Author Topic: Hurricane broke the house I"m buying D:  (Read 4809 times)

Offline bluefoxicy

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Hurricane broke the house I"m buying D:
« on: October 30, 2012, 08:38:24 AM »
Trying to buy a house here.  Signed a contract, didn't close.

The electrical panel took a surge.  80% of the breakers are dead.  The sump pump and everything above the basement lost power, but I moved the pump to another outlet (I got authorization to enter and inspect the property during the emergency on my own expense, found the pump nonfunctional) and drained the inch or so of water (concrete unfinished basement).

The roof also failed, and is leaking in one room, damaged the ceiling.

Well, that sucks.


Clause 21 says that the property shall be delivered at closing clean, free of debris, and in substantially the same condition as when the contract was signed.  Aside from that, code requirements, and any addenda, property is delivered as-is.

Contract is contingent on bank's willingness to give a loan.

Seller can't sell the house in that condition, so has to repair it.

I guess I have enough negotiating power here to make the seller make repairs to the electrical panel and the roof and ceiling in the one room.

Also I'd been planning to install one of these:

http://www.surgeassure.com/product.aspx?prod=S50A

I was looking at this one, which is adequate:

http://www.surgeassure.com/product.aspx?prod=TE%2f1C40

All the breakers were 10kA rated, obviously there was a bigger than 10kA surge because it destroyed like 12 breakers.  They don't function after reset.  Either of these takes (40kA, 50kA) to ground by wiring into the main feed.  The protector is powered by a 20A breaker; in the event of a surge, it drives the current to ground rather than through the breaker, though the breaker may throw to protect the protector itself.



So ... either I get them to fix the roof and electric and I purchase the property, or my lender refuses to issue a loan and I walk and they pay me $1000 (in the contract, I gave them a $1000 deposit) and then fix the property and try to sell it again.

Offline punatic

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Re: Hurricane broke the house I"m buying D:
« Reply #1 on: October 30, 2012, 11:27:42 AM »
10,000 Amps?  Wow!
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Offline Slowbrew

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Re: Hurricane broke the house I"m buying D:
« Reply #2 on: October 30, 2012, 11:54:09 AM »
10,000 Amps?  Wow!

The kA rating is the surge current the breaker can withstand in kilo-amps. A normal breaker will see several thousand amps in a short condition. The breaker must be able to withstand and break that current safely. 

Water can cause current in places that aren't designed for current to flow.  When this happens the breakers will burn out.  Either way, these breakers did their job.

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Offline bluefoxicy

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Re: Hurricane broke the house I"m buying D:
« Reply #3 on: October 30, 2012, 01:10:09 PM »

The kA rating is the surge current the breaker can withstand in kilo-amps. A normal breaker will see several thousand amps in a short condition. The breaker must be able to withstand and break that current safely. 

This is correct.  Look at your 15A, 20A, 30A breaker, and on the OFF side you'll probably see etched in there "10kA" or some such.  The breaker will take 10,000A of power, guaranteed.  It might take 12,000 or 15,000, but it will definitely take 10,000.  Anything above its throw value it will throw and cut off the current flow--to protect from fire, not to prevent damage to appliances or injury or death.  GFCI is for fast-throw (because neutral/hot are passing current 20mA or so out of sync, so the current is going somewhere it shouldn't be).  Panel surge suppressors direct excessive surge (40,000A or so) directly away from the panel and to ground.

the 10kA value basically says that anything above those 10,000A they're not guaranteeing is going to work out for you.  The breaker might throw and the current arcs across the poles anyway.  Maybe it doesn't even throw, it just welds in place.  Or maybe it throws, and cuts current, and then you replace the breaker because it doesn't work anymore.

Panel probably got hit by lightning.  I can't comment on how much power flowed through--about 12 breakers blew out, but they're all in parallel.  Extremely high voltage found 16 paths to ground, and sent more through things that would fail faster (easier to arc, so lower resistance), and then ran out of juice.  The more paths to ground, the faster current flows and the faster the surge is over.  So at some point, that panel may have passed 120,000 amps; I doubt it.  Maybe the first few breakers blew, arced, then became high resistance.  Around 30,000 amps passing, mainly going to 2 breakers, blows them out and cascades to the next 2, while the rest bleed 9000 amps all together.  Boom boom boom, and there goes your electric panel.

