What's in an Electrical Estimate?

The electrician’s van pulls out of the driveway leaving you standing at your door with the electrical estimate in your hand. The final total glares up at you. All the horror stories you’ve ever heard about contractors swirl in your head. What does it all mean? Did you get a fair price?

A good electrical estimate should be a clearly written, clearly stated intent to do work. It should include:
• the price
• an accurate description of the work
• payment terms
• finish date
• additional expenses/exemptions

Price on an Electrical Estimate

Electrical estimates are calculated two ways, determined by the type of job you want done: square footage or itemized.

New construction is usually quoted on a square foot basis. The contractor calculates the square footage of your new shop or home addition then multiplies by a predetermined dollar amount for a total. This amount represents his labor costs, materials, permits, profit margin, and operating costs.

An itemized electrical estimate is more likely to be given for repairs, upgrades or additions to an existing service. This would include a list of the tasks to be performed and/or materials used, prices for each, hours of labor, price per hour, any other expenses and a total, including taxes.

Description of Work on an Electrical Estimate

The electrical estimate should have a clear and detailed description of exactly what is to be done should be offered. Ask questions, if you don’t understand what something means. Statements such as “replace three wall sockets on south wall of kitchen” is preferable over “replace wall sockets in kitchen.” This way there is no room for misunderstandings over the tasks to be done.

Terms of Payment on an Electrical Estimate

The terms of payment should be stated clearly on the electrical estimate and understood right up front. Most contractors will ask for a down payment on new construction or very large jobs. This is acceptable and helps them defray their start up costs. However, on repairs or jobs under $1500, be wary of the contractor that asks for a down payment. This is often an indication his financial condition is shaky.

The last payment should not be requested nor delivered until the job is completely finished, the punch list complete and, if applicable, the job has passed its final inspection.

Completion Date on an Electrical Estimate

Reputable contractors should be able to give you a ballpark date of completion. Often, especially on new jobs, this can vary by a few days to a week or two due to weather, availability of materials and the schedule of the electrical inspectors. Never sign a contract for a large job that is open-ended.

Additional Expenses

Any additional expenses or existing conditions should be clearly noted on the electrical estimate. For instance, if wish to obtain your own construction permits or already have them.

The electrical estimate serves as your contract. It should be a real, hard copy document with all of the above plainly stated. Verbal estimates alone are bad business. Electrical estimates scribbled on the back of a fast food napkin are bad business. Nailing down the details will benefit both you and your electrical contractor.

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