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How to Hire a Plumber - Tips for identifying and qualifying the best plumber for your job

Think about the last time you purchased a car. Chances are you didn't go to the yellow pages, choose a dealership at random, and buy your car from the first lot you visited.

Many times, though, this scenario describes the way homeowners find a plumber -- they look in the phone book and call the plumber with the largest ad or the first one listed. But much like purchasing a car, finding a qualified plumber requires research and comparison shopping.

Identifying a Plumber
The first step in finding a good plumber is to ask family and friends for recommendations of professionals they've hired in the past. Other good sources of referrals include contractors, real estate agents and your local plumbing supply store. Your city may even be able to provide a list of recommended plumbers who are familiar with the codes in your area.

It is also important to keep in mind that there are two different types of plumbers -- those who handle repairs and those who specialize in new construction and remodeling.
Repair plumbers should be called in for such items as clogged sinks, leaky faucets or emergency situations.
The second type of plumber works on larger projects like replacing failed plumbing throughout the home or plumbing a new addition.
When asking for referrals, be sure to check the type of job the plumber was called in to accomplish. Also, determine if the plumber specializes in residential or commercial work.


What to Look For in a Qualified Plumber
There are a number of qualifications which can set a professional plumber apart.

* State License or Certification -- Many states require a license or state certification for plumbers working in that state. Call to verify that the license is current and check if there are any active complaints against the license.

* Insurance -- Be sure that the prospective plumber you are considering is fully insured, having both workers' compensation and liability insurance. Your selected plumber should be able to provide you with a copy of his or her insurance policy.

* Better Business Bureau -- Contact your local Better Business Bureau to ascertain if any complaints have been filed against your potential candidate.

Questions to Ask
When you have narrowed the list, ask two or three plumbers to your home to survey the job and provide a written estimate that includes a materials list.
The contract should spell out the scope of the project, any items that are excluded and the payment terms.
When obtaining a quote, one of the most important questions to ask your plumber is the type of materials to be used. Remember, a plumbing part defect has the potential to cause water damage to your home or create an indoor swimming pool in what once was your basement.

Look for:
* Quality Materials
Don't let your plumber install products made with inexpensive and inferior materials. Ask for quality materials, often with recognizable brand names that offer manufacturers' warranties to the consumer. You may pay more for these parts initially, but you will be glad you did if there ever is a problem or parts need replacing.

* Reliability and Proven Performance
Many homeowners who are calling in a plumber to replace a leaking copper pipe don't know there are alternative materials on the market. Why would you let a plumber make a repair with the same material that has already failed?
Ask your potential plumbing candidates whether they use any of the proven superior alternatives to copper such as CPVC pipe and fittings. Made of durable chlorinated polyvinyl chloride, these pipe and fittings offer a number of benefits over copper pipe. Mainly they will never scale, corrode or pit which will help eliminate the risk of future failures and costly re-piping. As compared to metallic systems, CPVC systems also virtually eliminate condensation, significantly reducing the risk of costly drip damage to walls, structure and contents. From a health standpoint, the CPVC alternative offers the added benefit of maintaining water quality since there is no metal to leach into the tap water.

In addition to inquiring about quality materials, other questions to ask a potential plumber include:

* Length in business/references
Ask each plumber how long he or she has been in business and if you have not been personally referred, ask to speak to several people who can vouch for the quality of their work and whether they completed the work on time and within budget.

* Permits
Be sure to ask the plumbing professional whether they will be responsible for obtaining all necessary permits.

* Service Guarantees
Does the plumber guarantee the work? This is an important point if there are any problems that need fixing after initial installation.

* Safety Commitment
Accidents can happen with almost any home improvement project. So ask your prospective candidate what steps he or she will take to prevent injuries and property damage. A common problem when installing copper pipe is a solder torch that gets too close to dry wall or wood joists in tight spaces. Non-metallic alternatives, like CPVC pipe, are solvent cemented (not soldered), so the risk of fire is eliminated.

* Clean Up
Ask the plumber how he or she intends to leave the work area once the job is completed. You don't want to be cleaning up after a plumber for hours after they've left your home.

Also, ask about disruption during the project.
For instance, if the plumber uses CPVC pipe, you won't have to worry about metal/copper filings to pick up or oil that may spill on your carpet and flooring.

Compare prices, but remember the cheapest quote isn't necessarily the best plumber for the job. An experienced, qualified plumber may charge more for the work, but could save you money in the end by doing the job right and using the best materials.

Courtesy of ARA Content

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