Working With an Electrician
For large remodeling jobs, such as additions or whole-house renovations, electricians work from plans generated by the designer or architect. The plans show outlet and switch locations and label fixture types, such as fluorescent and incandescent. Often the electrical plans are drawn up long before you've had a chance to pick the light fixtures, so you will have to supply your electrician with this information.
To avoid any confusion, find out when the electrician will need the fixtures. Then shop around to find the products you want — but don't buy anything. Simply make a list of your choices, including the manufacturer names, model numbers of products and where you saw the fixtures. Turn the list over to the electrician and let him make the purchases. You probably won't save any money because electricians, like most contractors, add a markup of 10 to 20 percent over what they pay. But since they buy products and materials at a professional's discount, the final cost will be about the same as if you had made the purchases yourself. The advantage is that the electrician assumes responsibility for warranty issues, breakage, defective products, and missing parts. (This can save you from paying for a journeyman to run to the store for a missing set screw, for example.) Plus, while shopping, the electrician can evaluate the overall quality of your choices and wave you off low-quality or dangerous items.
As for budgeting fixture cost, you'll be working from a lighting allowance when shopping. This is the not-to-exceed dollar amount that you budgeted during planning for all your lighting needs. As with any remodeling project, if you go over the allowance when shopping, your contractor will bill you for the extra you've spent (the overage). If you stay under the allowance, you get that money credited back to you. It's all your money to save or spend as you see fit, but when choosing fixtures, keep a running total of costs and try to stay within your budget. Be sure to account for the cost of specialty lightbulbs, which are increasingly expensive. That way you'll avoid unpleasant surprises when it comes time to pay the final bill.
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