Before You Call a Plumber



So you have a plumbing issue that you need taken care of, or maybe you just want to get some plumbing remodeling done.  What do you do first?  You look for a plumber, right?  Wrong!  The first thing you do is read this article and the articles that it points to.

You need to be prepared, before you ever even think of picking up the phone and calling a plumber.  Believe me when I say that it can prevent all kinds of bad things from happening.  I know this first hand.

In this article, I am going to outline some of the things that you should do to be prepared for your visit from the plumber.  Many of these points will link out to additional articles, as I write them.  Just look for the underlined phrases.  Clicking them will take you to the relevant article.

Whether or not you are sure you need plumbing work done, these are the steps that everyone should take, prior to calling a plumber, to be sure that the experience is as productive and stress-free as possible.  They are as follows:

Understand your plumbing problem. This can be a problem for many who do not consider themselves to be mechanically inclined.  It is extremely important, however, that you do your best to get some kind of understanding about what is going on.  If you can tell the plumber that you have a “supply side” leak, and your tests seemed to indicate that it was between the meter and the house, you will immediately gain that plumber’s attention and respect (as long as your logic is sound).  This will save you time and money.

You knowing what’s going on will also keep your plumber honest.  Believe it or not, there are plumbers out there that will cheat you if they can.  If you know what is wrong, it makes it much harder for them to take advantage of you, and most will not even try. There are also times when you will be able to diagnose and repair problems yourself, without ever having to call a plumber.

Know what you want. This sounds kind of silly, but hear me out.  There are always options to fix any problem.  Good plumbers will let you know your options and give you a choice.  Most plumbers will not.  They will offer to fix your problem they way they want to.  That is not always what is best for you!  You need to know if you are looking for a quick fix to get you by (which I rarely recommend, but sometimes that’s what you need), a fix that will last you for longer than a quick fix, or a permanent solution.

Plumbing is rather unusual because it is all tied together in a system.  Parts of the system depend on other parts of the system.  Sometimes you need to replace most or all of the system in order to affect a sustainable result.  You need to know beforehand if that is a route you are willing to take.  This leads us to the next point:

Know your budget limit. Very simply put, you need to know how much you are prepared to spend on your plumbing today.  You need to be willing to spend at least $500 if you are looking for anything other than a quick fix.  Permanent solutions could cost you in the thousands (depending, of course on what you actually need done).

Know your outs. You need to know how to say no.  Sometimes it will be because you just don’t like the plumber, or you don’t feel like they will do a good job.  Maybe you feel like they want to charge too much, or want to do more work than you are ready for.  For any of these reasons or a litany of others, you need to be able to say no.

To put it bluntly, if you are prepared, you will be able to just tell the plumber the truth about why you are saying no, and that should end it.  Good plumbers can see through excuses.  For instance, if you were to tell me, “Well, that’s more expensive than I thought it would be.  I need to discuss it with my husband/wife.” I would respond with, “That’s fine, let’s give him/her a call and I can help to explain why we need to…” or “No problem, when would you like me to drop back by so we can discuss it together?”  If you told me that you are fine with the amount of work that was done to this point and need to budget for the additional work, I would understand and respect that.  I may ask if it is okay if I call in a month or 2 to follow up, but that’s about it.

Know what to expect. This actually covers a few different areas, but I will sum it up here as best I can.

  • Know what you want out of your plumber – Do you just need someone “quick and dirty” who can clear your drain from outside and be gone in 30 minutes or do you want a clean, professional who you can trust to not destroy the inside of your home?  There are times for each, and they each charge different rates.  Actually, you can get a dirty plumber that charges a lot (but has no business doing so), but you will never get a clean professional that works cheaply.
  • Know what they are going to charge you – This can be tough as more and more companies do not want to give prices over the phone.  There’s no problem with that, as most give free estimates.  You do need to know how much they SHOULD charge you though, so you know when someone is asking too much.
  • Know the company.  Before calling a plumbing company, do a little research on them.  Check their license status, look for online complaints, etc.  Keep in mind that people will leave bad reviews far more often than good ones.  Don’t choose not to hire, because of a bad review or two (some people complain about everything), but keep the complaints in mind when dealing with them.

One of my readers, who happens to be a plumber made a very good point that I do need to stress here.  It is very important that you thoroughly check the license status of the companies that you call to make sure they are in good standing and have all of the necessary forms of insurance.  Make sure that either the plumber that they are sending out is an employee and is working under the company’s contractors license, or that the plumber himself is licensed.  Ask the company about the qualifications of the plumber they will send out.  If they are not willing to spend some time with you on the phone to ease your mind, call someone else.  Thanks, Jim!

I apologize that this article was so long, but there was a lot of ground to cover.  I am not sure that I covered it all here, but I’m sure that future articles will pick up the slack.  See you next time for more plumbing tips!

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2 comments to Before You Call a Plumber

  • Jim

    I think you left out a VERY important part in looking at plumbers and that Is to make sure the person or like alot of companies like to call the Techs have a license. Not just the owner of the company but the person in your home has a plumbing license. You put alot of effort to tell people to look over the plumber but even more important is they use a plumber not an unlicensed handyman or hack. then go from there.

  • Very good point! How I forgot that I do not know. I will edit in just a bit to mention that AND the proper insurance. Thanks!

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