Using Cheap Foreign Labor to Work on Your Home

Dear Mr. Electrician: Should I use a worker from a foreign land to install electrical wiring in my home?  I received several estimates from local contractors for a series of small electrical projects in my home.  All of the prices were higher than my budget allows.  A neighbor’s visiting relative is currently painting my house.  He said that he does electrical work in his country and offered to do some of the electrical items on my list for a ridiculously low price.

Answer: No!  Although this person may be a very hard working and conscientious trades person, using someone who is unlicensed in your jurisdiction, with no permanent local address, and whose skills and experience are unverifiable is NOT a good choice of a contractor to allow to work in your home.  This person will not have insurance should your home burn down or if someone is injured.

This person is also not likely to know the electrical, fire and building codes such as the National Electrical Code, nor will he apply for a building permit from your town.  In addition the foreign worker will lack a broad familiarity with the materials used in local construction and will not have accounts at local suppliers like a licensed contractor would.  You may have to foot the bill for electrical supplies, and perhaps tools upfront.  NOTE: Text links go to applicable products on


Something else to consider is that this worker from a foreign land is not likely to have any safety training.  He may not wear protective clothing and steel toe shoes.  He may overwork physically because that’s how they do it back home.  If he gets injured on your property while working for you, you may have some legal problems.

I realize that there are budgetary constraints for your home improvement projects, however poor wiring practices can cause injury, death and/or destruction.  Obvious mistakes may even lower your home’s value.  Quite often a wiring shortcoming may not manifest itself in the form of a fire or sparks until months or even years later, long after your worker has returned to his home country .

Try to find a licensed electrical contractor who can work within your budget.  Maybe some things can be done over time.  Perhaps there is some manual labor that you can do to help out the electrical contractor in exchange for a lower estimate.  Do any holes or trenches need to be dug?  Offer to dig them.  Does the electrician need a board mounted so the main panel can be mounted?  Install a board.

You could also offer to take care of all of the cleaning and garbage disposal after work is completed.  That would save some labor.  If you are able, you could offer to act as his or hers helper or “Gofer”.  You could also offer to drive over to the contractor’s supplier and pick up his or her ordered electrical supplies for your job.

My post on purchasing materials might be of interest to you.

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