How Much Will Electrical Repairs Cost?

By Dave Rongey - Summary:

How to Estimate the Cost for Home Electrical Repairs: Time and Materials, Evaluating the Condition of the Electrical Wiring, Estimating an Electrical Job, Cost for Electrical Repairs.

Home Electrical Repairs

Electrical Question: I think I need some electrical repairs done at my house, how much do you think it will cost?

  • Before calling an electrician, I’m trying to guess if I have a major wiring problem, or just a bunch of coincidental minor ones. Although I am now widowed, my husband and I were original owners of our home which was built in 1969. In the early 1980s, we also added a second story, have had the wiring upgraded by licensed electricians a couple of times e.g., when we bought our first microwave oven, had aluminum wiring of outlets piggy-backed, added dimmers etc., and only recently have started to encounter problems.
  • For example, the first thing I noticed was the dimmers not working. Sometime later, I realized the security lights in our back yard also weren’t working. Approximately 6 months ago I thought the light bulb in our garage had burned out but after 2 to 4 fresh bulbs did not work, I realized that the outlet itself probably had a problem.
  • Several months later, the light in the stairwell seemed to work erratically. Initially, the light bulb did not turn on, which was surprising because I thought I had changed it recently. But before I got around to changing it again, it suddenly started working. Then, a few weeks later, it stopped again. Recognizing I could fall down the stairs at night, I finally decided to change the bulb, but after trying 3-4 fresh ones, finally gave up after none of them worked.
  • Last night the light on the landing at the top of the stairs also failed. When a member of my housecleaning crew tried to remove the bulb this morning she reported that a small connector caused the globe to detach leaving the globe partially suspended so they were unable to remove it completely, or put it back in its original position. Meanwhile, they were also unable to remove the faulty bulb.
  • While I have no intention of trying to fix any of these problems myself, before calling in an electrician, it would be helpful to have some idea of the likely scope of the problem.
  • After mentioning it to two different people today, both immediately asked if I had checked the circuit breaker. It seemed so unlikely, it never had occurred to me that the problem might be that simple. Am I bracing myself for a huge repair cost unnecessarily? Or is it possible I could get off easily with just a minor repair?

Thanks in advance for any insight you can offer.

This home electrical repairs question came from: CS, from Orange County, California.

Dave’s Reply:
Thanks for your electrical troubleshooting question CS.

How to Estimate the Cost for Home Electrical Repairs

  • Labor Time and Material Charges
    • An electrician typically charges for time and materials to perform electrical troubleshooting and make electrical repairs, and often a licensed electrician will charge a minimum service charge.
  • Making Electrical Repairs
    • This electrical question has mentioned that the home has aluminum wiring, and because there are intermittent problems with lighting then attention should be focused on the terminations in the electrical panel and splices in circuit junction boxes including switches and receptacle outlets which are on the same circuit which is experiencing problems.
    • Over time aluminum wiring splices can deteriorate which may cause devices such as lights to work erratically, and often fail all together.
  • Evaluating the Condition of the Electrical Wiring
    • Conditions such as this can actually damage the aluminum wiring and in some cases could even lead to a house fire, which is why aluminum wiring for most 120 volt circuits such as lighting and receptacle outlets has been discontinued in most areas.
    • Aluminum wiring is still installed and used for larger 240 volt circuits where it is allowed and approved.
  • Estimating an Electrical Job
    • The time to locate and repair these electrical problems are based upon the experience of the electrician with home electrical wiring, access to the electrical circuit devices and junction boxes, and the extent of the damage that will require repairs.
    • Sometimes homeowners consider hiring a handyman or non-electrician to perform electrical troubleshooting and repairs, and I would only consider this if this person has a great reputation and is very experienced with home electrical wiring.
  • Cost for Electrical Repairs
    • I have been called out to many repair jobs that were started by someone else who could not identify the problem, and in some cases even complicated the wiring where more time was required to straighten out the mess they made before the original repairs could be made.

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