Table of Contents
- 1 Choosing a Plumber
- 2 Friends and Family
- 3 References
- 4 Local Reviews and Recommendations
- 5 Memberships with Trade Association Companies
- 6 Customer Experience
- 7 Does He Show Up In a Company Vehicle?
- 8 Does He Show Up With a Company Uniform On?
- 9 The 4 Biggest Fears Homeowner’s Have When Hiring a Plumber
- 10 Does He Present To You A Professionally Written Contract
- 11 Clean Plumbers
- 12 Specialization of Work
- 13 Hiring Based On Price Instead of Value
- 14 Get at Least 3 Estimates
- 15 Plumbing Camera Inspections
- 16 Is Your Plumber Bonded?
- 17 Plumbing Website
- 18 24 hour Plumbing Emergency Services
- 19 Summary
Choosing a Plumber
When you have a plumbing emergency in your home choosing a plumber can be a daunting task. Knowing the things to look for is half of the battle.
In this consumer’s guide, we’ll show you how to choose a plumber a reliable and dependable plumber that respects your schedule and understands plumbing emergencies often happen at inconvenient times.
You’ll know the exact steps to take in hiring a good plumber whether you’re needing a leaky faucet fixed or something a bit more involved like a new bathroom install. You’ll be armed to ward off the types of plumbing scams you see depicted in the video below.
Use this guide to help you take your power back by knowing exactly what qualifying questions to ask your plumber before you contract with him to do any work for you.
Friends and Family
The most obvious place to start when trying to find a plumber would seem to be friends and family. Of course, friends and family can be very credible sources but many times people don’t know what they don’t know. If your sources haven’t been taught the proper questions to ask and what to look for in a plumber they certainly won’t be able to share much wisdom with you.
You can certainly ask them but proceed with caution because the advice you get from them may be putting you at a severe disadvantage.
You don’t necessarily have to talk to plumbers like you are interviewing them for a job but essentially that is what you are doing. You want to know a little bit about their past history, their level of experience and their ability to be able to handle a variety of plumbing tasks reputably
Ask them if you may speak to a few of their past clients. They should easily be able to provide you with 3 or 4 references. Pick up the phone and call these people. Start by introducing yourself and tell them the nature of your call. Then ask them to describe the type of work they had done and if they were satisfied with the work. Listen as carefully to what they don’t say as to what they do say.
Local Reviews and Recommendations
There are several third party resources that you can use to check your local plumbing company out. Some of the websites like Yelp and Google Reviews are generated by customers who have actually used the services before. Be mindful though some of the reviews on these websites may not be legitimate and certainly not all of them are unbiased.
You can also take a look at the Chamber of Commerce’s website in your particular city or the Better Business Bureau online for more research. Typically plumbing companies who take the time out to register with these websites are legitimate businesses and operating with honesty and integrity.
Memberships with Trade Association Companies
Plumbers who hold themselves to a higher standard within the industry will usually involve themselves with trade associations within the plumbing industry. There are a ton of these trade associations available to plumbers who can demonstrate that their quality of work and technical skills meet or exceed industry standards.
If the plumber in question claims to be a member of one of these associations you can easily verify whether not this is true and if they are still in good standing. This can usually be done by placing a quick call or visiting the appropriate website and entering the plumber or plumbing company’s information.
Normally when you think of an overall customer experience dining at restaurants and hotel stays are typically what comes to mind. However, there are some plumbers in the industry who go through great lengths to provide and overall exceptional customer experience.
Even though you may be calling a plumber for a simply repair, look for a plumber who really wants to earn your loyalty as a client for both small and large jobs, not someone just looking at you as another quick payday.
Look for small clues that set the company apart from other plumbing companies. Does he show up at your home in a company truck? Is he dressed in a company uniform? Does he use a professionally written contract? Does he place shoe covers on his feet to keep your home clean?
Does he use mats to protect your countertops and floors? Is he able to show you the source of the plumbing problem in your home? Does he possess state of the art camera inspection equipment available to show you problems that exist underground, allowing you to make informed decisions?
Is he upfront with pricing and clearly explains the scope of the work to be performed before the job starts? Does he take the time to put your home back into its original condition?
You’re off to a fairly good start if the plumber shows up to your home in a company vehicle, dressed in a company uniform, uses professionally written contracts but we have much more to cover.
Let’s discuss each of the questions mentioned above in detail so that you are in the know when deciding on which plumber to hire for your next plumbing job.
Does He Show Up In a Company Vehicle?
