Archive for the 'Plumbers' Category

Plumbing Emergencies

Nov. 11th 2012

Dealing With Plumbing Emergencies At Home

Plumbing emergencies are, from one perspective, neglect of your plumbing that has bloomed into a serious consequence. The underlying causes of most problems which reach emergency status are problems that should have been given attention long before they erupted into emergencies.

A “plumbing emergency” usually translates to a flood, or water running where it doesn’t belong, although it can include some other problems. In the majority of cases, the first consideration is to stop the flow of water. If you had to shut the water off to the entire house right now, would you be able to walk right to the main supply valve? Part of emergency preparedness is to know, above all, where the main valve is on the supply line leading into the house.

If you are on a municipal water distribution branch, your water enters your house from the street side, and a water meter is connected to it just inside the wall. If you have your own well, the supply line likely enters the house from the direction of the well. Locate the valve on this line. Closing this will turn off the water supply to the home.

A proper plumbing setup will include other valves, as well. At the very least, each individual fixture – refrigerator with ice maker, sink, washer, etc., should have its own cutoff valve. There may also be cutoff valves on entire branches of the supply pipe (i.e.: the lines leading to a second floor lavatory, or the lines leading to the master bedroom lavatory, or the wet bar). With multiple cutoffs, the location of the leak can give you choices as to which valves to close.

The cutoff for a sink will be directly underneath the sink. The toilet cutoff is behind the tank at the end of the supply pipe, which may approach from the floor or from within the wall. If the individual fixture is the source of the problem, closing its valve can minimize the inconvenience while the repair is being made.

If the main water supply must be shut off for more than a few minutes, turn off the heating supply to the water heater as well, either by switching the gas valve to “OFF”, or by tripping the circuit breaker for the appliance. This will keep the water heater from continuously heating the same water, and eliminate the possibility of it overheating.

Sometimes a fixture will appear to be leaking when the only trouble is a clogged drain. Clear the drain and the symptoms (wet floor, dripping) should disappear.

A frozen pipe is another common plumbing emergency. If a pipe freezes, it may also crack. Steel and copper pipes can tolerate precious little expansion, while PVC is much more forgiving. If the pipe has not split, and it is metal, thawing it will not take much time. Heat it slowly, by tying a hot water bag to it and warming the bag occasionally. Alternately, shine a bulb on the coldest part of the pipe. This method may take up to a couple of hours, but heating it slowly will minimize the chance that it will rupture. Never apply a flame to a pipe which has frozen. The combination of ice and rapidly expanding, heating water can stress the metal and weaken it. If the water is brought to the boiling point in the midst of ice, the pressure could burst the pipe.

If the frozen pipe has cracked, make sure the water supply has been turned off, then cut out the offending portion and replace it. Wrap insulating tape around the repaired pipe to prevent it from refreezing. As a general principle, never leave your home unheated in cold weather. If you must leave it empty and cannot supply a heat source, drain the entire system of water.

If hot water becomes scalding, or produces steam, not only can closing the faucet cause burns, but the pressure in the hot water supply line can increase to dangerous levels. Leave the faucet running and remove the heat source to the water heater. Only close the faucet again when the running hot water has cooled to the touch. Call a plumber to diagnose and repair the problem with the water heater.

At times, a water heater will drip and get the floor wet. It is possible that the tank is sweating. On very hot days, and when a considerable amount of hot water has been used, the large volume of incoming cold water can produce enough condensation to drip down to the floor. This does not constitute an emergency. If, however, the volume of water coming from the heater is too great for condensation, or if it is constant and not dependent on usage and weather conditions, it is likely that the inner tank has cracked, which is not a serviceable problem. Once the water heater tank is cracked, it is time to install a new one. It is a good idea to keep important keepsakes far enough away from any water heater, or on a higher plane, on the chance that a leaking water heater goes undiscovered for any length of time.

Careful attention should be paid to the operation of all your plumbing appliances. If you remain aware of conditions affecting all aspects of your home’s plumbing any of these emergency problems can be avoided. The important thing to keep in the back of your mind, while maintaining your home’s plumbing systems, is what to do if any of these situations does occur.

Posted by plumber | in DIY, Plumbers | No Comments »

Questions to Ask Your Plumber

Oct. 10th 2012

What should you ask your plumber before you hire someone for the job?

When trying to choose a plumber to help maintain your plumbing system, it is easy to become overwhelmed by the abundance of options available. If you have not employed the services of a plumber before, it is difficult to know how to winnow the field, and narrow it down to a small number. After all, hiring a plumber is entrusting someone else with an important possession. You will want to be certain that the person in whom you place your trust will honor it with his actions.

