"Solving home & business problems properly"
FAQs — Frequently Asked Questions
by appointment 650-595-5961
- What are your most common types of jobs?
- Electrical upgrades — anything from a single room to an entire house
- Electrical troubleshooting and repair
- Remodeling work that includes electrical system design and configuration
- Telephone system installation and wiring for small businesses or homes (we do this at 50%
of AT&T's price quotes)
- Finish Carpentry (e.g., moldings, baseboards, cabinetry, stairways)
- Drywall installation and/or repair (finished ready for your paint job or fully painted)
- What advice do you have for potential clients looking to hire a
provider like you?
- Be clear about what you expect and what you're unsure of. Be willing to brainstorm
options with us (we always seek cost-effective solutions, weighing costs versus benefits with
you). Don't be afraid to ask questions at any time before, during, or after your project
– miscommunication is usually the biggest problem in any endeavor.
- What important information should buyers have before seeking you out?
- Buyers should have a basic idea of what they want done, but detailed ideas are not
necessary to meet with us – we like problem-solving and creating something new.
- A generalized checklist (both specific and non-specific) of what your desires and ideas are
can be very helpful and time-saving when it's time to get specific. A usually simple way is to
list items in three major categories:
- absolute needs,
- important but not vital, and
- nice to have.
- A realistic budget is necessary. Although we are not expensive, good work is not cheap,
and we can help you determine how to get the most value for your money. We can even
show clients how to break a big, expensive project into several smaller, more affordable
projects with a specific, ordered path.
- What do you wish customers knew about you or your profession?
- Building Codes are long and complex, but they are there for good reasons in every case.
We are glad 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!
- Do you have a complicated pricing system for your services?
- Our standard pricing method is Time and Materials with
guaranteed quality work and best effort to stay within or below a specific budget.
Hourly rates vary by skill level, while materials pricing is standard. Fixed priced
bids are available if requested, but a variable percentage, depending on the project, is
automatically added beforehand 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. This
issue is covered in our standard terms in a way which should please any client for its
fairness and equitability. The terms were from a book on creating contracts fair to all parties.
To avoid potential misunderstandings, all modifications after a Work Order is finalized
require written Change Orders, agreed to, initialed, and dated by both parties. We provide
a short, simple Change Order form to all clients just to make things easy for everyone, and
because we consider ourselves to be partners with our clients on their projects.
- What do you try to make sure every client knows about your trade?
- Circuit breakers are primarily intended to prevent fires by preventing overheating
of wiring by excessive current. They do NOT protect against electrical
shock and death; that is the function of GFCIs (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters).
- Building Codes are not your enemy but are there for good reasons, even
though those reasons may not always be obvious.
- Wiring insulation colors have specific meanings, and wiring in which standard color
codes are not used can be dangerous, or even deadly, both to clients and to future
electricians! Thus, wiring should only be done by qualified personnel (which
can include knowledgeable homeowners who have studied or been instructed in proper wiring
- Any inside secrets to share?
- It is always a good idea to consider potential future expansion in electrical systems
before new work or upgrades begin. For example, the extra initial cost of installing
the next larger size of wire to a sub-panel is a very small fraction of the cost
of doing a size/capacity upgrade at a later date. This is a cost-effective solution for the
future, since almost all of the extra cost is in materials.
- What questions do customers most commonly ask you?
- The most frequently asked question always begins with "Why ... ?". We are always
willing to give complete (or brief, if preferred) explanations about anything within our
areas of expertise. We believe knowledge improves communications and customer
- Why does your work stand out from others who do what you do?
- More value for the money: We provide COST-EFFECTIVE SOLUTIONS.
- All work is done "to Code" or better!
- Always done right -- no half-measures or sloppy work (and no "collateral
damage" by careless workers)
- What do you like most about your job?
- Sense of accomplishment, meeting new people, making new friends
- Do you do any sort of continuing education to stay up on the latest
developments in your field?
- 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 field in which we are particularly interested and in which we already have
The owner's philosophy is "he who is not busy learning
is busy dying."
- How did you decide to get into this line of work?
- In late 2001, changes in 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 is a General Contractor in the East Bay.
- If you were advising someone who wanted to become an electrician,
what would you suggest?
- Study, study, study, then get some practical, real-life experience applying
what you have learned about the NEC (National Electrical Code) and other Building Codes.
- Work as a helper to an experienced, ethical, knowledgeable electrician before
going out on your own. Be honest with him about your goals because, if you are honest
(and are competent), he will pass on work to you in the future when he's too busy and will
expect you to reciprocate as your business grows. You will also be able to work
together on large future projects that require multiple electricians.
NOTE: You won't do yourself any favors by working for someone who isn't
into doing quality work because you won't be learning the RIGHT way to do things. It is
amazing to us the number of Code violations we've found in work done by Licensed Electrical
Contractors who were lazy, unethical, incompetent, or careless! Intelligent and honorable people
don't do that kind of thing. Unfortunately, even though many of us do things the right way,
there is a lot of incompetence and laziness in the building trades. At Cost-Effective
Solutions, we differentiate ourselves by being one of the positive exceptions; you should
be one, too.
"Solving home & business problems properly since 2002"
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This page was last updated
Fri, Aug 28 2015 16:42 PDT