Below you will find Frequently Asked Questions. Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions or concerns that are not discussed here.
Electricians vs. Electrical Contractors
“Electrician” is a general term that refers to a person who installs or repairs electrical wiring and devices. In most states, an electrician typically has on-the-job, military or vocational-school training that qualifies him or her to take a state-sponsored examination resulting in certification of competency. Once certified, an electrician can legally perform work for others, but even then most state laws permit certified electricians to work only for other electrical professionals — namely, licensed electrical contractors.
Electrical contractors normally are the only people inside or outside the building trades allowed to solicit electrical work from clients, obtain permits and assume overall responsibility for electrical installations and repairs. They, too, must meet specific requirements and pass appropriate examinations qualifying them to perform their jobs. In most states, general construction contractors are not permitted to act as electrical contractors unless they qualify for the position separately.
Electrical contractors typically are licensed rather than certified. However, licensing by itself does not permit an electrical contractor to actually perform electrical work; for that, the contractor must also be a certified electrician.
What does all this mean for you searching for an electrical professional? These requirements are set up to protect you and your property. Electrical wiring not done properly may initially work but months or years down the road could cause hazardous problems.
In many states, electrical work must be overseen by a qualified (usually state-certified) electrical administrator, whose job it is to make sure the work conforms to applicable codes and other regulations. This is a different job from that of an electrical inspector (see below); for one thing, an electrical administrator is always an employee of the electrical contracting firm, while an inspector must have no affiliation with it or with any other electrical contractor.
Becoming an electrical administrator involves meeting local government requirements and passing exams, just as for becoming one of the other electrical professionals mentioned above. Often, especially in large companies, an electrical administrator is the employee of an electrical contractor who also employs one or more certified electricians. However, a certified electrician can become a licensed electrical administrator and oversee his own work; likewise, a licensed electrical contractor can become a licensed administrator and oversee the work of certified electricians he or she employs. In fact, it is fairly common for an individual to acquire qualifications for all three positions — certified electrician, licensed electrical administrator and licensed electrical contractor — and do business as a sole proprietorship; a one-person electrical company.
In practically all cases, electrical work must be inspected when completed, and sometimes during certain intermediate stages, according to state and municipal laws. Inspections are performed by electrical inspectors licensed or employed by the governing body having jurisdiction where you live. Generally, inspectors’ fees are paid out of the fees charged for any permits needed to perform the work
If an electrical contractor, or any contractor, doesn’t pay his suppliers or subcontractors, you can be held responsible — and a mechanic’s lien can be placed against your property that can result in expensive legal proceedings.
You should never obtain your own building permits. In many states, obtaining permits is the contractor’s legal obligation. In any case, make sure the permits are in the contractor’s name — not yours. If a permit is in your name, you — not the contractor — become responsible for seeing that all work performed meets applicable standards and that all necessary inspections are scheduled.