If you find you need some electrical work done in your home, it might be hard to know where to start. To ensure the work is done safely, you want an electrician you can trust. Regardless of whether it is something simple, like installing some new light fixtures or updating your light switches, or more complicated, such as an upgrade to your electrical system, you need someone with the experience and certification to perform the job. However, finding an electrician is easier if you know what to ask. Here are 10 questions to ask your electrician before hiring them to complete your next project.
This is a little obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people fail to ask it! You need to confirm that your electrician has all the right certifications and licenses to work legally as an electrical contractor. Make sure they are licensed for the type of work required and not restricted to specialty work. You want to know that they can perform the work up to code and have the training and experience to complete the job safely.
This question is not as obvious. Electricians perform dangerous work with the risk of accidents a possibility at any job site. Although experienced electricians are trained to follow safety protocols, the unexpected can still happen. When working on an installation, repair, or renovation project, your electrical contractor is responsible for keeping you safe. Should an accident occur, they are responsible for covering the cost of damage that occurs to you or your property. However, you also want assurance that if one of their team is hurt on the job, they won’t come after you for compensation. Therefore, you have to ask for proof of insurance, so you know you are protected in all scenarios from accidents to theft.
This is a little different than licenses and certificates. You want to know they are affiliated with the Better Business Bureau, electrician unions, and local electrical organizations to add to their credibility. While you wouldn’t ask for this alone without seeing their license as a hiring point, adding these credentials is another feather in their cap, showing they are qualified for the work. These credentials indicate that they take their profession seriously and are trusted within their community. Again, you don’t want to hire someone just because they have these credentials. License first, insurance next, and then credentials are the bonus to help prove they are likely to perform the job professionally.
This is getting into the nitty-gritty of whether they can do the job well or not. There’s a lot that can go wrong with electrical work, much of it not necessarily related to the job itself. For example, did they show up on time and complete the assignment as agreed? Did they make a mess of the home while they worked? Did they treat clients with respect? Did they start the job, take the money, and never come back? Did they leave the walls or ceilings in a mess that cost more to finish? All of these details add up to a good or bad electrician. You can only find this out by asking for references and following up with a search for online reviews.
While all electricians can handle the basics, if you have something more complicated or specific, you might run into challenges. For example, maybe you are having a fancy sound system installed in your shower. Or, it might be a home theatre or an outdoor lighting system. These projects are a little more advanced and require some experience beyond just having a license or a long list of past clients. You want to know they can handle specialty projects, so you don’t end up with faulty wiring or something that doesn’t look right.
This is another important question. The electrical contractor might be highly qualified, but what about their team? It is not uncommon for licensed electrical contractors to hire journeyman electricians or apprentices in training who do the actual work, albeit under their license. You want to know the work will be performed by skilled and licensed electricians, or at least under the contractor’s direct supervision. Subcontracting is not always a bad thing, but you will feel better knowing the work is performed by the actual person you are interviewing and their immediate team.
A licensed electrician might get permits, but it is ultimately your responsibility to know if they are needed from local authorities. Some homeowners are hesitant to find this out, as they are worried it will open a can of worms. However, if you know this, you can then ask the electrician if they will ensure that they secure the permits before work is started. You will also know what inspections are required.
Understanding the actual work required helps you get a feel for what to expect. For example, how much drywall will be damaged? Is there work on the floors or ceiling? If it’s outside, does your siding have to be removed? Is there digging involved? This is important because the aftermath will require further tradespeople to come in and finish up. Find out if the electrician can recommend someone, or if they are a contractor, whether they can perform these additional jobs. This is important for both costs and knowing that your home won’t be a disaster once the work is finished.
In general, warranties are related to materials, while guarantees are related to the work. Ask what they offer as far as these two things are concerned. A good contractor will stand behind their work and honour warranties behind the products and materials they install. Find out how long these things are covered. If they aren’t, it’s best to find another electrician.
Asking for an estimate is important. You want a quote on all fees and a breakdown of everything, including estimates on materials. This avoids discovering the hard way that they have hidden charges.
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