Plumbing: When It Can’t Wait
Some home repairs can be delayed until the owner has the time and money to fix them; plumbing problems, however, are much more urgent. Broken plumbing may render toilets and sinks inoperable; severe problems may even cause sewage and other wastewater to flood the home. Time is of the essence, but hiring the wrong plumber may make the situation even worse! How, then, can a homeowner identify a reliable plumber? Read on to find out.
The Value of Word-of-Mouth
The first and most obvious strategy is to ask for recommendations from family, friends and coworkers. Plumbing problems eventually affect almost everyone; take advantage of this by inquiring after the best plumbers in the area. Ask about the quality of a given plumber’s work, but don’t forget to explore their punctuality, fee schedule, reliability and professionalism as well. Does this plumber arrive on time? Does he or she offer free estimates and stay faithful to those during repairs? Is this plumber courteous and professional? These are essential questions that should not be ignored. Estimates are one of the most important factors to consider, although in complex or severe situations it can be difficult for the plumber to offer an exact quote. If this is the case, ask for a “ceiling quote”: a maximum fee that the plumber won’t exceed without your permission.
Consumer Reviews and Recommendations
Helpful information is also available from consumer review websites; these may be run by a government agency or a third-party consumer advocate, but stay away from any sites owned by a plumbing company to avoid potential conflicts of interest. Be sure to visit the site maintained by the Institute of Plumbing, which maintains a database of quality plumbers that’s searchable by postcode. Look for reviews posted by individuals who had plumbing problems similar to your own; also search for any consumer complaints or lawsuits that have been filed against each plumber on your list.
Spotting an Amateur
It’s important to understand that most reputable plumbers have an office and receptionist or answering service. It’s fine to leave a voicemail when calling outside of standard business hours, but during daytime lack of a human on the other end of the line may indicate that the plumber is an overworked freelancer who habitually accepts more work than he or she can promptly complete. If a child picks up the phone, this is another potential red flag because it means that the plumber you’re calling doesn’t maintain a separate phone line for professional use.
Reputable plumbers offer service warranties that guarantee their work for a set period of time; this means that the plumber agrees to return without cost and fix any subsequent problems that were caused by his or her error. If your home is very old, it may be difficult to prove that the problem is directly related to the plumber’s recent work, but otherwise a true professional won’t balk at returning for a tune-up. Don’t sign anything until you’ve discussed such a warranty with the plumber in question. If he or she is vague on the details or grows defensive, run away and don’t look back. The same holds true for a plumber reticent to divulge his or her license number; when this happens, it’s an indication that he or she may be illegally operating without a license.
Article kindly given to us by BBS Plumb
Photo credit: David Blackwell, pedrosimoes7 and John Carleton.