Many home and business owners hire a handyman, carpenter or electrician “on the side” to do their electrical remodel and updating in an attempt to save money. Indeed, if you hire an electrician who doesn’t pay workman’s compensation insurance, unemployment taxes or product and liability insurance for the work they are doing on your home it might appear to be cheaper.
Liability when things go wrong
What happens if your moonlighting electrician gets hurt on the job? You may find yourself liable for their medical bills. What happens if the product they installed fails or starts a fire, or if the workmanship is sub-standard and causes a fire? Who will pay to repair your home? If you hire a handyman or carpenter to do wiring they are probably not licensed, insured or properly trained to do electrical work.
Benefits of hiring a licensed contractor
All electricians and the administrator of an electrical contractor have to take continuing education classes to remain current with code and safety issues. If you are not hiring an electrical contractor you are probably not having a job done safely and per current codes.
There should always be an electrical permit, obtained from your local jurisdiction, and an inspection to make sure that any wiring installed is up to code. This does add to the cost of the job but also adds to your safety and sense of well-being in your home or business. In order to save money, someone who does electrical work without a permit will often not install safety equipment, such as arc fault breakers, which is required by code. You, as a home or business owner, would not be aware of it. Your lights will still come on, but if there is a problem it could result in a hazardous condition or even a fire. Instead, if the proper equipment, such as arc fault breakers, is installed the problem will result in a properly tripping breaker and you can have the necessary repairs made before there is a hazard or fire.
Real world example of the problems with “on the side” jobs
We recently bid a total rewire for a homeowner. Our bid was to remove the existing knob and tube wiring and add new devices to meet his needs. We did not do the job and he chose to put a review on a popular website saying we were too expensive and that he used someone else. The interesting thing about this particular customer and job is that, according to the City of Seattle’s records department, no permit was ever taken for the work. He probably saved some money by having his home rewired without permits but he does not necessarily have a safe or correctly wired home.
When this homeowner wants to sell his house he will not be able to show a potential buyer that the job was done with a permit and a home inspector should note the fact that a rewire was not done per code. Most states require real estate disclosure forms to be filled out when a home is sold and he will be required to disclose that he had wiring done without permits or inspections.
The State of Washington has a pamphlet about permits at http://www.lni.wa.gov/IPUB/500-078-000.pdf The State also have a site to check to see if a contractor or electrician has a current license at https://fortress.wa.gov/lni/bbip/Search.aspx