About Hiring a Plumber

When the kitchen sink gets clogged or the water from the bathtub faucet turns rusty, you just go to the yellow pages and call a plumber, right? If you find a good, dependable plumber for those situations, that’s great. But when planning a renovation that involves plumbing, replacing old plumbing throughout the home or facing a big emergency such as water cascading from the ceiling, you’d like to know how to reach the best plumber in town. Whether it’s a routine repair or maintenance call or an absolute emergency, you need a plumber you can count on.

One way to develop a relationship with a plumber is to work with one over the course of a major project. Although most plumbers are available for a simple service call, most high-end service providers prefer to limit service calls to existing customers. This practice ensures that you will receive the highest level of service and quality with a prompt response, since you will always have someone familiar with your situation.

Even if you aren’t planning a renovation and just need someone to handle more mundane problems like leaky faucets, it’s worth putting in the effort to find a plumber who can offer excellent quality and service.

Where Do I Start?

To choose the best plumber for your job, begin with our chapter on hiring a service provider which provides a list of questions to consider. You will want to ask prospective plumbers how long they have been in business and what types of work they specialize in. Most plumbing professionals do both commercial and residential work, dealing with both large renovations and smaller repairs. Specialties and focuses vary in this industry, so it is best to look to someone that has experience with your type of project.

When you call a plumber’s references, you’ll want to ask the usual questions about quality of work and whether the project was finished on schedule and on budget. Because plumbing can be a messy business, respect for surroundings and cleanliness are especially important.

A Job for Professionals

You should only consider a full-time licensed professional for your plumbing needs. Though a license is not required in New York to perform basic plumbing maintenance work, your service provider must be licensed for any jobs that require the filing of a permit. As always, ask about insurance, including worker’s comp and liability insurance, and check with the Better Business Bureau to see whether any complaints have been filed against the company. Your plumbing professional should always be responsible for obtaining all permits necessary for your job.

On Cost

For larger projects, each plumbing contractor will submit its bid to the General Contractor (GC), who will then incorporate it into the overall bid submitted to the client. Often the GC for your project will bring in a trusted plumber for the job, but you are free to ask your GC to include another plumber in the bidding process, which also helps to ensure that bids are competitive. If your renovation is relatively small and a GC is not involved, get several estimates for the proposed work.

For smaller jobs, most companies will charge an hourly fee, which typically falls in the range from $50 to $140 an hour, not including materials. Hourly fees may be deceptive, however, as extra charges can be added for transportation or additional men needed. For example, one company might always send out two plumbers at $140 per hour for the team. Another company has plumbers at $95 per hour, which is cheaper—but only if it’s a one-person job. Some have flat-rate costs for basic jobs, with a set fee for labor. Other companies will send out a troubleshooter for any job that seems routine, which saves you money and their mechanic’s time, or insist on doing a consultation to provide you an estimate before work is started. Be sure to ask what is included. You should make your decision based on the quality and service as well as cost.

Guarantees and Service Agreements

When your equipment is installed, it should come with both a warrantee from the manufacturer and a guarantee from the service provider. Be sure to ask about service agreements. Many plumbing professionals provide regular “check-ups” and inspections. It may seem like wasted money at first, but over time these measures can prevent an emergency.

Save Money by Saving Time

If you inventory the state of your plumbing and think ahead about work that will need to be done, your plumber will be able to work more effectively. Check faucets, drains, radiators and fixtures throughout the house and compile a list. Present this list to the plumber upon arrival so he can prioritize the various tasks and work simultaneously if possible. This way, you won’t have to call him in again for another minor repair in a few weeks.

If the plumber will need access to the pipes under your kitchen sink, clear out the area to save billable time. Also put away or protect anything vulnerable to damage. Your plumber will appreciate being able to get to work without having to wade through piles of children’s toys or rummage around in a cabinet full of cleaning supplies.

Don’t wait until your bathroom is flooded with four inches of water. Develop a good relationship with a plumber now, and you’ll never have to page frantically through a phone book and throw yourself at the mercy of whatever plumber happens to be free.

More Than Pipes-

Your plumber is trained to do much more than fix clogged drains. A full-service plumber can:

  • Provide condensation drains for air conditioning units.
  • Install the boiler, lines and radiators necessary for household heat.
  • Install hot water re-circulation and water pressure booster pumps.
  • Hook up major appliances (gas stoves, washing machines).
  • Make a gas-meter connection, install gas lines and provide gas shut-off valves.
  • Install storm/slop drains for the kitchen, patio, garage, laundry room, greenhouse and roof.
  • Label all shut-off, hot and cold, delivery and return lines, and provide you with a set of as-built drawings.
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