After your lights flicker a few times, or your breakers keep popping, you discover you have an outdated or overloaded electrical system. This could spell disaster for your electrical appliances, so you decide it’s time to bring your system into the 21st century before it fries your big-screen TV.
Walking around with hair all frizzled and smoking is the least that could happen when dealing with electricity, which is why you should leave electrical work to the professionals. However, don’t be fooled into thinking that every contractor with the title of “electrician” is actually the professional you need for your job.
For me, the realization came when I was adding some can lighting into my dining room as well as running a new circuit line to our breaker box. I already had can lighting installed in my kitchen ceiling by a “handyman electrician” a couple years earlier. With this new project, I hired master electrician Syd Storr, from Theodore Electrical Service, to be safe. He found that the “handyman electrician” I had hired previously left exposed wires outside of the can light box IN OUR ATTIC… which is a MAJOR fire hazard. Thankfully, he found and fixed the issues and charged a very fair rate to do so.
There are some very important questions you should always ask before hiring an electrician. I have saved you some time and asked Syd Storr, master electrician and owner of Theodore Electrical Service these ten questions for you.
- Are you licensed?
Yes. 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 4 years as an apprentice, at least two years of professional experience as a journeyman and is licensed for both design and installation of electrical systems. A journeyman is licensed for installation only. I also have continuing education every two years to maintain my master electrician status.
- Are you insured?
Yes. Electrical work is potentially high liability. Electrical contractors should carry at least $500,000 in liability and worker’s compensation insurance. The liability insurance protects the customer and the property while the worker’s compensation insurance protects myself and my employees.
- What kind of work do you do most?
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. I perform service work consisting of system maintenance and installation for residential and commercial applications. My experience and knowledge allow me to easily troubleshoot across a wide array of electrical systems and get to the root cause of electrical deficiencies.
- What experience do you have for this kind of work?
With 20 years of on the job training, I can work on almost any system however it’s a good idea to be specific when discussing specialty items, 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.
- Will you provide references (for past jobs similar to mine)?
Yes. It’s easy to pull from my list of happy customers.
- What does your estimate include?
When I write an estimate for a customers, it will include labor, material, and any expectations for possible unforeseen added costs in the system. In addition to pricing structure, I am sure to discuss incidentals, like repairing drywall and other things affected by the electrical work. Chances are, you’ll be responsible for things like that if they are not discussed or included in the written estimate.
- Do I need a permit? Who will obtain it?
This is a choice I leave to customers. I charge for this service, so some customers choose to save a little and get the permit themselves.
- Who will perform the work?
I will be there doing the work, I also inspect all of the work completed by my staff on a site with me to ensure it meets my standards of quality prior to calling in the permit inspections. Failing a permit inspection can be a huge setback to the time frame for completing a project and is an unnecessary inconvenience for a customer, so it’s best to get it right the first time.
- What will you guarantee/warranty?
Yes I offer a 1 year warranty on all labor and any parts I supply. Some customers purchase fixtures and lights themselves. I do not warranty these items themselves but do honor any labor related warranty issues.
- May I see a work in progress?
I prefer that a customer is involved with the job. This allows me to help them understand the work being done and I can get feedback on minor items like switch and outlet placement so that your home is exactly the way you want it… well at least my electrical work will be. Like a plumber, doctor and auto mechanic, a trusted electrician is a valuable member of a household maintenance team. Ideally, the electrician you hire now will be a good source to call for emergencies and other projects down the road, I simply try to build a relationship with a customer that ensures the person they call is me.
If you have any additional questions for him, or if you have an electrical project that needs a master’s eye, Syd can be reached at (202) 415-4911, or by e-mail at email@example.com.