Dear PoP – Recommend an Electrician

by Prince Of Petworth November 18, 2010 at 2:30 pm 36 Comments

“Dear PoP,

I live in one of those lovely big non-refurbished homes in Park View. You know the ones. Where the same nice old lady lived since 1953? Still has the old push-button light switches and modern amenities were added, piecemeal, over the decades? I love everything about my house.

Except the fact that it might burst into flames at any moment…

We’ve lived there happily for a while, but we are now making the place ready for renters as we move overseas. Clearly, the electricity issue must be dealt with before we go. We’ve called a couple of folks, here and there, for smaller jobs, but have not found anyone who seems both competent and trustworthy.

Does anyone out in PoPVille have a strong love for their electrician?”

  • anan

    That’s awesome. Wish there was a way to preserve and refurbish old fixures like these while updating the wiring and keeping everthing safe.

  • I have a very strong love for my electrician! He helped me out in my new business in Adams Morgan and was fabulous to work with – Mike Jones.


    • Anonymous

      I’ve also worked with Mike – he’s not reliable.

  • Art Enables just moved into a new studio in Woodridge in NE DC and we worked with a woman named Helen who was *beyond* fabulous. She’s done work in our ED’s house prior to this and even went so far as to ask about extra paint for touch ups that she would take care of when she was finished with wiring. She is so amazing and worth every penny.

  • Anon

    What are you looking to do exactly? Chances are you may still have a whole house full of knob and tube wiring. This in and of itself is not inherently dangerous, but after years of use/neglect hidden behind walls it may be. If that is what you are talking about, this a major project (potentially tear-out-the-walls major). I would get an electrician to come in and spend a few hours looking around so you know what you’re in for. If there have been piecemeal upgrades they may be much more dangerous than the original “antique” wiring. Especially if you have any shitty aluminum patching from the 70s (that actually is a fire hazard). This is a broad question.

    • How is “Does anyone out in PoPVille have a strong love for their electrician?” a broad question?

    • anon

      it also depends on the function of the T&W. In my old home, the electriciy was upgraded but many of the old T&W runs from light switches to ceiling fixtures were left in tact. The load is pretty small and our electrician and inspector felt it posed no risk. Replacing would have required ripping into plaster and it wasn’t worth the bother. If you have heavy modern appliances on T&W connections it could potentially be an issue.

      • Jamie

        It’s unlikely the house is full of K&T wiring. I’ve never seen it in any DC house before. I have seen evidence, but most every house in DC was built with gas & K&T service, and was rewired when the gas era ended. Also after the K&T era.

  • Anonymous

    I highly recommend New Age– they are fantastic and will give you an hourly rate. They’re quick and stellar. They just did a lot of rewiring in our house.

  • Tanya Lewis/Tru-Lite Electrical at 202-327-1701 has done electrical work for me — some of it on short notice — and I’ve been happy with both the price and promptness.

  • RMJ

    JKJ Electric, Inc.

    638-F Lofstrand Lane

    Rockville, MD 20850

    301-315-0426 office

    240-372-2212 mobile

    • DLT

      I’ve used JKJ twice in the past year. I’ve found them to be skilled workers, and don’t feel as if I’ve been ripped off by them. But (there’s always a but), they have fallen down on the job when it came to being careful to not damage my house while they did their repairs. I’ve had wall gouges, scrapes, a hole cut too big in a ceiling, shoddy clean-up, etc. When I’ve called them on it they did not repair what they’d done, only offered that they could suggest a repair person whom they would not pay! Not cool. I wouldn’t suggest them for any sort of fine repair, or to fix something that you really didn’t want to be damaged. They do good work, but don’t expect them to care about your place anywhere as much as you do.

  • Mary

    Hawkins Electric: http://www.hawkinselectric.com/

    Very professional, very nice, and very good work.

  • Cait B

    David from Something Different Contracting has great, competent guys – http://somethingdifferentcontracting.com/?esid=home.

    Our main box along with most of the outlets throughout the house were fires waiting to happen, so his crew did a bunch of different jobs to make sure our 1912 Parkview house (with an apparent do-it-yourself prior owner) wasn’t going to go up into flames at any moment.

    You can always check out Urban Referrals for more companies to compare, too.

    • Karl

      Something Different Contracting generally does good work but we have had major issues with their electrical subcontractors.

      To his credit, David is working with us to solve those issues.

  • joker

    Yeah, you should know that this isn’t a matter of replacing the face plates and switches on the walls. You should prepare yourself for a complete re-wiring of your home which is likely to cost in the tens of thousands by the time you factor in repairing the walls/ceilings where they have to break through.

  • PetworthRes

    Here’s a place to buy new pushbutton switches and cover plates

    That website is also a great place to get new old-style lighting. I love the schoolhouse lampshades!

  • Park View!

    Thank you all for your suggestions. I think that your experience just may save us.

    The house was built in 1904 and is in shockingly good condition. With luck, I hope to save all of the push button plates, and we do not have too many urgent safety hazards. We need to do a heavy-up, fix some of the oldest deteriorating wires, and deal with some of the bad patchwork done in the Terrible ’80s.

    I’m calling your people today!

