You’ve heard some horror stories about plumbers overcharging for the smallest repairs, doing unnecessary work, not showing up at all, leaving a mess behind, or doing such a shoddy work that work has to be redone by a second plumber – usually for even more money.
Finding a good plumber is a high risk activity with far reaching consequences for your home. The risk increases when you are in a rush because of a broken pipe of a clogged toilet bowl (90% of calls to plumbers are emergencies).
So it is relevant to pre-select a plumber BEFORE any catastrophe occurs. That’s my first recommendation: use a preventative approach. Make a short list of plumbers before you are confronted with an emergency situation when you have no time to think.
In Tucson, we are faced with the real possiblity of pipes rupturing due to a freeze. We have short winters, but when the coldest front hit (in January and February), pipes break. Have the name of a good plumber on your fridge to face this possibility.
So, let’s be practical: how do you pre-select a good plumber?
- Use only licensed and insured plumbers. Make sure your guys are licensed and carry insurance that protects both your property and your neighbor’s property. It’s silly to say, but I have seen a number of catastrophic situations develop because homeowners wanted to save money and used unlicensed, uninsured plumbers. Just don’t. Ask, and if possible, verify. Here is a link that enables you to verify if any contractor is actually licensed in Arizona: http://www.azroc.gov/roc/contractorsearch.html.
- Read online reviews. The best sources for reviews are Google, the Better Business Bureau, and Yelp. In my experience, if the contractor does not have a minimum rating of 4.5 in Google and 4.0 in Yelp, I don’t use them. If their rating is not at least “A” (better: A+) at the Better Business Bureau, I don’t use them. There is so much choice out there, why bother with people that obviously don’t make the cut? I allow for a few bad reviews in a sea of good reviews: no one is at the top of their game all the time, and you can’t please everybody.
- How long have they been in existence? Check their website, look at the Contractors’ Registry. You don’t want to hire a fly-by-night operation. If the damage occurs again 6 months from the first date of repair, you want to make sure you can call them again.
- Get at least 2 quotes: If you are not in an emergency situation (if you follow the approach I am suggesting here), ask a couple of plumbers to come take a look at your plumbing, do a safety inspection and give you a quote for improvements. Be upfront with them when you call them: you are in a pre-selection phase, the work isn’t to be done immediately, you want quotes. This approach will tell you who is actually showing up at your door, and who will won’t take the trip to your home. It’s an effective tactics to eliminate unreliable people. In Tucson, there are plenty of plumbers who just won’t show up for a quote. IF you are in an emergency situation, it’s often too late to get multiple quotes.
- Do they guarantee their work? If so, how long and to what degree? What exactly is guaranteed? Is this written somewhere on their estimate or quote?
- Do not get estimates; get firm quotes. You want a fixed quote. Most often, the plumber will have to come to your place to see what is wrong. Sometimes, they will charge you for the trip and the inspection. Don’t take offense to this: their time is money. As long as they are upfront about the charge and make it clear to you before they show up at the door, it’s acceptable. In my experience, a plumber cannot give you a fixed quote without actually seeing the job. More often than not, the job is not what it seems to be. The cause of the problem is usually upstream of the problem. Plumbers are not clairvoyant: they have to observe your installation before they make a determination of the work to be done. I don’t accept estimates, especially estimates on the phone. When the plumber is on site, I let them complete their inspection to give me a fixed quote. Again, I recommend you to do your pre-selection BEFORE a problem arises. It’s not when the horse has been stolen that you close the barn door.
- The apparent problem is often not the problem. That’s where I see a lot of people getting confused. Their faucet is leaking. They ask a plumber to come fix the faucet. The faucet is fixed. Six months later, the faucet leaks again. Is there a problem with the faucet? There is always a risk that a fixture has a manufacturing defect, but more often than not, the real problem is upstream: like high water pressure, or hard water deposit. A good plumber will inspect the installation to detect any other issue upstream, and will quote you both the replacement of the faucet AND the fixing of the real issue. You may need a different pressure valve. Or a water softener. This is why I recommend homeowners to ask for a safety inspection of their plumbing beofre any situation develops. A safety inspection done by a reputable plumber will result in making you aware of potential weaknesses in your installation. Then you get 2 or 3 quotes to remedy these issues.
- Your neighbors can be the best source of information. Oftentimes, a neighborhood shares the same plumbing issues. A subdivision has been builty by the same general contractor and all homes have the same weaknesses. In some Tucson neighborhoods, water pressure is a known issue. Ask your neighbors which plumber they recommend. Then do you own verifications.
Well, here you have it. By following this approach you are almost guaranteed to have the right plumber handy before disaster strikes.
I personally recommend 2 plumbers in town:
- Bill Wood of Woods Plumbing. They have a consistent track record of being on the ball and upfront in the way they charge. They are not the cheapest plumber in town, but they guarantee their work, are licensed and insured, show up when they say they will, and do their inspections before giving you a firm quote.
- Don Holsteen of Pioneer Plumbing. This is a rock-solid compay that has been in business more years than I care to count. They have a full truck fleet and a top-notch reputation both for residential and commercial plumbing. Fully bonded, licensed and insured.
REALTOR®, Associate Broker
© 2016-2017 Kimberly Marohn