I do a quick survey of the area. If I see obvious problems or safety concerns I mention them to the customer. I do not check the whole house or internal wiring unless I am requested to do so. Some folks are under the impression that a "service upgrade" is a wiring upgrade.
"Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new." -Albert Einstein
I check the wiring in the old panel as I'm disconnecting it. If there's an unusual connection, I'll investigate. I also check visually anytime I'm in a home. Typically services here are in a basement & the wiring is exposed. If there's a problem, I'll bring it to the owners attention.
Other than that, I wouldn't typically go around the house and check polarity and voltage on outlets, if that's what you're asking.
With older homes, there is often quite a bit of work that has been added to, or changed, over the years. This often shows up as wires spliced in the fuse box, or double wires under the screws.
I do try to find out what the wires are for; besides wanting to identify them on the panel schedule, quite often these wires are for things (like the furnace) that need to have their own circuit.
There's another matter that also needs to be looked into as well....the number of circuits vs. the appliances present. For example, a home with an electric range, water heater, clothes dryer- yet only one 220 circuit. Such an arrangement is clearly dangerous, and some additional circuits will have to be installed. Likewise, if the box is full of #14 wire with 30 amp fuses, you'll probably need to split up some circuits.
If the house is full of three-prong receptacles, on an ungrounded system, I'll want to get that fixed- usually by using a GFI breaker.
In other words, for me there is much more to a service change than just replacing the fuse box. Simply replacing the box, while leaving the rest alone, assures that the customer will be calling you ("the junk breaker you put in keeps tripping")- and continues an unsafe situation.
If someone objects to my pricing, well, they're free to look around. I really don't want something bad to happen, that I was in a perfect position to prevent.
There's the rub. When you do a service change, it is common for circuits to be overloaded- something indicated by the over-size fuse. You, being a consciencious type, size your breaker to the wire.
Now, it's quite possible the customer will not believe you when you explain the problem to them. Perhaps they don't think there will be a problem= or, they'll have the work done by some "production shop" that says nothing about it when they quote their lower price.
Of course, their new breaker will start tripping. If you did the work, you get to say "I told you so"...and contract for the additional work. If the other guy did it, he's likely to say "not my problem,"...and the now angry customer calls 'the nice man who seemed to know this would happen'....and you contract for the work.
Naturally, it costs more to fix it in two visits, than had it all been done at the same time.
We can't let our work be treated like a commodity. There are three kinds of work: quick, cheap, and good. You can choose to be any two of the three. The guy who is cheap only will be neither good nor quick.
These are the reasons why I won't quote work "blind;" I want to look the job over first. In my quote, I am careful to specify what I will do. This is not simply tail-covering....it is another opportunity to sell the customer on what I'm offering that the other guy isn't.
The "cheap" guy may make a splash at first...but his lack of profit won't cover many call-backs, and unhappy customers are not likely to be repeat customers.
... Come to think of it,..here's something we encountered on a service upgrade,... after all was said and done,..we popped the meter back in, hit the main, and started flipping the branch circuit breakers on,... then, BAMM,..one of the breakers kept tripping, as if it were a dead fault,..after a little detective work, and practically pulling all of the circuits off their breakers, we found the problem,.. sometime ago, some yutz spliced into a branch circuit, and re-fed it,..with the same phase,..so it didn't blow,..now that the new breakers were installed and relocated in the panel, that backfed circuit now landed on the opposite phase... ... I love old houses,.. Russ
.."if it ain't fixed,don't break it...call a Licensed Electrician"
Russ, that has happened to me more than once, for sure.
Whenever I do a service, or a simple panel change, I simply identify all of the existing circuits, and tape together any double pole cb's, before removing any of them from the panel. Other than that, the only branch circuits I will examine are the ones that may or may not be terminated in boxes near the panel that violate the code.
[This message has been edited by ShockMe77 (edited 12-20-2005).]