Five tips to get the most from your electrical inspection
Most of the time, we treat the electrical systems in our homes as if they’re invisible — reliably delivering power day and night. That is, until it goes out.
Just like your car, electrical systems can develop a host of problems that are best fixed sooner rather than later. Many contractors on Angie’s List offer electrical inspections to root out issues ranging from mismatched wires to major safety concerns.
Here are five tips about what electrical inspectors look for and what you should expect from the job:
Check the code
Christopher Voglund, owner of highly rated Artisan Electric in Lafayette, Indiana, says he charges an average of $600 for top-to-bottom inspections, but the cost varies depending on the level of detail a homeowner requests.
“We follow a checklist: take down light fixtures, check outlets, and conduct an inspection to generate an action list of items based on three things: items critical to safety, violations of the National Electrical Code, and elements based on our experience in the field.”
Focus on safety
Rob Gruen, owner of highly rated Brighter Connection in Milwaukee, says he focuses first and foremost on safety during his inspections, which tend to cost about $100 depending on house size.
“I’m looking for junction boxes missing covers, outlets that aren’t grounded properly, and outlets that should have GFCI, which is required in rooms [located] near water like kitchens and bathrooms,” he says. “These things provide an important protection against shock.”
Match the wires
Gruen verifies that the circuit breakers, wires and outlets all match up to the correct kinds of amperage for that circuit. Otherwise, the risk of overloading one or more elements increases. “When the amperage and wire gauge don’t match up, that’s the very definition of a fire hazard,” he says.
Voglund says incorrect wire size represents one of the most common code violations he encounters. “In a lot of new construction, especially tract housing, the contractors are working on a slim budget and cut corners,” he says.
Test the panel
Any electrical inspection should address the main panel and circuit breakers. “You want to make sure the cover is installed correctly and that breakers are tight on the main panel,” Gruen says. “If those things aren’t tight, you start having problems. I look for discoloration or signs of burn marks, rust and wear. It’ll take years, but you can see that kind of stuff going wrong.”
Get it in writing
Voglund says he submits a detailed written report of every issue he finds, recommended solutions, and priority for repair based on safety.
“I tell my clients that they should be skeptical of a contractor who won’t write out a line-item proposal detailing exactly what they’re going to fix and what the costs are,” he says. “I don’t like seeing lump-sum bids where the electrician offers to fix everything for one price without breaking down the details.”