Building an extension is a popular way to add space and value to your home. However its not without its difficulties, from finding the right contractor to making sure that you comply with all the necessary building regulations it can be a sea of confusion. One area you really do need to be very clear about is making sure that you get the electrical installation right, not just from a safety aspect but also ensuring that the electrical installation meets your new needs. This little guide will explain what you need to know before hiring the right contractor for you.

Can I do it myself?

Why would you think about wiring your home extension yourself? Lots of people think that they ‘know’ whats required after all its just 3 wires isn’t it..The simple fact is that electrical installations are extremely complicated and it takes a dedicated professional to do the job right. The thing is that at worst, faulty electrics can be a serious fire hazard and can lead to injury or electrocution.

But that’s not the whole story:-

Since 1 January 2005, as a homeowner or landlord, you must ensure that all new electrical work carried out in your dwelling, if in England and Wales, is compliant with the requirements set down in Approved Document Part P of the Building Regulations (click to find out more, this version is for England, the Welsh version of which is here), which derive from consolidated legislation based on The Building Act 1984. If you do not, you are committing a criminal offence and local authorities can make your remove or alter the work. So unless you’re a qualified electrician and able to issue a Part P the answer is No.

If you are thinking of buying a property more than 25 years old and extending it, it is important to check that the wiring is up to date before you buy. Ideally, you will get an idea of what work is required and an estimate of the likely cost so that you can take this into account when assessing the feasibility of the property and how much to offer. Most standard surveys available from lenders don’t include comprehensive electrical inspection and tests as part of their offering, you’ll have to ask for these separately. 

Here’s another thing to consider..

In the very latest 18th Edition of the IET Wiring regulations a number of important areas have been scrutinised and reviewed; among them is the issue of surge protection and devices designed to mitigate any excess voltage risks. Surge protection devices (SPDs) have been incorporated into the consumer unit (often referred to using the slightly outdated term of 'fuse-box', a consumer unit is essentially the main control centre for a home's electrical supply). Surge protection devices are designed to prevent electric shock and having excess voltage damaging the installation’s wiring infrastructure. Should an over-voltage event occur, the SPD diverts the resulting excess current flow to Earth. What this means to you is that you no longer have to buy surge protection devices for your vulnerable electronic devices such as flat screen T.V’s and computer equipment as Surge protection is now built into the consumer unit.

All of this means that when your considering electrical modifications or additions to your home you need a contractor that understands the changes in the technical, electrical and legal environments to ensure that you are up to date and fully legal.

Any electrical contractor that you hire should be technically proficient, reputable, and financially stable, and should demonstrate a thorough understanding of your home. The following suggestions can also help you find the right electrical contractor for any electrical job, whether it’s a new build, a rewire, an upgrade or maintenance.

Here are the Ten Questions you need to ask any electrical contractor your looking to hire:-

1. Are they qualified to do the Job?

Of course this is an obvious question and the vast majority of electricians will be qualified to the latest regulations but will they have the experience of working in your home? The dangers that arise from using electricians who are not qualified to do the ‘Job’ are immense and can not be overstated, from the danger of electrocution to fires, these are very real. Make sure that you check the qualifications of anybody that you let loose on the electrics in your house.

2. Will they do the Job right?

Ok so they maybe qualified and have worked in a Home environment but are they any good. Well the only way you can check is by looking at past Jobs they’ve done, check out their website for testimonials. You're looking for a contractor who is financially sound and has a good reputation. Make sure you talk to their past customers who have done business with the contractor.

3. How do I know they're using the right materials?

Materials should be selected on quality above cost, some of the materials will be subject to some harsh conditions (e.g. bathrooms and kitchens) and using quality accessories means they will stand the test of time. Additionally all materials used on your project should be traceable right back to the original supplier. The materials used should be selected in accordance with BS7671. Here’s some additional questions to ask when thinking about the materials:-

Is your current consumer unit (sometimes called the fuse box) compatible with current legislation? If it’s not then you’re going to need to upgrade it as your new electrical design has to be compliant with the current regulations.
You also need to consider the condition of your current electrical installation. Is it fit for purpose, if the existing installation is of considerable age it maybe worth investing in rewiring the complete house rather than adding the extension wiring to something that could well be dangerous. Are the fittings/fixtures fit for purpose i.e. IP rated/fire rated light fittings and sockets. 
Is there enough additional capacity in the existing consumer unit to add the new circuits required i.e. the new lighting and sockets. 
Any new Bath or shower rooms are classed as special location that require extra precaution due to the nature of the environment
Is additional smoke detection required to be joined in with the original mains battery backup interlinked smoke detection system? 
Upgrading electrics can mean adding additional power points to the rooms of which may require some changes for example single sockets to doubles and adding additional sockets with USB ports. 
Do you know where you want all your points locating? Getting it right at the design stage can save a lot of heart ache and expense later.