Besides branding their business any legitimate plumbing company would want to show up at your home or business in a company vehicle for other reasons as well. No scammer is going to broadcast his company’s logo or brand in the public’s face. A plumber with such an agenda wants to be incognito.
A homeowner may misplace a business card but they typically do not forget the logo seen on the side of a company’s vehicle. This makes it much easier for you to remember the company for rehire or not and professional plumbers know this. Also, any good or bad conduct associated with a company will be associated with the plumbing company, not the individual and this is why the best plumbing companies only hire people that have been thoroughly vetted.
Plumbers who show up in company vehicles usually will put their best foot forward when their logo and brand is highly visible and mobile. While this is not the end all be all of choosing a plumber, it is a great initial clue to begin to feel comfortable that you are making a good choice.
Does He Show Up With a Company Uniform On?
Yeah, yeah…I know you were taught as a child, by well-meaning adults, not to judge a book by its cover. Well in the case of a service professional, such as a plumber, this is an exception to the rule.
Research has shown that more than 80 % of homeowners are more likely to trust a home service professional if he is wearing a uniform.
Whether you want to or not you are subconsciously judging the plumber that shows up at your door by the first impression he creates.
He really only has a few seconds, as you decide whether or not you believe that he’s trustworthy as well as feel confident that he possesses the skills to solve your plumbing problem.
A uniformed plumber helps distinguish him from trespassers and can make you feel more at ease. He also has the opportunity to increase the company’s brand if he’s clean because now he appears more reliable and trustworthy without the mere utterance of a word.
Don’t underestimate the importance of image as a good indicator of the value you may potentially receive from the way a plumber is dressed.
The 4 Biggest Fears Homeowner’s Have When Hiring a Plumber
- No Shows – You’ve heard the horror stories before. Someone hires a plumbing contractor and he shows up for work just fine the first few days. Suddenly, when he’s halfway into the project he gets overwhelmed by a conflicting schedule, his truck breaks down or he just flat out quits the job. He disappears like a ghost and your halfway remodeled bathroom is a wreck.
- On the Job Injuries – Not all plumbing contractors carry adequate liability insurance if the carry any insurance at all. Now the injured plumber can’t work but also is suing the homeowner because they were injured on their property. Not a call that any homeowner wants to receive.
- Poor Workmanship – Many times plumbing contractors have to sub out part of the work but even if you’ve vetted the plumber how do you know the subcontractor is going to do quality work? A clear scope of work which includes information on the subs can help alleviate this concern.
- Incompetence – Sometimes no matter how much interviewing you do, reviews you read, companies you research you may not actually know the result of what you’re getting until the plumber is at your house doing the work. Because a lot of plumbing is not in plain site intentional or unintentional bad work can be covered up. You may discover this the hard way through flood or fire. However, you’ll be in much better shape if your plumbing contract includes the information below.
Does He Present To You A Professionally Written Contract
Having a written contract on both small and large plumbing jobs helps to clear up misunderstandings and manage expectations whether you’re the homeowner needing the work or the plumber doing the work.
“The palest ink is better than the best memory.” A basic contract will not take very long to create and it will generate the scope of work to be performed that all parties involved in the contractual agreement should sign.
You may be under the erroneous assumption when hiring a plumber, that you only need a contract for large jobs like a kitchen remodel but not for smaller repairs like a dripping faucet or clogged toilet.
We recommend you always get an agreement signed between both parties before any work begins. This should be done without exception.
This way everyone knows exactly what work is to be done and for larger plumbing jobs especially, this can help keep the job on the proper schedule from beginning to end. You also want to know the complete cost of the plumbing job so there are no sudden surprises when the task is completed.
Plumbing Work Order vs Plumbing Contract
A plumber work order is not the same as a full blown plumbing contract agreement. Typically you will see a work order used for simple plumbing services such as a shower head replacement, leaky faucets or repairing a water heater.
The main purpose for this document is to create a paper trail that a particular plumbing service was performed for a specific person, using specific fixtures or materials by a licensed plumber for a specific dollar amount.
A plumber’s work order will generally include the following information:
- Name, address and phone number of the plumbing company/licensed plumbing professional
- Location of job
- Service(s) provided
- List of materials and or plumbing fixtures used
- Material cost
- Service cost
- Amount billed and acknowledgment of payment received
- Warranty on parts and work performed
A plumbing contract agreement is most often used for the larger more complex jobs. This agreement goes beyond the scope of what you would typically see in a work order and helps to make sure that the licensed plumber will perform services according to the plumbing standards that have been set forth by your particular state.
