Because you’re reading this article, there’s a better than average chance that you need a plumber right now. People don’t usually give much thought to which plumbing company to call until something goes wrong. By that time, they’re usually in a situation where they might hire the first person they can get a hold of. Or, they hire whoever can get there the fastest. While it’s understandable that this could be your first reaction when water is spilling all over the place, it’s not necessarily the best way to go about hiring a plumber.
The truth is, hiring a plumber really shouldn’t be any different from choosing a roofer, a doctor or deciding on a veterinarian for your beloved pet. The last thing you want is to hire someone that isn’t qualified to do the job. The question is, how do you know if the person you choose is capable of doing what you’re hiring them to do?
How to Choose a Good Plumber
Anytime that you hire a contractor, it’s imperative that you put some legwork into your decision long before you need them. While a lot of people don’t take the time to investigate which plumber they would hire if something went wrong, it’s a good practice to do exactly that. Otherwise, you may not know if the person you’re hiring is really any good or not. Trying to figure it out when you have pipes that have burst is not really the best time. Chances are, waiting until you’re in desperate need of a plumber is going to put you into a situation where you hire anybody as long as they can get there quickly. If that’s the approach you take, how will you know that the person you’re choosing has the qualifications to do the job correctly?
Hiring a plumber that doesn’t really have the knowledge and training to deal with your situation could end up costing you a lot of money in the end. Imagine what it would be like if you hire someone out of sheer desperation and then have to turn around and hire yet another plumber to fix the mess the first one created. Obviously, there is a way around this, but you have to be willing to put in the work long before you actually need a plumber. Only then will you know who to call.
You find a good plumber in the same manner that you find a good doctor or auto mechanic. First, find out what your options are. A lot of it is going to depend on the area in which you live. Start by making a list of the plumbers that provide service to your address. From there, do some investigative work. Check out reviews and find out which company has happy customers and which ones don’t. See if there’s a pattern that starts to develop, either good or bad, with certain plumbers.
Next, call the professional plumbers that you’d like to know a little more about. Find out how long they’ve been in business. Find out if they’re qualified to handle jobs that are extra challenging or if the majority of their experience has been relatively routine. Ask them if they are licensed and insured and find out if they’re willing to provide direct references. Finally, ask them how long it typically takes them to provide service once you hire them. When you’re finished investigating, decide on your best choice and then keep that number handy so you can call it at a moment’s notice. It’s also a good practice to have a back-up in mind just in case your first choice can’t get to you the same day.
Types of Plumbers
Most people don’t know this, but there are actually several different types of plumbers. And, they may not all provide the same level service, so it’s imperative that you find out exactly who you’re dealing with before you end up trying to hire someone that doesn’t provide the services you’re looking for.
Just as the name implies, these plumbers work at private homes. You might find them working on a brand-new house installing new pipes, or they might be repairing plumbing at an existing residence that has an issue.
A commercial plumber is one who works on plumbing in larger buildings. Think about businesses or large apartment buildings. These individuals typically work on large projects, whether it involves installing new plumbing or dealing with existing issues. It’s not all that uncommon to find a plumber that provides both residential and commercial service, but it’s important that you ask so you don’t end up inadvertently choosing the wrong one. If possible, it’s usually best to consider someone that provides both residential and commercial services, as the commercial plumbers usually experience problems that are a little more involved than those who strictly work on residential issues. That translates to hiring a plumber that has more knowledge and experience than you might otherwise be able to find.
Repair and Service Plumber
Every once in a while, you’ll run into a situation where the plumber in question doesn’t install new plumbing, but instead only provides repairs to existing systems. This is typically referred to as a repair and service plumber. More often than not, you don’t have to worry about this as much because most plumbers do both new installation and repairs. With that being said, it’s an important question to ask whenever you’re considering hiring a plumber.