4. Are they working to the latest regulations?

Well this goes in hand in hand with question number 1, but believe it or not, not everyone is working to the latest regulations, so make sure you ask, and also check that all their staff are working to the latest regulations. The current BS7671 wiring regulations is the 18th edition, contractors should also have passed City and Guilds - Requirements for Electrical Installations (2382) This qualification ensures that you are up-to-date with the latest industry regulation on wiring and the safe use and operation of electrical equipment and systems. When the work is finished you should receive:-

An Electrical Installation Certificate or Minor Work Certificate that confirms that the work meets BS 7671; and
a Building Regulations Compliance Certificate that confirms that the work meets the Building Regulations.

If you don’t get these it can impact on the saleability of your house, so make sure that you insist on receiving these when the work is complete.

5. Do they have a project plan and will they stick to it?

The secret to getting your home rewired on time and to cost is planning, but not all planning is equal. Your contractor needs to be developing the plan and then working the plan and just as important having sufficient contingency in there for the unexpected. The best contractors should be coming in On cost and Time at least 90% of the time..

6. Do they have my interests at heart?

Your contractor is working for you and as such they should have your best interests at heart. This means using the right materials, the latest technology and the most energy efficient components they can. It is about providing the best installation with no exception for safety (BS7671) or quality of workmanship.

7. Do they carry insurance?

With all the best intentions in the world, something will always go wrong. The vast majority of times these can easily be put right, there and then on the spot so to speak. Every now and then something goes spectacularly wrong. This is when you need a contractor who carries the right type of insurance to ensure that you are protected. Using the handyman from down the road could lead you into difficulties should something go wrong and they don’t have the right insurances. Check that they carry professional indemnity insurance as a minimum.

8. Will they respect our home?

Your chosen contractor is a guest in your home, make sure that they are willing to adhere to your behavioural standards. They should clean up after themselves and respect your family. Ask your contractors to show you their behaviour standards document. Do they have an environment policy, will waste be disposed off in the correct method? All important questions. A quick test is to see if they offer to remove their shoes on entering your home, if they do then it’s a safe bet that they’ll treat your home with respect.

9. On time, will the contractor respect our time?

There’s nothing worse than people who don’t turn up on time or don't turn up at all, wasting your time and keeping you hanging around. Check that your contractor has an ‘On time’ guarantee.

10. Is the contractor’s work independently verified by external agencies?

The best contractors are willing to have their work independently verified by external agencies such as NICEIC, ECA others such as Napit are aimed more at the domestic market, the most recognised organisations are NICEIC and ECA and in local authority the benchmark

The main benefits of using an NICEIC registered contractor are:

Safety and competence

Contractors registered by NICEIC are assessed on a regular basis to ensure that they are competent and capable of meeting the relevant technical and safety standards, codes of practice and rules of the Schemes they are registered to.

Compliance with building regulations

Contractors registered to NICEIC Building Regulations Schemes in England and Wales are authorised to self-certify their work to the Local Building Control Body. This saves you both time and money when undertaking work that requires notification under the Building Regulations.

Platinum Promise and Complaints Procedure

We expect all NICEIC registered contractors to provide a quality service to their customers. We stand behind the quality of NICEIC registered contractors and we believe that as a consumer you should have peace of mind. Our Platinum Promise means that if you are not happy with the work that is done by an NICEIC registered contractor and we agree that it is deficient we will help to put it right.

10.5 The last question you should ask.

Why should I hire you or your firm? What makes you different, or better or worse than any one else?

Ideally, if you are reading this report, you already know the answer to this question as it pertains to us. However, we highly recommend you ask a few different electrical contracting firms that same question and gauge their answer like this: whatever the answer is you want to apply the “well I would hope so” test to it. What this test does is determine if there is any discernible difference, wither real or imagined, between the contractor your speaking with and the rest of the industry. If not then they're the same as the rest..

About Burton Electrical Solutions (BES)..

With decades of combined experience, and a reputation for responsive, personal service, we work with domestic and commercial customers across East Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire who want high quality electrical work at affordable rates. We work hard on our clients behalf to deliver projects that we can both be proud of, all work is carried out to our own very high standards and comes with our unique guarantee. With Burton Electrical Solutions you get a project which delivers on time and in budget, put simply achieving more for less.

What’s the next step?

Still looking for an contractor, still got questions that need answers then call BES on 01964 552769 or email to set up your free consultation.

Oh and one last thing..

When hiring your contractor ask to check out their guarantee (not warranty). Here’s ours so you can compare.

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