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What to Ask Before Hiring an Electrician in San Francisco

San Francisco stands out for its iconic landmarks like the Golden Gate Bridge, cultural diversity, and world-class museums. This city of over 800,000 residents is also a global hub for new tech and venture capital firms. Indeed, efficient electrical services are essential to sustain the life, thrills, and development of this city. Luckily, there are almost 10,000 licensed electricians operating in the San Francisco-Oakland area, qualified to help fix any type of electrical issue. Whether repairing broken circuits or switches, installing new fixtures or wiring, upgrading an electrical system, or pulling an electrical permit, you can count on these professionals.

However, before you hire an electrician in San Francisco, you should ask the following questions to ensure you select the best hand for the job:

What Do I Need to Know Before Hiring an Electrician in San Francisco?

Hiring an inexperienced electrician can have detrimental consequences that may put you, your loved ones, and the general public at risk. Hence, if you are planning on tackling electrical problems in San Francisco, it is very important that you hire a licensed electrician with the proper training and experience. These professionals can handle your issues according to the California Electrical Code and its local administrative amendments, but they are also well-equipped with the necessary tools and resources. Some of the services that a licensed electrician can offer include:

  • Wiring installation, upgrade, and repair
  • Indoor and outdoor lighting installation and repair
  • Wiring, lighting, and control systems inspection and maintenance
  • Electric panel/sub-panel installation, optimization, and repair
  • Outlet and receptacle installation, replacement, and repair
  • Permit pulling and code violation correction
  • Service equipment troubleshooting and maintenance

Are You Licensed as an Electrician in San Francisco?

All electrical contractors in San Francisco must hold a valid C-10 Electrical Contractor License before carrying out any electrical work if the total cost for the project, including labor and materials, is above $500. The California Contractors State License Board (CSLB) regulates and issues electrical contractor licenses in San Francisco. Failure to obtain a license before performing electrical works is considered a misdemeanor, which might result in penalties of up to six months in jail, up to $15,000 in fines, or a combination of both. The penalties go up with subsequent violations.

You should always confirm your preferred electrician's licensing status, even if your electrical work costs less than $500. Hiring a licensed electrician indicates they are competent and qualified to provide satisfactory services. You can verify the licensing status of your prospective San Francisco electrician by utilizing the board's Check a Contractor License portal or by calling its Licensing Information Center at (800) 321-2752.

What Rates Do You Charge for Your Electrical Services in San Francisco?

Electricians in San Francisco typically charge an average of $50 - $150 per hour for their services. However, the actual cost of your electrical work depends on several factors, including but not limited to the following:

  • The nature and scope of the requested electrical services
  • The labor intensity of the task
  • The urgency of the job
  • Your location within the city
  • The electrician's level of expertise and local reputation
  • The cost of required permits and materials

Hence, getting estimates from different electricians near you is advisable before hiring any. This will give you an idea of the hourly rate electricians in the city charge for your project and help you select a skilled electrician whose rate fits your financial budget. Also, it will help you avoid being scammed by dishonest electricians who intentionally overcharge for their services.

Are You a Master Electrician in San Francisco?

There are three main categories of San Francisco's licensed electricians based on their levels of experience:

  • Apprentice Electricians: This electrician group is enrolled in an approved apprenticeship program. They carry out basic tasks and must always be supervised by a more experienced individual.
  • Journeyman Electricians: These individuals must have at least 8,000 hours, or four years, of practical electrical job experience to be licensed as a journeyman electrician in San Francisco. Also, they need to pass a state-administered proficiency and expertise exam with a score of at least 70 percent before they can apply for this license.
  • Master Electricians: Master electricians are highly experienced and skilled experts with several years of electrical experience. These professionals can handle various electrical service needs and supervise the apprentice electricians. Master electricians are sometimes called primary or Class A electricians in San Francisco.

Before hiring an electrician, confirm they are experienced and have the necessary skills to carry out your electrical project satisfactorily.

Will My Electrical Project Require a Permit in San Francisco?

The San Francisco Department of Building Inspection issues permits to perform electrical work that includes the installation, alteration, or repair of electrical systems. However, repairing or replacing a domestic appliance where no change in existing wiring is involved and replacing parts for electric signs or gas-tube lighting systems of the same size and rating can be done without a permit.

Note that any electrician who performs electrical works without a permit is guilty of a misdemeanor, which may lead to paying a fine not exceeding $500, up to 6 months imprisonment, or both. For more information on electrical permitting and inspections, contact the San Francisco Department of Building Inspection (DBI) at (628) 652-3200 or via email.

What Type of Electrical Services Do You Offer in San Francisco?

Licensed and experienced electricians in San Francisco offer various electrical services to cater to residential and commercial electrical needs in the city, including:

General Repair Work:
$60 - $400
Electrical Inspection:
$100 - $350
Service Equipment Upgrades:
$500 - $7,050
Outlet and Fixtures Installation/Replacement:
$100 - $285
Circuit Breaker Switch Replacement:
$150 - $285
Electrical Panel/Wiring Upgrade:
$1,100 - $5,500
Home Wiring/Rewiring:
$3,500 - $12,500
Emergency Electrical Services (per hour, on top of regular charges):
$100 - $250

Will You Be Doing the Work, or Do You Outsource the Electrical Work in San Francisco?

In San Francisco, a licensed electrician typically handles most electrical work. However, large projects, especially in commercial and industrial buildings, such as new building wiring and building electrifications, require the expertise of multiple electricians. If you plan on hiring an electrician for a project, confirm if they will subcontract some or all of the work. Take the following steps if they are subcontracting:

  • Confirm that the subcontractors have the necessary licenses, experience, insurance, and bond.
  • Request that the electrician notify you before subcontracting the workout
  • Request a lien waiver to protect you from any liability if the primary electrician fails to pay the subcontractors

Are You a Fully Insured and Bonded San Francisco Electrician?

Although electricians are not required to carry general liability insurance, electricians must inform homeowners of their insurance status before providing their services. They must also maintain a $25,000 surety bond and provide workers' compensation insurance for their employees, if any. Nevertheless, it is advisable to hire insured electricians to protect yourself from personal costs in the event of unforeseen accidents during your electrical work. Hiring an insured electrician will protect you from financial liabilities for the professional's workplace injuries.

Therefore, you should verify your prospective San Francisco electrician's insurance coverage by requesting a copy of their insurance certificate. You can get more information on these mandatory requirements by contacting the California Contractors State License Board at (800) 321-2752.

Do You Offer Any Warranties on Your Electrical Work in San Francisco?

Many reputable and professional electricians in San Francisco provide warranties for their work. However, it is important to confirm this with your potential electrician. If they do not offer warranties or they try to downplay its importance, you should consider it a red flag.

Typically, these warranties' scope is determined by the electrician who provides them. Hence, before you sign a warranty, ensure it is thoroughly reviewed and confirm it will be valid for at least a year.

How Do I Resolve Any Issue I Have with Your Electrical Services in San Francisco?

You can file a complaint against a San Francisco-based electrician with the California Contractors State License Board via its Filing a Construction Complaint platform. If you need assistance with filing this complaint or you would like to make complaint-related inquiries, you can also contact the CSLB at (800) 321-2752.