Unfortunately, few things in your home scream emergency quite like a plumbing problem. When a pipe bursts, spraying water all over your home, the last thing you think about is comparison shopping. Instead, you want help fast and you want it NOW.
That’s also the easiest way to get into trouble, paying exorbitant fees for in some cases sub-par work. Plumbers know this. And if you get a less than scrupulous plumber on the phone during your weekend or holiday emergency, it’s a recipe for disaster.
Of course you know this – that’s why this process is so difficult. With every phone call you make, you see the dollar signs flashing before your eyes. But what else can you do?
Actually, quite a bit.
Instead of heading to the nearest phone book or sending out a search to Google from your iPhone, take a step back first. The most important part of a plumbing emergency is to stop the problem first, and in most cases you can do that easily. Plumbing means water – you have to stop the water flow to begin to control the problem. Find the water supply main shut off valve and turn it off. That cuts the water flow, and buys you time to take the next steps without being in a state of panic.
All major appliances that use water have a shut off valve to control water at the source. If you are sure where the problem originates, you can head straight to the appliance and cut the water supply there. If not, all homes have a main shut off valve that controls the water supply from the municipal to your home. Its typically located near your water meter, either in the basement or crawl space of your home, or outside near the pavement or sidewalk. When you find this valve, you will need a wrench to shut off the water supply.
Once you shut off the water source, its important to check and make sure you have stopped the leak. Keep in mind that depending on what is leaking or broke may have residual water, so its important to monitor it and make sure the water stops. This will buy you some time to find a reputable plumber that can help you fix your problem at a reasonable cost.
If you can wait for normal working hours, this will give you a chance to do a little research and find reputable plumbers in your area. Choose a few and connect with them to ask a few questions. Provide as much detail as you can about the situation, and ask about their availability and their approach to the problem. You can learn quite a bit about a plumber by the way they respond to your needs.
If you are dealing with weekend or holiday hours, and the situation can’t wait until the next normal work day, this also gives you time to do a little research. You can approach finding a plumber in much the same way, yet keep in mind you’ll have to ask about special rates and availability.
Plumbing is a very competitive marketplace, and you’ll find all kinds of information online. Check out a plumbers website – does it look professional? How involved are they in the community – do they have good reviews by local organizations? In today’s world, you can find reviews and feedback in a variety of places. When you’ve narrowed your search down to a few plumbers, spend time getting comfortable with a potential plumber. If you see negative review after negative review, it may be a sign to proceed with caution.
Also make sure you understand the billing process. Every plumber will quote in a different manner. Some with higher hourly rates may charge you only for the time in your home, versus a lower hourly rate may be charging you from his location and back again. If something doesn’t make sense or doesn’t compare, ask. A reputable plumber will help you understand it thoroughly and help you make an educated decision.