You love your house. It’s in a great neighborhood with all the features your family needs. Sure, it was built half a century ago, but that’s part of its charm! Still, it would be nicer with a modernized electrical system to better power your appliances and technology.
To do that, you’ll need a licensed electrical contractor. We’ll outline what to consider when hiring one so you end up a happy, satisfied homeowner with a properly rewired home.
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Can Rewiring a House Be a DIY Project?
Generally, no. Completely rewiring an existing home is not a DIY project unless you have advanced or professional-level experience and knowledge, not to mention buckets and buckets of spare time. Only a tiny percentage of DIYers should take on such a large, complex project.
Electrical Contractor’s Roles and Responsibilities
Before you hire a contractor to rewire your home, it’s important to understand what you can reasonably expect.
The contractor has certain business responsibilities that go well beyond satisfying their customers. Keep in mind your project is not their only project. They must create a plan for the work you want and order materials while managing other customer projects, supervising their workforce, juggling unexpected problems and generally try to keep everyone happy.
However, there are certain things you can (and should!) expect from your contractor:
- A thorough assessment of your home and the existing wiring system: After this pre-project assessment, they should let you know how much of the existing wiring can be saved or must be removed, as well as any recent updates required by the electrical code.
- Meeting with you to carefully review your project checklist, budget and timeline: The contractor needs to know precisely what you want accomplished. What is your goal or vision? Are you simply looking to update your home to code to sell it? Or are you planning to stay for years and want all of the newest smart-home technology?
- Gathering nameplate information from all your appliances and equipment, existing or new: Some appliances, like your refrigerator, require more power than others.
- Proper preparation to start the job: This includes drawing up all required documents (contract, plans and specifications); applying for required permits and inspections; and coordinating with the electric utility if you’re upgrading your main service panel.
- An agreement on the frequency of project updates: You and the contractor have an obligation to each other to respond to questions and issues in a timely manner. The road to successful completion is a two-way street. When it’s all done and you look back at what contributed to the success of the project, effective communication should be listed right alongside all of the hard work, sweat and tears.
- A final walkthrough and inspection of any punch list items: Make sure the contractor had the local electrical inspector come by for a final look before this walkthrough. If the contract is complete, all inspections have been made and you’re completely satisfied, there is one last task: Paying the final invoice. Consumer protection agencies advise not to make final payment until the project is complete.
How To Find and Hire an Electrical Contractor
You’re about to enter into what could become a long-term relationship, and maybe even a rewarding friendship. We can’t stress enough how important it is to take your time and do your homework when hiring a reputable contractor.
Licensing agencies offer good tips and consumer guides on how to hire contractors. Along with that information, keep this advice in mind:
- Look for a trail of happy customers: Talk to neighbors, friends and family who have had electrical work done to their satisfaction. Ask all prospective contractors for a list of their previous customers and references.
- Contact the regulatory agency that licenses contractors: Contractors are often licensed by the city, county or state. Always start with your city; they will point you in the right direction. To obtain a license, a contractor may have to take a written examination, show proof of liability and worker’s compensation insurance, bonding and continuing education. Licensing programs are in place to protect consumers. Hiring unlicensed handypeople or contractors could become your worst nightmare, and you may not get any help from the regulatory agency if you hire unlicensed workers. Also check if any complaints have been filed against the contractors, or, worse yet, they’ve been involved in enforcement actions or lawsuits.
- Make the final decision: Competition is good, and so is competitive pricing. Interview at least three contractors and let them know you are getting bids from others. Also tell them you’re conducting a background check with the licensing agency. Remember: The lowest price may not be from the most reputable contractor.
The choice can be difficult, but don’t just roll the dice and hope for the best. It really comes down to trust. Who are you going to trust with the keys to your home, and who can you trust to complete the project in a professional and timely manner? Let those answers be your guide to the right contractor.
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