The worst failure mode is when the spark jumps the gap and you get 10kA flowing through a fused breaker into your appliances and your house catches fire everywhere because the wires melt and ignite the frame.  Rare.  Very rare.  The surge should be over too fast to create fires, not fast enough to save your appliances.

That's what the whole house surge protector is for:  under high current conditions, it provides a clear path directly to your grounding rod.  Most of that current flows straight out of your panel; the rest should throw breakers.  If the surge is high enough voltage to actually increase current flow--even without throwing a breaker--it means you're burning stuff out.  Think your 110V wall socket becomes 220V and you plug your TV in?  That's what happens, and your TV draws 1/2 amp and the breaker will throw at 15 amp and so now you have 1 amp and the breaker ... does not care, happily lets your TV fry.  So, $2000 refrigerator?  Water heater?  Sump pump?  You add a surge suppressor at the socket as well to feed back to ground.

Stay the hell away from electricity.

Offline anje

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Re: Hurricane broke the house I"m buying D:
« Reply #4 on: October 30, 2012, 01:51:20 PM »
At least, presumably, the seller has insurance on the house. You obviously do not, since you aren't the owner.  So the seller probably isn't going to suffer a huge hit on this either, unless they already were playing with fire by not having coverage.

Wonder if you'll have to move back the closing date?
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Offline bluefoxicy

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Re: Hurricane broke the house I"m buying D:
« Reply #5 on: October 30, 2012, 02:27:51 PM »
At least, presumably, the seller has insurance on the house. You obviously do not, since you aren't the owner.  So the seller probably isn't going to suffer a huge hit on this either, unless they already were playing with fire by not having coverage.

Wonder if you'll have to move back the closing date?

Already had to move the closing date back.  The gas was off and the water heater was non-functional, the bank found this on an inspection and was not willing to give a loan.

It would be good if the seller had insurance, since mine has a 3% deductible which translates to $5220 which is more than enough to cover this, so it's out-of-pocket.  My genius plan is, of course, to save up over $5000 after closing and keep it in the bank, for the purpose of fixing crap that breaks or covering the deductible.

Offline weazletoe

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Re: Hurricane broke the house I"m buying D:
« Reply #6 on: October 30, 2012, 03:47:05 PM »
That's sucks, BFI. But honestly, I'm shocked to learn the place wasn't storm proof as is.  ;D
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Offline euge

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Re: Hurricane broke the house I"m buying D:
« Reply #7 on: October 30, 2012, 04:56:25 PM »
Dude you need to look at the signs. You've got a reprieve from that POS dwelling you want to buy. Again I would run away as fast as I could from it.
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Offline james

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Re: Hurricane broke the house I"m buying D:
« Reply #8 on: October 30, 2012, 05:02:46 PM »
Dude you need to look at the signs. You've got a reprieve from that POS dwelling you want to buy. Again I would run away as fast as I could from it.

I'd agree with this.  It'll never be the same as it was before.

Offline bluefoxicy

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Re: Hurricane broke the house I"m buying D:
« Reply #9 on: October 31, 2012, 06:28:11 AM »
Dude you need to look at the signs. You've got a reprieve from that POS dwelling you want to buy. Again I would run away as fast as I could from it.

Oh pff it took roof damage and the electrical panel got hit by lightning.  It probably had flying debris and high winds impact the roof, though I'm not going to throw out the (significant) possibility that the roof was done by a discount contractor who saved half the labor costs by simply putting in half as many roofing nails.  I don't know much about roofs but I know enough about roof work--I know carpenters who build roofs, I've seen roofs done right and I've seen them done wrong, a poorly built roof might last 2-3 years but a well-built roof will last decades.

The property's significantly better than my apartment--which by the way has leaked EVERYWHERE in the main hallway.  Everywhere.  The entire ceiling is wet, the walls are wet in a dozen or so places.  There's a lot of poorly done plumbing and patch work in that building--the house I'm trying to buy has the exact opposite problem, literally everything is done right except a loose toilet (tighten the bolts), drywall screws holding the bathroom switch cover plate on, and ... a roof leak (the EXTERIOR WALL leaks in the apartment, into the attic; roof is fine). The plumbing, wiring, supports, floors, insulation, walls, HVAC, the works are all good in that building.  The service panel WAS good but it was not Zeus Ready.

