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How to hire guide: electricians

Electrical work should never be left to unqualified or inexperienced contractors. Here's how to hire a reputable electrician.

Find local electricians

As with many trades, it’s worth looking for a personal recommendation for electricians from friends, neighbours and family. Local Facebook groups and other online resources will also have lists of traders.

But how do you know whether these traders are any good?

Which? Trusted Traders endorses electricians in your area, checking their business practices, terms and conditions and taking references from previous clients to help take the worry out of choosing a trader.

All electricians need to be suitably qualified for the work they undertake. It’s worth checking whether the electricians on your shortlist are registered with one of the government-approved schemes run by bodies such as National Inspection Council for Electrical Installation Contractors (NICEIC), ELECSA, NAPIT or others. Contact the scheme directly to check that the electrician is registered. In the event of something going wrong, you’ll receive support from the scheme operator.

The Electrical Safety Council says it is seeing a growing problem with tradespeople such as builders or kitchen fitters subcontracting electrical work to unqualified individuals. Rather than assuming a tradesperson will check an electrician’s background, qualification and registrations, the Electrical Safety Council recommends that you ask to see proof of the electrical contractor’s ability yourself. Any electrician who is reluctant to do so should be avoided.

Get three quotes

As with all trades, it’s worth getting at least three quotes for any electrical job, no matter how small. The nature of the work will determine whether the trader decides a survey is needed, or whether they can give you a quote on the phone.

Be wary of accepting an ‘estimate’ on the telephone, as the electrician might charge more once you’ve committed to an appointment.

Questions you could ask include:

  • how long the company has been trading
  • whether you can see some customer references
  • what the guarantee period for a new installation is (parts and labour)
  • whether they have insurance that will protect your property
  • how long they expect a job like yours to take
  • whether a no-obligation survey is possible or necessary.

Organise surveys

Asides for simple or routine jobs like changing a light fitting or carrying out a periodic inspection, an electrician will usually want to see your property in order to give you an accurate quote.

Inviting prospective electricians to visit should give you a feel for whether they can be trusted. For example, do they keep the appointment and arrive on time? Do they have copies of qualifications, association memberships and insurance documents available for you to see?

Whatever work is required, you should get detailed written quotes from each electrician. You should be comparing apples with apples when it comes to the constituents of the job, but remember that the cheapest quote isn’t necessarily the best. Take the electrician’s recommendations, qualifications and professionalism into consideration too.

If your job involves extensive work, such as a full rewiring, you might reasonably be expected to pay an instalment before the work begins. If this is the case, it’s a good idea to have a written contract in place which describes when further instalments will be paid.

Check and understand the electrical work

Good electricians will explain what they’ll check, repair or install before they start working and show you what they’ve done afterwards.

When the work is complete, you should check that everything is operating as expected. Make sure the electrician shows you how to use anything new and supplies you with paperwork that records what has been done.

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