How to Work With a Plumber

You have probably heard that old joke about the plumber’s invoice: “Tapping on the pipes, $10; knowing where to tap, $200.” There’s more than a grain of truth in there. When pipes drains or burst build-up or water pressure withers, the expertise of a licensed professional plumber may be well worth every penny. Use our tips to find, hire and work with the best plumbing specialist for your work.

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What a plumber will do: Plumbers install and repair faucets, fixtures and the pipes that carry water, sewage and natural gas throughout a house. They also deal with water heaters, septic tanks, laundry facilities, water heaters, sump pumps and associated systems. Some technicians may install tile and other kitchen and bath surfaces.

When to hire one: you might be able to silence a working toilet or repair a leaky showerhead on your own, but more complex plumbing jobs demand qualified assistance. Unless you have extremely comprehensive experience and training from an experienced plumber, constantly use a pro for behind-the-walls work — the danger of water damage (or worse) isn’t worth the DIY cost economies. Remodeling and new-construction jobs involve a plumber as well.

Joanne Palmisano, Salvage Keys

What it will cost: Plumbers’ fees vary enormously, depending on the nature and location of the work, parts and materials necessary, unexpected complications and a lot of other facets. Some charge by the hour, some from the job and a few do a mix of both. You may pay anywhere from $40 to $120 and a per hour for labor, not including a first fee for a site visit and evaluation. A clogged drain or leaking faucet may cost as little as $100 to fix, while installing or rerouting pipes may run you thousands of dollars.

Where to locate one: Ask local, reputable contractors about the plumbers that they use — they typically don’t conduct business with a pro whose skills or work habits that they question. Your state board of examiners may also provide a referral service. Check with the Better Business Bureau for any complaints against a plumber that is given.

The very top ones are in high demand, so be prepared to await a service call. It is a good idea to vet a few plumbers in advance to raise your probability of getting one out fast in a crisis.

Bosworth Hoedemaker

Determine the kind of plumber you need. As with the majority of trades, plumbers have specialties. Some do residential repairs and disasters. Others focus on installment during homebuilding and remodeling, including detailed understanding of building codes and functioning in tandem with builders, artisans, designers and other specialists.

Another set specializes in markets such as natural gas lines and sprinkler systems. Granted, many plumbers are well versed in more than one facet of this area, but do a little research to coordinate with your short list of experts with the job at hand.

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Confirm licensure and insurance. Little-known fact: There are different kinds of plumbing licenses. Make sure you know exactly who will do the work — a few plumbers subcontract jobs outside — and their licensing status.

Plumbers generally start as apprentices to their fully licensed colleagues. Apprentices in some countries are permitted to operate independently after a training period. A plumber needs to have spent a long time as an apprentice and must pass a state exam to earn a license. To qualify as a master, he or she is required to keep that license for a certain number of years and pass the following nation exam.

Request permit and liability insurance verification before the plumber begins work.

Smith & Vansant Architects PC

Provide detailed information concerning the project. Any background you can tell the plumber, particularly with respect to repairs, will help him or her determine the optimal solution or approach. As an example, is the issue fresh or recurrent? Do you suspect that a specific cause (e.g., an inappropriate object dropped into the garbage disposal)? Have you attempted to fix it yourself?

Unclutter the work zone. Your plumber will have the ability to operate more easily and efficiently if you clear out as much flotsam as possible. Keep pets and kids from the way, too.

Stern McCafferty

Confirm charges for parts. Most technicians keep fundamental parts and supplies on hand, but occasionally they must purchase specialty items after starting the work. Make sure you know what the markup is and how you’ll be charged. The plumber may ask that you select and purchase decorative items such as faucets in advance, with their input about specs. This way, you can ensure the look you need and avoid time-consuming exchanges.

Be clear about who cleans up. A good plumber will never leave you with a cluttered work area. But if the job necessitates prying outside tile, pulling off baseboards or other structural damage, maybe not all pipes can or will cause those repairs. Ask beforehand if this is the situation, and plan accordingly.

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