When you should hire an electrician

Key takeaways

  • Electrician at work Shutterstock_53571448 Tackling electrical projects without the proper expertise can raise the risk of personal injury and property damage

  • It’s always safer to hire a licensed electrician than try to do it yourself

  • For the toughest jobs, consider using a master electrician with the highest-level training and licensing

Thinking about doing your own electrical repairs? You may want to think twice because you could be playing with fire—literally.

DIY electrical projects may sound like a good way to save money while also getting the satisfaction of a job well done with your own hands. But electrical work is dangerous business, fraught with fire and health hazards. And just the smallest mistake could result in shock, burns, electrocution, and property damage.

To avoid getting tangled in any of these problems, it’s safer (and potentially cheaper) to hire a licensed electrician upfront than trying to do it yourself.

Why electrical work is different

Unlike other home improvement projects, installing new lighting fixtures and rewiring electrical systems demand the higher-level of expertise of an electrical contractor. By law, these projects also require permits, inspections, and certain safety precautions, which may go beyond the know-how and resources of a DIYer.

Besides personal injury risks, playing electrical pro also raises the risk of property damage. This applies to homeowners as well as unlicensed electricians (whom you should never hire).

Electrical work is highly complex. Apprentices must pass rigorous training and certifications before they can start connecting blue, red, and yellow wires to the right circuits in your home. An incorrect fix may also not be apparent until something goes wrong later. This can cause bigger electrical problems and damage down the road. Not only that, the cost of fixing a botched job could exceed the savings you anticipated by doing it yourself.

Risks of not hiring a pro

Taking on an electrical project yourself can be very risky and may result in major problems such as:

  • Fire caused by faulty wiring

  • Damage to appliance motors

  • Blown fuses from overloaded circuits

  • Getting fined for not having permits

The following missteps could also happen, whether you are tinkering yourself or have hired someone with too-little experience:

Failing to follow project instructions: Electrical work is precise. Even easy-looking projects can quickly go awry if directions are not followed to the letter.

Failing to shut off the power: This may seem like a no-brainer, but zealous DIYers may forget to take this simple step, and the consequences could be drastic.

Residual power: Some homes still retain an electrical charge, even after the power is cut off, increasing shock risk. Pros know this, but it’s not always common knowledge among homeowners.

Greater risk when projects require power: More complex work may require an ongoing power source for the duration of the job, creating an even greater risk for “rookie electricians.”

When to call a professional

There are very few safe do-it-yourself electrical projects, even the seemingly easy ones. So the time-honored advice is: Always leave electrical work to a pro.

If you insist on dabbling in electrical matters, stick with the simple stuff: replacing fuses, swapping out an existing ceiling fan, or installing light switches. These fixes can usually be performed by a handy homeowner.

For more complex projects that involve cutting wires, massive full-scale electrical new home wiring, or installing new light fixtures, it’s best to contract a qualified electrician.

Types of electricians

Electricians handle a wide range of residential and commercial jobs, from replacing a circuit breaker and installing an electrical panel to home remodels and new construction.

Hiring a good electrician is important, because hiring the wrong one can cause even bigger problems down the line. For this reason, it’s important to know the two types of electricians that are qualified to work on your home:

  • Master electrician

    A master electrician has passed a licensing test and has two or more years of experience. They typically oversee a shop and manage large, complex projects, such as designing new electrical systems. You’ll pay a premium to hire a master electrician but can rest easy that your most complex jobs will be well done and safe.

  • Journeyman electrician

    A journeyman (or journeyperson) electrician is licensed by the state. They can install wiring and equipment but are not permitted to perform higher-level work, such as designing electrical systems. In some states, journeymen can run a shop if they have a separate electrical contractor license.

Master electricians and journeymen often work together on projects. It takes two years for a journeyman to move to the level of master electrician. Electrical apprentices, who are not licensed until they’ve completed four years of on-the-job training, may work on your project, under the supervision of a master electrician or a journeyman.

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What to look for in an electrician

To start the search for a qualified electrician, secure referrals from friends, family, or even your local hardware store or big box home improvement center. You can also check with your general contractor or your local home builders’ association.

Look for a licensed electrician who is insured and experienced with good business ratings and users reviews on Yelp and other review sites. Electrical work is a field that relies heavily on the job being completed professionally and safely.

Look at pictures of their past jobs to gauge the quality of their work. Check their neatness. A messy job is unsafe. Look at the wiring. Are the cables crossed and jumbled?

As you’re comparing your electrical-service options, get multiple bids and ask the right questions upfront:

  • Is the business licensed and bonded, and are their documents up to date?

  • Can they provide proof of worker’s compensation and liability insurance?

  • Who is doing the onsite work?

  • Is the cost of permits included in the price?

  • Do they guarantee their work? Good electricians will guarantee and insure their work for at least a year, including a parts-and-labor warranty.


Prices will vary depending on the type of project, location, and electrical contractor expertise. Typically, you’ll pay more for the first hour of work, which includes travel time. Here are some other factors to consider:

  • How is time charged? Is it an hourly rate or is it charged by the half hour, quarter hour? Whichever unit is used, is time rounded up?

  • You may pay a premium for after-hours and emergency service calls.

  • There may also be a minimum fee to have an electrician come to your home.

Source: Yelp