Electrical work can be a dangerous thing. I have stressed this before, but it always bears repeating. Faulty electrical work is one of the most dangerous things that can exist in your home. There are strict standards for what acceptable work consists of for a reason. If you are hiring a contractor to do electrical work in your residence or office, make sure that you vet them properly and pay attention during the work.
While you may not have the electrical expertise necessary to inspect their work thoroughly, you can look at how they do business. There are a few signs you can look for that might let you know that a contractor is not reliable.
First, you should verify that the contractor is properly licensed. Depending on your area, this might mean different things, but no matter where you live, qualified electricians will have credentials to show you. Often, you can check with your state government to see if they are a licensed electrician, or what their qualifications are. When available, this is an easy step which will help you get more information about your contractor before a job even begins.
Find a Real Company
Second, you should use an established and experienced electrician. Check out their business. Is it a clearly established business which has existed for a while? Do they have an office, and official telephone number? Many freelance and low quality electricians switch the name of their “Business” frequently to avoid bad reviews, and can be difficult to pin down. Sometimes it will just be a guy in a truck with no company behind him. If you use an established and trusted company to do your electrical work, you are ensuring that they have experience, and can be held accountable for their work. Even if they make a mistake, you can bet that they will rectify it. Finally, an established company will likely be experienced in making sure that all paperwork and proper protocols are followed. Whether this is insurance in case of an accident, or proper permitting, ensuring that all protocols are followed during the electrical work is a great way to guard against any future problems.
Another thing you can do when eyeing a potential electrician is to look at their tools and business practices. For example, a guy working out of the back of his personal truck who wants all of the money up front might not be your best choice. Generally, some money should be paid up front, but the rest should be reserved until the job is complete and you are satisfied with the work that has been done. If anything they do or say seems unprofessional or sketchy, maybe you should call a different electrician to see if they will do it differently.
Paperwork is Everything
I mentioned this above, but the importance cannot be understated. Whenever electrical work is done, it should be properly permitted, inspected, and up to code. An experienced electrician will know exactly which permits will be needed for a job, and can have them prepared quickly so that your work is not dragged out. Proper permitting and inspection can do a number of things to protect you. First, if something ever goes wrong, you will likely be able to pinpoint exactly what the problem was. If an electrician does make a mistake, you will want to have great documentation showing what happened. Secondly, having proper permitting and inspection papers can help you with your homeowners insurance. Often, insurance companies will not insure if there has not been a recent inspection, or electrical work is inspected and found to not meet local building codes. Having this paperwork will save you time and money when you are dealing with your insurance company. This will also be useful if you need to file a claim. Some insurance companies will not pay out clams for fire damage if they know that unpermitted or substandard electrical work was done in the area of the fire. If they can show that the fire might have been a result of you failing to keep your home safe, then you might be out of luck. Having all of the proper documentation (stored safely) will ensure that in the worst case scenario of your home burning down, that you are able to get your claim approved by your insurance company.
Finally, if or when you sell the house, having a record of the electrical work which has been done and its quality can be a great thing to show a potential buyer. If you can make them confident that the home is in good condition, you will be able to demand a higher price, and they will not be able to claim electrical worries as a bargaining chip. When you are doing electrical work, hire an experienced electrician who will be able to leave you confident in the final product.