Using Cheap Foreign Labor to Work on Your Home

Dear Mr. Electrician:  What are your thoughts about using cheap foreign labor to work on your home?  I received several estimates from local contractors for several 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 did electrical work in his country and offered to do some of the electrical items on my list for a meager price.

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Answer: Using cheap foreign labor to work on your home is probably not in your best interest.


Although this person may be a very hard-working and conscientious tradesperson, using someone unlicensed in your jurisdiction, with no liability, property damage, or worker’s compensation insurance, and no permanent local address, and whose skills and experience are unverifiable is NOT a good choice of a tradesperson to allow to work in your home.

Should this person cause damage to your property or harm your family, you will have very little recourse, particularly after they return to their home country.

This person is also not likely to know the electrical, fire, and building codes, such as the National Electrical Code, nor will he/she apply for a building permit from your town.

In addition, the cheap foreign laborer working on your home 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 pay the bill for electrical supplies and tools upfront.

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Something else to consider is that this cheap foreign laborer from a faraway land is not likely to have any safety training.  He may not wear protective clothing and steel-toe work 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 destruction.  Obvious mistakes may even lower your home’s value.  Quite often, a wiring shortcoming may not manifest as a fire or sparks until months or even years later, long after your cheap foreign labor 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?  If so, install a board.

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

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