It’s easy to get wrapped up in a situation where you don’t think it’s really all that important to put this much effort into finding a plumber, especially when you’re not currently having a problem. For many people, it seems like something that can simply be pushed to the back burner because they don’t really expect to have a problem soon. However, these types of issues usually pop up with little or no warning. If you haven’t put any thought into who you’re going to hire to fix the issue, you’re already at a significant disadvantage when something does happen. Your life will be a lot easier if you already have someone that you know you can contact because you won’t be going through that process and in some cases, the problem can be fixed and over within the same amount of time that it would take you to find a plumber if you haven’t already done so.
Now that you know how important it is for you to find the right plumber long before you need to place a call, there are a few other things that are worth considering. Sometimes, people get in the habit of hiring a handyman as opposed to a professional plumber, largely because it usually costs them less. However, you might be getting yourself into a situation that you would rather not be in by hiring a handyman as opposed to investing a little more money and getting a professional plumber to fix the issue you’re having. It’s important to remember that spending less money is not always the ideal solution. In fact, there are times when you might be spending less initially, but it could wind up costing you a lot more before everything is said and done.
Hiring a Handyman vs. a Professional Plumber
One thing that you need to remember is that a handyman is not likely to have a plumbing license. Professional plumbers, on the other hand, have to be licensed in order to be in business. Plumbing is similar to electrical work in this sense. You can get yourself into a lot of trouble if you hire someone to do a job and they don’t know exactly what they’re doing. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you should never hire a handyman for a plumbing job, but if you’re going to go that route, you have to be absolutely certain that the individual in question is capable of doing the repair that needs to be done.
You also have to go into the situation comfortable with the fact that your handyman is not licensed. So, if anything goes wrong, the situation is going to fall back on you when it comes time to fix it. Unless you personally know the handyman you hire, and you’re certain the job can be done without any problems, it’s better to stick to hiring a professional plumber. Professionals go through a lot of training in order to get their licenses, and they typically know a lot more than a handyman does. Unless the repair you need is extremely easy to do, you’re putting yourself at a bit of a disadvantage if you don’t hire a professional plumber from the beginning.
4 Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Plumber
Remember, this is your home. You don’t want to hire someone to do a job that isn’t going to be able to handle it. It ends up costing you more money in the long run, and it makes life miserable until the problem is corrected. That’s why it’s so important that you carefully choose the person you hire. Even when you’re hiring a professional plumber, you should always have questions for them before you allow them to do a job. It only makes sense to do this. Obviously, you want a person that’s qualified to do whatever needs to be done, and they need to be able to do it well. If you don’t ask questions, there’s no way for you to know if they’re capable of handling the job or not. Consider asking these four questions:
Are you licensed?
A plumber that is a professional will be licensed. If they’re not, you don’t want to hire them. Make sure that they provide proof of their license before you allow them to start the job. If you’re trying to save money by hiring someone that isn’t licensed as a plumber, you’re asking for more trouble than you probably want. It’s better to just spend a little extra money up front and get the problem corrected the first time.
How much will the final cost vary from the estimate?
This is a question that is important to ask, even if it does seem a little redundant. People get estimates for all kinds of jobs, and then they become frustrated when the final cost ends up being more than the original estimate. Remember that an estimate is just that- an estimation of the costs involved. It’s not set in stone. Typically, the estimate is based on the plumber’s initial inspection. It involves what he or she believes to be wrong, as well as the materials and amount of time that will be necessary to correct the problem.
Frequently, jobs end up requiring more materials or more time once the actual process begins. That’s why it’s important for you to bring this question up before they ever start doing any work. If the person you’re considering hiring can’t provide you with any kind of an answer, it’s probably best to move on to someone that can. You should expect the final cost to vary from the estimate somewhat, but if they’re not willing to give you an idea, you could end up with a bill that is several hundred dollars more than the original estimate.
What is the payment schedule?
Plumbing jobs can be expensive. Some plumbers expect to be paid in full on the same day they start the job, but others provide payment schedules in order to make it easier for their clients to pay for the services they need. Don’t be afraid to ask this question. In fact, this is an important question if you have to be careful about your budget. Ask if they offer a payment schedule and then find out how much will be due and on what date they expect to be paid each month. That way, the two of you can come to an agreement up front before any work is done so there aren’t any unpleasant surprises.