Offline anje

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Re: Hurricane broke the house I"m buying D:
« Reply #10 on: October 31, 2012, 11:36:42 AM »
I wouldn't just tighten the bolts on that toilet if I were you. Do it the right way: drain it, pull it off, put a new wax ring in, and lower the toilet directly into place. (In my experience, having a person or two helping you is good, since you can't see to line everything up while holding the toilet.)  Buy an extra ring just in case you screw up, because you can't reposition the toilet if you messed it up.  The last thing you want is a toilet that's got a poor seal and is leaking sewage at the base.
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Offline bluefoxicy

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Re: Hurricane broke the house I"m buying D:
« Reply #11 on: October 31, 2012, 12:27:11 PM »
I wouldn't just tighten the bolts on that toilet if I were you. Do it the right way: drain it, pull it off, put a new wax ring in, and lower the toilet directly into place. (In my experience, having a person or two helping you is good, since you can't see to line everything up while holding the toilet.)  Buy an extra ring just in case you screw up, because you can't reposition the toilet if you messed it up.  The last thing you want is a toilet that's got a poor seal and is leaking sewage at the base.

Ahh.  I thought a bad seal would cause leakage, not simply looseness.

Brand new wax ring is probably good.  Hell I could put in a brand new Toto toilet.

Offline maxieboy

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Re: Hurricane broke the house I"m buying D:
« Reply #12 on: November 01, 2012, 03:25:23 AM »
Dude you need to look at the signs. You've got a reprieve from that POS dwelling you want to buy. Again I would run away as fast as I could from it.

This.

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Offline MDixon

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Re: Hurricane broke the house I"m buying D:
« Reply #13 on: November 01, 2012, 01:53:20 PM »
I'm not sure what exactly fried your breakers, but just changing them isn't a solution, it's a bandaid.

Take your money and go unless you are prepared to repair everything 100% which would mean after closing getting an electrician to check out the entire house and being prepared to fix what needs to be fixed.
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Offline bluefoxicy

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Re: Hurricane broke the house I"m buying D:
« Reply #14 on: November 02, 2012, 09:10:17 AM »
I'm not sure what exactly fried your breakers, but just changing them isn't a solution, it's a bandaid.

Take your money and go unless you are prepared to repair everything 100% which would mean after closing getting an electrician to check out the entire house and being prepared to fix what needs to be fixed.

Have you ever run electrical?  It works pretty much like this:

You have a mains connection in your house.  Power goes to the meter, into the electrical panel to a mains breaker.  What you need to do is have the utility remove the gold ring, remove the meter, and then you can mess with the main power breaker (replace, rewire, add stuff before the box).  For the breakers themselves, you shut the main breaker off and you're good (as long as you have the sense to work with electricity--remember there's still a HOT wire).

The mains line is aluminum.  The secondary circuits are all supposed to be copper.  Copper runs through your house to your sockets.  Hot, neutral, ground.  Has to be wired CORRECTLY to the sockets.

Breaker panel check:  open the panel, look.  Are the breakers wired properly?  Leads wound clockwise?  etc.

Socket test:  there's a plug-in device that not only tells you if it's right or not, but tells you if it's wired incorrectly and how.  Bad ground, neutral/hot swap, ground/neutral swap, and so on.

The wiring's pretty much checked by looking at the panel or at the socket (you'd have to go out of your way to do something wrong here and it would not be to code).  Basically is it the right gauge wire?

What do you think killed the breakers?  I'm going to go with "current overload," because it'll do that.  The typical way to fix this is "replace the breakers," that's the correct solution.  Breakers have failure modes and this is one of them.

Source:  Experience.  Father is an electrical engineer and has electrician experience.  Cousin works for the local electrical utility and has electrician experience ranging from home electrical wiring and inspection to opening and repairing transformers that are still hanging up on telephone poles (the big white buckets).  We've been through this before and I ask too many questions--hell I spent 20 minutes while putting in a floor asking what the difference is between a dead blow and a rubber hammer and why one would be superior to the other (we had to use a rubber hammer, it was tangentially interesting).  First time I saw an electrical panel open I wanted to know everything about how electricity works--did you know there's a sharp difference between braided and unbraided wire?  Braided wire has multiple contact points, and electricity travels more "within" instead of just "on the outside" and causes impedance (if you're passing AC).  This is important.

Blahblahblah.

Okay, there's probably a real reason that panel's dead.  The power line is above ground, on poles, run through trees.  It's highly likely to take direct lightning strike--the trees don't have the same protection the poles do (you think they just jack them in there and hope they never get hit?).  So yeah, lightning, but it's highly likely to get hit by lightning.  The house is a Zeus magnet.