The time for choosing a plumber is long before you have an emergency need. If you wait until you are in the throes of an emergency, you will likely open the phone book and pick any plumber, based primarily on the effectiveness of the advertisement. This could be disastrous. Take the time to carefully consider the right plumber for your needs right away. Emergencies don’t wait for you to schedule them. When a problem occurs, you should have a trusted relationship in place.

So, how can a homeowner learn enough about a prospective service provider to become comfortable hiring one? There are several question that you can ask that, if answered correctly, can help to put you at ease in making this important decision. Additionally, it may be possible to find reviews of the contenders on the Internet. The Better Business Bureau is often a good source of customer reviews as well.

But there are important questions that should be asked of the plumbing contractor in the process of choosing a service provider:

Does the company hold a plumbing license (not required in all locations)? Verify the license number with the issuer of the license, to ensure it is valid.

Where licenses or certifications are required by law, this is an essential trait. Any contractor who hesitates to give you his license number should not be trusted.

Is the company insured for liability? Workmen’s Compensation insurance?

Liability insurance covers damage that is caused by the contractor. Without insurance, trouble may arise if the contractor has difficulty paying for the repair for his damage. Workmen’s Compensation insurance shows that the company cares for its employees. This is a good trait in a prospective partner.

Does the company have a website?

A company website lends credibility to a company. The lack of a website may mean that the company is not well established.

How long has this company been in business?

A plumber who has not been in business very long is not automatically a warning sign, but a lack of history makes it more difficult to find information – positive or negative – about the company.

Another thing which adds credibility to a plumbing contractor is a physical office. Ask for the address of the shop.

A contractor with no physical shop is more likely to be a fly-by-night operation.

Will the plumber supply a written estimate before beginning work, and whether he expects the costs to change without notice? Does the estimate cover all work, or is there an hourly labor fee?

If the contractor charges an hourly fee, costs can go up dramatically with unexpected delays.

If you are able, arrange a visit to the shop, to look at the inside of the company’s work vans.

The condition of their work vans is a preview of how they will likely leave the work area in your home. Choose a plumbing contractor that keeps its vans clean and organized.

When making your initial call to check out plumbers, the initial contact can speak volumes about their customer service ethic. Does the owner speak to you him/herself? Do you get a return call if you had to leave a message? How long did it take before you finally spoke to the owner? Decide upon a plumber who counts your needs important enough for a prompt reply.

Ask about the rates for service, and if they include travel time to get parts, or only the time spent addressing the problem in your home. Ask also about “overtime” rates, and how they are computed.

Since they will be installing parts occasionally, find out if they are using quality parts that come with manufacturer’s warranties. If not, they may be saddling you with low quality parts, which will only add to your maintenance costs in the long run.

Will the plumber supply a written guarantee?

A plumber who will not stand by his or her work can not be trusted to take pride in a job well done. Make sure any changes to planned work are documented in writing prior to completion. This will avoid the ‘bait-and-switch’ tactic that unscrupulous contractors sometimes resort to.

Lastly, ask for a list of five references who have employed the plumber recently, and follow up with them. Word of mouth is a valuable testimony

. If a plumber cannot provide references, it is probably best to avoid hiring him or her.

In this process, it is possible to alienate a plumber who might otherwise have been a good choice. While these things are important to know about your prospective partner, balance your need to know with sensitivity for the plumber’s feelings and respect for his or her time. Rather than a barrage of questions, try to get the questions answered over the course of a comfortable conversation about your needs and the plumber’s services.

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Repair or Replace?

Aug. 1st 2012

Should you service your existing plumbing fixtures or replace them?

The world of a do-it-yourselfer is full of surprises, and full of decisions. The typical homeowner decides which plumber to hire, which heating and air conditioning contractor to hire, and other, similar decisions. The do-it-yourselfer has more complex decisions to make. Can I gain control of this situation in a time of crisis? Am I able to solve the problem and return things to normal using only my own ingenuity and resources? Can I save some of my hard-earned money by eliminating the labor costs of a professional?

A properly functioning plumbing system is a sensitive balance, containing many various and individual parts, all playing their roles to provide modern convenience to your home. But each component, as it performs its task, is wearing out, or being deposited with sediment, or otherwise approaching the point at which it will fail. Some components show warning signs that failure is imminent, but some simply fail, without any indication of trouble.

Many components have a “life expectancy”, which aids the homeowner in deciding whether repairs will be worth their cost, or if they will amount to throwing money and energy at a losing proposal. This article will help you to ask the questions that are part of the decision whether to replace a failed appliance or fixture, or whether to replace a component of it in order to make a repair and put it back into operation.

