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Old 07-28-2014, 10:02 AM   #1
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Tips for saving money when hiring an electrician?


I just purchased my first condo, built in 1970, which Iím currently in the process of renovating. Iím at the point where I need to find an electrician for a list of maintenance and upgrades I'd like to have done. I've had a couple offer to do side work, but the HOA mandates they be licensed and insured (which I'd prefer anyhow!). I don't have a large budget, but I'm not 'cheap', I won't cut corners to save a buck.

Here's the electrical list:
  1. Inspect breaker box, replace if needed (1970 Square D box).
  2. Replace bathroom exhaust fan. Access to attic crawl space.
  3. Install 7 can lights (kitchen, living room, and hall). Access to attic crawl space.
  4. Wire office outlets to their own breaker, if needed.
  5. Install power outlet in closet next to TV. Separate breaker, if needed.
  6. Relocate bedroom power outlet for TV (raise 5 feet, same stud).
  7. Relocate living room power outlet for TV (raise 5 feet, same stud).
  8. Install new power outlet in bedroom closet.
  9. Install new power outlet in office closet.

Here's the low voltage list:
  1. Relocate coax panel to closet next to TV
  2. Install HDMI panel in closet next to TV
  3. Install HDMI panel behind TV

My Questions
  1. I've heard the markup on electrical materials is very high, and that I should provide my own. Is this a good idea? Will this piss off my contractor? Are there specific things I should provide, and things I should let him provide?
  2. Since there's quite a bit of work here, I should be able to have the work performed under contract rather than T&M, right? I'd really prefer they stick with the quote, and it seems this is the way to go. Any advice here?
  3. Do most electricians charge for travel time? If so, I should factor their location into my selection process, right?
  4. Should I hire a separate low voltage guy, or have the electrician do the work?
  5. I'm pretty handy, and I have free time I could use to help, if it'd make the job cheaper. Is this an option?
  6. Do you have any sort of ballpark as to what I should expect to pay for this?

Thanks in advance!

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Old 07-28-2014, 10:46 AM   #2
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Tips for saving money when hiring an electrician?


No way to guesstimate anything without seeing the project. Get several estimates from qualified local contractors. Make sure they are registered/licensed, bonded and insured.

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Old 07-28-2014, 11:21 AM   #3
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Tips for saving money when hiring an electrician?


Thanks, that's my plan a little later today. I made the post hoping I could get some insight before I talk to the electricians. I'd like to know what to expect, or at least know enough to spot dishonesty (though this is doubtful, I'm calling reputable places).
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Old 07-28-2014, 11:37 AM   #4
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Tips for saving money when hiring an electrician?


LIke brric said, you're asking an internationally diverse group what you could expect to pay for the work. Different electricians have different costs (overhead), some mark up the materials a lot, others don't. I prefer not to have the HO purchase the materials. Most HOs will shop by price instead of quality and since it's my license on the line I prefer to shop the other way around.
Alright I'll go there... Recessed lights for example, I'd charge $125.00 each (no bulbs), others might charge more less. I live on Long Island, NY. The cost of living here is expensive. I also don't do estimates site unseen. There are waaaaay too many variables to try and figure in.
Registered/licensed, bonded and insured. You're less likely to get screwed this way.
If you want to do the work yourself, contact a licensed electrician and ask if he (or she) will charge you a consulting/advisement fee to tell you what to do.

Last edited by petey_c; 07-28-2014 at 11:40 AM.
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Old 07-28-2014, 11:53 AM   #5
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Tips for saving money when hiring an electrician?