Also, jobs that take longer than a day to complete often have a set payment schedule. For example, a typical payment schedule might be 1/3 to start the job, 1/3 at the halfway point, and the final 1/3 when the job is finished.
What if something breaks?
Ask them if they guarantee their work. It’s not unfair to ask them what will happen if the same repair needs to be made a couple of weeks or even a couple of months down the road. Find out if they guarantee their work and the products they use. If they don’t, consider hiring someone else. If they do, find out how long that guarantee is good for. In addition, it’s imperative that you get this information in writing. That way, if something does go wrong at a later date you have proof that they told you they would guarantee certain things. It makes it a lot easier if they try to go back on the deal after the job is already done.
It might seem a little overwhelming, but there’s nothing wrong with asking these questions when you need to hire a professional plumber. In reality, any plumber that is worth hiring is going to expect you to ask some questions. It simply shows that you’re making an educated decision and that you’re not allowing someone else to lead you blindly along. Even if you feel a little silly asking these questions, go ahead and do it anyway. That way, you know you’re getting someone that can provide you with the quality of service you need, and they can do it with a high level of integrity.
Now you know that you must do a little bit of homework to do when it comes to choosing the right plumber. And, you even know some of the questions that you should ask them before you settle on who to hire. Now, you might start asking yourself some questions about the types of jobs that plumbers normally do, as well as certain myths that typically surround this line of work. All of these things are important for you to know if you’re going to hire someone to do a job at your home or business. If you’re not sure when you should call a plumber, consider the top five plumbing jobs that people usually need help with. Obviously, there will be other reasons that you need to call a plumber, such as when you have a septic tank that’s backing up or needs to be cleaned. For now, we’ll talk about the most common reasons. It will help you understand that you probably need to call a plumber much more frequently than you originally thought.
Top 5 Plumbing Jobs
People sometimes tend to refrain from calling a plumber when they really should be calling one. Sometimes it’s because they think they can handle the problem on their own to save money. Other times, it stems from not knowing who to call or when the problem is serious enough to make the call in the first place. The best thing you can do is err on the side of caution. That way, you don’t put yourself in a position where you’re at a disadvantage simply because you didn’t call someone quickly enough.
Repair cracked pipes
If you’re trying to do this job yourself, you’re wasting time and money. Pipes can crack for any number of reasons. Sometimes, it’s because of age and the materials they were made from. Other times, it’s because they froze during the winter. Those pipes will either need to be repaired or replaced, depending on several factors, including the severity of the damage and the age of pipes.
Occasionally, you get into a situation where your pipes cracked because they’ve been significantly moved out of place, such as when an earthquake occurs. If you noticed that you have water leaking underneath the sink or the ground looks wetter than normal around your house, you might have cracked pipes. The same is true if you can’t exactly find anything out of the ordinary, yet your water pressure is below normal, and your water bill is higher than normal. This is a good indication that something has gone wrong somewhere, and it probably involves a pipe that needs repair.
Repair a leaky faucet
People frequently try to fix a leaky faucet on their own, only to end up with one that is further broken. Unless that leaky faucet involves putting a new washer on the spigot, the repair is better left to the professionals. Sometimes, the faucet starts leaking around the base of the sink. If you’re trying to repair this on your own, you might get into more trouble than you really want to deal with. This is a frequent repair for a professional plumber.
Unclog a drain
Chances are, you’ve spent more than your fair share of time trying to unclog a drain. That might be okay if you can easily see something that’s blocking the drain and you know you can get it out. However, you might have a bigger problem if all of your drains seem to be clogging up at the same time. Sometimes, tree roots or an overfilled septic system can cause this problem and it requires a professional plumber to correct it. If you ignore the problem, you will eventually have drains backing up all over your house, even to the point that you can no longer use the sink, tub, washing machine, or even the toilet without having a problem.
Fix a leaking hot water tank
If you’ve ever had a hot water tank that is spewing water all over everything within a few feet, you know how much water damage these things can do in short order. Sometimes, the leak isn’t quite that pronounced. One of the problems with hot water tanks is that they’re usually secluded, typically behind a closed door. Therefore, you might have a slow leak that’s been going on for a while and you don’t notice it until water starts running out under the door. Check your hot water tank occasionally and if you see any evidence of a leak whatsoever, call a plumber right away.
