The Skinny on How to Find the Best Plumber
If you’re responsible for the upkeep of a house or a commercial building, you will need to call a plumber some time. It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when. Old systems with aging pipes and valves will need repairs and upgrades, but even new plumbing systems develop leaks and problems.
If you’ve done enough research ahead of time—that is, before the leak happens or the pipe breaks—and you know which plumber to call, your stress level will be much lower during the emergency. You’ll be glad you spent the time to find the best plumbing service provider and will feel confident that he or she will provide competent services at fair prices.
Tips for Finding the Best Plumbing Contractor
Get Local Referrals
If you can find a plumber through a recommendation from a trusted neighbor or local friend, that’s your best bet. You know they won’t give you the name of someone who ripped them off or did shoddy work. They’ll usually be delighted to pass on the name of a quality contractor that they vouch for.
Some plumbers have a website that will tell you a lot about their company. To find local plumbers, type “plumbers near me” into your search box. Whatever search engine you use will bring up pages of results, and you can easily navigate to individual plumber websites and review pages.
Remember that the search results pages will first list the contractors who have paid for the position (see the word “Ad” in a box). Next, you’ll see directories such as Angie’s List, Thumbtack, and Home Advisor. And then you’ll see organic (non-paid) listings of local plumbers.
You can also click on the search engine results page map to see where local plumbers are located. To the left of the map will be a list of those plumbers with their ratings, location, phone number, and website if they have one.
A great way to inform yourself about individual plumbing contractors is to go online to your search results pages and check out their ratings and read their reviews.
Information to Find Out
As you look at different plumbing websites in order to narrow down your list of candidates, keep these questions in mind: How long has the plumber been in business? How big is the company? Are the individual plumbers licensed and insured? Does the company offer after-hours or emergency services? Are estimates free? Do the company’s equipment and labor come with warranties? Is financing available on equipment?
When you have three quality candidates, make a few phone calls to speak with a representative. This contact will give you a more rounded view of the company. First, note if you got a live person when you called or if you got a message. If a message, how long did it take for someone to return your call? What was the vibe when you spoke with the representative? Were they friendly? Knowledgeable? Able to answer your questions and schedule an estimate appointment?
Schedule an estimate appointment with three different plumbers. Remember that you’re looking for a long-term relationship. Ideally, you’ll find a plumber that will become your go-to provider for as long as you own or manage the property. This estimate appointment isn’t just about getting the current problem taken care of. Although it includes that purpose, it’s also to identify the company that you’ll call out for all future plumbing situations that need a professional.
That First Job—More at Stake Than Just the Repair
If you’re hiring a new plumber, it’s ideal if their first job is smaller than, say, repiping the whole house. Try them out, replacing a leaky faucet or installing a new toilet.
Be observant about all aspects of interaction and performance. Note the responsiveness of communication, timeliness of arrival, friendly factor, job execution, thoroughness of clean-up, billing procedure, and follow-up (if any). If observing all this seems over the top, remember what’s at stake. You’re trying to find a long-term plumber, so it’s worth some diligence to spot things right away that could become problems in subsequent jobs (at which point you’d have to start the process of finding a go-to plumber all over again).
Plumbing Services Your New Company Should Provide
We’ve given you ideas about how to find a plumber. The following are the services a plumber should provide. Again, you want a plumber that offers comprehensive services so that whatever issue arises, he or she can handle it. You want a one-stop-shop.
Water Heater Installation and Repair
If you haven’t dealt much with water heaters, you may not know that it’s plumbers who install, maintain, and repair them.
Water heaters tend to be those appliances that everyone forgets about until they stop working. Usually tucked away behind doors in laundry rooms or corners of garages, they do their duty ignored by you until the Sunday morning when you’re standing in a freezing shower. (At that moment, you wish you had a plumber on speed-dial who offers emergency services.)
Plumbers fix water heaters. If your water heater has reached the end of its life, your plumber will be able to take it out and install a new one. There are standard water heaters and tankless water heaters now on the market. Your plumber can tell you the pros and cons of each kind and install whichever one you want.