My Questions
  1. I've heard the markup on electrical materials is very high, and that I should provide my own. Is this a good idea? Will this piss off my contractor? Are there specific things I should provide, and things I should let him provide? See my previous answer. Sorry about not having more concrete answers...
  2. Since there's quite a bit of work here, I should be able to have the work performed under contract rather than T&M, right? I'd really prefer they stick with the quote, and it seems this is the way to go. Any advice here? If I'm going to bid a job, I'll try and go a little higher to account for unforseen circumstances. Firestops in the walls, beams/garbage in the way, etc..
  3. Do most electricians charge for travel time? Some do, some don't. If so, I should factor their location into my selection process, right? Not really. Go more with references and/or your gut feeling.
  4. Should I hire a separate low voltage guy, or have the electrician do the work? You don't have to hire a LV guy. See the second part answer above.
  5. I'm pretty handy, and I have free time I could use to help, if it'd make the job cheaper. Is this an option? Yes it is. But, your definition of "pretty handy" and mine are probably very different. Allowing you to help and to what extent you do is by my gut feeling. If you or someone else gets hurt by something you did, it's still my asp on the line.
  6. Do you have any sort of ballpark as to what I should expect to pay for this?
Thanks in advance![/QUOTE]
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Old 07-28-2014, 12:04 PM   #6
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Tips for saving money when hiring an electrician?


Awesome, thank you for the reply.
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Old 07-28-2014, 12:43 PM   #7
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Tips for saving money when hiring an electrician?


Not an electrician but a contractor.
I don't want you buying materials.I will have to make you a list and hope you get the right stuff.Easier and quicker to just go get it my self and sure it will be correct.I may mark up materials slightly but also get a discount that you don't.You can't buy from a commercial supplier like I can
I always stick with the quote unless there are some unforseens.That's what a contract is for.Any unforseens that the contract does not cover will be ok'ed by you beforehand and billed T&M.
As said earlier ,some do,some don't.This should not be your reason for hiring one.
As far as you helping.Absoluetly not.First off,my insurance won't cover it.When I need a laborer I bring my own.They are laborers but at least have some knowledge in the field and know how I work.If I need to stop my work and explain what I need from you and check your work,I could have done it myself much quicker.
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Old 07-28-2014, 12:47 PM   #8
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Tips for saving money when hiring an electrician?


Good info, thank you.
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Old 07-28-2014, 07:36 PM   #9
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Tips for saving money when hiring an electrician?


1) Don't buy your own materials. Chances are the guy doing the actual work will not be familiar with them, and the labor will be higher. Labor is always higher with cheap materials, most guys use less than cheap material because the reduced labor will more than make up for it.

2) Make sure he has easy access to the work areas. One of the worst here is stuff in the closet where the attic or crawlspace access is.

3) Leave the guy alone. Just explain what you want him to do, then stay out of the way. The more you bug him, the longer it's going to take and the greater chance of screwing something up. This goes for pets too.

4) Even though it's best to leave the guy alone, it's also a good idea to just walk by once in a while. This way he doesn't have to go looking for you if he has a question.

5) Offer to clean up after he's done. This saves more time (and $$) than you'd think.

6) This one sounds dumb, but it can be a problem; if you're ok with him using your bathroom, let him know. It costs more if he has to leave to use a bathroom. This isn't usually a problem with average everyday people, but it certainly can be an issue with snobs.

Rob
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Old 07-28-2014, 08:05 PM   #10
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Tips for saving money when hiring an electrician?


Thanks for the reply.

1) I'm not looking to go cheap, the opposite actually. I've just heard of contractors marking up materials 100% or more, and websites such as Amazon or Homeclick saving people quite a bit of money. Not as cheap as the discount the contractor gets, but much less than what they charge you.

2) The condo is completely empty. I wanted to renovate before I moved in, so no issue there

3) Noted! This is why I asked.

4) It's a 700 sq ft condo, and honestly I won't have anything to do there while he's working. Should I stick around or leave? I've heard mixed advice, mostly depending on whether it's a contract or T&M job.

5) Great advice! Since it's completely empty, literally without floors, this would be a breeze.

6) Unfortunately, I don't have a toilet installed at the moment. Luckily, there's a Safeway just across the street.

