The minimum height requirement for those overhead electrical service cables is 10’ above any walking surface (sidewalks, yard, stairs, decks, patios, etc. – things that are not accessible to vehicles), which also extends 3’ to the side of balconies and decks.
Below are a couple of typical scenarios from Chicago land backyards:
When adding a deck, stairs, balcony or any other structure elevated above the ground, you have to take into the consideration of electrical service cables attached to your house, garage, and / or suspended above the ground. It might, of course, become an additional cost to the project, but besides being a law, it is a serious safety issue, and one which will most likely create a problem when selling your house.
So remember – electrical cables and their connection to your house must be at least 10’ above any walking surface. In some situations (picture with a power line located next to the second floor balcony guardrail), instead of relocating the electrical service connection to your house, it might be possible to build a protective screen / wall (picture with a power line cables behind the wire-mesh screen), in order to prevent someone from accidentally touching high voltage cables – you’d have to check that with your local building department / electrical inspector.
Building a new garage behind the house and converting part of the side yard into a driveway? – if the driveway runs along the wall with an electrical meter installed on it, you might need to relocate the house electric service to different area, so it doesn’t get accidentally damaged by the passing vehicle (the garage on this picture is old, and electrical service might not need to be relocated).
By the way, isn’t your house electrical panel in the bathroom or clothes closet?
This article was written by Dariusz Rudnicki
I'm a retired Illinois home inspector, founder and editor of checkthishouse.com, a blog which attracts around 2 thousand readers daily and is dedicated to answering the many questions of home owners and home buyers. Connect with me on Google+ Find me on Google+ Local