An important factor in determining your course of action is the cost of repair as compared with the cost of replacement. For instance, if a part for your thermostatic shower control is half the cost of replacing the entire valve, and you’ve used the valve for ten years already, perhaps it would be wise to replace the entire valve while you have it opened up. If you do, you can reasonably expect to have about ten more years of trouble-free operation. If you spend only the amount necessary to change the part, you may not be confident that no other part will need replacement before long. It could be that repairing part after part will lead to a higher cost than total replacement.

A water heater is an expensive plumbing fixture that can be found in nearly every home – every occupied building of all types, in fact. When problems with the water heater arise, they can be caused by many different things. If your pilot light stays on, but no fire ignites, it may need a new thermocouple, a part that costs between $5 and $10 and takes about ten minutes to change. In this case, it is probably worth the expense, even if you have owned the water heater for 12 years, the typical life expectancy of a gas heater.

But suppose there is no gas supplying the pilot light, and a faulty gas valve is the culprit. If you’ve had the heater for ten years or more, it may not be wise to spend nearly $200 just to keep it working for an expected 2 more years. Average out the total cost of ownership over ten years of use, without the added expense of a gas valve, and you will find you have gotten your money’s worth. Spending the extra money on a new appliance will add years of trouble-free operation – and it comes with the expensive part included in the price!

Of course, the decision about whether to patch up an ailing appliance rather than replace it will depend largely on the available budget of the homeowner. Sometimes a homeowner will have little choice but to spend as little as possible to get things working again, but from another perspective, spending as little as possible to restore the plumbing system is a recipe for overwhelming future problems.

Cost, however, is not always the dominant factor in such a decision. The market value of your home is affected by maintenance decisions you make. Aesthetic value is another factor. A cracked lid on your toilet tank is an eyesore, but you will likely need to replace the entire toilet to resolve the issue. While replacing your toilet in such an instance is perhaps wasted money to some, from another perspective it provides a satisfaction that cannot be measured in dollars.

It may not always be the best course of action to defer your judgment to a professional plumber at times when such a decision is needed. Plumbers, while in business to serve the needs of their customers, are also in the business of making sales. If a fixture is serviceable after repairing it, it may be substandard in the eyes of a professional who is in constant contact with new, and sometimes innovative plumbing fixtures and appliances.

But it is not necessary for a functioning system that it be new. The test for the homeowner is whether the system is functioning as it was designed to do, and whether costs and efforts are contained within reasonable limits, allowing for the homeowner’s time and money to be devoted to other needs.

The decision, then, to replace or repair any durable plumbing fixture – toilets, garbage disposals, water heaters, etc. – will depend on how much repair you’ve had to perform on the item previously, and how much repair cost can be eliminated by the installation of a new one. It is rarely an easy decision, but with due diligence and thoughtful consideration of all the factors, your decision can be easier to make.

Choosing The Right Toilet

Jun. 29th 2012

Toilets are toilets, right? Everybody needs to use one about every day, so as long as they do what they were designed for, what is all the fuss about choosing one over another? A toilet by any other name would smell – the same, wouldn’t it?

How often do people get to choose their toilets, anyway? Generally, we buy a house, and it’s got a toilet in one of the rooms, or maybe more. But there do arise times when you may want to renovate a bathroom, and you consider the possibility of replacing the fixtures, include the toilet. You may even be building your dream house, and though it has been designed to include a toilet or two, there is a great opportunity to have a say concerning which toilet is installed. And of course, it is possible that you have cracked your toilet, or your elderly mother has moved into your home, or your family has gotten too big for one little toilet.

OK, so maybe the need to choose a new toilet is not so rare an occurrence. And if you have that choice before you today, there is a good bit to know before venturing out to your neighborhood home improvement center.

It might seem to you that even though there are differences in appearance between different toilets, they all seem pretty much the same. Are there important differences that don’t meet the casual observer’s eye? Is it fine simply to pick the one that you think best matches the decor of your bathroom? It may be, but it’s wise to narrow the list down a little before letting the decision rest on that factor alone. So, what are all the considerations that should be made in forming an educated opinion?

For most people, price is an important factor. Many assume that as the price of an item increases, its quality improves. In the world of toilets, this is far from certain. Low price toilets can potentially perform as well as some very expensive ones. And the features we will look into here will show you how.

The first distinction to be made is on the basis of the three major types of toilets. Numerous examples can be found of each of these types that function comparably:

Gravity-fed toilets – these are those with a tank mounted above the bowl (one-piece or two), and when the handle is pressed, the water rushes in from the rim or the siphon-jet (the small hole under the water in front of the drain), or both. This rush of water “pushes” the bowl contents into the drain.

Vacuum toilets – these suck the air from behind the trap, creating a vacuum which the bowl’s contents rushes to fill. This “pulls” the waste into the drain. Vacuum-assisted models combines the two methods, for a simultaneous “push” and “pull”.