Stop a running toilet
A toilet that keeps on running is going to end up costing you a lot of money in water bills. Typically, it’s relatively easy to fix but only for someone that knows what they’re doing. You’d be surprised at the number of people that try to buy a repair kit at their local discount store, only to make the problem worse than it ever was to begin with. If your toilet starts running without stopping, save yourself the trouble and call a professional plumber.
Top 5 Plumbing Myths
Sometimes people allow myths to dictate the choices they make. This is unfortunate because a myth is just that- there’s hardly ever any truth to it. With that being said, there are a number of misconceptions about professional plumbers. Below are the top five.
All plumbers are dishonest
You could say that about practically any profession, but that doesn’t make it true. While you will run into some plumbers that will quote you higher than normal prices and try to get as much money out of you as possible, they’re not all that way. That’s why it’s so important that you do your homework beforehand.
They don’t make your call a priority
Plumbing jobs are how plumbers make their money. If they tell you that it’s going to be a couple of days before they can get you, it’s probably because they’re exceptionally busy with their other calls. Again, it all comes back to doing your homework. You obviously can’t wait for two days when a major repair is needed. But, if you put the leg work in before you actually need a plumber, you probably won’t have a problem here.
Plumbers go through an extensive process to get their licenses, and it also takes time and money to maintain them. High-quality, professional plumbers know their job, and they know it well. If you’ve got someone that doesn’t know what they’re doing, it’s probably because you didn’t take the time to choose the right company before you called them out to your house.
They inflate prices of supplies
Again, this comes back to a question of honesty. Not every plumber you hire will inflate supply prices in order to charge you more money. Unfortunately, some will do this, but when you have someone with experience, a good record of accomplishment, and excellent references, the chances of this happening are dramatically reduced.
All plumbers are the same
This is sort of like saying anyone with a medical license is the same. You probably wouldn’t believe that story for any profession. For example, you wouldn’t go to a general practitioner straight out of medical school for a serious cardiac problem. Instead, you would want an expert. The same thing applies for plumbers. Some are better trained and have more experience than others. In addition, some just do a better job than others because they won’t settle for doing anything less than their best. These are the types of people you want to hire.
Now you know more about the types of situations where you might need a plumber, and hopefully, some of the misconceptions you had about plumbers in the past have been rectified.
Despite everything that you’ve already learned about hiring the right plumber, you might still be thinking you can fix the problem yourself. This train of thought seems to be more prevalent these days than it was in the past. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that the cost of goods and services continues to go up exponentially while the paychecks of most people don’t increase as quickly. This puts a lot of people into a situation where they find themselves trying to save money everywhere they can, even if it’s only a few dollars here and there. Therefore, you might still be asking yourself if you really need to hire that professional plumber or if you can handle the problem on your own, despite everything you’ve already read.
The thing is, there really isn’t a blanket answer to this question. It’s already been discussed that there are some simple repairs that most homeowners can do for themselves, such as putting a new washer on a faucet or removing something from a drain that can clearly be seen and removed with ease. However, most plumbing problems are not that simple. That means there are some important things that you need to ask your plumber when you make that initial phone call. Doing so can simplify everything that happens from that point forward, just as failing to do it can complicate matters a great deal.
Important Questions to Ask Your Plumber
Assuming that you’ve already asked your plumber all of the questions discussed above concerning their license, training, and experience, it’s important to know what other questions you should be asking. Assume that you’ve already found a plumber that you know you can trust. In this situation, you should be able to ask a question and get an honest answer, as opposed to getting an answer that allows the plumber to make money off of your situation. Once you get to that point, you can start to ask some of the more direct questions in order to decide how you should handle each particular situation that arises.
When you look things in this context, the questions that you should be asking your plumber involve the exact circumstances that you’re dealing with at your home or business. For example, it’s okay to call your plumber and ask whether or not you can use that commercially-produced drain cleaner in order to fix the problem that you’re having with a single drain in your home. Chances are, they will tell you not to use it, but they might be able to provide you with some insight about other things you can do, such as natural ingredients that you can use to fix the problem without causing possible damage to the pipes.
