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Questions to ask before hiring a plumber are essential in order to have a positive repair or installation experience.  Hiring a plumber can be a daunting task, but asking the right questions can allow you to make an informed decision and hire a plumber who knows what they’re doing, does good work, and won’t leave you with a half-finished project.

Here are some objective questions to ask:

Is the plumber licensed?

Questions to ask before hiring a plumber is are they licensed?  If a plumber is licensed, it means they are registered with a state or local governing body.  Many homeowners assume that every plumber must be licensed, but this is not the case.  Ask this question of every prospective plumber and never take the plumber’s word for it- request documentation evidencing licensure.  Many plumbers operate without a license, and if your plumber is not licensed, their work may not pass inspection.  If you knowingly hire an unlicensed plumber, you will have little recourse in the event of an issue occurring with the work.  Research the licensing rules in your area here.

Is the plumber bonded and insured?

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Questions to ask before hiring a plumber should include insurance details.  You should only hire plumbers who can deliver proof of insurance.  Otherwise, as the homeowner, you might be liable if something goes wrong.  If the prospective plumber asks why you are requesting this information, tell them you don’t want to be legally responsible for workers’ injuries while on the job or in your home fixing a plumbing issue, or any other liability arising from their work.  You have the right to ask this question, and if the plumber is not insured, it is the fault of the plumber trying to cut corners, not yours for asking.

Can the plumber provide references?

Questions to ask before hiring a plumber include reputation probing. A reputable plumber can present examples and references to verify past work.  Always speak to a plumber’s past customers before hiring.  Some questions to ask include:

·        Were you happy with the project?

·        Was the work completed on time?

·        Did you encounter unexpected expenses?

·        Would you hire this plumber again?

·        Would you recommend this plumber?

Here are some subjective questions to ask:

Are you experienced in this kind of job?

Most plumbers can handle a wide variety of general, small jobs, but for larger jobs, it is important that your plumber has the experience and knowledge required to complete your project.  Ask the prospective plumber to provide examples of past jobs that were similar in size and scope to the project for which you are hiring.

Is the estimate they’re providing the total cost?

Questions to ask before hiring a plumber include details about the estimate.  Most plumbers provide free estimates.  Be suspicious of estimates provided over the phone.  Reputable plumbers will want to come to your house and evaluate the job before they provide an estimate and begin work.  Once your prospective plumber has looked over the job at your house and provided you with an estimate, inquire if the quote includes materials, labor, and contingency for any problems that may occur during completion of the work.  Some estimates are great on paper, but the actual costs skyrocket as work progresses because the plumber did not adequately account for everything.

Is the plumber charging hourly or a flat rate?

Many plumbers insert clauses into their contracts that require homeowners to bear any reasonable costs to complete the job.  Ask if the total you’re being quoted is a flat rate that won’t increase due to labor, or if your plumber is quoting an hourly rate plus the cost of materials.  With the ladder, if the job runs long, your cost will skyrocket.

When does the plumber want payment?

Inquire when the plumber expects payment and how much of the total cost the plumber wants up front.  If the prospective plumber wants 100% of the cost before the job starts, find another plumber.  Most require 10-15% up front, 50% once the work is started, and the rest either upon completion or some specified time after completion.  Some plumbers tie payment to a system of milestones.  With this structure, once a certain piece of work is completed, you will be required to pay a certain percentage.  This is usually preferred because payment is only required upon completion of certain tasks, but some plumbers also use a time-based system of payment, in which after a specified number of days, weeks, etc. you pay a portion of the total costs.

Some plumbers accept payment via credit card, others don’t.  If paying via credit card is worthwhile to you, ask your prospective plumber about the option.  Paying via credit card can allow you to accrue points and mileage, but be sure to ask about credit card surcharge fees passed on to you by the plumber, as they could negate the benefit.

Who is doing the work?

Questions to ask before hiring a plumber include information about their workforce.  Most plumbing companies employ more than just one plumber.  For large projects, plumbing companies will have a team of laborers.  Always ask if the plumber providing the quote will be the plumber doing the work.  If not, ask who will be completing the job and their level of experience.

Does the plumber clean their mess?

Questions to ask before hiring a plumber include your expectation. You would think this question has an obvious answer, but some plumbing companies don’t clean up when they’re finished.  This leaves the homeowner with old parts, boxes, and a big mess.  Always ask if cleanup is included in the quote, and if not, ask why.  Some companies charge an additional cleanup fee.  This cost may be worth it, but don’t forget to ask.

What happens if something breaks?

Inquire about guarantees and warranties the plumber offers for their work.  Some will return within a certain amount of time to fix problems, and some offer guarantees only on certain fixtures or under certain conditions.  If the plumber offers guarantees and warranties, make sure you get them to put it in writing.

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