When You Need to Find a Great Plumber
Unless you’re independently wealthy with a staff that does everything for you, or you’re a permanent resident on the International Space Station, chances are that one day, you’ll have to call a plumber. You may be a homeowner, a facilities supervisor, or an apartment complex manager. In any of those capacities, you may be the one that has to pick up the phone and call in the professionals to deal with a plumbing situation.
So, whom do you call? There are lots of plumbers out there when you run a Google search, but which is the best one? How do you know?
Read our guide. We tell you how to find, recognize, and hire a good plumber.
How to Find the Best Plumber
Ask Trusted Contacts
Ask local people you trust for plumber referrals. It is the best way to find a reputable plumber. Tap neighbors and local friends and family for plumbers they personally hired (or whose trusted contacts hired). You’re looking for personal experience with a provider and an objective review of that experience. Be a little cautious of neighbor Jake’s glowing review of his brother Jimmy’s plumbing services; obviously that opinion will be biased. But you know that. Look for objective opinions on personal hiring experiences by local people you trust.
Find Reviews of Contractors
Go online and find reviews on third-party sites whose business it is to report reliably and objectively. Visit sites like Angie’s List, Yelp, and the Better Business Bureau. The more you visit these sites and look at reviews, the better you’ll be able to analyze contractors’ performance.
Look Online by Searching “Plumber Near Me”
Run a “plumber near me” search on your browser. If you use Google, the search will generate a list of all local plumbers in your area with ratings and reviews on their Google business page. These ratings and reviews can’t be doctored by businesses, so they’re fairly reliable indicators of performance, affordability, and dependability.
Visit Contractors’ Websites
After you come up with a list of plumbers to check out, visit their websites. You can learn a lot this way. Don’t assume, however, that the plumber with the slick site delivers better service than the contractor with the simple, home-grown page. Look at the content on the pages for answers to these questions:
- Is it a family-owned outfit or a national franchise?
- Is every plumber on the team licensed and insured?
- How about the background-checks of workers?
- Does the company provide emergency services? 24-hour services?
- Are estimates free?
Narrow Down to Three
With the information you’ve acquired thus far, it is time to narrow the list of prospects to three and then down to a finalist.
Take the list generated by trusted contact referrals and your own online research. Select the three plumbers that meet your criteria and start making calls. You will describe your problem, ask them the cost of their services, and tell them you’re gathering information from several companies before you commit to a date for an estimate visit.
During the calls, get a feel for each company’s customer service values. Note if a person answers your call or if the call goes to voicemail. If the latter, does someone quickly return the call? Is the company rep courteous and friendly? Does he or she seem knowledgeable about the company’s services?
Based on the information you glean from these conversations, select one company, and call them back to set up an estimate visit. (Depending on the size of your plumbing project, you may have all three companies come out to give an estimate. Three in-person estimates for a leaky faucet repair is overkill.)
After this, schedule the job.
Evaluate the Plumber During the Job
The way the plumber performs on this job will influence you to call that plumber back for future work or find another contractor. So be mindful of how every aspect of the work is executed.
- Was communication with the plumber comfortable and respectful?
- Did the work get scheduled easily?
- Did the plumber arrive at the promised time?
- How much time was spent on the job?
- Did the plumber clean up messes generated by the work?
- Was it easy to pay the bill?
- Did you receive an emailed or paper copy receipt?
You won’t have to pay such close attention to these matters after you’ve decided to retain a plumber. It is important to note these aspects of the hiring experience, however, to serve as comparison information when the time comes to find another plumber (or tradesperson of any kind).
What Services Does a Good Plumber Provide?
A plumbing contractor that you keep on file should provide comprehensive services. You may only need a plumber now to fix a leaky faucet, but next year, you may need a drainpipe cleared. In ten years, you may need a water heater replaced or sewer lines repaired.
The following are typical services provided by an established plumbing company.
Water Heater Installation, Maintenance and Repair
Plumbers are the tradespeople that install water heaters and maintain and repair them.
