How to Chose an Electrician for Residential Repair and Remodel Work

Ben Giesbrecht

Choosing an electrician for a home electrical repair or installation project is a daunting task. We’re here to relieve some of that anxiety and help you make a fact-based decision next time you are looking for an electrical contractor.

Your home is a place of safety, so you want to do your homework before inviting a stranger into it.

Here is a checklist of the most important things to consider before signing a contract with your contractor and some potential pitfalls to avoid. Some of these items you’ve heard before, and some might be new, so be sure to read the whole article!

10 Things to Consider Before Hiring an Electrical Contractor

1. Is the contractor licensed in the proper classification?

Doing work worth $500 or more in your home requires a California contractor's license. Just because a contractor has a license number doesn’t mean they’re in the clear!

Use the CSLB License Lookup Tool to make sure the name listed matches and that they have the correct license classification- C10 for electrical work.

Pitfall to avoid:

Improper electrical work can result in shock hazards, electrocutions, damaged appliances, or house fires. 

Don’t trust a contractor licensed only for a different trade or even a general contractor with a specialty trade like electrical work. A handyman just won’t do when electrical codes and safety is concerned.

2. Does the electrician carry proper liability insurance?

“Licensed and insured” is a tagline many contractors use, but please actually ask them for proof of insurance! A contractor should carry a one million dollar liability policy at a minimum.

Pitfall to avoid: 

Protect yourself from liability. If the contractor does not have proper insurance, you and your homeowner’s insurance may be liable for hospital bills if a worker gets injured in your home.

3. How long has the contractor been in business?

If everything else checks out, this may not be a big deal. However, over 40% of contracting businesses fail in the first three years, so balance your expectations of future support with how long the contractor has been operating. 

4. Does the electrical contractor specialize in residential repair/remodel work?

As a homeowner, you don’t care how quickly someone can complete a new construction project or how well versed they are with commercial or industrial electrical work. 

Instead, hire an electrician who understands troubleshooting electrical problems and how to work with existing electrical systems. New construction and service work are two very different skillsets.

5. Check their ratings and reviews.

Look at their Google Business Profile or their Facebook Page to see how many reviews and what the average rating is. 

Pro tip:

Look at the owner's replies to reviews, especially less than stellar ones. Read the responses without judging who’s to blame for the disagreement. 

Did the contractor handle the complaint in a way that aligns with your core values?

6. Were you offered a firm price or a ballpark quote?

California requires contractors to give homeowners an agreement listing price and included services before work begins. If a change to the scope of work is required, it should be addressed before work continues.

Pitfall to avoid:

By the hour and ballpark prices cause uncertainty and stress you don’t need. Unless you love disagreements, find a contractor that quotes work upfront!

7. What is the warranty coverage?

No matter how good an electrician is, parts fail and accidents happen. Where does that leave you if something goes wrong? 

Different services will have different warranties. Ask what is covered and what the process is for getting an issue fixed.

Pitfall to avoid:

Manufacturer warranties are parts only. Unless the contractor specifically states their warranty includes labor, assume it doesn’t!

8. Are you being asked to pony up for a down payment?

California limits down payments to $1,000 or 10% of the project (whichever is less) for home repair/improvement work. Once materials are delivered, their value can be collected as well.

Pitfall to avoid:

Lookout for scam artists who ask for 50% down, then never show up again. These criminals are the reason California has enacted so many homeowner protection laws.

9. Ask about financing.

Unexpected repairs can create stress if you are forced to dip into a savings account or wrack up credit card debt. See if your electrician has financing available with a more attractive interest rate.

Pro Tip:

Before selecting a short-term 0% offer, make sure cash flow won’t be a problem for you. Taking a longer-term loan with 7-8% interest is cheaper if you can’t pay off a 0% one in time.

10. Price and value.

Finally, let’s look at the piece most of us worry about most. 

If you are comparing quotes, get a good understanding of what is included in each one. Very rarely are two quotes truly apples to apples. Think about your project and what you value most. Are those things addressed in the quote?  

Pro tip:

Value is more important than price. Saving a small amount of money but sacrificing warranty or features you really want is usually more expensive in the end.

Conclusion

It’s a lot to think about but don’t shortchange yourself! You deserve to feel comfortable with anyone you trust to work in your home.

To help find a local electrician, we have also made a list of the best electrical contractors in the Atwater/Merced area.

If you need a quote for your residential electrical project, contact Cosmic Comfort to set up an appointment or read more about our electrical services here.