Think of a plumbing contract as an extremely detailed blueprint for every aspect of the plumbing project to be done. This contract is specific for you and your home and is essential for legal protection for you the homeowner and the licensed plumber.
Never rely on a verbal agreement for any plumbing job because it leaves no paper trail. If a problem should occur, without a written agreement you won’t have a leg to stand on if you have to take the plumbing contractor to court. In some states, verbal agreements are legally binding but again without any written documentation a court would have difficulty ruling in your favor because there would be no way to prove which party was right.
Entering Into a Plumber Contract Agreement
As mentioned earlier using a plumber contract agreement is for larger kitchen and bathroom remodeling jobs or installing a brand new plumbing system. As you can imagine plumbing jobs of this scope means that all the details need to be clearly spelled out in the agreement. A good plumbing contract should include the following:
- Name, address, phone number of for both the homeowners and plumbing contractor.
- Address of where the plumbing project is to be performed.
- The start and end dates of the project. This includes when key stages of the plumbing project are scheduled to be completed. Things happen, so there should be a clause detailing acceptable reasons for any delays. Such delays may include backorder of a product or inclement weather conditions.
- A detailed scope of work to be performed for all phases of the plumbing projects.
- The total costs of the project to include materials, labor, permits, etc.
- A list of permits that will be required and who will pull and pay for the each permit.
- A timeline for payment schedule should be clearly outlined. What stages of the plumbing project must be completed before a payment is expected to be made by you the homeowner.
- List all plumbing materials and fixtures needed to complete the project. This will include brand names to be used, color, model numbers, and grades of materials. Nothing should be left up to guesswork on the plumbers part.
- A clause that states the plumber is both licensed, insured and will comply with all plumbing industry standards. This includes both on the job safety and code requirements as set forth by the city and state.
- An insurance clause should be clearly visible outlining what the plumbing contractor will cover. It should cover worker’s comp (worker injured on the job) as well as any insurance to cover any damages that may de do to your property.
- If any work is to be subcontracted out, the name, address, phone number, proof of license and insurance should be provided for each sub. Try to find a company that has all their workers as employees that get weekly pay checks and are insured.
- A clause that protects you from incurring any liability in the case of debts incurred by the plumbing contractor that were not part of the original agreement. This will take care of you having to be responsible for any unpaid invoices to a subcontractor or for materials that were invoiced.
- A specific clause detailing who will be responsible for cleaning up the job site once the project has ended.
- In the case of any disputes between you and the plumbing contractor, who will be the 3rd party mediator to resolve the problem? This needs to be clearly spelled out in the contract.
- Warranty information that will be given on fixtures and any work performed.
- A change order clause; how will changes to the original contract be handled? (additions and deletions). This is usually handled by a contract addendum or amendment and must be signed and dated by both parties.
- Finally, a right of rescission clause. This gives you the homeowner the right to change your mind and void the contract agreement within 36 hours from signing it without the need for penalty or reason for cancellation.
When we speak of clean plumbers we’re not only talking about his physical appearance (you know the one’s that typically show up at your home with their butt crack showing) we’re also talking about how they leave your house after they are done with the job.
So you should want the plumber you hire to not only be nice, clean, professional but also one who cleans up his mess when he’s done.
Imagine the following scenario has just happened to you. You hire a local plumber to come out to your home to unclog a septic tank. The location of the clog was located inside of your home in the basement.
As the plumber was snaking the line to unclog it, sewer water begins to backup in your basement. Not a very pleasant experience, I’m sure you would agree, but certainly understandable given the nature of the work being done.
So now you, the homeowner, have sewer water puddled in the middle of your basement floor along with more sludge as a result of all the snaking. Not only that but a part of the sludge managed to also make its way all across the wall above where the clean out resided. Luckily for you, some of the overflow of water was able to drain into your sump pump.
Question: Should the plumber clean up the mess he created after his work was done?
We answer this question with only one thing in mind? What was the overall customer’s experience? We’re they unhappy, satisfied or wowed? If they were anything less than wowed the plumber didn’t do his job completely, at least not from our point of view. We believe all relationships should be with the long-term view in my, not simply transactional.
You see, he may have fixed the plumbing problem but the customer(YOU) were still not satisfied because as you are cleaning up the mess after the plumber is long gone (being constantly reminded of what he didn’t do) do you think that you will ever call or use him again? Do you think you should?
When you talk about your unfortunate experience with the clogged septic tank with your neighbors, friends or relatives do you think you will tell them about the mess the plumber left behind? You betcha you will. Most plumbing companies don’t really understand the long-term value of a customer nor do they understand providing the value of wowing a customer!
