7 Things to Consider Before Hiring a Plumbing Contractor

plumber-2Plumbing problems are more common than you think, especially when it comes to older homes. Whether the issue is as simple as a leaky faucet or a clogged drain, or something more complex like installing a sink or replacing a water or sewer line or a renovation; they’re all capable of throwing a wrench into your everyday plans. While many of the small problems can be resolved by homeowners themselves, you should contact a professional as the complex ones will need the attention of a skilled plumber.

Before you hire a plumber or a plumbing contractor, however, there are a few considerations to keep in mind. We’ll try to touch those bases here.

Is the plumber licensed?

The plumber you hire should be licensed, bonded and insured. A plumbing license insures he is qualified, passed state testing and is a genuine plumber. This will give you peace of mind that your home & property is protected in case something goes wrong with your plumbing job. Be sure to hire a reputable plumbing contractor, as they will most likely provide emergency service if you need it.

What kind of experience does the plumbing contractor have?

Just because the contractor has a plumbing license, it doesn’t mean they have a lot of experience. Don’t hire the first name you come across without checking out their history. Experience matters. The more experience, probably the better skills. Don’t be afraid to ask for a reference or read online testimonials from reputable sites. With more experience, you may have higher cost, but in the long run, it will be worth it for their speed, knowledge, accuracy and experience.

$$$-What are we looking at?

For big jobs, a professional plumber will want to arrange for a site visit to prepare an estimate. You should be clear as to what the estimate will include and exclude. Most likely this will include labor, materials and possibly sub-contracting some elements of the job. Also a contingency plan should something go wrong. Of course it is upon you to read the estimate and agree to all or parts of it. A professional plumber should be open to discussion on each aspect of the estimate.

Don’t be afraid to ask what the hourly rate is for plumbing services, and with large job, if there is a flat rate. Also it wouldn’t hurt to ask what their billing /payment policy is.

Is the work guaranteed or have a warranty?

Ask about work guarantees or fixture/equipment warranties. Professional plumbing contractors will guarantee their work for a specific amount of time; fixture or plumbing equipment manufacturers warranties will vary. The plumber should leave you with Operation Manuals for each new piece of equipment, appliance or new fixture and those assurances are spelled out in the manuals.

Does the Contractor have insurance?

All plumbing contractors should carry liability insurance to cover the cost of any repairs and damage to your home caused by the plumber. Without the liability insurance, you, as the homeowner could be on the hook for the costs,

Also make sure the plumbing contractor has worker’s compensation and liability insurance in case of a worker’s injury. Without worker’s comp, the homeowner could be liable for medical bills and related costs.

What is the response time?

When calling for a plumbing job the scheduler / dispatcher will offer available times for you to choose from and will ask you what day/time fits in your schedule. For emergencies, be sure to ask for a small window of time (1-2 hours) for the plumber to arrive. If they have to travel long distances, or the weather is inclement (icy, snowy roads) you must take that extra time into consideration.

Who is responsible for obtaining permits and parts for the job?

All plumbing companies stock their vans & trucks with quality parts. If your job requires a unique part or fixture, they may have to order it or go to a hardware store or plumbing supply warehouse to get the part. In some cases, if the part needs to be ordered, an additional appointment will have to be scheduled for its installation.

If your job requires city/county permits, you need to establish before the job begins, who will obtain the permits. If you opt to do that leg work, make sure it’s understood by all involved so you are not charged with the cost of getting the permit.

In the end:

If you have never had a plumbing emergency or issue- good for you!  But those who have will be quick to tell you what they went through. We hope these common sense points will help you have the best experience in a difficult situation; or a great outcome with your renovation. It’s all about peace of mind, fairness of expense and respect for you, the homeowner.

 

Is It Time to Consider a New Boiler?

A sturdy boiler can provide many years of effective heating for your commercial building. However, even the most reliable boiler system will eventually start to fail. When properly maintained, commercial boilers can last for 15 years or more – many have been known to last much longer than that. Here is an introduction to boilers and some factors to consider when deciding if it’s time start preparing for a boiler replacement.

Boilers: the Basics

Boilers use combustible fuels such as natural gas or oil to heat water and produce steam that provides hydronic heat for a commercial building. Boilers also provide hot water for bathrooms, kitchens and industrial operations. Boiler and hydronic equipment can work at low or high pressures, depending on the type of system, but hot water will always be present. Safety precautions should always be taken when working with commercial-grade boilers.

