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Mike M
04-24-2008, 09:30 PM
So I cut through some line-voltage today, it was only 3" deep, if that (between layer of turf and dirt).

I told the owner that I believed the proper depth to be 12" without conduit. I told him, I was sorry to open a can of worms, but splicing it was not only something I'm not licensed to do, but not even something an EC would do. He agreed to have it retrenched/installed. Problem #2, he tells me the breaker gets tripped a lot. I told him it was possible he had too many amps on a smaller amp breaker. As it turns out, he charges his 24v electric boat on that circuit. The circuit was run just for that boat, but now I that I know the trench was incorrect, the whole job was likely wrong.

Now, I don't want his battery going dead, so I thought of a quick temp fix/splice. Thought again when I remembered the amp load. Thought about running one of my extension cords, but then stopped when I realized, again, the draw from that boat charger.

I did, however, fix a tv cable today (in about 1/2" dirt). Which made me wonder if the cable mafia was gonna come after me.

What things do you guys fix, and what do you not fix?? I know they say there is a phone number you call before digging, but most stuff I cut has no plans (irrigation, supposed too, but no, cable, crappy line voltage installs, etc.).

I have developed the touch for irrigation pvc and haven't cut any in a long time with a spade (pick ax another story). But cable and wires are like roots.

Chris J
04-24-2008, 10:22 PM
TV and Phone cables are a PITA. They are usually burried just under the grass/mulch. I call the 1-800 number before any install to cover myself. Your contract needs to state in clear terms what you are and are not responsible for. If there is line voltage wiring 6" under the ground, and you happen to cut it, how can you be held responsible for that? You can't, so say it in the contract. Same applies to irrigation pipes or whatever. I will usually fix the problem if I can (broke 1/2-1" irrigation line or cut dog fence if I happen to hear the signal coming from the unit). Bottom line, if you don't release yourself in the contract they sign then I guess you are obligated to fix the problem. I need to revisit my own contract!

Mike M
04-24-2008, 10:32 PM
Great points, Chris.

Who do I call to get the digging info? Is it one number for all utilities? Do they give you the plans? It would be awesome to see where the cable is.

I will also be making a better effort to carefully study the entry points and boxes.

Chris J
04-24-2008, 11:25 PM
The number I call is 1-800-432-4770, and it's called Central Locating Services. I doubt it will work for you, but who knows? They may be nation wide?
If that doesn't work, just call the local utility company and tell them you are getting ready to cut through there lines. I'm sure they will put you in touch with someone.

Mike M
04-25-2008, 07:53 AM
just call the local utility company and tell them you are getting ready to cut through there lines.

That's awesome! I'm sure they will hook me up with the right phone numbers.

04-25-2008, 08:23 AM
my electrician calls before treching any line voltage. I dont call for locates before low voltage installs

What we repair

dog fences
phone (rememeber back in the day I was a catv and telcom man)
water pipes

What we dont repair

Out of code work
high voltage (never cut it but our electrician would fix it for us)
low voltage wires (if its mine we replace it)

INTEGRA Bespoke Lighting
04-25-2008, 08:49 AM
Golden Rule: Do unto others......

I always look at these things from the perspective of ME being the Client and some trade causing the issue... what would I want done? I would want whatever issue came up at the hands of that trade to be taken care of by that trade.

So, my policy is: If I break it or mess it up, I fix it. Period.

If it is something that requires another Pro to do, then I hire them to do it and eat the costs. I also make sure that the client knows what has happened and what I have done to rectify the issue. They sincerely appreciate the information! Doing this, going this far to taking care of the client's best interests is just another way to make your business REMARKABLE.
Mike: Be REMARKABLE and take care of your client! Get an EC in there to fix the issue and let the client know you did.... If the relatively minor expense of this is going to bust you, just spread this lesson cost out over your next couple of installations.


Mike M
04-25-2008, 08:49 PM

I get it, you're right, but in this case, the whole line voltage install, including amp planning and trenching at 2" was nothing short of a really bad line voltage install. The damage, even though the wire was not 12", I'll take the blame for, but he was having problems with nuisance breaker-tripping long before hiring me to install lighting.

Fixing a bad line-voltage job would be really bad. I explained this with the client, and he made a call to an EC to set up an inspection and a possible re-do. I have to be responsible and be honestly concerned for a proper circuit installation.

And no, I wont pay for an EC to install a whole new circuit. The client needs to be accountable for trying to save some bucks hiring someone without proper licensing.

04-26-2008, 12:16 AM
Repairing a substandard existing problem makes you the last person to mess with something that is out of code.

If a line voltage line was 2 inches deep its substandard. Watch out for your clients saftey and well being by making sure any substandard work is brought to their attention for correction.

If I cut a line that was deep enough to be considered within code or safe I would also pay to repair it properly out of pocket. If it was a hack install and out of code I want nothing to do with a band aid repair and I am certainly not paying to have someone elses botched job fixed.

INTEGRA Bespoke Lighting
04-26-2008, 04:23 PM
Mike I understand you completely, I really do....

