What education and/or training do you have that relates to your work?
Industry knowledge and practices are constantly evolving, so we make every effort to educate ourselves by reading trade magazines and browsing the Internet. An absolute requirement is regularly keeping up with the latest Code changes (the National Electrical Code, or NEC, changes every 3 years, for example). Green energy is a currently expanding area in which we are particularly interested and in which we already have considerable expertise. The owner's philosophy is "He who is not busy learning is busy dying".
Do you have a standard pricing system for your service? If so, please share the details here.
Our standard method is Time and Materials with guaranteed quality work and best effort to stay within or below a specific budget. There is a minimal charge for our time to visit your site to gather bid information. Fixed pricing is available if requested, but a variable percentage, depending on the project, is automatically included to cover the lack of flexibility. Many problems may not be known until after a job begins, but they can be dealt with fairly to both client and service provider so long as communications are always open and honest.
To avoid potential misunderstandings, all modifications after a Work Order is finalized require written Change Orders, agreed to and signed by both parties. We provide a simple Change Order form to all clients just to make things easy for everyone, because we consider ourselves partners with our clients on their projects.
How did you get started doing this type of work?
In late 2001, changes to the economy made the owner's previously very successful career (IBM mainframe MVS-z/OS operating system consultant for over 20 years) no longer viable, so he looked for something more recession-proof that he also enjoyed and for which he already had some skills. It was then just a matter of updating his knowledge with technical manuals and advice from experienced friends already working full-time in construction trades. His best friend (and occasional project partner) is a General Contractor in the East Bay.
What types of customers have you worked with?
-- Electrical upgrades
-- Electrical troubleshooting and repair
-- Remodeling work that includes electrical system design and configuration
-- Telephone system installation and wiring for small businesses (we do this at 50% of AT&T's rates)
Describe a recent project you are fond of. How long did it take?
[This isn't electrical work, but it tested my carpentry skills.] I was called to a rental house to repair some stairway carpeting between the upstairs living/eating area and the downstairs bedroom area, as there was a pregnant woman living there, and the stairway carpeting was a danger. The owner realized that all of the stairway carpeting needed replacement, but after my helper removed all of it, I discovered that not only was the carpeting a problem, but that it was very amateurishly installed, and we'd need to remove excessive nails & staples & do additional carpentry to prep for the new carpeting.
Even worse, the original stairway carpentry was definitely NOT to Code, as the rise from step to step varied by as much as 3/4", and several steps were tilted somewhat, making the basic stairway even more dangerous than the loose, cheap, stairway carpeting.
Building Codes require a variation of no more than 1/8 inch difference in rise per step for the entire stairway, as people subconsciously assume each step is equal and can easily fall if there is an unexpected variation. The mathematics required to build stairways is more complex than most people realize, and the original carpenter made errors that he didn't properly correct. I explained this and the attendant liability issues to the landlord, and he agreed to have me correct the Code problems that could be corrected.
I did the necessary measurements and calculations for creating safe stairs, then removed many of the stair treads and trimmed and shimmed the stair stringers to make everything even and level. The maximum step-to-step variation over 10 vertical feet was less than 1/8 inch, usually zero or under 1/16 inch. I then reinstalled the treads, and we finally installed the new carpeting. The tenants, the landlord, and I all felt relieved that some serious dangers had been eliminated (and the stairway was also much more attractive).
What advice would you give a customer looking to hire a provider in your area of work?
Just be clear about what you expect; be willing to brainstorm options with us (we always seek cost-effective solutions, weighing costs versus benefits with you). Do not be afraid to ask questions at any time before, during, or after your project -- miscommunication is usually the biggest problem in any endeavor.
What questions should customers think through before talking to professionals about their project?
Building Codes are long and complex, but they are there for good reasons in every case. We are pleased to answer any specific questions about Electrical Code and many questions about other Building Codes. We always do all our work following known "best practices" which, to us, includes "to Code" or better!