I am trying to get an idea of what is a "normal" hourly rate for an
electrician. My reason for asking is that I would like to find an
electrician that I can use who would bill me "time and materials" -- that
is, "X" amount per hour plus the cost of materials. That way, when I have
electrical work that needs to be done, I can skip all of the back and forth
let-me-give-you-an-estimate for each and every job. I can have the company
send someone out and know they can just do the work and bill me by the hour
For example, if an electrical contracting company said our charge is $120
for the first hour, then $80 for each hour after that, plus the cost of
materials, I would be fine with that.
Today, I needed a simple job done -- replace a 30-foot length of 220V 10/3
wire that runs from the main panel box to the cut-off box outside for the AC
condenser unit. It is all easily accessible in a high ceiling basement and
the line needs to go through a plain cinder block wall. The line needs to
be replaced because the outside insulation on the portion that is on the
outside of the house is coming off almost completely leaving the black and
white insulated wires exposed to the elements. I thought the person coming
out would just do the work and bill me for his time and materials. Instead,
he insisted on preparing a whole work order which I agreed to, and then he
will come back tomorrow and do the work. The cost is $395 based on two
hours of work at $175/hour (his time estimate), plus materials.
I agreed to have it done simply because I need it done, and because it is
for a house I own that others live in so I want it done by a licensed
electrician rather than do it myself.
But that started me wondering -- if I have a lot of other electrical work
that I want done (which I do) in two other houses that I own, do I want to
be paying $175 and hour for an electrician? I don't know what the company
is paying it's worker, but I'm guessing less than $50 per hour. Throw
another $25 per hour on for benefits, down time, or whatever and that still
leaves the company making $100 an hour to cover it's overhead, insurance,
I am definitely not cheap, so it's not about me wanting to nickel and dime
anyone. But isn't $175 an hour for an electrician over the top?
I live in New Jersey.
The old rule of thumb is a worker must make for the company the same income
he is making for himself. Of course there are all types of variations added
to this including supply and demand and "the going rate".
If the electrician earns $50.00 per hour, he must generate $50.00 for the
company. Benefits will vary but can run from 35% to 50% for some unionized
jobs. this will add $25.00. So far it costs $125.00. Then there is the
overhead of the company such as insurance, vehicles, taxes office/warehouse
space, etc. etc., including accountants, office staff, and even your
quotation. He has to make a quotation as he may not have the right tools
and/or supplies on hand, nor the timeframe available without looking at the
job. Plus he will have to go to the supplier to get the needed items, even
if he has them in stock in the office, they have to be replaced. This all
costs money. $175.00 may seem high, it may also be the "going rate" in your
area, but it is surprising how fast it adds up when you are running a
You may be able to strike a "flat rate" type of deal when you have worked up
a relationship with a company, where they trust your assessment of the job
enough to send a man out on your say-so, but as a first-time customer, they
will not be eager unless they have no work on hand.
Thanks for your response. I do understand what you are saying about what it
really costs to operate a business. The person who came out to do the work
was about 23-25 years old. My guess is that he gets paid a lot less than
$50 per hour since I doubt that he makes $100,000 a year. But I picked $50
per hour just to be on the high side.
I have used plumbing companies in the past and they charged between $60 and
$90 per hour plus parts, so when I heard $175 per hour it just struck me as
I'll definitely check around in my area and maybe I'll find that $175 an
hour is not unusual.
Consider also that a given electrician may not actually be able to find 40
hours a week of work all year round. Or that a company cannot keep all of
its technicians on site all of the time.
It seems electricians cost a bit more than plumbers and the going rate in
San Jose is $100 for them.
$175 for the first two hours is high but acceptable. If he had to do lots
of work or wanted to charge that for an assistant too, then I would put the
brakes on. As long as he is not charging for travel at that rate it might
be OK also. If you live far from his office, he might build the transit and
setup time into the hourly on site rate. Consider what it costs to fill the
tank on a F250 or F350 work truck, it aint cheap.
