How to avoid plumber’s crack — and other plumbing concerns, may sound like a meager attempt at humor but there is a very serious side to this discussion.
We’ve all seen the commercials, we’ve heard the stories. Plumbers that are not suitable to have around your family, let alone work on your home. There are a lot of things to consider when hiring a plumbing contractor, whether it be for a simple home repair or a complete kitchen or bath remodel. Here’s some things to be mindful of when selecting a qualified plumbing contractor.
- License & Insurance
- Trade Associations
- Safety Record
- Use of Sub-Contractors
- Estimates and Bids
- Guaranteed Work
License & Insurance – Never hire any contractor that is unlicensed or uninsured. There are a lot of “contractors” that I like to call “Chuck and a Truck” or “Johnny Bag of Tools.” Just because they say they are qualified doesn’t mean a thing. Verify their business license as well as their particular trade licensure. Insurance companies are happy to provide an insurance declaration page, so demand one from the contractor before entering into any legally binding agreements.
Trade Associations – In certain circumstances, plumbers and other trade contractors belong to local home builders’ associations, the better business bureau, or other trade networks. If so, contact the local chapter and ask for a referral if you need a professional contractor. Those that are serious about their trade and business will be members, and these types of organizations have a Code of Ethics. If the contractor belongs to a professional organization, chances are they are reputable and qualified.
Safety Record – When interviewing prospective plumbing contractors, inquire as to their project safety record. Have there been any circumstances previous to now that resulted in injury, property loss or damage, or anything that might be a concern. You can verify the facts with their insurance carrier.
Use of Sub-Contractors – Did you know that using sub-contractors does not ordinarily guarantee that the subs are covered by insurance of the contractor? It’s true; unless there are specific coverages outlined in the insurance documentation you receive from the carrier, sub-contractors who get injured while in your home are your liability. Make sure that if there are subs involved in the project that you obtain insurance declarations on everyone involved.
References – Just because you found the plumber on the famous online Listing sites does not mean that the plumber (or any other trade contractor) is reputable. These List sites advertise that “before you hire a contractor, check if they are on our list.” What they don’t tell the consumer is that there are more ways to get on their “reputable lists” than by satisfied customer’s testimonials. Contractors can buy their way onto the list through placing ads on them.
Personal references are always the best references. When shopping for a qualified plumbing contractor, ask your neighbors, friends or family members across town if they have had good experience with a plumbing contractor in the recent past. You’ll be much better off.
Estimates and Bids – Never trust a plumbing contractor that has standard pricing. Invite them to your home to inspect the project before soliciting an estimate. Further, ask if the estimate is a firm price, or only a relative Guess-timate of what the job will cost.
Many people swear to the axiom of obtaining three bids, throwing out the high and the low, and settling on the mid-priced bid. That’s foolish to say the least. This is the concept known as “The Three Bid Myth.” What good are multiple bids if they are formed in the ether? What should be the appropriate method of obtaining bids on any contractor project is to establish exactly what the scope of work is, what specific materials are to be used, the guaranteed satisfaction of the homeowner with regard to the overall project, including time to completion. If the “specs” of the job are estimated or bid against by all competing contractors, you will have an apple to apple comparison by which to choose.
Guarantee of Work – Every project performed by anyone that is hired should contain a guarantee of satisfaction; a length of warranty of materials and workmanship. Find out in advance, and make sure it is specified in the scope of work that your expectations of ensuring the job is guaranteed for an appropriate length of time.
Hey, I Know You
Ever see the television commercial where the homeowner returns from a day at the office to find his wife overseeing a shoddily dressed plumber under the kitchen sink? You know, the one where the husband recognizes the man doing the work from having his taxes done by the same guy? There’s a lot more wrong with that concept than meets the eye. A qualified plumbing contractor doesn’t have to moonlight to keep revenues coming in. A qualified plumber that performs at or above expectations and charges fairly should have more work than she/he can handle. Ask yourself this; if you met a great plumber wouldn’t you tell all of your friends and relatives what a great person this repair person was? Sure you would. That person would have a full calendar from referrals alone, above and beyond any projects that come from advertising.