If your home's electrical system calls for an upgrade, it's important that it's done according to the national electrical code (NEC) or your local electrical codes. Naturally, you can cut costs by having your brother-in-law, who got a C in high school shop, to do the work. But in the future, that can come back to bite you. How?
1. If the wiring wasn't up to code and you have a fire, it may affect your insurance settlement.
2. When you choose to sell your home, the home inspector, appraiser, or lender may demand copies of permits, inspections, or work orders.
3. Substandard wiring could prolong a sale, kill a sale, or force you to bring down your asking price—often by more than what it would have cost you to have it done professionally in the first place.
4. Electrical wiring is not something you cut corners on. You and your home's safety are very important.
The first step to finding an electrician or contractor is to go ahead and ask around for referrals, and check with contractors, building inspectors, and Realtors. The goal is to wind up with a short list of three contractors (licensed electricians) who would look at your home and give you a detailed written bid.
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Incidentally, one way to cut costs is to look for a licensed electrician (verify they have a current and active license) who works for a contractor, builder, or even an inspector, and who does jobs on the side for a little extra income. But hiring one of these people does not mean you cut back on the detailed paperwork. Like with any business deal, the paperwork is your only protection.
Irrespective of whom you hire, here is a list of items you need to have in writing:
A detailed written description of the work agreed on. An itemized list of materials that will be used: number and cost of outlets, receptacles, wiring, breaker boxes, and so on. You can also have the electrician supply you a list of materials, which you yourself can then buy. In this manner, you only pay for installation, control the quality and cost of materials, and always know you aren't being overcharged. A start date and completion date on the paperwork.
Don't pay for the job up front. If it's an extensive remodel, you may prefer to set up a payment schedule as certain parts of the job are completed. Lastly, check with your homeowner's insurance agent and make sure you are covered in case the electrician or any helpers are injured inside your property.
As a precaution, always keep in mind that electrical components wear out, malfunction, and are misused. Sadly, the potential for serious injuries or worse is high, so it's crucial to stay of top of problems and rectify them as soon as possible.
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© 2012 Athena Goodlight