Plumbing 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.