I don't know where in N.J you live but....Try to find an electrician
who will do a dinky, "low priced" job like this, and you will come up
empty. Be happy you found someone just to give you a price, let alone
come out and do the job. I was an Electrical Contractor in N.J. (since
retired in 1999) and I never did a job of any size for less than $300
in labor, I figured on a half day, even if it took me two hours. I
never worked T&M because the customer ALWAYS thought he was getting
fu@ked. My policy was simple: Bid it, write it up, sign the contract,
do the job, and get paid. All this bitchin on a news group (and you
have the right) is "not a nice thing" to do, since the man did the job
for you and came back like he said he was going to. I really want to
know if the electrician took out a permit, and had the work inspected
by the Municipality. (that is the law in N.J) You are the type of
person that Electrical Contractors or any Contractor want to avoid, and
the MAIN reason they don't return phone calls. Next time you want some
work done around the house, go to, Perth Amboy, New Brunswick, Jersey
City, or any city, and pull up to a corner with a sign that says:
"Electrician Wanted, Will pay $100 for the day" and I am sure you will
find a few takers that will start bidding at lower prices, Just
remember to take your Spanish 101 book with you, supply transportation,
tools, materials, and water. Oh I forgot, you are on your own as far as
insurance goes, so make sure they don't get hurt, or do any damage.
I think you may have missed the point.
No, they didn't get a permit. Are you saying a permit is required even if
an electrician replaces an outlet or light switch, or does any other small
amount of repair work in a private residence?
This was the first and only electrical contractor I called. And, yes, I was
glad they answered the phone when I called, glad the owner understood what I
needed to have done, and glad they said they could send someone out that day
or the next morning at the latest even though it wasn't an emergency or rush
job. When the kid arrived to do the work at 3:30 PM, he said it would take
at least 2 or 3 hours, so he couldn't do it that day because he would be
there until 6 PM. Instead, he said he'll write up a work order and come
back and do it the next day. All of that took 20 or 25 minutes. The job
itself took him just under 40 minutes -- start to finish. So, my thinking
was simply that I thought he was coming out to do the work on the first day
and if he had done it when he showed up as expected it would have taken him
from 3:30 to somewhere between 4:10 and 4:30. If he then said the cost was
$200 plus materials (22 feet of 220 wire), say $225, I would have thought
that was fine. It would have meant that he showed up, he did the work, his
charge was reasonable enough, and I could count on calling the same company
again and again.
As far as, "Be happy you found someone just to give you a price, let alone
come out and do the job", I was glad about that part, but I don't think I
should feel thrilled about it simply because there is an electrical
contractor out there who is willing to do a small job for a homeowner.
Maybe we should make it easier in New Jersey for people to become licensed
electricians. Then there would be more of them and I wouldn't have to feel
so privileged that a licensed electrician was willing to give me a price and
do a job. Maybe there should be 3 types of electrician licenses -- a
licensed residential electrician (Level 1), a licensed commercial and
residential electrician (Level 2), and a licensed electrical contractor
Yes! They needed a permit for this job, just call your local Muncipal
Construction Official and ask him, (this will cost you nothing). I
agree with you that the state should have "level 1,2,3" licensing,
since any romex jockey can wire a high rise building with the license
thay have now. Just for peace of mind, (I feel you got a fair price for
the job), just go price copper wire at Home Cheapo, then call a few
electrical contractors "out of the book" and see if they return calls.
Your job is done, it works, and you paid a fair price, You are a lucky
man! Just check out www.MySturdyBuiltGarage.com if you want to see
"jobs gone bad".
I just checked out your website. Now I understand why you think I should
feel so lucky about how my job turned out!
You have a lot of good evidence shown in the pictures. Any chance you
considered filing a small claims lawsuit to recover some or all of your
money? Small Claims doesn't cost much to file, you have good evidence that
you could show the judge, and probably the worst that could happen is that
you lose the case and lose the small filing fee. I don't know the maximum
covered by Small Claims in Pennsylvania (or wherever you are), but even if
it's more than what you paid for the garage you can usually sue there anyway
and just accept the maximum as full settlement.
I especially like Number 5 of your list of tips. I learned a long time ago
to NEVER give an up front deposit (unless it's something like $100 good
faith deposit with the contract signing). If it's a short job, I pay in
full in person on the day it is done. If it's a bigger job, I pay progress
payments if necessary, but always significantly less than what the worth
would be for what was done so far. I don't pay for their materials up front
but have been willing to order the materials in my name, delivered to me,
and paid by me, so I have and own the materials from the get-go. On a
larger job (2 houses, $65,000 worth of work) I downloaded/bought a standard
AIA (American Institute of Architects) contract form which we prepared and
signed before doing any work. That worked like a charm during the project
when the contract tried a bunch of tricks.
