Here are some questions that are crucial to ask any electrician before you allow work to your home or business. At Shires Electric, we have all these bases covered and more, along with over 25 years of experience.
1. Are you licensed?
A. Electricians are required to be licensed in most states and municipalities, so don't consider one who isn't properly licensed. There are two basic levels of licensure: A master electrician has at least two years of professional experience and is licensed for both design and installation of electrical systems. A journeyman is licensed for installation only. In some areas, journeymen must work alongside masters.
2. Are you insured?
A. Certainly one of the deal-breaker electrician questions, given the potentially high liability for this work. Electrical contractors should carry at least $500,000 in liability and workers' compensation insurance.
3. What kind of work do you do most?
A. Like many contractors, electricians often specialize in one area or another. As an example, if your project involves finished spaces, look for someone who specializes in remodels as opposed to new construction.
4. What special training/experience do you have for this kind of work?
A. This should be one of your questions to an electrician, particularly if your project calls for specific expertise, such as installing voice/data cabling, home automation systems, or solar equipment. Even if another contractor handles the specialty stuff, it's helpful if your electrician has experience working with those systems and protocols.
5. Will you provide references (for past jobs similar to mine)?
A. References are particularly important for hiring electricians; it's hard to judge the quality of their work when you can't see most of it and don't really know what to look for.
6. What does your estimate include?
A. In addition to pricing structure, be sure to discuss incidentals, like repairing drywall and other things affected by the electrical work. Chances are you'll be responsible for them.
7. Who will perform the work?
A. Don't assume the person you talk to will be the one doing all the work. Ask about the hourly rates for different qualifications (master electrician vs. journeyman/apprentice or any combination of workers). If you feel your job requires a master's expertise, discuss this up front.
8. What will you guarantee/warranty?
A. Learn how well a pro stands behind his work. Also be aware that electricians typically assume responsibility for fixtures, devices, and other equipment they buy for you through their professional accounts.
9. May I see a work in progress?
A. Depending on the nature of your project, it might be helpful to visit an electrician's current job for a behind-the-scenes look at his work. In general, you're looking for evidence of orderly, methodical installation: neat cable runs near the service panel (breaker box), clear labeling of circuit breakers, regular anchoring of cables, switch boxes that sit squarely and finish flush to the drywall surface, etc.
Like a plumber, doctor and auto mechanic, a trusted electrician is a valuable member of a household maintenance team. As you cover your list of electrician questions, listen for a panel-side manner; you want someone who explains what he's doing and why, and who will help you understand the essentials of your system (or as much as you care to know). Ideally, the electrician you hire now will be a good source to call for emergencies and other projects down the road.