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A Residential Plumber Contract Agreement; Why and How to Develop Plumber Work Orders and Contracts

Many owners of plumbing projects are not knowledgeable about the differences between terms like “residential plumber contract agreement”, “plumber work orders”, and “plumbing industry standards”. The purpose of this article is to educate and inform business and homeowners about these terms. And drive home the importance of a detailed residential plumber contract agreement.

According to a 2006 Global Foresight, Inc. report outlining information on plumbing industry standards, trends, and forecast:

  • Plumbing Industry standards promote safe, healthy, and sustainable work practices on plumbing systems for efficient, effective plumbing problem resolution. (Licensed plumbing professionals are highly skilled and are trained to abide by rigid plumbing industry standards.)
  • Plumbing industry trends include better consumer education that results in increased energy consumption awareness, greater water conservation efforts, and the demand for more multi-purpose, water-efficient plumbing fixtures and products. Including “smart” high-tech plumbing fixtures and products. (I.e. the Japan-oriented ‘intelligent toilet’ that measures sugar levels in urine, blood pressure, body fat, and weight.) 
  • Plumbing industry forecast predicts an upswing in environmentally-correct home plumbing product use, like toilets that flush using recycled washing-machine and dishwasher water. And the services of eco-friendly licensed journeyman plumbers; expected to be standard practice by the year 2015. 

Plumber work orders differ from a residential plumber contract agreement. A plumber work order is for common, non-complex plumbing services; everyday leaks, basic water heater repair, and replacement of U-joints and simple plumbing fixtures like faucets and sprayers.

The primary purpose of a plumber work order is to provide a formal point-of-reference; documentation that a particular service was provided for a certain individual, using specific materials and/or plumbing fixtures, by a licensed plumbing professional, for amount-specific compensation. And that payment for plumbing industry services was either received or billed.

Plumber work orders generally contain the following information: date, name of plumbing industry company and/or licensed plumbing professional with contact information, name of plumbing projects owner with contact information, plumbing projects location, service provided, materials and plumbing fixtures required, material costs, service cost, and payment receipt or billing notation. Note:  plumbing projects contact information usually includes mailing address, physical address/location, telephone number, and plumbing professional fax/e-mail.

A residential plumber contract agreement or any type plumber contract agreement is for complex or larger plumbing projects. It exceeds basic services outlined in a plumber work order, and helps ensure the licensed plumbing professional will perform services according to plumbing industry standards. 

A plumber contract agreement should provide a detailed blueprint for each aspect of plumber projects, listing specific expectations, requirements, and plumber contract agreement information. Like plumber work orders, a residential plumber contract agreement is critical for legal footing; for both project owner and licensed journeyman plumber. 

Unfortunately, many owners of plumbing projects rely on a verbal plumber contract agreement. Discovering after a problem arises that oral agreements are of little value in a courtroom. Note: this is true even in states where a verbal plumber contract agreement is considered legally binding. Without written proof, a court ruling could swing either way; not necessarily in favor of the person in the right.

Choosing the Right Licensed Journeyman Plumber for Plumbing Projects

Of course, the first step before developing plumber work orders or a residential plumber contract agreement is to select the right licensed journeyman plumber or certified master plumber. 

Journeyman plumbers have invested years of classroom education, apprentice program participation, and on-the-job training to become licensed plumbing professionals. Not to mention meeting stringent state-specific plumbing industry testing and license requirements.

A certified master plumber has far exceeded licensed journeyman plumber requirements, and is a master at fulfilling plumbing industry standards. A certified master plumber is qualified to instruct and oversee all aspects of commercial and residential plumbing projects large or small. They are adept at developing complex commercial and industrial plumbing work orders, project plans, and blueprints. A certified master plumber can design and install entire plumbing systems – from start to finish.

A good licensed journeyman plumber or certified master plumber is a dedicated plumbing professional with an eye for detail. Trained to ensure all plumbing industry standards and state and local building codes are met in each aspect of plumbing projects.

