How to Find a Plumber

There are probably few things that have improved quality of life as much as modern, indoor plumbing. Plumbing systems bring fresh, clean water into a home and remove wastes into local sewer systems. If a plumbing system doesn't function well, a home can quickly become unlivable.

Why Having a Relationship with a Plumber is Important

Plumbing Pipes

Because functioning plumbing is so important to our way of life, it's important to have access to reliable plumbing services. While some companies do offer 24-hour emergency service to new customers, it is generally best to maintain a plumbing system so that major malfunctions don't occur. In addition, a plumbing service may be more willing to make an emergency visit to an established customer.

While there are plenty of DIY plumbing maintenance tips available online, it's also true that many people simply aren't up to covering pipes and cleaning out systems on a regular basis. If this is the case for you, consider hiring a plumber to handle these tasks for you. Most professional plumbers are happy to handle seasonal maintenance and inspections for their customers.

Hiring a plumber for "routine tasks" allows the plumber to get to know you and your system. The plumber may be able to identify problems in their earliest stages when they are most easily and inexpensively corrected.

How to Find a Good Plumber

Do some research before hiring a plumber. In many areas, plumbers are required to be licensed by the state or states in which they operate. You can check the status of the plumber's license by visiting your state licensing board’s website. These websites often provide information about whether a plumber has been subject to disciplinary proceedings. If you know that the plumber has frequently or recently been brought up on disciplinary charges, proceed with caution.

Many homeowners and landlords rely on word-of-mouth when hiring plumbers and other tradespeople. While recommendations from family and friends can be useful, asking for personal references may not be an option if you are new to the area. In addition, you may have specific plumbing needs that recommended plumbers can't help with.

An alternative is to use an online or print Yellow Pages directory to look up plumbers directly. Online directories often include links to the plumber's website, and both print and Internet directories frequently contain details about a plumber's practice. This can help you decide which plumbers to call for estimates. Names and Numbers directories break out their plumbing listings for general plumbing services, drain cleaning specialists as well as plumbing supply companies.

Before calling, make a list of things that you want to ask about. This may be a very short list if all you are looking for is a basic repair, installation, or maintenance call. But older homes sometimes have very fragile systems that need expert attention. If you have special circumstances, ask the plumbing service if they have experience in dealing with such situations.

No reputable plumber will attempt to give you a "hard" estimate over the phone without actually visiting your home or building to check out your system. However, the person you talk to can probably give you a price range for the type of work that you need. When you get an estimate, it's important to clarify what the estimate covers:

  • Does the estimate include materials and labor, or is the quote for labor only? If it's the latter, ask for an estimate on what the materials should cost.
  • Are you expected to handle the cleaning of the work area, or does the plumbing company deal with the mess themselves? If so, is the time spent on cleanup included in the estimate?
  • Ask if the plumbing company is bonded and insured and whether it offers a warranty on its work. Unfortunately, there have been situations where a contractor damages a building or its systems, making the problem much worse and more difficult to correct than before. Make sure that the plumbing company is able to address any mistakes its workers make without increasing your costs.

Get More Than One Estimate

It's always a good idea to get more than one estimate from any tradesperson or contractor. If insurance is covering the cost of the service, multiple estimates are often required. Even if you're paying for the service on your own, talking to more than one company makes sense. You may find that there is a significant difference between estimates. You may also simply feel more comfortable working with one company over another.

A word of warning about estimates: it can be tempting to hire the company that has the lowest bid, particularly if the bid is significantly lower than the others you've received. Unfortunately, you may find that the quality of the work is subpar, forcing you to hire another firm to correct not only your original problem but any issues created by your former plumber.

Another thing to be on guard about is a plumber who offers a significant discount on major projects if you agree to pay upfront in cash. While most plumbers will require payment at time of service for many issues, if you are building a new home or replacing your plumbing, it is not unusual for the job to run into many thousands of dollars. When you pay upfront in cash for such projects, you lose any protection you might have from an unscrupulous plumber who doesn't complete the job or does it poorly. By paying in installments during the project, or using a credit card, you are better able to ensure the project's completion.

Final Word

It only takes even a few hours of no running water to make you appreciate your household or building's plumbing system. By doing your research and asking questions, you'll be able to find an experienced professional who can help keep your water running. You'll also save money as you won't have to pay for repairs that would've been unnecessary with proper inspections and maintenance.

When shopping around for a plumber, be sure to check out our Plumbers Directory first.