Cabling Issues: Why Are the Wall Plates Loose?

By James Carlini | May 15, 2018
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Cabling problems in buildings are like icebergs: only about 5 percent of them are visible. The other 95 percent lies below the surface (or behind the walls). This observation applies to both low-voltage (communications) networks as well as electrical distribution (power) networks.

When it comes to diagnosing network performance issues, improper grounding is often the cause. Electricians are brought in to fix the problems. They need to be licensed and are assumed to be competent in their installation of low-voltage networks and electrical distribution networks.

Electricians can find some odd problems when they walk into a building where someone else has tried previously to resolve issues, even when those issues aren't related to the electrical or low-voltage systems. For instance, pest control technicians may tamper with the electrical and/or communication network faceplates and outlets to place bait for insects. Some may also pull out the actual outlet boxes and then reattach them to put down poison into the walls. Do they remember to put the faceplates and outlet boxes back correctly and completely? Chances are they don’t.

Cockroaches are not easily disposed of

A cockroach infestation is a problem that needs to be dealt with. When there is a bad infestation, pest control professionals are brought in to spray the premises, seal up penetrations and cracks, and in many cases, lay down bait to poison the insects.

When pest control technicians open faceplates and wall plates, they may not replace them properly, or they may loosen outlet boxes and unwire outlets without securing them back correctly. If such a technician in a trade unrelated to electrical work does something like this, it could lead to system degradation.

Just as having a can of bug spray doesn't make you a skilled pest control specialist, a technician in any other trade possessing a roll of electrical tape is not an electrician.

Broadening our expertise to handle problems

It's important to understand the way other trades and professions impact electrical infrastructure because, even if you leave a job with everything installed correctly, up to Code, and in a neat and workmanlike manner, there's no guarantee it will stay that way. In addition, when arriving to a job in an existing facility or home that someone unqualified may have tampered with an electrical installation, so oddities may abound.

Sometimes a solution requires creative thinking. Customers with underperforming networks may have problems that don’t fall into the typical categories electricians are prepared to tackle. You may assume faceplates or wall plates are intact, but a pest control specialist may have taken off all of the network's faceplates, detached outlet boxes, and left them unsecured or improperly reinstalled.

Knowing other technicians might interfere with the integrity of an electrical system, electricians need to understand what that interference might bring. And, they need to know the solution for it.

If you have any service business, it is something to be aware of.

About The Author

James Carlini, MBA, is a strategist for mission-critical networks, technology and intelligent infrastructure. He has been the president of Carlini & Associates since 1986. He is author of "LOCATION LOCATION CONNECTIVITY," a visionary book on the convergence of next-generation real estate, intelligent infrastructure, technology, and the global platform for commerce.

His “Platform for Commerce” definition of infrastructure and its impact on economic growth has also been referred to by the US ARMY Corps of Engineers in their Handbook, “Infrastructure and the Operational Art.” (2014)

His firm has been involved with applying advanced business practices, planning and designing mission critical network infrastructures for three decades.

He served as an award-winning adjunct faculty member at Northwestern University’s Executive Masters and undergraduate programs for two decades (1986-2006).  He has been the keynote speaker at national and international conferences.

He also appears in civil and federal courts as well as public utilities commission hearings as an expert witness in mission critical networks, network infrastructure and cabling issues.

He began his career at Bell Telephone Laboratories (real-time software engineering), AT&T (technical marketing & enterprise-wide network design support for major clients) and Arthur Young (now Ernst & Young, Director of Telecommunications & Computer Hardware consulting).

Contact him at or 773-370-1888. Follow daily Carlini-isms at


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