Drain Cleanout and Repair
When a drain clogs and backs up, or when a toilet does the same, a plumber can make everything right. Most homeowners try a commercial chemical product to break apart clogs, but if that doesn’t help, or a plunger doesn’t work, the next step is to call a plumber. He or she has the equipment—such as snakes and high-pressure jets—to clear the blockages.
Drainpipe blockages can be the result of different causes. Accumulated hair, soap scum, and product oils gather and stop the free flow of water. Kitchen drains become blocked by grease and bits of food. Toilets get stopped up by wads of toilet paper, feminine products, and toys flushed down by small children.
The handy homeowner can sometimes unstop drainpipes, but not always. Call your plumber when the job has exceeded your abilities.
Good plumbers have specialized leak detection equipment that most homeowners or property managers don’t possess. If you notice abnormal water pressure changes in your faucets, showers, toilets, washing machine, or dishwasher, call your plumber. Leaks that are allowed to continue can result in significant damage, either right away or down the road.
Leak detection machines are electronic devices that detect soundwaves. The information they record shows a plumber the soundwaves occurring inside a pipe. He or she knows the difference between soundwaves generated in a leaking pipe versus those produced in a non-leaking pipe.
Other factors influence soundwaves, and an excellent plumber will be able to interpret the data, such as whether a leak is under pressure, how thick a pipe is, and what sorts of fluids are in the pipes. All this information enables a plumber to find and repair leaks.
Sewer & Water Line Repair
Plumbers are the tradespeople to call for the installation, maintenance, and repair of sewer or water line issues. Typical problems that occur include blockages, breaks, and the collapse of pipes. The likelihood of these problems occurring increases with the age of the systems. As soon as you suspect that one of these situations has taken place, call a plumber. Letting it go can lead to more expensive repairs.
Different kinds of materials cause blockages. Buried sewer lines are often invaded by tree roots that continue to grow inside pipes, eventually clogging up pipes completely. The lines can also be obstructed by dirt or silt that penetrates and accumulates over time. Garage drains or laundry room drains get clogged up with mud and leaves and automotive oil.
It’s a good idea to have the plumber conduct annual inspections of your sewer and water systems. He or she will identify every kind of compromising condition, including cracks, collapses, breaks, obstructions, leaks, corrosion, tree root infiltration, bellied pipes, and off-grade piping.
Repiping is just what it sounds like: replacing old pipes with new ones. You won’t hear this term too much if you’ve got a more modern house or structure, but in old homes and businesses, repiping is not uncommon.
Pipes deteriorate with age. They can be repaired, and sections can be replaced. But sometimes the situation calls for a complete overhaul—getting rid of the entire old system and installing a new one. Repiping is a big job and requires experienced plumbers that know what they’re doing.
The average homeowner doesn’t realize how many kinds of pipes are in their house. There may be copper piping (usually found in water supply lines that go to toilets and sinks); “PEX” tubing that withstands freezing temperatures; PVC pipes for water lines, drain pipes, and vents; and concrete or clay pipes often found buried outside.
Plumbers know that water line, drain, and sewer systems usually comprise several different materials and that repiping projects require the same.
Video technology now allows plumbers to see inside sewer and water lines. A cable with a tiny camera on the end is threaded into a pipe or line. The camera takes video footage and sends it back to the plumber who can view it on a monitor.
Video inspections are an excellent way for plumbers to see blockages, diagnose problems, and decide on courses of action for repair work. They also enable plumbers to confirm that blockages have been successfully cleared.
Water Conditioning Services
While dedicated water conditioning businesses are in abundance, many plumbers also provide these services. Some home- and business owners prefer to use their plumber to install water conditioners or water softeners so that they don’t have to deal with two different vendors.
Water conditioners and water softener systems are useful for removing iron and sulfur from water. Whole-house systems send treated water throughout the entire house or building as opposed to point-of-use systems that provide treated water in specific fixtures.
Finding a good plumber is worth taking the time to search for thoroughly. Utilize our search strategies to identify prospects, then schedule three for estimate appointments, and go with the finalist to do a small-to-medium repair job. Based on the performance, you can decide to continue using that plumber or find another. Your goal is to establish a relationship with a plumbing contractor who will serve you for years to come.
Wolfer’s Home Services Handles Plumbing Issues for all of The Portland and Vancouver Areas