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What does an electrical contractor do?

Mar 15

An electrical contractor is a construction industry professional who connects businesses, factories, plants, and homes to provide them with electrical power. He commonly installs electrical systems and wiring in new structures, but can also rewire buildings that are being remodeled or damaged by fire or other disasters. Some electricians are union members and others are independent contractors.

Before an electrical contractor bids on a job, they typically review the project drawings. This expansive technical schematic of the building's floor and wall plans reveals all of the site's electrical needs. The contractor locates on the plans all electrical panels, circuit breakers, outlets, and switches, along with any specially marked areas that may need additional wiring or backup systems. Next, he typically meets with the owner or general contractor to determine if there are any special electrical needs that he should be made aware of before preparing his bid.

If the offer is accepted, the electrical contractor proceeds to install all the wiring in the walls and connects them to the appropriate components. As this process progresses, he routinely double-checks each wiring route and connection to ensure safety and compliance with building codes. Performing this part of the job efficiently typically requires you to be proficient in the use of a variety of hand tools, including screwdrivers, pliers, wire strippers, and hacksaws.

Commonly used power tools used by an electrical contractor include saws, drills, and industrial staple guns, the latter generally used to attach large cables to interior walls without penetrating the cable casing. Small power augers are also sometimes used to create gaps in the frame to accommodate cables and plugs. After installing the wiring system, an electrical contractor typically tests the connections with voltmeters, ohmmeters, and other electrical measurement tools.

As telecommunications and security systems change and become more integrated with a site's electrical operating system, many electrical contractors have expanded their services. A significant number offer the installation of fiber optic and coaxial cables to allow easy connections for computers and other telecommunications equipment. Other expanded services typically offered include installation of wiring to accommodate fire and security alarms, intercoms, and streetlights.

Becoming an electrical contractor typically requires participation in an apprenticeship program. These programs are usually offered through unions or large contracting companies. Trade schools typically offer training programs for aspiring electrical contractors. Some contractors qualify through programs that combine on-the-job training with classroom courses.