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Nationally recognized NEC expert and author of articles for construction trade magazines

Tips for working w/ contractors

Tips for contractors

  1. Don't shop on price alone. The best contractors are not the cheapest.
  2. Don't do business with a contractor who doesn't make safety a priority.
  3. Look for a contractor who is bonded and who has a training and certification program.
  4. Expect good workmanship, and insist on it. This includes good housekeeping.
  5. Communicate clearly with the contractor: provide good working drawings, project specifications, and verbal instructions.
  6. Don't "nickel and dime" the contractor.
  7. Insist all work conforms to industry codes and standards.
  8. Make access and working conditions as easy as possible on the contractor.
  9. If the contractor recommends additional work, understand the impact on cost and scheduling.
  10. Know what you want ahead of time. Try to eliminate any midstream changes --these are expensive and can cause major problems.
  1. Do not compete on price. To do so means taking shortcuts on quality.
  2. Make sure your people wear the right safety gear and get safety training.
  3. Make sure your bond covers the kind of work you do. Train your people, and document their proficiency.
  4. Refuse to do any work that does not showcase your good workmanship.
  5. Communicate clearly with your client. Discuss problems with working drawings and project specifications.
  6. Don't "nickel and dime" your customer.
  7. Insist all work conforms to industry codes and standards.
  8. Do your best not to disrupt your customer's day.
  9. If the customer requests additional work, explain the impact on cost and scheduling --never surprise with these things.
  10. Review the customer's plan before beginning work. Try to anticipate changes so they don't come midstream. You will save your customer time and money.

The NEC: Administration and Enforcement

Are you an electrical contractor or general contractor with electrical work in your project? You need to understand how the NEC is administered and enforced. Here's a good overview.

To be able to work effectively with the NEC, you must understand the philosophy behind it. This is the information NEC Article 80 provides. NEC Article 80 is new to the Code, beginning with the 2002 revision. Formerly, the NEC started with Article 90.

NEC 80.1 addresses the scope of the NEC, listing the five functions. In a nutshell, they are:

  • Inspection
  • Investigation
  • Review (of drawings and specifications)
  • Implementation (everything from design through maintenance)
  • Regulation

NEC 80.2 gives definitions related to administration and enforcement. Do not confuse this with the definitions in Article 100.

NEC 80.3, 80.5, and 80.7 are pretty much for the lawyers.

NEC 80.9 addresses how the Code applies to:

  • New installations
  • Existing installations
  • Additions, alterations, or repairs

NEC 80.11 basically bars new construction from occupancy if there is a Code violation and grandfathers existing structures under certain conditions (mostly that there is no hazard to life or property).

NEC 80.13 defines who has authority to administer the code and what that authority entails. With 16 major points, 80.13 covers a lot of ground. It codifies what was previously "understood."

NEC 80.15 lays out the bylaws for an electrical board, which may be established by any municipality.

NEC 80.17 requires the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) to retain records.

NEC 80.19 addresses permits and approvals, quite extensively.

NEC 80.23 provides rules for notices of violations and penalties.

NEC 80.25 provides rules for connecting to the electrical supply.

NEC 80.27 describes the qualifications for being an electrical inspector.

NEC 80.29, 80.31, 80.33, and 80.35 are for the lawyers.


And here's an overview of NEC Article 90:

NEC Article 90 draws boundaries around the National Electrical Code—boundaries many people fail to understand. For example, Article 90 has long made it clear the NEC is not intended as design specification or instruction manual. The National Electrical Code has one purpose only.

NEC 90.1 has four subdivisions:

  • (A) says the purpose of the NEC is the practical safeguarding of people and property "from hazards arising from the use of electricity."
  • (B) distinguishes from the adequacy concept (provisions necessary for safety) and other concepts. The Code is a minimum standard. Further effort may be required for an installation to be efficient, convenient, or adequate for good service or future expansion. This is a fundamental concept upon which many Code disagreements arise. The Code is not a target you’d like to hit. It is the minimum you can do.
  • (C) clearly states the Code is not intended to be a design specification or instruction manual.
  • (D) ties the Code to international standards. The Code-making panels do have members who are in countries other than the USA. The intention is to draw on the collective wisdom of the international community. Many people who make the Code what it is are also members of the IEEE. Standards published by the IEEE frequently get review from people who serve on NEC committees and vice-versa.

NEC 90.2 describes the scope of the Code—what it covers and what it does not cover.

NEC 90.3 explains how the Code is arranged. Please note the influence of the international and engineering communities. For example, the Code uses the "dot" system of enumeration and the "Appendices" are called "Annexes."

NEC 90.4 gives the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) some flexibility in enforcement.

NEC 90.5 distinguishes between mandatory rules, permissive rules, and explanatory material. These often get confused. An example is a Fine Protection Note (FPN) that discusses voltage drop. The Code does not require addressing voltage drop—it merely explains that it is an additional consideration and gives a "rule of thumb." Unfortunately, many people have over-engineered to get "the Code-required drop" or have under-engineered because they were "within the Code requirements." The Code does not give voltage drop requirements.

NEC 90.6 discusses formal interpretations.

NEC 90.7 adds a dose of common sense regarding equipment inspections. For example, a product that is Listed (e.g., by U.L.) can be assumed to be adequate for the stated purpose and need not be inspected again (except for alterations or damage).

NEC 90.8 alerts the user to allow for expansion and to know that the Code does specify various restrictions on the number of wires and circuits in a given enclosure.

NEC 90.9 discusses units of measurement.

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