Botched Electrical Job, Unresponsive Electrician
July 1, 2014 11:38 AM   Subscribe

I hired an electrician to upgrade my service, and I just found some live tube ferrule wiring beneath a bathroom floor (he promised me none of it would be live). What actions can I take against the electrician?

I live in a 100 year old house that still had some tube ferrule wiring when I moved in (all of which seemed to be duplicated by modern it shouldn't have been live). I paid an electrician to upgrade my service to 200 amps, pull out whatever old wiring was visible in the basement, and ensure none of that old stuff was live.

The electrician did a more or less okay job, but once he had my money, I couldn't get him to return to fix some minor things he'd done wrong. He stopped taking my calls. One year later, a workman just ripped open a bathroom floor and discovered live tube ferrule wiring. I left the electrician a voicemail. He didn't call back. What would you do? I'm in NY state.

At this point I suppose I'm marginally more interested in punishing him (and alerting other customers about him) than in having him fix my situation. I don't trust him to do a thorough job.
posted by Quisp Lover to Home & Garden (6 answers total)
Honestly, "under the bathroom floor" does not, to me, constitute "visible," whereas you said you asked your electrician to remove whatever knob-and-tube "was visible in the basement." It's possible that this old wiring was connected to something newer, and you'd have to do a wire trace. I'm not certain that even a great electrician would have found the old wiring under the floor unless you specifically asked him/her to look under floors.

I'm also not clear what else about the original job would make you want to "punish" the electrician. He did what you asked of him, and you were nonplussed with the job. In that case, and in your shoes, I'd just hire a different electrician for future jobs, and tell anyone who asks that the original electrician isn't great.

I would hire a different electrician to remove all knob-and-tube wiring and bring the house up to code, specifically mentioning you want the electrician to look in floors, walls, and ceilings. This will not be an easy or inexpensive job, particularly if you have a nonstandard wiring layout.
posted by tckma at 11:47 AM on July 1, 2014 [3 favorites]

Leave a shitty yelp review, chalk it up to a flakey tradesman and deal with it.

So you know how I always tell the story about having to replace the sewer pipe in my house twice?

The first plumber came out, dug up our newly landscaped yard, trashed trees and bushes, put the pipe in. I was poorer by $7,000. It worked fine without hassle for 4 years, then we were getting occasional back ups in the basement. So we had another plumber come out and he said that the job was sub-optimal. He dug up the landscaped yard, pulled permits, cursed the old plumber for the spit-and-bailing wire job he had done. We paid about $5,000 for the subsequent work. I was FUMING!

So I gathered all my evidence, and I was set to go to small claims court (and to call The People's Court to hear it!) Then I went to pick up a misrouted package, and the new owners said they had been having sewer problems. Apparently the COUNTY sewer system was causing the problem. It had flooded out the entire basement, taking the new flooring with it!

So...although the initial plumber did a shitty job, apparently the second job wouldn't have been necessary, if the county water system wasn't broken. Was it done right? Not by a long shot, but it worked, and would have worked if not for the county.

The new owners have an up-to-code sewer connection I'm out $5,000, and there are still issues with the county water/sewer.

My point? Tradesmen may not act in good faith, but sometimes the work is good enough. Was this something the original electrician should have anticipated? Probably not.

So, accept that the guy you hired wasn't very thorough, or very good. Do better this time. I mean, how much are you out?
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:03 PM on July 1, 2014 [2 favorites]

Call the electrical inspector. He presumably inspected the work a couple of times and signed off on it and he can probably advise you as to what to do about it, if anything.
posted by bondcliff at 12:33 PM on July 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

Leave a shitty yelp review, chalk it up to a flakey tradesman and deal with it.

No, it is not fair to blame him for the old work under the floor. I have K&T in my house which, over the years, has been so completely blended into several versions of newer wire that in order to get it all would require major deconstruction, and/or re-routing of every circuit in the house. You can be pissed at him for not answering calls etc., but not this.
posted by Gungho at 12:34 PM on July 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

I paid an electrician to ... pull out whatever old wiring was visible in the basement, and ensure none of that old stuff was live.

Maybe I'm reading this wrong, but it sounds like there is old unused wiring that has a live current in it. Isn't that dangerous? Shouldn't it have been disconected from the current?
There was no request to pull out stuff that was deeply buried, just to make sure that it was not live.
posted by SLC Mom at 1:15 PM on July 1, 2014

Response by poster: Correct, SLC Mom. And it IS dangerous (the wires we just found in the bathroom floor are run right next to the plumbing, for god's sake).

But in further discussion (with the contractor who almost got shocked this morning), it seems I misunderstood this instruction/promise. There's no way to ensure no live old lines unless every single bit of wire is checked...including those in the floor and walls. So all lines coming out of the box in my basement may be new, but it's feeding into a system where A connects to B connects to C, and most of that happens inside walls and floors. Ensuring no electricity passes over old wires would require opening every wall and floor. Can't imagine the price.

Electrician's nonetheless a jerk for refusing to return to fix his own screw-ups, but it seems like I had wrong expectations on the old wiring issue.

Hey. Old houses.
posted by Quisp Lover at 1:30 PM on July 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

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