Be it a leaky faucet or a broken water line that has water pooling around your ankles, no homeowner enjoys a plumbing emergency and the thought of having to hire a plumber to repair whatever's gone wrong can be just as revolting for some homeowners. True enough finding reliable plumbers can be a bit of challenge but it doesn't have to be as bad as some of the horror stories you read out there. Read on to learn how to pre-qualify plumbers and how to ensure the plumber you hire for your repair job is a well-qualified plumber at a competitive price.
Before you start looking for plumbers it's important to recognize that there are two types of plumbers. There are plumbers who handle basic repairs and plumbers who specialize in the installation of plumbing systems typically in brand new homes or remodeling projects. Before you start your search for a plumber make sure you're looking for the right kind…
Obviously a good place to start is by asking your friends, family and work acquaintances. If they've had recent plumbing work done there's a good chance they have a good idea about how their plumber worked and how competitively priced he was. While this is great information, there's still some work that needs to be done if you want a god plumber at a good price. In order to get a good plumber at a good price, you'll have to review and compare several bids from several plumbers. So while a referral from a close friend is great you should still want to see at least a couple of more bids so you can assure yourself that the plumber you end up hiring isn't overcharging you.
To find more local plumbers in your area you can check out local home improvement stores and major plumbing materials suppliers in your area. Real estate agents can also be a good source for plumbers as they often use plumbers to make repairs on homes they are getting ready to put on the market. To round out your list you can use the Handy American contractor directory for several well-qualified plumbing professionals in your area.
At Handy American we recommend beginning with a list of at least 3-5 plumbers. We also recommend that you pre-qualify the plumbers prior to having them bid on your project. The pre-qualification process we recommend isn't terribly intensive but it will eliminate a lot of the bad plumbers you don't want to work with.
The key to pre-qualifying plumbers prior to having them bid is to ensure that you're looking at comparable bids when you get to that stage of the process. There's no point in reviewing several bids if you don't pre-qualify the plumbers because you'll end up comparing bids from low-quality plumbers with bids from higher quality pros that have several years in the business and who will inevitably produce estimates that are higher. That's why it's a good idea to pre-qualify the plumbers and ensure that they're all of the same caliber and quality if you plan on reviewing and comparing several bids. This way you're comparing “apples to apples” and you can focus on hiring the best plumber at the most competitive price.
One of the first things we recommend doing is checking for a license. You can easily check for a license online by doing a search for your state's licensing board. When you get to the web page for your state's licensing board just look for the link that says “check a license”. All you'll need to check to see if a plumber has a license or not is the plumber's name, business name or his license number. To obtain a state license a plumber will have to undergo a background test, the plumber will be finger printed and will also take a basic plumbing competency test so checking for a state license is a good place to start.
Once you've checked for a license we think it's a good idea to look for existing reviews and feedback online. The easiest way to do this is by doing a Google search for the plumber's name or business name. In the results you want to look for websites that provide feedback or reviews from past clients. If you don't have any luck finding any reviews in the search engine results, you can also do searches on websites like citysearch.com, yelp.com and insiderpages.com. However, it's best to stick with a website like Handy American that validates all of its user reviews prior to posting them online because not all websites that post reviews online validate them for authenticity. So although we recommend you look for feedback and reviews online, be aware that all of the reviews you see may not all be from reputable, or even real for that matter, users.
It's also a good idea to check for some basics. Ideally you'll want to hire a plumber that has been in business for a long time in the same community but at the very least you should look for a plumber that has a permanent address and place of business in the community as well as a local phone number. A plumber who has been in business for a while in your community is a good sign of a stable plumber who knows how to work with his customers.
It doesn't sound like much but these are the types of things that you can check prior to having a plumber come in and bid on your project that will ultimately increase your chances of finding and hiring a good plumber. The purpose of the previous exercises is to eliminate some of the “bad apples” that could skew your bidding process. Once you've put together a list of 3-5 plumbers that don't have any glaring red flags calling for your attention, it's time to start getting some bids on your project.
Before you call any plumbers in to bid on your project you'll want to make sure that they won't charge you for the visit. Some plumbers charge per service call so you want to make sure you ask them about that prior to asking them to come out and give you a bid on your project. (If there's a plumber on your list who you really want to see a bid from but he bills for every service call you may want to see if he'll give you an estimate for the job over the phone.) Once you get that out of the way you can proceed to having at least 3 plumbers come out to bid on your project. The more bids you see and compare the better your chances are for finding a good plumber at a decent price.
When you have the plumbers come over to bid on your project make sure to ask them about references. Past client references are the best way to try and foretell how a plumber will do on your home repair job. Any good plumber should have at least a few references for you to look at. When you get the references make sure you call them and have a list of questions prepared.
Along with checking references you'll probably also want to look for existing complaints from unsatisfied customers. You can check with organizations like the Better Business Bureau, your state's Licensing Board and on websites like ripoffreport.com. Angry homeowners will typically turn to your state's Licensing Board and to the Better Business Bureau first so those are great places to start.
Something else you should check for is insurance. General Liability insurance is a must for any contractor working on your home to cover and protect you against any damage caused by the contractor. And Worker's Compensation is also a must if the plumber will have any employees working for him on your job. Worker's Compensation will protect you in the event of any injuries or accidents that occur on your property.
The last step in the bidding process is to make sure that you get a written estimate for the work from the plumber. Generally speaking plumbers will either bill you by the hour or for the job. In either case it's a good idea to get a written estimate from the plumber on how much he believes the project will ultimately end up costing you.
If you are hiring a plumber for a repair project you should also inquire about any warranties or guarantees on materials or workmanship. For a repair job there usually should be some type of guarantee on the work performed and you'll definitely want to specify a length of time with the plumber. The last thing you want to do is pay for a repair job twice…
Your goal at this point should be to have several well-qualified plumbers that are all making it hard for you to make a decision. This is exactly the position you want to be in when you first set out to find and hire a good plumber. If you've done your job pre-qualifying the plumbers then this is the time when you can and should look at things like price and warranties/guarantees because all of the plumbers that have made it this far have proven that they are well-qualified and reputable plumbers.