If you’ve developed a good relationship with your plumber, you might even be able to call and ask for advice about that toilet that continues to run in the middle of the night. In some cases, the fix is as simple as adjusting a float mechanism inside the tank. If you know your plumber well enough, there’s a better-than-average chance that you can call and ask how to do this and he or she will walk you through the process over the phone. That’s why it’s so important to build strong working relationships with individuals like professional plumbers. If it’s someone that you’re accustomed to doing business with, you’re a lot more likely to get a straight answer when it comes to knowing what you can do yourself and what you can’t.
Hiring a Professional Plumber vs. DIY
When you’re facing this decision, it all comes down to a matter of what you’re comfortable handling on your own. This is going to vary from one individual to the next. Maybe you’ve had some experience doing simple things such as adjusting the float mechanism on a toilet or changing that washer on your faucet in the past. Perhaps you are a mechanically inclined individual that seems to be able to do these types of jobs with relative ease. On the other hand, you might be someone that has never done anything like this in your life and working with your hands is not really your strong suit. All of this will come into play when it comes to deciding if you should hire a professional plumber or attempt to do the job on your own.
If you’re looking for a general rule of thumb, it comes down to one thing. If the job is extremely simple and you’re fairly confident you can handle it without making things worse than they already are, you can try to fix it yourself. However, if you’re dealing with something that is more pronounced, such as pipes that are cracked and leaking or a septic system that is backing up into every area of the house, this is not something that should be attempted as a do-it-yourself project, no matter how much experience you think you might have. These are major plumbing problems, and they are better left to the professionals. If you try to do these types of repairs on your own, you’re only going to make the situation worse, and you’re wasting time in the process.
Remember, a backed up septic system or a broken pipe is causing damage to other areas of your home. You don’t want a pipe that has burst spewing water onto everything in its path, but that’s exactly what can happen. It doesn’t take very long for a pipe that is cracked to become one that is completely broken all the way through. Once you get to that stage, you’re dealing with a significant amount of water damage to your home and possessions. If that water is anywhere near electricity, you could also be dealing with expensive electrical repairs or worse yet, running the risk of a fire in your home.
The same is true with the septic system, at least to some extent. If you don’t take care of the situation and you push things too far, you’ll end up having that stuff all over your yard and coming up through every drain in your home. In a worst-case scenario, it can overflow to the point where it’s actually on the floor of your home, and now you have a real mess to clean up that can pose a health hazard as well.
The lesson here is that most plumbing repairs should be left to a professional plumber and no one else. If you have an issue that is minor and you know you can handle it, fine, but don’t try to handle things you’re not certain you can do correctly.
This might seem counter intuitive since you’ve just been reading about things that you shouldn’t do on your own when it comes to plumbing. However, as is the case with most things, there are always exceptions to the rule. If you know what you’re doing, there are a few plumbing issues that you can take care of yourself. You should only do these things if you know what you’re doing.
When a plumbing job is at hand, it’s definitely not a good time to guess at things. Therefore, if you have questions about your ability to handle the job, it’s best if you call in the professionals and let them handle it. With that being said, it’s equally important to realize that some people have a fair amount of experience with certain plumbing issues and they may not have any trouble handling the projects listed below. As is often the case, it comes down to what you feel you are capable of, not to mention having the good sense not to allow yourself to get in over your head.
3 Plumbing Jobs You Can do Yourself
Chances are, you’ll find at least one of these plumbing jobs to be relatively simple. If you’re really determined to do all three jobs listed below on your own, it’s important that you read up a bit before you start experimenting. Typically, major home improvement stores will offer classes in things like replacing a toilet or putting in a new faucet for your sink. If you go through these classes, you can get the experience you need to do the job and save money. If you think it’s more than you can handle or just don’t want to deal with it, don’t be ashamed to call a professional and let them handle the situation.
