Why you should always hire a licensed electrical contractor.

It’s the law, and it could save your life.

Except for homeowners or occupants doing the work themselves, it’s against the law for anyone but a Licensed Electrical Contractor (LEC) to do electrical work on a home.

Except for homeowners or occupants doing the work themselves, it’s against the law for anyone but a Licensed Electrical Contractor (LEC) to do electrical work on a home.  (ISTOCK)  


One of the scariest things John Gaspar has ever come across in his line of work is a basement wired for power with speaker wire. Even scarier? “The homeowner tried to convince me it was okay,” says Gaspar, a Licensed Electrical Contractor (LEC) with Prime 1 Electric. “There were no grounds. It could’ve been a fire or life-safety issue.”

When it comes to electrical work in the home, the only person whose okay really matters is an LEC. While it might be tempting to save a few bucks by hiring a cash-for-services handyperson to do a little rewiring, it’s not only a bad idea, it’s against the law. Indeed, except for homeowners or occupants doing the work themselves, anyone who is not licensed by the Electrical Safety Authority (esasafe.com) is not legally allowed to do electrical work. If something were to go wrong with work done by an unlicensed electrician, the insurance claim may not be honoured.

Legalities aside, electrical work that’s not done properly or to code can pose serious safety risks. LECs are required to pull an electrical permit on almost every job they do, even when there isn’t a building permit. “If they ever get caught not doing it, they could lose their license,” says Ryan Kilpatrick, owner of Thornwood General Contracting. They are also required to have two inspections, one at the rough-in (when the wires are initially laid out) and a final inspection when the job is complete. If there are no problems, the LEC gets a certificate of inspection, a copy of which you can keep for your records. If there are problems with the workmanship, the LEC is required to fix them.

Another benefit of dealing with an LEC, Kilpatrick says, is that they are required to get the area they are working on up to code. “If the electrician finds something wrong in the kitchen that has something to do with the second floor, he has to fix it. And if he notices an electrical hazard in another room, he is required to report it to the ESA and the homeowner,” he says.

That’s why it’s important to leave at least 10 per cent extra in your budget for contingency fees, as many electrical problems aren’t evident until the walls are opened up. “It’s not a cash grab,” says Kilpatrick. “It’s what these guys are required to do. They aren’t willing to cut corners, because this is their livelihood.”

When you’re choosing an LEC, there should be a visible license number on their cards, work orders and vehicles. If the LEC is coming to you through your general contractor, ask for the company name and check that the contractor will ensure all inspections are completed. If you want to verify that an electrical worker is licensed, or to find an LEC yourself, you can look them up at esasafe.com.


Electrical Do’s and Don’ts

  • DO replace broken or missing switch-plate covers.
  • DON’T use anything with a loose, frayed or broken cord.
  • DO read the recommendations. Use the bulb type and wattage recommended for each fixture.
  • DON’T run extension cords under carpets or heavy furniture.
  • DO use only ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) in bathrooms, laundry areas and outdoors. They shut off immediately if they sense a change in current and are the safest outlets to have near sinks and tubs.
  • DON’T overload plugs. Use approved power bars.

Power your reno properly

When it comes to home renos, there’s a lot to think about. One factor you shouldn’t neglect is how much power your renovated home will use.

In older homes, the electrical service may need to be upgraded to 200 amps. Each major appliance also requires a dedicated circuit — and your house should be wired to handle it. As much as possible, have a sense early on about where you’ll want floor lighting and outlets for televisions, stereos and appliances. Consider where you’ll want switches and what kind of fixtures will work best. A Licensed Electrical Contractor (LEC) can help with those decisions.

There’s also the Ontario Electrical Safety Code, which all LECs are familiar with. In any given space, according to John Gaspar, an LEC with Prime 1 Electric, the electrical code will determine how many receptacles are needed and how far apart they have to be. A bedroom with four finished walls, for example, would have a minimum of four outlets. “The first would be within six feet from the door, then no more than 12 feet to the next,” he explains. Without such guidelines, people tend to rely on extension cords, which are tripping and fire hazards. Adds Gaspar: “It just comes down to safety.”

Drew Sauveur
Author: Drew Sauveur

Local business owner and resident of Durham Region

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