    • Anonymous

      We thought we needed a heavy-up 2 years ago. We couldn’t run the furnace and watch tv at the same time. Running the vacuum dimmed all the lights. We had estimates from a few contractors for a heavy-up. Finally one told us to first call pepco and ask them to send someone out. Turns out our ground wire from the house to the street burnt out and it was replaced in a few minutes. solved all our problems. Pepco can also run diagnostic tests on their end and tell you if you actually need a heavy-up. I think many people think they need it, but actually don’t. Most appliances these days are energy efficient. I’m no electrician, but 100amp service should be enough for the average home.

      Do your research on the heavy-up process. It could take Pepco weeks or months before they start it. It can also leave you without power for a few days. When Pepco disconnects your power so your contractor can upgrade your panel or do work, Pepco won’t guarantee they’ll come back the same day to restore power. Know where the power line comes from– is it under the street, alley, overhead, etc. Pepco won’t restore your service unless you have permits and an inspection.

      good luck with it. it’ll test your patience.

      • Park View!

        This is extremely helpful. Thank you.

      • anon

        Any licensed electrician can perform a heavy up. They typically coordinate with Pepco and include it in the price (if I remember correctly it cost me about $1800 a few years ago). The heavy up is useful if you are adding signifiant load — ie new central air conditionin — to a system built to handle a much small load.

      • Anonymous

        This is just not true.

        We did a heavy up b/c we needed it to run central air. We were not without power at any point. The Electrician does all the work for the heavy up, the DCRA inspects (this is the PITA part), then once you pass inspection, Pepco comes out and intalls a new meter onto the wiring that your electritian did for the heavy up. You are maybe without power for a few minutes while pepco changes meters. You will not be without power for a few days.

  • Melissa Gilbert

    Has anyone notices that all the houses on Buffy the Vampire Slayer have push button switches?

  • Anonymous

    ha! i grew up in a house with those kind of switches.
    i loved playing with them.

  • Anonymous

    I highly recommend Jose Guardado at J&A Home Improvement. He and his crew did a fantastic job on our home renovation and for a very reasonable price. He’s easy to work with, honest, and has pretty much become part of our family. He gave us a lot of advice on dealing with the old fabric-insulated wiring in our house. Jose will give you an honest assessment, not just try to scare you into rewiring your whole house. I couldn’t recommend him enough. You can reach Jose at 240-694-8184.

  • CapHill

    Tower Electric just added lights, fans and did a bunch of electrical work for me at a very fair price. Made some calls to various electricians but several were unreponsive. Tower was incredibly professional and hardworking and they would send over a master electrician and apprentice to do the work.

  • LeDroit/Bloomingdale Resident

    Switching out things like switches is ridiculously easy. Trust me. If you can turn on a computer, you can do this. If you need reassurance, get a $15 do it yourself book at the store. These electricians are going to charge you so much for so little. You can switch out switches and outlets in an entire house in the matter of a few hours. I recommend doing it yourself.

    • Jamie

      While I generally agree with this, if you are talking about 80 year old wires, it is almost guaranteed that:

      1) The insulation is badly deteriorated and will crack and crumble when you bend the wires

      2) The boxes will be undersized and it will be difficult to get the wires back in if you install something bigger (like a dimmer)

      3) 3-way switches are going to be wired incorrectly

      It’s certainly doable but it requires an extraordinary amount of patience and care.

      That said, people seem to assume that old wiring is unsafe. That is not at all true. For the most part, if you don’t move an old wire, there is absolutely nothing that will go wrong. It’s been there for 80 years – why do you think it would suddenly burst in flames? Copper wires don’t rust. They don’t corrode. The insulation deteriorates, but that only matters if you move it.

      The reason most people upgrade the wiring is to add service capacity. We have a lot more electric stuff these days and 60 amp service (as well as one or two outlets per room) just doesn’t cut it. But there’s no point in just replacing the wiring in your house in an identical configuration.

  • Matt

    I know the guy around Bloomingdale is Wayne Johnson. I’ve used him once or twice and he’s always on time and enjoys showing someone exactly what he is doing.

    You can reach him at 202-907-6163. I have another phone number for him but not sure if it’s a house number or what. It’s 202-321-1417.

  • Resident

    My electrician is awesome: Bruce Laird 703-732-7376

  • Yummy

    I have used David from Wilcox Electric several times, he is great He replaces some fixtures and my whole panel. Of all the contractors I have worked with, he has been the best.

  • Jamie

    I have used JKJ also and recommend them.

    Regarding DLT’s comment, perhaps this is an issue of what you expected them to do. If you want someone to do a bunch of electric work and fix every little bit of plaster that is damaged (which is practically inevitable when working on an old house) you should probably be talking to a contractor – not an electrician. Electricians do electric. Handymen and contractors fix walls.

    Likewise you will pay a lot more if you hire someone to do a job that involves multiple services.

    If they didn’t communicate well that they weren’t going to be responsible for fixing this stuff, then that’s their fault, but this is not at all unusual. I’ve never had a plumber or electrician who did this stuff. Nor would I want to pay someone $120 an hour to patch holes, so I never had a problem with it.

  • omg you just made me laugh so hard.

  • biggie

    George Ruben is a fantastic and affordable electrician. 703-408-0431


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