Now look at this as an opportunity... an opportunity to stand heads and tails above any other contractor or trade in the area. By taking responsibility and fixing it for him. (you buy the materials and have your EC install it) you will blow him away. He will talk about you in positive terms to everyone for a long time to come.

It is an opportunity to do what it right.
It is an opportunity to win over a client in a big way.
It is an opportunity to become REMARKABLE in every sense of the word.
It is even a promotional and marketing opportunity. ( I guarantee you it will generate more revenue for you then it will cost you.)

Call me crazy, but this very technique has worked very well for me here. My clients and their friends know that I take care of them. They know that they don't have anything to worry about, and they know I have their best interest in my mind and in my hands at all times.

Being REMARKABLE comes in many forms... This is just one way that you can begin to make a strong, positive and lasting impression on dozens of people who will be in contact with your client. You will not get a more cost effective or more productive promotional opportunity for a long time to come.

Oh, and I continue to offer my clients free service to this very day... another thing that most think is absolutely crazy and I maintain is the cheapest form of promotion available.

Have a great weekend.

04-26-2008, 04:43 PM
Your contract needs to say that you are not responsible for unforseen conditions. If you should have known the wire was there and didn't know than it's your fault but if the wire isn't where it should be (like not deep enough) and you had no way of knowing, it's not your fault and you shouldn't be making the repair out of your pocket. The guy that installed the electric line in the wrong place screwed up, you didn't.

Call utility markout before you dig but they won't mark lines that belong to the home owner so you wouldn't have known about this wire anyway.

You could offer to have your electrician make the repair at additional cost or let the HO call their own electrician.

And if the guy needs his boat charged that badly, he can run an extension cord until it's fixed.

Mike M
04-26-2008, 05:36 PM
I think everyone has made good points here.

James brings up a good topic, an excellent topic, and I don't want to argue this particular situation since there is much more info, like trying to pay for my kids health bills at the moment, etc.

Besides spending money for clients, you can also do things for them, and go out of your way to do so.

Here's some ideas I can afford, tell me what you think: some of my customers are fishermen, so I thought about getting some fly patterns and materials from the local shops and start making sets of saltwater flies for gifts. I also notice that I can usually find a novel place for a fixture that may have been over-looked (my bad), so I thought about coming back to some job sites before Christmas, with owner permission, and adding a tree light, etc. A lot of people have little golf cart garages with side or back entrances and a tree nearby. There seems to be opportunities to invest some time and effort without having to spend a lot of money I don't have.

Re: being remarkable...

As Nate says in his book, we should always think of opportunities to do things the basic add-on lighting guys don't, such as building-mounted down lighting, etc. That's why I'd like to get into technical tree climbing, "to go out on a limb" so to speak. (The live oaks have long horizontal branches, perfect for this sort of thing.)

Also, today I was practicing getting over my fear of heights. I marked on my extension ladder the number of feet, and I made myself climb up along the side of my house and touch the top of the ladder. My next goal is to step one more step, and then one more. This may not impress my clients, but it impresses the heck out of myself. lol.

Billy has me thinking I need to install a upb system in my home to practice it. That could definitely separate me more from others.

I was impressed with James' use of a dry suit to mount fixtures on docks. I am lucky to be at my lattitude, and only need a wet suit (affordable) and was considering this after getting my feet wet in lighting (excuse the pun).

Tom had some great ideas about playing-up the island thing, and I've already priced some fancy silk shirts. Yikes--expensive. But probably well worth it.

For now, I just want to focus on the rock-solid basics, work hard, and keep learning more specialized skills, without too much worry about gimmicks and spending much more money.

Let's not forget about technical ways to be remarkable. I always take a moment to point out a tree root which was cut by pick ax to permit a 6" trench, plus our material selection, hand them a unique or cast tree light, show them the tin coat wire and solder kit, hubs, etc. Show them the multi-taps and the amp probe if they are into it. Let them know how important the halogen cycle is to know. At least they see I love my work and take the details seriously.

04-28-2008, 12:51 AM
Lots of very good information here. I tend to agree with James here. If a contrator were to come to my house to install something and they damaged an existing system whatever it was, I would expect them to repair it. Being told it was installed improperly the first time probably wont make me fee better. I would guess having exclusions in your contract can protect you in the event there was a sitation where you had to fix something that was cost prohibitivie due to it being not installed to code but I see that being the exception.

It always makes good business sense to remember your best clients at certain holidays, etc. I know many contractors that give out a bottle of wine with their companies name on it for the Holidays, a very nice touch. There are many companies on-line that offer that.

Mike Southard

04-28-2008, 08:46 AM
Rememebering the great clients and remaining in touch with them is excellent. We periodically call or email just to ensure all is well and see if they need anything. Dont become a nusance to them but make sure they know you were there to service the system and perform maintenance check ups.

I am working on doorhangers for service and getting them at 3000doorhangers.com

I still feel repairing or touching a substandard or out of code system can create issues in the future. You should be open and honest with the client. If its something like an irrigation pipe we simply repair it and move on.