The plumber you want to hire is one who wears booties, who places mats down to protect your floors and countertops. If the professional plumber digs up a hole in your yard, to the degree that it is humanly possible he will put your yard back in the condition it was before he arrived.
You want a plumber, who when he leaves, it will be damn near impossible for anyone who visits you afterward to know that you had a plumbing visit. If you don’t have a plumber who does this we suggest you find yourself another plumber.
As you can see most of what it takes to hire a plumber doesn’t require you to be a Rhode Scholar, it just involves a little bit of knowledge and some common sense. We understand hiring a plumber is not something you do everyday so how would you know these things unless someone educated you on the process. This is what we are endeavoring to do with this consumer’s guide so let’s continue.
Specialization of Work
In fact, some plumbers are certified to work on certain brands. So would you want a plumber who has never worked on a tankless water heater before servicing your tankless water heater?
Or how about a plumber who has not ever heard of a Rheem hot water heater much less worked on one before? Not only that, many manufacturers will only warrant your appliances if they are serviced by an approved plumber or technician.
Just like you want your dentist to be qualified for the task at hand so should your plumber be also. You will only know this by asking the appropriate questions when you call.
Questions such as:
- How long have you been a plumber?
- Do you service this brand of equipment?
- Is the plumber you sending out on the service call certified to work on this equipment? Can he provide me with proof?
- Are your plumbers formally trained or did they learn mostly through an apprenticeship?
- Does your company belong to any professional organizations?
- Is the service technician licensed and registered with the state? Can he provide me with proof?
- Do your company maintain the proper liability insurance? Can you provide me with proof?
If the plumber or plumbing company becomes impatient with you or begins to squirm, as you question them, you may want to look for another plumber. Some of the steps we’re suggesting you take when hiring a plumber for the first time may seem a bit arduous but you will only have to do this once.
Once you’ve found a plumbing contractor that you know, like and trust you can pick up your cell phone with confidence anytime you have a plumbing repair issue. Not only that, you will also have the confidence to refer them to all of your family and friends.
All this work is not so you can just save a buck or two because oftentimes the cheapest plumbers don’t provide the best value. (more on the difference between price and value later on in this guide)
Hiring Based On Price Instead of Value
This not only applies to plumbing but it seems that most of the time when it comes to anything to do with home services most homeowners choose on price and not value. Choosing home services based solely on price could be totally eliminated if homeowners would setup a budget for home maintenance. Because as we all know a home needing some type of repair is going to happen sooner or later. So why not prepare for the eventual repair but I digress.
Value is when you get quality of work, quality of service at a competitive price. If one of the three is missing the value isn’t there. Generally, when you choose on price alone its a bad choice because there will always be a plumber who will be willing to do it for less money not necessarily do a better job.
Also, choosing a plumber based solely on price presupposes that he can actually do the work and that he is licensed and insured. It also doesn’t allow you to develop a long-term relationship with a plumber because you’re always “plumber hopping”. Another question that you must consider, when basing your choices solely on price, is does the plumber have the proper tools to get the job done, will he guarantee his work in writing and will he use quality materials?
Lastly, if price and saving money, on the plumbing repair, is your main objective are you really sure that you are saving money? If the plumber you are choosing to hire is significantly less than other plumbers you called (you did call at least two other plumbers didn’t you?) there must be a reason for the significant price difference.
Will you end up paying more for the job if you to have it redone? We’re not saying that you shouldn’t try to get the based value for your dollars spent. What we are saying is that don’t let price be your only criteria for deciding to hire or not to hire a plumber.
Trust is such an important quality to have between a plumber and a homeowner because it totally eliminates the fear of overpaying. Sure most plumbers will markup the plumbing fixtures that supply to you. However, this should be expected within reason.
That plumber is marking it up because of the convenience they are providing to you , the expertise they possess, the truck they operate, and the liability insurance they carry to protect themselves and you. As you know those things are not free and plumbing companies pass a small portion of that cost to you through markup of supplies as well as their labor cost.
However, when you trust the contractor you understand they are a for profit business and they must earn money to continue to operate their business. You should not be upset no more than you would go to a restaurant and have dinner knowing that you could buy that steak and potatoes significantly less than what you just paid the restaurant owner.
Money is currency and it needs to keep flowing. As long as you know, like and trust the plumbing company you should be delighted they are able to make a profit so they can continue to serve great clients like yourself. Make sense?
