Installers taking varied approaches when dealing with cable removal

In many cases, for both contractors and users, the labor involved with removing abandoned cable is uncharted territory. But as always, the opportunity is yours to make sure this service is a value on both sides of the deal.

In the past couple months, I have had the opportunity to speak to several cabling installers on the topic of abandoned cable. I figured that these installers have had plenty of notice that this cable must be removed, and this would be a good opportunity to see what types of business strategies they have developed as a result.

As it turns out, the strategies vary widely. There are those installers who would rather ignore the situation than deal with it, those who are still getting their bearings, and those who see the problem as an opportunity.

The "ignorers" cite business pressures and a competitive environment for their approach. They're afraid that the other contractors against whom they're bidding for a project are overlooking abandoned cable, so including such a labor charge in their bids will make them look too expensive to the customer and, therefore, will put them out of contention for many jobs. I should acknowledge that those to whom I've spoken are aware of the National Electrical Code requirements for the removal of abandoned cable, and told me that their include/exclude dilemma arises in jurisdictions that have not yet adopted the Code.

Another population of installation contractors is trying in earnest to balance the new requirements with maintaining a profitable business and providing customer service. They haven't yet found the "sweet spot" at which they provide the required service for a price that is fair to the customer and the contractor. One contractor told me that for his first removal job, he estimated two days' worth of labor and charged the customer accordingly. The removal took two of his men three hours to complete.

The reality, he said, is that estimating the amount of time required for cable removal is predominantly guesswork. While there were strict specifications for what was to be installed, there were no records or really much of an idea of how many and what type of cables had to come out.

And just recently, I—for the first time—heard of an organization devoted exclusively to the removal of abandoned cable. One of the principals of the company told me that he was not aware of any other company that, like his, devoted itself to this endeavor.

Where do you fit into this changing industry dynamic? If you provide installation services, you have already made decisions about how to approach the situation. My wish for you is that sooner rather than later, you find the aforementioned "sweet spot."

If you are an end-user organization, you may face a significant task. Hopefully, by now you are aware of the code (read: legal) requirement to remove the cable and will comply with it. To help ensure you're not overpaying for removal services, you can find and document as much as possible about what cables have to go.

This cable is not nomadic. It's not going anywhere by itself. And in many cases, for both contractors and users, the labor involved is uncharted territory. But as always, the opportunity is yours to make sure this service is a value on both sides of the deal.

This is the third time this year I have discussed abandoned cable in this space.

I get 12 of these pages a year, and I have chosen to spend 25% of this year's space on a single topic. I hope that drives home the point that I take the abandoned-cable situation seriously. I hope that each of you does as well.

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