How to Select an Electrician

When the lighting/electrical design is approved and the walls are framed its time to proceed with the insulation of the wiring systems before the insulation and sheetrock.
Following are several questions and related answers to assist you in the selection of an electrical contractor. This selection procedure may also be utilized to select the audio/video, alarm, temperature controls and structured wiring contractors.

Where are they located?
If they are commuting several hours to arrive at your project there may be weather or road delays hence delaying your project. Additional expense for the contractor to come to the project for an unforeseen coordination meeting or to review related trade concerns could result in additional expense if they need to travel.

Do they have a shop/office or operate out of their home?
Contractors that operate out of their home usually have lower prices however, their operation is sometimes minimal as far as inventory supply, their ability to store tools or communicating with their employees could be more difficult. A shop/office indicates that the owner has grown the business and will be around for years to come.

How long have they been in business?
New businesses owners may not have the business experience necessary to communicate efficiently with their employees, suppliers, general contractors or the building department. The amount of tools necessary that they own, when they are just starting out, may not be sufficient to complete your project in a timely manor.
Also look for contractors that are members of an organization such the National Association of Home Builders. This helps confirm their companies’ commitment and interest in the home building industry.

How many years of experience does the owner have?
Some electrical contracting business owners are great electricians however they do not have the business management experience necessary for a proper operation.
The owner of the contracting company should be informed about the latest management tools, material innovations and up to date codes requirements necessary to produce the best possible installation on you project.

What is the amount and types of insurance they carry?
Having a problem that creates a costly loss on the project must be the responsibility of the contractor whose installation was defective. Losses that were created by an under-insured contractor become everyone’s problem connected with the project when their insurance is not sufficient. The contractors’ employees must also be covered with workmen’s compensation insurance as required by law. Have their certificate of insurance on file BEFORE the contractor is awarded the project.

What is the length of their warranty?
Most building department require that the contractors warranty their work and materials for one year. Ask the proposed contractor if they will provide a two or more year warranty. A copy of the contractors’ warranty should be attached to the proposal.

How many employees are in this business?
If this is a one-man operation there is a chance that the project will receive only the attention necessary at the time he is on your project. This will help eliminate the owner/electrician from running for job to job to put out fires at several projects.
With several workers employed it is more likely that at least one man will be on the job daily to keep the project flowing. Also the more people employed the contractor will be able to have more workers on you project to keep the schedule on track.

Does the contractor have references available to check?
References speak volumes about the service that you will receive. Past projects reviews that were completed on time with client satisfaction is a must. The contracting company owner should have a “can do” attitude. Electricians should be prepared to execute changes that you request along with the flexibility to adjust to the project as needed to achieve the desired results.

What are their after hours procedures to remedy a major problem?
When the home has lost power there should be a point of contact for someone who is available to restore power. The contractor should have dependable service vehicles with an inventory of parts to perform the necessary repairs.

How many homes has the contractor wired similar to this project?
Experienced contractors should have the necessary knowledge to install the wiring, lighting and main service. The experienced contractor will be in tune to schedules and completion dates to avoid delays affecting other trades.

Is the proposal detailed?
Proposals need to include the cost, payment terms, amount of work to be performed, and change order procedures. The proposal should be easy to read in non-technical terms.
The quantity of outlets, switches, fixtures and the main service size should be also listed. Good proposals usually indicate a competent business owner that will be detail orientated.

How many proposals should be requested?
Depending on the size of the project there should always be at least two contractors bidding. There is cost and performance advantages of have three or more proposals utilizing exactly the same plans and specifications for each contractor. Do not add or delete items for each bidder. Upon receiving the proposals verify that the contractors proposal are for the work as outlined in the bidding documents. Consult with your builder to review the costs and time lines. Always compare apples to apples.

Was the proposal received in a timely manor?
There should be a date included in the “Request for Proposals” that the bids need to be received by. If proposals are not received by the due date take a hard look at the contractors reason for the delay. Also state to whom the proposal should be directed to such as the General Contractor or Homeowner.

ADDITIONAL REMINDERS –

Request that each bidder list the number of workers they will have on the job and the length of time for each segment of their work. This should be broken down as follows:
temporary power, main service, rough-in wiring, and final device and fixture installations.

Contractors should be notified in the “Request for Proposals” the requirements to attend the general contractors’ progress meetings. State that no additional payments will be made to attend these meetings.

In the case of a remodel project the contractor shall be required to visit and examine the existing sight before submitting their proposal.

Gary Bute was an electrical contractor for over 25 years.
He now operates Clear Lighting & Electrical Design in Vail, Co.
gary@clearLED.com