One thing I learned is that once someone gives a contractor a 50% deposit,
the contractor already has his total profit in his hand before doing any
work. So he/she has no incentive to come out and do the job since all of
the rest of the money is going to go to materials and workers. Instead, the
contractor focuses his time either going out and getting more deposits, or
on doing jobs that won't pay him until he's done.
P.S. The garage you had built looks a lot like the "forts" and "clubhouses"
we used to build out of scrap wood when we were 10-12 year-old kids.
You might want to mention your location. An electrician in a city
where the average house costs a million dollars is probably going to
charge a bit more than one from a small town where the average house is
under a hundred grand.
Yes, I think you got hosed on this. Rates will vary but the 120/80 you
suggest is not out of line. The problem is finding a good electrician. The
one we use at work charges $65/hr. He does not advertise at all (nor does
he need to) and has an excellent reputation. You have to find someone like
that by word of mouth, not from a half page ad in the Yellow Pages.
FWIW, John would have come to your house ready to work and probably had the
wire in his truck. Half hour later it would be done and you'd both be $
Interesting. Yep, this company did have a half page ad in the Yellow Pages,
which surprised me since I know where the company is located. I picked them
because they happen to be around the corner from where I live and only about
2 1/2 miles from where the house is that needed the work. When I called
them, I was pleased because the first person I spoke with knew exactly what
I was talking about when I said what the job was (replace a 220 line, less
tahn 30 feet, that goes from the main panel to the cutoff box outside).
Then he switched me to a woman who was also very nice and who said she may
be able to have somone come ou this afternoon to do it (I called at about
2:30 PM) or if not, definitely they could do it tomorrow morning before 12.
I'm sure they were thinking what you and I were thinking -- that this is a
staright forward less-than-one-hour job. Then the woman called me back and
said that, yes, one of her men did free up and was on his way over to take
care of it. I didn't even ask how much it would cost because I just assumed
they would charge some hourly rate and the job would be done. Since they
knew exactly what the job was, I thought they would already have 30 feet of
10/3 220V wire in the truck, and since it is a replacement of the existing
line there are no connectors or parts involved -- maybe just some caulk
where it goes through the cinder block wall.
It got strange when the guy (kid) showed up and started making it a federal
case out of it, etc. I ended up just agreeing to have them do the job
tomorrow even though I know the price is more than makes sense. But when I
asked about my other idea of doing more work on an hourly rate basis he said
their hourly rate is $175 per hour. That's what got me wondering what is a
"normal" hourly rate for elelctricians.
You're probably right. I thought I heard the guy (kid) say 10/3 wire so
that's what I wrote. The exposed area outside shows a black wire, a white
wire, and a ground wire -- so I guess that's 10/2. It's on a 30 amp double
The houses I've worked on, we usually mount the disconnect box so that
the wire goes into the house by way of a hole in the back of the
disconnect. We then use a grey "whip" from the disconnect to the unit.
In any case, the wire that is exposed to sunlight should be grey.
Which is UV resistant. Might only have to replace the wire from the
disconnect to the unit, if the wire which is indoors is OK. Who said
you had to replace all 30 feet of wire?
Christopher A. Young
You can\'t shout down a troll.
The guy (kid) did say that instead of having the new wire exposed on the
outside of the house he is going to do what you said -- run it through the
wall from the back of the disconnect box instead of the way it is now. He
also said that the current code does not allow the wire to go through the
wall where the other AC lines go through the wall, so he will bring it in
separately from the back of the disconnect box.
You may be right about that too. I'm going to go look at it now, but I
think since part of the wire goes into the disconnect and part comes out and
goes to the condenser unit, the part from inside the house to the disconnect
box was also damaged. But I'll check on that.
Well, the job is done. Yes, it did need the entire 30 feet (actually about
22 feet) replaced since that's the section that was damaged.
Whole job took under 40 minutes start to finish. So, let's see...., I paid
$10 a minute for the job. Anyone have any bridges in Brooklyn that I can
I see you had it done. I just want to add a few points. First, in NJ, you
can not DIY. Somehow there has a law been passed that an work on a circuit
over 12 volts must be done by a licensed electrician. Thus generating more
income for more permits.
Also, electricians have to carry higher liability and workmen's comp.
Plus electricians often charge more for "small" jobs. This builds in the
I got this from an electrican doing some work for me. (buy a guy lunch and
it's amazing what you can learn).
Since this is a rental unit, you are better off that you had it done. A
good accountant should be able to show it as a capital improvement and cut
down your taxes.
Bob ( who wonders if all the people working on the telephonesare licensed?
ringtone = 45AC)
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