Questions to Ask an Electrician

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Whether you have a major electrical problem, or you’ve just accumulated a list of petty electrical annoyances that need the attention of a professional and not just you a mere do-it-yourselfer, then hiring a certified electrician is the best route to go.  Electrical issues are not something to be trifled with, because if you rewire incorrectly, you might be looking at a fire hazard.

So, how do you find a reputable, honest and expert certified electrician?

When hiring any contractor, your best choice is usually word-of-mouth.  Nothing speaks to a contractor’s good qualities more than satisfied customers who are willing to vouch for that person or company’s expertise.  So, go ahead – ask around to neighbors, friends or family before you tackle an internet search or flip through the Yellow Pages.

Another alternative when seeking a certified electrician is to go directly to the trade association for the electrical contracting industry.  The website for the National Electrical Contractors Association (also abbreviated as “NECA”) is chock full of resources, among them a section where you can find local chapters:

There are different types and categories of electricians

First, you need to have a basic understanding of just what an electrician does, i.e. his qualifications and what he/she can do for you.

There are different categories for electricians.  Some are certified, some are master electricians and if you have a small job, it is not necessary to have a master electrician on scene to do a small job.  But when seeking bids for your job, be mindful of the fact that some electricians only do minor repairs, such as replacing a light fixture or an outlet or switch.  Still other electricians may only do construction or remodeling work.  Before bothering to scrutinize your potential electrician, be sure to contact him with the specifics about your project first.

In most cities or counties, an electrician will need to “pull a permit” which means he will need to go to that municipality to obtain a permit for large projects.  A simple repair, such as that mentioned above, does not require a permit to be obtained.

Your electrician will inform you, depending on the size of the project, that he will need to obtain a permit through himself or his company.  That is basically your guarantee that the work he or she is about to perform, will be done properly.  This is because, by virtue of the fact that the municipality in which you live has issued a permit for the particular job, it will require inspection by the local building inspector upon completion of the project.  The permit will be posted so it is visible at the site of the project and the price for that permit is usually incorporated as part of the quote you are given.

What to ask the electrical contractor

While you know that the majority of contractors out there are honest, and might be highly endorsed by their trade associations, it is always possible to get an unscrupulous contractor.  To avoid getting saddled with a “dud”, there are several questions that you should feel free to ask an electrical contractor about your potential project.

For a large project, it is always best to hire a certified electrician.  This is for your peace of mind because such an expert knows that if the work if not done properly; your insurance company will look more favorably toward an electrician who indeed can pay whatever damage occurs should he start a fire.

Once you establish your electrician is certified, be sure to ask to see his license, thus assuring yourself that his credentials are valid and viable.  Most contractors must obtain licenses for the municipality, state, or both, to keep their credentials valid.

Make sure you ask if the electrician carries workers compensation insurance for any worker who is insured while on your premises.  It is not enough just to question the electrician – feel free to ask for proof of his workers compensation insurance.

Ask your potential electrician if he carries liability insurance, also important if he does any damage while on your property.  As before, feel free to ask for proof of same.

By all means feel free to ask your potential electrician about his/her rates.  The rates average around the country, so there will be discrepancies from state to state, so don’t count on what you find out just by Googling around.  If a helper is needed to complete the project, you’ll have to factor that charge, maybe at a lesser rate, into the final estimate.

You might want to ask if the electrician will purchase all the materials, or if you are responsible for doing so.  Actually, your electrician will be well versed in what materials to use and will want to purchase the materials since essentially he will be responsible for any warranty issues, defective products and/or damaged parts.

Ask the electrician if he has a regular crew that he uses for any non-electrical issues that may crop up during the duration of the project.

As to payment in advance for the impending project, most electricians will ask for a minimal down payment which might be for buying the materials to be used.  For smaller jobs, the payment might just occur at the conclusion of the project, where larger jobs may require a down payment before commencement of the project at hand.

Many electricians have a clause in the contract that states that all suppliers and subcontractors will be paid before completion of the job.  That is good because otherwise, your project may be completed, and, if the other workers have not been paid, they’ll be looking to you for payment.

Thus, armed with your questions, feel free to fire away at your potential electrician to make the most of your interview, and for you to get to a comfort level about hiring this expert to perform the necessary work on the potential project.

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