Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters – GFCI’s
There is a lot of confusion in the world of Real Estate Sales and Inspections about Ground Fault Circuit Interruption (GFCI or GFI) protection & devices. The average home buyer has no or only a vague understanding of what these are or when and where they are needed.
Real Estate sales professionals are not much better informed than buyers and sellers and sadly many home inspectors are not keeping up with these issues. The Texas Real Estate Commission (TREC) has also helped to cloud the issue by putting requirements for home inspectors to follow that seem confusing to Realtors and Inspectors and especially buyers & sellers. How is a home buyer to figure these things out if the Real Estate Professionals are having trouble with it?
According to the Standards of Practice (SoP) for Real Estate Inspectors, promulgated by TREC and effective February 1, 2022, the inspector is to call it a deficiency if GFCI protection is not provided at some specific 125-volt receptacle outlet locations in the home. These locations include all bathroom receptacles; all garage receptacles and accessory building receptacles; all outdoor receptacles; all crawl space receptacles; all basement receptacles; all kitchen countertop receptacles; and all receptacles that are located within six feet of the outside edge of any sink, shower or bathtub, all laundry areas, all indoor damp and wet locations, kitchen dishwasher receptacle & electrically heated floors. According to TREC, a receptacle under any sink would be considered within 6’ of the outside edge of the sink. It is also a deficiency if a GFCI protection device is defective or inoperable in any way.
Pay close attention to the use of the word all. For example, an outlet in a garage ceiling is deficient if not GFC protected even if that was NOT a code requirement at the time the house was built. (Remember, many houses in use today were built before GFCI devices were even invented.)
A GFCI device may look like a squared-off receptacle with two buttons in the middle. Or it may be a special circuit breaker. Some can be dual-function breakers that act as both GFCI & AFCI protection. (See photos below.) Multiple outlets/receptacles may be protected by one device or breaker.
The National Electric Code (NEC) or chapter 70 of the National Fire Protection Act (NFPA) requires GFCI protection in several more places than is mentioned in the TREC (SoP) for inspectors. All building codes, including the NEC, are updated every three years but are not necessarily adopted by all code authorities. Sometimes a code authority may wait several years before adopting a new code. So, here is a dilemma. Should a Texas home inspector call the lack of GFCI protection deficient if it is not specifically required by TREC?
The TREC rule that requires those specific locations to be called deficient (even if not required by code at the time of construction) would seem to indicate TREC’s concern for safety. Accordingly, this would also seem to indicate that the lack of GFCI protection in a required location of the most current NEC should also be noted as deficient.
TREC does not specifically require an inspector to report on these but does allow inspectors to exceed the Standards of Practice. As a result, your inspector may mention the lack of ground fault protection in several other areas which include the dishwasher, motors & lights for swimming pool and hot tub equipment, indoor hydro massage tubs, and all laundry room outlets & outlets that serve window A/C units. With the adoption of the 2020 NEC 240-volt receptacles in kitchens (within 6 feet of a sink), laundry areas, garages, and outdoors should also be ground fault protected.
Posted: Dec 27, 2022
Posted by: Ed Fryday, ACI, CMI® | TREC# 6932
ASHI# 250764 | InterNACHI# NACHI07031703
Space City Inspections, LLC