There are always things you should never skimp on when remodeling. I’m always fascinated at what people will try to cut corners on, and too often, those cuts are in areas where life and death come into play.
Since I own an electrical contracting company along with my real estate brokerage I have a simple advantage when showing clients a new home. I always make sure the electrical system is safe. I will also send one of my sons, who works for the company, out to the home after closing to test everything and make corrections if we’ve found any problems before or after closing.
Much of the time, I don’t take part in the electrical business directly. I will go out into the electrical field if we’ve contracted a complicated commercial job or we have a job on a really old house. Both types of projects present many challenges. So, they often need more experienced technicians to be involved. For me, it’s a good change of pace.
A few years ago, I had one of those old house projects. Our client has a 1700’s era barn that has been converted to a home. It’s really fun to work on it, but it’s really difficult. It has slits in the walls where early settlers would slip their guns through in the event they needed to defend themselves. It has wide plank floors (12″-16″ boards). It’s actually a brick and stone barn. That’s really not common in this area.
On this particular project, we were asked to remove some of the previous wiring upgrades that former owners had done, and I was really glad they decided to do that.
All of the upgrades we removed looked perfectly fine on the surface. The average homeowner would never have known that they were all code violations and they were all fire hazards. Most of the items we removed had gotten so hot over time that they had actually charred the devices. I’m sure they were near catching fire more than once.
That brings me to my point. Whenever you have an electrical need in your home, please do not skimp on the service. That doesn’t mean you need to find the most expensive contractor in your market to do the work, but you need to find the most skillful contractor you can afford to do the work. High price doesn’t necessarily mean quality, but huge discounts by an unqualified technician doesn’t necessary mean you got the best deal either.
I could field a team of electricians who solely make repairs on work done by other so called electricians. I had a call today by a homeowner who was asking for us to send an electrician to fix the work of another “electrician”. Just because someone uses that word to describe their work, does not mean they are actually an electrician. State databases can confirm or deny whether someone passing himself off as an electrician is really an electrician. It’s critical to check that database because it is the difference between experience, education and licensure. If there is no license, there is also no insurance.
I’m always amazed when someone tells me their brother-in-law, or a friend, or somebody they found on Craigslist did their wiring. “Oh, is he an electrician?” “No, but he knows a lot of stuff.” That kind of response scares me. This barn was a great example of someone trying to get by on the cheap and it nearly cost the owner his home.
Ask around. Find competent professionals. Ask for references. Call the references and take this area of a remodel as seriously as you can, because a jack-leg electrician can cost you more than a few bucks. This is no place to hire the weekend warrior with a Stanley Wiring Made Easy book and a tool-belt.