Your dream project can quickly become a disaster if you’re not on the same page as the electrical contractor you hire to complete the work. No matter the scale of the project, it is important to interview your contractor upfront. This is not a friend or family member doing you a favor; this is someone you are hiring to do a job, so the interview process should be treated as just that. There are a handful of questions that must be asked.
Do you have insurance?
All electrical contractors should carry both liability insurance and workman’s compensation insurance. It doesn’t hurt to ask for a copy of their insurance certificate as proof.
Liability insurance will cover damage that is done to your home by the worker or workers. If one of the workers gets hurt on the job, the workman’s compensation insurance will kick in. If workman’s compensation insurance is not in place, when someone gets hurt on your property, it will be your homeowner’s insurance that covers their expenses. This claim on your homeowner’s policy will require you to pay the deductible at a minimum, but it could also result in an increase to your rates.
Are you licensed to do electrical work?
Someone coming into your home to do electrical work needs to be licensed. Licensed electricians are required to carry their license with them at all times. There are only a few exceptions to this hard and fast rule.
Homeowners and handymen are two exceptions. Handymen are allowed to replace light fixtures and wire low voltage systems such as speaker or alarm systems. They are not permitted to do any other wiring in the home as they cannot wire anything greater than 90 volts. Homeowners are allowed to do their own wiring, but are still required to obtain a permit to do so.
Keep in mind that if someone who is not licensed completes electrical work, or plumbing for that matter, it is likely that work will not be done to code. These code violations could void coverage by your homeowner’s insurance should a claim arise that is related to that work. Code violations could also show up on the home inspection when you go to sell your home.
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Sweat the Small Stuff
Who is responsible for the clean-up? Depending on the size of the project, there will be cardboard boxes, Styrofoam, wire clippings, wood chips from drilling, and other materials that will require disposal. Will clean-up will be daily, at the end, or both? Are there any clean-up requirements of the homeowner? Although it might seem small, it is good to have these types of questions answered at the beginning of the job rather than the end when you’re left staring at a pile of garbage in your backyard.
Do you warranty your work?
The industry standard tends to be a one-year warranty on labor and materials. If either fails in that time period, it should be covered at no additional cost to the homeowner.
Who will be at my house every day?
It is not uncommon for contractors to be working on multiple projects at the same time. Because of that, it’s good to find out what the work routine will look like. It is important to know who will be at your house doing the work and who is to be communicated with once the project is underway. Some electricians subcontract out parts of the job, such as low voltage, so it’s important that you are aware of whom those other contractors will be.
Do your homework
It might be cheaper to go with an unlicensed, uninsured contractor at the beginning of the job, but what will it end up costing you in the end? If they are not taking the proper steps to get licensed and insured for the work they are doing, what other shortcuts are they taking on your job? Save yourself the stress and risk and hire someone who follows the law, or at the very least, good business practices.