Standard water heaters are large tanks with heating elements inside. Water inside the tanks gets heated and stored, ready for use. Attached pipes carry unheated water into the tanks and heated water out of the tanks and throughout houses or buildings.
Tankless water heaters do not have storage tanks. These units heat water on demand, utilizing internal coils. They usually cost more than tank models up-front but function more efficiently in the long run, thus defraying the initial setup expense. They take up less space than standard tank heaters.
Plumbers install both types of water heaters.
Plumbers also maintain and repair water heaters. Many homeowners and property managers forget about these appliances if they are working properly. When a water heater fails—such as in the middle of someone’s shower—it suddenly gets remembered. Plumbers fix water heater problems.
Drain Cleaning and Repair
Plumbers clear blockages from drainpipes and repair broken drainpipes.
Drainpipes carry “used” water away from sinks, showers, dishwashers, and clothes washers. This water contains soap scum, hair, bits of food, grease, and debris (and the random ring and Mr. Potato Head piece). When enough debris sticks to the sides of drain pipes and accumulates, clogs form.
Professional plumbers have the equipment, products, and knowledge to access even deep clogs, break them up, and get water flowing freely again.
Leak Detection and Slab Leaks
Leak detection requires special tools. Today’s technology allows plumbers with leak detection equipment to quickly find locations of leaks in pipes or in slabs.
A leak detector functions by “listening” to the soundwaves inside a drainpipe. It can tell the difference between soundwaves generated by full pipes and empty pipes. It also senses soundwave variations caused by pressure, fluid types, and pipe thickness.
Plumbers with leak detection equipment can isolate and identify leaks in various kinds of pipes—water supply systems, drains, oil pipes, steam pipes, toilet outlets–and in slabs.
Sewer Line Cleaning and Repair
Sewer line installation, maintenance, and repairs are also the province of plumbing contractors.
Sewer lines run underground, carrying used water and sewage from structures to municipal sewage systems. Sewer lines are vulnerable to shifting ground, penetrating tree roots, changes in ground temperature, and the random striking shovel.
Sewer lines are also vulnerable to blockages caused by accumulating grease, fat, oil, soap, hair, toothpaste, toilet paper, chemicals, dirt, leaves, and bugs.
Plumbers utilize different strategies for accessing sewer lines to clean them and repair them. Many plumbers have hydro jet equipment that makes use of highly pressurized streams of water directed into the lines. This water has enough power to break apart tree root masses, solidified sludge, and debris accumulations.
Most plumbers now can perform trenchless sewer line repairs. Tiny cameras threaded through sewer lines send back images of the composition and location of obstructions. Plumbers can target the clogged areas without digging up lines all over the yard.
Repiping is what it sounds like: replacing old pipes with new pipes.
This process does not usually happen in newer homes, but in older homes with aged and brittle pipes, it is sometimes necessary.
Plumbers understand that plumbing systems consist of different kinds of pipes. Copper piping carries water to sinks and toilets. PEX tubing withstands freezing temperatures. PVC piping comprises water lines, drainpipes, and vent pipes.
The average homeowner will not usually know that their house needs repiping unless burst pipes become a common occurrence. In this case, the plumber may bring the condition of the pipes to the homeowner’s attention and recommend the house be repiped.
Today’s technology allows most plumbers to offer video inspections of drainpipes and sewer lines. This capability provides accurate diagnosing of problems and help in planning targeted repairs.
Video imaging also helps plumbers confirm that a line or pipe has indeed been fully cleared.
Water Conditioning Services
In areas with poor water quality, homeowners and commercial property owners often elect to install water conditioning systems. These systems remove staining iron and odorous sulfur. Some systems also remove minerals and toxic particles.
Whole-house softener and filtration systems deliver treated water through an entire structure. Point-of-use systems deliver treated water to targeted fixtures.
This guide has described the typical services that a good plumber provides. The information is helpful so that you know what tradesperson to call if, for example, you no longer have hot water, or the sink is backing up, or your water smells all the time.
We have also described the process of finding a good plumber. If you’ve just moved to a new area or you are a first-time homeowner, it helps to know the steps to take to confidently hire a plumber that you can use again in the future.