Evaluation Factors

  • Age – Age is often a prime consideration when thinking about replacing a boiler, but it’s not the only factor. A properly maintained boiler will most likely last longer than one not maintained. Boilers that are 15 years or older may be coming to the point where age is likely to become an issue.
  • Performance – Over time, a boiler may start losing efficiency and heating performance.  When this happens it’s a sign that your boiler may be a good candidate for replacement.  Preventative maintenance and professional repairs will keep your equipment working longer, but eventually an aging boiler will need to be upgraded or replaced.
  • Condition – A boiler that is still in good condition will probably last a few more years. In considering and evaluating the condition of your boiler, there are many factors to consider; the metal condition, any rust present, leaks, the function of burners and burner controls, the condition of the doors, even the brickwork in the combustion area.

Things to Consider Before you Replace your Boiler

  • Size – Your replacement boiler must be the proper size to provide sufficient amounts of hot water or steam for your facility. When talking about your boiler, size refers to the system’s functional capacity to produce heat, not its actual physical dimensions. The HVAC professionals at Oregon Cascade Plumbing & Heating can conduct a load calculation on your building to determine how much heating you need. With this information and professional guidance, it is relatively easy to select a boiler that will meet your needs.
  • Efficiency – Older boilers typically offer lower efficiency than newer models. This means they use more fuel to produce the same amount of heat. New boilers offer higher operational efficiency, giving you more heating at a lower cost, by using less fuel. Commercial boilers are rated using an AFUE (annual fuel utilization efficiency) rating. Boilers with an AFUE of 80 or above are considered high efficiency and can earn government Energy Star program certification.
  • Installation – Proper installation is essential when your boiler is replaced.  Pressure produced by hot water and steam can pose a danger in an improperly installed boiler.  Dangerous gasses, water leaks or even explosions can result from an improperly installed boiler.  Make sure only qualified professionals install and service your building’s boiler.
  • Ventilation – Boilers burn combustible fuel, and as a result they produce gases and fumes.  The most common and most dangerous of these gasses is carbon monoxide, a highly poisonous gas can’t be seen smelled or tasted. A properly ventilated boiler system ensures combustion gases are safely and effectively routed out of your building, keeping everyone inside safe.

 

The professionals at Oregon Cascade Plumbing and Heating can maintain your boiler to prevent problems and extend the lifespan of your system.  When the time comes to replace your boiler, we can make sure you have the right system, professionally installed, with an ongoing preventative maintenance program to keep it in tip top shape. Call us today to schedule an assessment of your buildings boiler or plumbing system.  503-588-0355

 

3 Big Differences Between Commercial & Residential Plumbing

Plumbing is plumbing, which may make you wonder if there’s a difference between commercial plumbing and residential plumbing. After all, they both use the same kinds of material and a toilet or a sink is the same wherever it’s located.  Right?  In the Willamette Valley, there are many companies that provide both commercial and residential plumbing services. When dealing with a commercial plumbing project, the company you choose should be aware of the differences. Here are three of the biggest:

  • Size – The most obvious difference between commercial and residential plumbing is size.  Commercial work requires a lot more piping, outlets and fixtures than a home.  A business plumbing system must also be able to handle a much higher demand than a residential system.
  • Multiple floors -While a home may have multiple stories, in most instances, it’s no more than 2, maybe 3 if there’s a finished basement or attic.  A commercial structure is usually much, much larger.  Each level of a business requires toilets, sinks and in some cases commercial kitchens, laundry facilities, multiple water heaters or boilers.  Increased demand for water and gravity are important factors in making sure piping and water pressure are correct for each individual building.  A good, experienced plumber understands the differences and can help you make the most of your plumbing system, no matter the size.
  • Variety of problems – While a residence can have a variety of issues, they are, for the most part, fairly standard.  Businesses on the other hand, with large commercial plumbing systems, face a much wider variety of issues.  Commercial plumbers must be knowledgeable, and capable of understanding and quickly repairing, a much broader array of problems.  Code compliance is critical in a commercial setting, and an experienced plumber must be aware of all commercial plumbing code requirements to help protect his commercial customer.

When you experience a plumbing problem at work, you need a plumber with the experience to handle any size problem, in any type of commercial building.  Here in the Willamette Valley Business Owners have turned to the experienced plumbers at Oregon Cascade Plumbing & Heating since 1969.  We have the knowledge and experience to handle your commercial plumbing problem, no matter the size.  Call us today to experience the Oregon Cascade dedication to service!