Hiring a Plumber

Photo: University of the Fraser Valley/Flickr

If you're thinking of hiring a plumber, whether you need an emergency Los Angeles plumber or you're thinking about a long-term project, there are some things to know before you dive in. The quality of services offered by plumbers varies considerably, and you want to make sure your pro knows exactly what she is doing and is capable of performing the work efficiently, legally, and cleanly. Save money and time up front by making sure you're working with the perfect choice of plumbing professional.

Plumbers handle a variety of tasks including laying new plumbing, replacing or repairing damaged pipes, installing fixtures, replacing toilet seals, and troubleshooting common plumbing problems. Some plumb for gas as well as water, depending on their training. Some may also handle stoppages, although others prefer to leave that to firms that specialize in them.

Before hiring a plumber, determine exactly what you need: that's going to be an important factor when it comes to deciding which plumber is best for you. Use local resources to search for plumbers -- our own plumber locator service is a great tool, but you can also use Yelp, Angie's List, and similar sites. Check out reviews and comments on various plumbing pros, and ask your friends who they use. If you’re working with a realtor, ask for advice on plumbing services, because real estate professionals often keep a rolodex of pros they like to work with.

That information is going to help you narrow down a list of plumbing professionals who have performed good work in the past. Next, check to be sure that all your candidates have current licenses. Plumbers, like other contracting professionals, have to provide their license numbers in ads, on business cards, and in other publications, so it's a snap to look up a plumber's license, confirm it's current, and ask about any consumer complaints.

Once you're satisfied that a plumber is qualified and operating above board, you can call around to get some quotes. Be sure to describe the job completely, and be aware that the plumber may need to conduct a home visit to go over the situation and determine if there are any special factors that might affect the price. Keep the project the same for each plumber you talk don’t; don’t ask one about replacing the toilet seal and another about replacing the whole toilet, for example, because these are two different jobs. When you talk to the plumber, ask if she is bonded and insured in case a problem with the job develops, and ask her about her plan for addressing the given plumbing issue you are experiencing.

The issue may have a single straightforward fix, or she may have several suggestions. Confirm the pricing and pros and cons of each and ask the plumber for a recommendation based on her experience. A good plumber will provide sound, reasonable advice, even if it means not making as much on an individual job.

Compare your bids -- try to get at least three. The lowest bid is not necessarily the best one. Consider hourly rates, which materials are being used, plumbing techniques, and whether the plumber has evaluated the situation for possible snags. For example, one plumber might be estimating that she'll have the job done in three hours, while another thinks it will take at least six: you should find out why, because the first plumber might be underbidding in the hopes of landing the contract.

Once you're confident with a choice of plumber, get a contract for the job. Read it over carefully and make note of all the terms. Make sure it discusses the work in detail, provides a time estimate, and frees you of financial liability once the bill is paid. And if you like the job when it's finished, make sure to write a positive review or tell a friend!

Katie Marks writes for Networx.com.

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