What’s one of the worst things you have to do as a homeowner? If you’re like a lot of people, its probably dealing with those emergency situations where you know you have to put in a call to the plumber for immediate service, yet knowing you might not get the best deal (or the best service) available.
Its hard talking to someone when you start the phone call by imagining all of the things that can go wrong. They might not fix the problem correctly. They might charge too much. They might provide bad service, requiring them to come out again and again. And while you can hope that everything goes smooth from the beginning, with the many horror stories that make the circuit even in your own friend group, its hard to expect anything but a bad experience.
Here’s the thing. In most cases, the bad experiences should have been spotted even before the plumber entered the home. With just a little research and common sense, some of the biggest horror stories can be avoided.
Working without a license or uninsured
Everyone has to start out somewhere – and many plumbers get their start by learning the ropes as they go. But if you use an unlicensed plumber, there is no where to turn if they do a poor job. A building inspector can require you to rip out and replace work that doesn’t meet expectations, and if the plumber is working without a license or doesn’t have the proper insurance for when things go wrong, you could be the one footing the bill and finding another plumber to handle the work. When hiring a plumber, always take the time to verify they are licensed, and have proper insurance – liability insurance to compensate you if the work fails, and workers compensation insurance in case someone is injured on the job.
Getting an estimate
With an emergency, its easy to want to get results fast. But even with immediate problems, remember a good plumber can’t provide you with exact costs from a simple phone call. “I have a flood in my basement,” isn’t enough information for a plumber to know where the true problem lies. He can provide the cost of a new water heater, or how much he charges as an hourly fee, but until he comes to your home and sees the problem, he won’t be able to provide a true estimate. If a plumber gives you a quote over the phone, be leery that additional fees won’t be tacked on when the work is completed.
A lowball bid
The best guidance dictates that you should receive three quotes before selecting a plumber to work with. Its easy to select the bid that is the lowest, but what about if its substantially lower than the others? This may be a sign of a potential problem. Plumbing scams often bid based on materials alone, then add in the extra labor charges – often at substantially higher rates – once they begin the work. If something doesn’t seem right, always ask. It’s the only way to avoid problems down the road.
Showing up unannounced
If a plumber knocks on your door asking for work, and you don’t have an appointment, turn them away immediately. Some of the biggest scams occur from contractors knocking on doors and looking for work. No matter how much of an emergency your plumbing problems may be, it still benefits you to do your due diligence first. Ask for referrals from friends or neighbors. Look at online resources, including a plumber’s website, and review sites such as Angies List. Search Google with a potential plumber’s name to see what kind of information exists. Even 10 minutes of research could save you weeks of frustration.
Wanting payment before work begins
While it is reasonable for a plumber to ask for a down payment before work begins, especially for larger jobs, it isn’t okay to ask for full payment before completion. Never settle the bill until all work is complete, you’ve had a chance to inspect the work, and are fully satisfied with the work that has been done.