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Ask Angi: What should I look for when hiring a plumber?

by Tribune News Service | September 17, 2023 at 4:00 a.m.
Strange as it may sound, the best time to hire a plumber is before emergencies develop. (Dreamstime/TNS)

Some problems requiring professional help will always develop, as certain as the sun rising in the east. And foremost among those professions is that of the reliable plumber.

Whether you've got frozen pipes, a clogged toilet or a busted water main turning your basement into an impromptu swimming pool, you'll inevitably need the help of a plumbing pro.

Plumbing stands alongside HVAC and electricity as the lifeblood of your home, the infrastructure behind the walls that makes modern conveniences work. With that much at stake, you want a pro you can rely on.

By the way, the best time to call a plumber for an emergency is long before the emergency happens. In other words, find a good plumbing pro when everything looks to be in good working order, and hire them to conduct an inspection of your plumbing.

Not only will you find small problems before they get out of hand, but you'll also build a relationship with a plumber that could last a lifetime. You'll feel better knowing the same team is working on your house every time.

Plus, when you've got the relationship established, you'll know who to call if your pipes blow out on Christmas Eve, rather than just going through the phone book and hoping for the best.

When hiring a plumber, ask these questions:

Who will be doing the work?

This is a good question for many contractors, but it's particularly relevant for plumbers. Plumbers are usually apprentices, journeymen or masters. Each title carries different levels of expertise. You also want to know if the plumber giving you the quote is the one doing the work.

Does this job require a permit?

Local rules vary, but smaller plumbing jobs usually don't need to have a permit. Anytime you're replacing or moving water pipes, though, a permit is usually required. Be cautious of contractors who wave off the necessity of permits.

What's your plan if something goes wrong?

Plumbing problems can quickly wreak havoc. Indeed, uncontrolled water flow can be one of the most damaging problems your home may ever encounter. Make sure your plumber has a plan for when something breaks.

Can you give me a total cost in writing?

Make sure any estimate you're given includes labor, materials and a contingency plan for problems. Unscrupulous contractors will often tack on surprise fees after the initial quote.

Are you experienced with my particular problem?

Different issues pose different challenges. Make sure your plumber is familiar with this kind of work.

Are you licensed, bonded and insured?

Different cities and states have their own requirements. Make sure your plumber meets local regulations. Don't just take their word for it; ask for it in writing. Licensed contractors will never object to showing proof.

What kind of warranty do you offer?

Any reliable contractor will guarantee their work. Materials often have their own warranty. Make sure you know labor and material warranties in writing.

Tweet your home care questions with #AskingAngi and we'll try to answer them in a future column.


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