Get at Least 3 Estimates
There’s a saying that I’m fond of, “you can’t steal in slow motion.” All this means is that if a good deal is on the table and you take too long to make up your mind you’ll lose the opportunity to profit from the deal. However, I don’t recommend you use this strategy when hiring a plumber for the first time. In fact, I want you to slow down just a bit and not go for the lowest bid as I shared why this is often not the best approach earlier.
One of the first things you want to do when getting the bid is to see if all the plumbers come up with the same diagnosis to what the plumbing problem is. If they don’t, you won’t be able to compare apples to apples. Once they all say its a “burst pipe” then you need to get a written estimate of exactly the work to be performed and at what cost. You are looking for the total cost (including materials).
Now you are able to compare the 3 estimates side by side. Don’t forget to consider all the other things we’ve already mentioned before making your final decision.
One other bonus tip is that we recommend hiring a local plumber for several reasons. One the response time when you have an emergency is typically a lot quicker. The local plumber is familiar with the neighborhoods, local codes, and building inspectors. Also, a lot of plumbers charge extra for travel time traveling to and from jobs. This can add up quickly if the company you decide to hire offices in a neighboring town. Be sure to ask the plumber if they charge for travel.
Lastly, make sure that you’re getting a free estimate. While most plumbers do offer free estimates these days you just don’t want to be surprised by an unsuspecting trip fee after he’s arrived at your front door.
Plumbing Camera Inspections
A plumber who has the right tools to work with is a huge consideration when choosing a plumber, especially on larger plumbing jobs. For instance, if you have a sewer where the drain lines are blocked, a professional plumber will be able to use video camera equipment to perform drain line video inspections to diagnose what is creating the problem.
What this means for you as the homeowner is that all of the guesswork can be taken out of the equation as well as eliminate any unnecessary digs in your yard. They can hone in on the problem and immediately get to work removing the clog. If the plumbing contractor you contact is not equipped with a commercial grade plumbing metal plumbing snake or is not able to perform pressure hydro jetting they aren’t able to solve your problem in this case.
Being able to make informed decisions because you are provided with the right information empowers you as a homeowner. When video camera inspection equipment is used you no longer have to guess if your drain line is broken, cracked or just filled with tree roots. Now along with the expert advice of your plumber you can decide whether its best to repair or replace the damaged pipe which saves you money now and in the long run.
Is Your Plumber Bonded?
For your protection, a professional plumber should not only be insured, as we mentioned earlier but bonded as well. Don’t be shy about asking to see proof of their surety bond before any work begins. A bond would be recommended for any work north of the $500 range. Be certain that the bond covers the cost of either completing the job or redoing it.
A surety bond picks up where commercial liability insurance stops. It’s there to protect you in the case theft, shoddy work or perhaps paying for damages incurred because of illegal work was done by the plumbing contractor. So far we’ve put a lot of pieces of the plumbing puzzle pieces together. Hopefully, you are being to see that there are many things that go into hiring a quality plumber.
24 hour Plumbing Emergency Services
At this time in our evolution can there really be a good reason for any legitimate plumbing business not to have a professional website? If they won’t invest money into having a website created how much do you really think they will invest in taking care of your needs at the highest level? Any real plumbing company will have some type of presence on the web today.
This is akin to a plumber not having a physical mailing address. Typically, not all, scammers, fly-by-nighters and moonlighters are the ones who operate with no website and no address. Stable companies that you can rely on to take care of you consider both of the items absolutely essential.
And if the company does have a website you can gain a lot of insight by looking at the professionalism (or lack thereof) of the site. Many plumbing companies will also feature some good deals or coupons that you may be able to take advantage of as well.
Hopefully, you never have a plumbing emergency that happens at 2 am in the morning but just in case you do it would be a good idea to know if your chosen plumbing company offers 24-hour emergency service. Some plumbers are available in wee hours of the morning for such emergencies while others are not.
If they are available the next question you should ask is whether or not they charge extra to service the call. Emergency calls can run as high as $150 hour or more depending on where you live so this is something you want to know well in advance.
It may be difficult to find one company that offers both 24-hour emergency services while also offering plumbing services during regular business hours. This is why its best to do your sleuth work before plumbing problems occur.
Plumbers are human beings just like you and me. They should be considered innocent until proven otherwise. This guide was created to help you lessen the concerns that you may have when hiring a plumbing company. There’s no need to treat the plumbers like their on trial. Do your “interrogation” in a pleasant, conversational and non-accusatory manner. You don’t want to scare them away nor do you want to be taken advantage of is the ultimate goal. Good luck.