Thanks for the advice, Rob!
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Old 07-28-2014, 08:15 PM   #11
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Tips for saving money when hiring an electrician?


I've worked for the same group of electrical contractors for 24 years, the markup on materials has always been 12.5%

This is mainly commercial/industrial, might be different with resi.
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Old 07-28-2014, 08:23 PM   #12
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Tips for saving money when hiring an electrician?


I've never heard of a 100% mark up on materials.That would drive me clear out of business if I tried that I'd never get a bid.
There are all kinds of places to hide costs if you want to go that way.A bid is a bid and you have to make it reasonable if you want the job no matter how honest or dishonest you are.
If your buying the same car and get a quote from 2 different dealers but one is charging $3000 for the tires but the bottom line is the same who cares.If one is charging $3000 extra for the tires that's another story.
Make sure your compairing apples to apples.
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Old 07-28-2014, 08:28 PM   #13
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Tips for saving money when hiring an electrician?


Quote:
Originally Posted by micromind View Post
I've worked for the same group of electrical contractors for 24 years, the markup on materials has always been 12.5%

This is mainly commercial/industrial, might be different with resi.
Wow, that's nothing! I'll gladly pay even 30% markup to save me the time and know the contractor is confident with the materials. Again, things you read on the internet...

Example source: http://www.wireityourself.com/c_in.html#.U9b4m_ldXOM

Quote:
Originally Posted by mako1 View Post
I've never heard of a 100% mark up on materials.That would drive me clear out of business if I tried that I'd never get a bid.
There are all kinds of places to hide costs if you want to go that way.A bid is a bid and you have to make it reasonable if you want the job no matter how honest or dishonest you are.
If your buying the same car and get a quote from 2 different dealers but one is charging $3000 for the tires but the bottom line is the same who cares.If one is charging $3000 extra for the tires that's another story.
Make sure your compairing apples to apples.
Thank you for clearing that up! Please see my source above. I was seriously worried I'd be paying $30 for a receptacle I could buy for $8.
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Old 07-28-2014, 08:38 PM   #14
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Tips for saving money when hiring an electrician?


Some people use sort of a sliding scale when it comes to markup. MDShunk shared his one time I think, but I don't have it any more (not handy anyway). Basically it's something like this:

If the item is a low cost item, it very well may be marked up 100 or several hundred percent. I.E. - If *I* pay $0.30 for something, I'm not going to mark it up 12.5%. It will be much more....more like 400%, for a total cost of $1.50.

If the item costs $30, then that's different. I obviously can't stay in business charging $150 for a $30 item....or to expand even more to make the point...I can't stay in business charging $1500 for a $300 item. So that would be more like 12.5% or maybe even less on really high dollar items.

EDIT TO ADD: You have to remember what mark up is for. Especially on smaller items...wire-nuts, screws, connectors, boxes, receptacles, switches, etc....if I determine that I need 20 wire-nuts to do your job, I'm not going to go buy 20 wire-nuts, even if I happen to be out of whatever flavor I need. I'm going to go buy 1000. Now I have 980 wire-nuts that I have to store somewhere. That takes space and time to keep organized and stocked. You add up enough "spaces" and "small amounts of time" and pretty soon I need a warehouse or a trailer to store all the things I need and several hours a week to keep it in order.

Someone has to pay for that. It's either going to come in the form of higher labor rates, or it's going to come in the form of markup, but one way or another, the customer is going to pay for it. The most fair way is markup because if I need a lot of materials for your job, you pay more for "storage and whatnot" than the guy down the street that had an open line and I used one wire-nut.

Last edited by jproffer; 07-28-2014 at 08:48 PM.
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Old 07-28-2014, 08:45 PM   #15
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Tips for saving money when hiring an electrician?


That page is so full of BS!
If you used that info, you would not find a quality contractor, but a fly by night guy.

The only advice he gave that is correct is you deciding if you want to be there or not.

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