Questions to ask when getting an estimate


Old 05-28-07, 10:02 AM
Thread Starter
Join Date: Feb 2007
Location: Canada
Posts: 28
Questions to ask when getting an estimate

We are getting some electrical work done to begin our rec room and bathroom in our basement.
We have 1 light in the basement and only one outlet.
We are looking at adding some ceiling lights and outlets for these rooms.
We are wondering what questions to ask the electrician or contractor to ensure we aren't taken advantage of

Any ideas?
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Old 05-28-07, 10:42 AM
Join Date: Aug 2005
Location: USA
Posts: 995
If he knows that you are getting three estimates (as you should), he'll have to be honest.
Old 05-28-07, 10:59 AM
Join Date: Sep 2000
Location: United States
Posts: 18,497
Questions for both you and the electrician.

How much power is needed? Note that you must carefully figure out how much wattage of lighting you need, exactly what will be plugged into the receptacles, and how much power each of those things use. Some things you might think of as trivial power users might be power hogs (e.g., vacuum cleaner, hair dryer, laser printer, etc.). This question is the most critical of all of them.

Who's pulling the permit, the electrician or the homeowner?
How many receptacles exactly?
Will they be on new or existing circuits?
If existing, what other things are on that circuit?
Will the circuits be 15-amp or 20-amp?
Note: If receptacles are in unfinished areas, they must be GFCI protected.
Note: Plenty of new 20-amp circuits is preferrable if your panel can accommodate them.
Is the area currently finished? If not, will the area be finished later? If so, will the spacing and placement of receptacles meet codes for a finished basement (as opposed to an unfinished basement)?
Will there be changes in the future, such as new walls or rooms, that will change the electrical needs? If so, how can you accommodate them now?
Who supplies the lights fixtures, the electrician or the homeowner?
If the electrician is supplying fixtures, exactly what type and brand and wattage and bulb type?
What is the exact placement of the fixtures?
If the ceiling finished? If not, will the fixtures be place in a manner that will allow the ceiling to be finished later? Will the later finish be drywall or drop ceiling?
What circuit will the lighting be on? The same circuit as the new receptacles? The same circuit as the existing lighting? A new lighting-only circuit?
Is there room in the panel for the new breakers? If not, how will the new circuits be added? A new subpanel? Tandem breakers?
How will the receptacles be mounted? Are their studs to mount them to?
Do you want any wall sconces?
How many smoke detectors and where will they be placed?
Do you have special needs for receptacles in certain areas (entertainment center, computer area, wall-mounted television, etc.)? Will the receptacles still be sufficiently accessible after you move your furniture in?
Do you want to exceed the code requirements by adding more receptacles than necessary? Note that extra receptacles are cheap now, and expensive later.
In addition to general lighting, do you want any task lighting or accent lighting?
What's the payment schedule? How much up front? How much in the middle and at what milestones?
What are your credentials and what insurance do you have?
How will we resolve disputes if any arise?
Please give me the names and phone numbers of at least three other homeowners for whom you have done similar work. (Once you get those names, CALL THEM!)

Last edited by John Nelson; 05-28-07 at 11:38 AM.
Old 05-28-07, 11:18 AM
Thread Starter
Join Date: Feb 2007
Location: Canada
Posts: 28
Awesome...Those are some great questions.
The basement isn't finished but it is studded out. We do plan to finish the areas we are having the electrician wire.
These questions will greatly help in our quest for electricity!

Thanks again
Old 05-31-07, 01:14 PM
Join Date: Sep 2004
Location: Saint Louis
Posts: 259
I would require that all receptacles be "spec grade".
Insist that none are back stabbed (would be redundant as spec grade has back screwing, which is okay)

If you're doing home theater in the basement, I would also consider having a dedicated 20amp circuit for that. I would ask that all other receptacles are 20amp and a dedicated 15amp for lighting.

If you have existing wired smokes, the job should include tying into that.

When you're getting your bids, just make sure it is apples to apples.
Old 06-07-07, 10:06 AM
Join Date: Jun 2007
Location: Harrisonburg, Rockingham county
Posts: 3
1. The electrician should pull his own permit (has to show his license)
2. allow half as many more recetacles than you require, I agree with John Nelson 20amp for the receptacles 15 amp for your lights.
3. GFCI's for bathroom and un fished areas is required by the NEC.
4. Get and contact all referances
5. Read the contract and don't sign it untill you are 100% at ease with it.
6. break payments down to (A) 10 - 30 % first payment
(B) 30% at an agreed point
(C) balance on completion to your satisfaction

7. Change orders are for your beinit aswell as your contractor make sure all changes are written and signed by both parties.

If your contractor is proffesional and honest he/she will not mind you asking questions, it's your right to question after all it's your home and your $$.

Good luck and I hope it works out for you.

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