who put in the 200 amp 20 space, 40 circuit panel managed to find 40 circuits or close to it (if you count the 240v branch circuits as two circuits, there are 40 circuits). In other words, there are 20 tandem circuit breakers in there. There simply is no room for any full width breakers.

    Possibly I could look very closely at the circuits, (of course the markings are faded out) and join some circuits that are over serviced to free up some slots.

    Essentially, the option is to jack up all sorts of concrete and maybe tear out a retaining wall. I grant you that even if my solution is installed, the circuits are going to fail eventually when something underground breaks the conductors, or the insulation just rots away.

    At that time the customer is just going to have to bite the bullet and let the concrete get jacked out and some PLASTIC conduit installed.
    Last edited: Jul 15, 2013
  16. Homeownerinburb

    Homeownerinburb New Member

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    525
    Location:
    Los Angeles, CA USA

    Inspector?
  17. Homeownerinburb

    Homeownerinburb New Member

    Messages:
    525
    Location:
    Los Angeles, CA USA
    OK, here is an alternate.

    The problem is that the original rig had two lengths of conduit coming up into a 4x4 weather proof box that was not proof from being buried in the flower bed.

    It rotted away. At least three conductors come out of one of the conduit and dive straight down the next. I don't like the idea of cutting them and trying to extend them, such that I can install a fresh box to contain the the wires in a proper box. And I doubt that I can get the connectors off the conduit and screw them into a fresh box.

    So, how about this? Buy two plastic 4x4 boxes, and cut them with a bandsaw thru the two holes in the bottom, so that there would be a half deep box with two half circles, and an open faced thing with two half circles, and then clamp them over the two conduits and their connectors, with plenty of glue. Possibly some screws to hold them together.

    You toss out half of what you buy, because you want to have the holes be the correct diameter, and not narrowed.

    Or: cut one box in half, and use the gasket from a spare cover plate between the two halves. Silicone to stick the gasket the the back half of the box. On the back box drill out the four corner holes for fixing the face plate clearance diameter for 6-32 stainless steel screws. Run those in from the back and into the front, but don't snug it up until over the conduit connectors. Let them run long enough out the front of the box such that stainless steel nuts can lock down the cover plate?

    At least I have a box, admittedly not one that has been approved as a retrofit box, but what else am I going to do?

    And what the hell, drive some unistrut down behind the box to back it up, run a screw or two to tie it in. Or copper pipe.

    And then a hand hold to protect the whole mess in? Keep the dirt back and the water from the sprinklers away?
    Last edited: Jul 15, 2013
  18. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

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    Location:
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    They make "earth drills" to bore UNDER concrete, so you might only have to break concrete at one end of the conduit, since the other end appears to end in dirt.
  19. cacher_chick

    cacher_chick Test, Don't Guess!

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    If you are not going to do it right, why not just splice it with regular waterproof splicing sleeves and stick it all back in the ground? I would definitely put it on a gfci, even if it means cutting it into the circuit on the outside of the panel. At least then if someone puts a shovel into it there is something more than just the circuit breaker.
  20. DonL

    DonL Jack of all trades

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    Location:
    Houston, TX

    Cable installers do it all of the time. They get the utilities marked and just do it.

    I guess I do not know what the real problem is. Start at the GFCI and work out.

    May be time to get a Real Pro for the job.
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