Unless you're more skilled than the average homeowner, sooner or later you're going to need to call a plumber. If you're lucky, your family has been using the same plumber for years and you already know who to call. If you're like the vast majority of people, you have no idea where to start -- except to dig out the yellow pages that got delivered last January and thumb through it looking for ads that offer free diagnostic services or hopping online to do a local search for the same thing.
Here are some tips that can help you figure out who to call and who not to call when you need a plumber:
1. Understand the difference between a plumber and a plumbing contractor.
A plumber and a plumbing contractor are not the same. If you have a clogged drain, a mystery leak under the tub, or need your faucets replaced, a plumber is your guy (or gal). Plumbing contractors, on the other hand, are what you need when you have something more serious happening -- like a major remodeling project where you want to convert a spare bedroom into the bathroom of your dreams or there's a serious problem with the main water line running from your house to the street. You'll save yourself time and money -- at least through an unnecessary service call just to have the wrong professional tell you that he or she doesn't handle that kind of work -- if you know the difference.
2. Don't assume that the best bargain is the plumber with the lowest advertised hourly rate and free consultation.
There are a couple of different ways that hourly rates may be deceiving, so don't look at just the advertised hourly rate. Ask questions instead:
- Does the clock start ticking when the plumber leaves for the job or when he gets to your door?
- Do you get a free consultation even if you don't use the plumber's services or is that only if you agree to hire him or her?
- Is there a minimum service charge associated with any bill (which means that a 5-minute job could still cost you $100 if that's the minimum service charge)?
- Can you supply your own parts if you know what you need to have done but just can't do the work? If not, the cost of the new faucet may end up being more than you would pay if you picked it up on your own, which could negate the savings you're getting by going with the "cheaper" plumber.
Always take a few minutes to discuss billing and fees carefully before you set up an appointment with a plumber to visit the house. If something doesn't seem right, move on.
3. Always ask who is actually going to come do the work.
The ad you are looking at may say that the plumber is a "master plumber" with 20 years of experience -- but the plumber who shows up at your door may actually be in his 20s and anything but a master of the trade. What's the deal? Many plumbers learn their trade at least partially through apprenticeship programs -- which is absolutely fine. However, if a company advertises the services of a master plumber and sends only the apprentice without anyone more experienced to guide and teach him or her, you have a right to feel misled.
If you use these three tips when finding a plumber, you'll be able to weed through who you want to call and who you don't fairly quickly -- and be well on your way to a solution. For more information or assistance, contact companies like ATA's Plumbing.