Replace a Toilet
If you’re going to replace the toilet, be sure to take advantage of any available classes in order to find out how to do it correctly. The job is not as complicated as you might initially think. The first thing you need to do is turn off the water supply to the toilet. That will prevent you from spraying the entire bathroom with water when you start the job. Next, disconnect the hose that goes from the toilet into the floor. This is where the toilet draws water from, so if you’re going to replace the toilet, you obviously have to disconnect this hose before you can move it. Once these steps are done, you can drain the water from the tank into a bucket. Make sure you leave the tank cover off in order to make it safer to move the toilet when you’re finished. Your final step will be to remove the bolts that connect the toilet to the floor. This is going to require some effort when it comes time to physically remove the toilet, so it’s a good idea if you have a friend or two around to help you.
Unclog a Drain
Plumbers generally don’t like for you to use commercial products that are designed to unclog drains. They contain dangerous chemicals, and, in some cases, they can damage the pipes in your home. However, you can usually achieve the same result by simply putting some baking soda directly into the drain and then pouring white vinegar into the drain with it. More often than not, this will stop a clogged drain from causing any more problems. If it doesn’t work, it might be time to call a professional, but it’s definitely worth a try.
Replace a Sink Faucet
This is another one of those projects that people frequently think they can’t do. The hardest part is making sure that everything lines up and connects properly once a new faucet is installed. Just like the situation with the toilet, make sure you turn off the water supply to the faucet before you start taking it apart. Once you’ve done that, disconnect it from the water lines that run underneath the sink and then remove the faucet. When it comes time to put the new faucet on, be sure that you tighten everything down and make sure there are no leaks when you’re finished.
Plumbing Maintenance Tips
Just like everything else, you’ll have fewer problems with your plumbing if you do a little bit of routine maintenance from time to time. That doesn’t necessarily mean you have to figure out how to handle complex plumbing problems. Most maintenance involves a little common sense along with taking a few minutes out of your day to handle it. Read on to find out more.
One of the biggest things you can do outside of your home to protect your plumbing is to make sure you don’t plant trees that have invasive root systems too close to any of your plumbing lines. If they’re already there, it’s important that you call a professional to clean the system out from time to time. Aside from that, walk around your home and look at your outdoor faucets, checking for signs of leaks. It’s also a good idea to check around the perimeter of your home, looking for signs that you might have cracked pipes under the house. If you have a septic tank, check that area and make sure that everything seems in order there as well.
People can have problems in the laundry room without even realizing it. More often than not, it comes from having a washing machine hose that is either cracked or not tightened properly. It’s a good idea to check that connection from time to time by running your hand along it and giving it a good visual inspection. If you notice a problem, deal with it right away. It’s also important to know that in many homes, this is where the main water shut-off valve is. Make sure that you know how to turn that off and on and actually test it from time to time in order to keep it from becoming frozen in place.
Any problems in the basement can go on unabated for weeks and in some cases, months. It depends on how severe the problem is and how often you go into the basement to take a look. If you never go down there, you might have had a pipe that was leaking for some time without realizing it. It’s always a good idea to check all of your plumbing throughout the basement and make sure that everything is operating as it should. At a minimum, check it a couple of times a year.
There are a lot of opportunities for plumbing problems to occur in the kitchen. You might have a problem with the faucet in your kitchen sink, or maybe there’s something going on with your dishwasher. The first thing you’re likely to notice is a loss of water pressure or water that is clearly leaking from one location or the other. It’s a good idea to double-check these things from time to time and make sure that there isn’t a problem that you just haven’t noticed.
The same is true with the bathroom. You have to deal with the sinks, the bathtub and shower and the toilet. There are all kinds of potential issues involved. Make sure that you don’t have any faucets or pipes leaking and that your toilet is operating correctly. In addition, it’s always a good idea to make sure that all the drains are working properly. That way, you can get on top of a problem before it gets any worse.
If you make a concerted effort to do these things, you can correct most problems before they become true emergencies. In addition, you can learn which problems you might be able to handle yourself and which ones you should immediately contact a professional plumber for. Most importantly, it gives you the insight to hire a plumber that can get the job done right so you can get the problem corrected and get on with your life.