While do-it-yourself electrical work is certainly possible for experienced handymen and women, these projects can lead to dangerous results if not done properly. They can also require a significant investment of time and money. Hiring a reliable and legitimate electrical contractor is often the best way to get more complicated electrical work done at your home or business. But this task, for people who have never dealt with a contractor, may seem overwhelming. There are many things to consider, not only for finding the best possible professional for your job, but also for avoiding any costly misunderstandings or legal trouble.
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Before hiring an electrician, a consumer needs to clearly define the desired project. Because working with electricity can be dangerous, and because there are such rigid codes attached to this type of work, it is important to at least talk with a licensed contractor, even if one thinks they will tackle the project personally.
When the details of the project have been secured in the customer’s mind, the process of hiring an electrical contractor can begin. Customers would be well advised to interview at least a few professionals who work in their area. When interviewing, ask for written proposals, commonly referred to as a “bid” in the industry. The bid should include a variety of information such as a description of the work to be performed, a cost estimate, an estimated timeframe, and an explanation of any warranties that are offered for the work and supplies used. It is always important to remember that this is nothing more than a bid and prices quoted, except in the case of new construction, are almost never guaranteed.
Electrical work is almost never all exposed for easy inspection. Most of it lies behind walls, under floors, and in ceilings, so unhappy surprises can and do occur that can blow your estimate right out of the water. Hopefully there will be clues to these surprises – such as the age of the building on which the work is being done. But, when hiring a contractor, one has to expect the unexpected, especially in remodeling.
Beyond that, however, customers should also iron out the viability of the project with potential contractors. It’s not uncommon to dream bigger than our budgets. While people often think the project they’ve idealized is entirely feasible, making sure it complies with regulations is an easy oversight. Having electrical work done without proper permits can lead to huge fines. Experienced electricians will be familiar with applicable regulations and acquire the necessary permits and building inspections for the work to be done, so be sure to look for a professional with a proven track record.
Consumers should follow up every interview with two tasks. While it seems like a good idea to get referrals from whoever you hire, remember that it is extremely unlikely that those referrals will be anything but positive. It is even better to check out anyone you are considering on the internet. Just type in “contractor review sites” for a list of web sites that will help with your search. On most of these pages, people will review, both positively and negatively, their experience with professionals you might be considering hiring.
ASIC and other consumer protection agencies will have records on licensing and lawsuits, both open and settled. Checking with the National Electrical Contractors Association is another way to verify qualifications and licensing history.