When choosing a plumber, the guy with the biggest yellow page ad or smallest price tag might not be the best selection. Networking with friends, relatives, and co-workers, or researching online for a certified master plumber or licensed journeyman plumber with a proven track record will help ensure plumbing projects success!

After researching licensed plumbing professional candidates, narrow the list down to several contenders; meet with each individually. Ask to see plumbing professional credentials, proof of insurance, and references from recently completed plumbing projects. Then follow up; check to ensure licenses are current, insurance is valid, and references check out before making final licensed journeyman plumber or certified master plumber selection.

Formulating a Residential Plumber Contract Agreement

Once you have selected a licensed journeyman plumber or certified master plumber arrange to meet, finalize project details, and draw up the plumbing contractor agreement. Here is where differences between a residential plumbing contract agreement and plumber work orders come into play.

As mentioned before, for relatively simple repair services a plumber contract agreement may not be necessary. Plumber work orders that include plumbing company, journeyman plumbers, and project owner’s name and contact information, plumbing projects cost, and task to be completed will usually suffice.

For complex plumbing projects such as remodeling the bathroom or installing new plumbing systems, it is best for both homeowner and licensed plumbing professional to spell every thing out in a residential plumber contract agreement. A thorough plumber contract agreement should contain:

  • As with plumber work orders, complete names, addresses, and contact information for both homeowner and licensed journeyman plumber or certified master plumber; plumbing projects address.
  • Plumbing projects start and end dates. Include completion dates of key project stages, if applicable, and a clause detailing acceptable reasons for delays (i.e. inclement weather, product unavailability/backordering).
  • Detailed description of all phases of plumbing projects, including specific project features and/or blueprints.
  • Total costs; labor, materials, permits, etc.
  • Required permits, and who will acquire and pay for each.
  • Specific timeline for payments. Include distinct project stages to be completed before each payment is made.
  • List of plumbing system materials / plumbing fixtures. Include specifications, brand names, model numbers, and colors of plumbing fixtures or items needed; grades and/or type of building materials.
  • Assurance within the residential plumber contract agreement that licensed plumbing professionals will comply with all plumbing industry standards, regulatory job safety, and building code requirements.
  • An insurance clause detailing what liability coverage must be provided by both project owner and contractor. (I.e. worker injured at fault of project owner; damages caused by plumbing professional to project owner’s property.)
  • A clause detailing subcontractor work, if any. Include names, proof of licensing and insurance.
  • Clauses specifying who is responsible for worksite clean up; at day end, at project end.
  • A clause protecting plumbing projects owner from liability for any charges or debts incurred by plumbing professional. (I.e. unpaid materials invoices, unpaid subcontractors.)
  • The name of a third-party mediator, or details of how disputes will be handled should one arise.
  • Warrantee information for workmanship and/or fixtures. Note: plumber work orders should also contain this information.
  • A change order clause; how changes, additions, and contract deletions will be handled, once work begins. Change orders must be discussed and agreed-to by both the plumbing projects owner and licensed journeyman plumber or certified master plumber. They are usually carried out via a written contract amendment, signed and dated by both parties.
  • An optional “right to rescission” clause, allowing plumbing projects owners to change their mind and void the residential plumber contract agreement within 36 hours from signing, without reason.

What About Preprinted Plumber Contract Agreement Forms?

If formulating a unique residential plumber contract agreement seems too complicated, consider using a preprinted one. 
A preprinted plumber contract agreement can be downloaded online for little or no cost. Perform a web search using phrases like “residential plumber contract agreement” and “plumber work orders contract”.

Many licensed plumbing professionals utilize a generic plumber contract agreement form which can be filled out with the project details and signed by both parties. If a preprinted form is used, make sure all blanks are filled in. Cross out aspects of the plumber work orders contract not relevant. Or fill in with “N/A” (not applicable), and initial.

The bottom line – from a legal standpoint the plumbing projects owner and journeyman plumber should each retain copies of the signed residential plumber contract agreement. This protects the interest of both parties involved and avoids unnecessary disputes or confusion. 

Whether a residential plumber contract or plumber work orders, the important thing is to document essential project details in writing, before work begins.



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