No one wakes up on a Monday morning thinking, “I sure hope my toilet randomly quits flushing today. I just can’t wait to dip into my vacation fund for that repair!” But if you’re a homeowner, you’ll quite likely—at one time or another—find yourself in need of a plumber.
Finding a plumber who does expert work for a fair price can be stressful. If you have a particularly urgent (or messy) problem, you may be tempted to hire the company at the top of your Google search, no questions asked. That might work out okay—or it might end with shoddy workmanship or a major hit to that vacation fund. Or both.
Before giving any plumbing company the go-ahead to work in your home, it’s critical to assess their level of competence and, as much as possible, their integrity.
First Things First. Ask Yourself: Can I do this myself?
Before you even pick up the phone to start interviewing plumbers, ask yourself if this is a job you might be able to tackle on your own. Be honest. If you don’t know a nut from a bolt, YouTube’s probably not the best partner for your garbage disposal repair. But if you’re generally handy, some minor projects could be DIY. Most plumbing issues, though, require professional attention. Small drips can become major leaks that can cause significant damage to your home and belongings. If you have the slightest reservation about your ability to handle a repair, it’s best to call in a pro. That said, do your homework. Once you’ve narrowed down your search, be sure to ask these seven questions before hiring a plumber:
Question #1. Are you licensed, insured, and bonded?
Before you even start asking for estimates, ask for the plumber’s credentials:
- Licensed plumbers have the appropriate education and experience, as determined by state law, to work in your home.
- Insured plumbers carry liability policies to cover any accidental damage they cause to your home. They also have workers’ compensation policies to address job-related injuries.
- Bonded plumbers have an additional layer of insurance that covers poor workmanship, abandoned projects, and illegal or irresponsible practices (such as not getting a permit or failing to pay sub-contractors).
Question #2. Can you provide references?
Just because a plumber’s licensed, insured, and bonded, doesn’t mean they’re reputable. Unfortunately, some companies engage in shady business practices, or they’re miserable to work with. Be sure to ask for references from recent jobs so you can get a feel for the plumber’s ethics and demeanor. Also, run the company’s name through HomeAdvisor, Angie’s List, and/or the Better Business Bureau.
Question #3. What’s the total cost of this project going to be?
Speaking of shady business practices: Some plumbers will low-ball an estimate, get you to sign a small-print contract with language like, “additional costs may occur,” and then present you with a final bill that’s significantly higher than they originally quoted. Reputable companies will provide you with a thorough scope of work that clearly defines what’s included and what’s not. They’ll also be transparent about how long the project should take and if you’ll be billed a flat fee or for actual hours spent. If you’ll be charged hourly, be sure to find out if travel time and parts are included in the bid.
Also, trustworthy plumbers will not give you a firm estimate over the telephone. Until they see the problem for themselves, they should only offer a ballpark bid. If they give you a firm estimate, they’ll more than likely upcharge you at the end.
Question #4. When is payment due?
Upstanding companies won’t expect you to pay in full until the project is completed to your satisfaction. You may be asked to put down a deposit, but you shouldn’t be pressured into paying the full amount in advance.
Question #5. Who’s doing the work?
The person on the phone or the person who comes to your home to give an estimate may or may not be the person who does the actual work. Find out if the company hires sub-contractors and, if so, if they’ll send a foreman from the company to supervise. And verify that those sub-contractors are also licensed, insured, and bonded.
Question #6. Will you clean up after yourself?
This may seem like a ridiculous question, but there’s nothing worse than paying someone to make a mess in your basement. If you’ve hired someone to replace your water heater, they should dispose of your old one.
Question #7. Do you guarantee your work?
Respectable plumbers have no trouble guaranteeing their work because they’re confident in their knowledge and skills. If a company won’t give a guarantee, move on to another option.
For more than 30 years, St. Louis-area homeowners have trusted Maplewood Plumbing and Sewer. Our family-owned business prides itself on our solid reputation in the community. Contact us here, or give us a call at 314-300-0216 to see for yourself why hiring a plumber is simple for our loyal customers!
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