Gravity toilets have a smaller water surface deeper in the bowl. This can mean that they get dirtier than the vacuum type.

Pressure-assisted toilets – these are quite distinct in appearance and in sound. Pressurized water is released from a sealed mechanism located in the tank to overwhelm the bowl’s contents and send it scurrying into the drain. The process is rather loud, and the mechanism requires a larger tank. These require a minimum household water pressure, so if you are considering one of these, check with the manufacturer or sales representative. Additionally, there are no user-serviceable parts in this toilet, so if that is an issue, scratch this one off your list.

Another clear distinction between toilets is their shape. The so-called “standard” shape is fairly round, while the other common shape is an elongated circle. This distinction is primarily according to taste, but there are some who maintain that the round bowl is suited to a better “vortex” for flushing –the swirling action of the water within the bowl that helps accomplish a more complete flush.

But the characteristics of the toilet which make a measurable difference are the diameter of the flush valve (the hole through which water leaves the tank) and the trap size (diameter of the trap, through which water leaves the bowl) A larger flush valve delivers water faster and more forcefully, and a larger trap can move a greater amount of waste without clogging. These numbers are not mutually exclusive – you can look for a toilet with large diameters of both of these openings. This is a more important consideration for homes built during or before the 1950′s, because the commonly used 4-inch cast iron waste pipe has a rough inner surface and requires either a large amount of water or fast-moving water to wash the waste completely out of the soil pipe.

Some might long for the days when we could flush 5 gallons of water into our toilets and walk away knowing that whatever we just put in there is long gone. Some recall the bad and inefficient products that hit the market when the current 1.6 gallon per flush standard first became Federal law. But what has not made much press is that innovation has stepped into the void and confusion, and the products we have today are as efficient and successful with 1.6 gallons (and some with even less) as our old ones were with 5 gallons.

You can buy toilets with concealed mechanisms (located behind a wall), toilets which hang from the wall, or floor-standing models, all using any of the three flushing methods. All manufacturers offer models which provide greater accessibility for handicapped persons as well. The major consideration which may limit any of your options is the space you have available for installation. Make sure you know the square footage of usable space and, especially, the rough-in measurement. This is the distance from the wall (ignoring the baseboard) to the center of the drain.

Lastly, the color of your toilet can add substantially to its cost. A typical manufacturer adds 60% – 70% to the cost of a white toilet to produce a colored toilet.

When you have narrowed your list considerably and are ready to go out shopping, be sure to check with Consumer Reports. They have an excellent buying guide that is worth your review.

Posted by plumber | in Plumbers, Toilets, Water Savers | No Comments »

Green Plumbing Ideas

Jun. 20th 2012

There is great interest these days in environmental conservation, and applying ‘green’ concepts to household plumbing designs is a smart idea which can lead to substantial savings of water and of money. Even if water consumption is not regulated in your local area, many steps can be taken which not only reduce your dependency on public water supplies, but also reduce your negative impact on the environment.


One step which will have a huge impact will be the use of rainwater to supply toilets and washing machines, even sinks and showers. This can be done by means of a cistern. Many older homes in the rural United States were equipped with cisterns – usually concrete tanks buried near the house into which rainfall was harvested by means of the gutter system. Homes can be retrofitted for a cistern, using an underground tank or one that sits on the surface, but during new construction or renovation are the most cost-effective opportunities for the installation of such tanks, as retrofitting costs may be prohibitive.


Another important water-saving feature that can be added to a home is a treatment system for gray water. Waste water from sinks, showers and washing machines, while not clean, is known as gray water, as opposed to black water, which is the waste from toilets and food disposals. Gray water may be collected into a septic tank, to be treated and sent to a collection tank. From there it can be used for watering lawns and plants, a supply that costs nothing, and that has been redeemed from what may have been freely gathered rainwater to begin with.


Fixtures may be added to the plumbing system which serve to reduce water flow. Low-flow toilets, water-efficient shower heads and pressure reducers can add up to mean a great reduction in water usage. Even timely repair of leaky faucets and shower valves are very important water-saving measures.


In addition to the many undertakings that lead to a reduction in water usage, there is an increasing interest in more economical means of heating water for the home. Heating water for sinks and showers is a costly expense of a plumbing system. The costs of electricity and fuel – whether natural gas or Liquid Petroleum ‘gas’ – are unpredictable, except that they are sure to rise. The typical, traditional water heater is a tank in the home that takes in cold water and heats it to a predetermined temperature, letting it out into the pipes when the hot water faucet is opened. This is a rather inefficient system, since a tankful of hot water, when not being used, will cool down, and require continual reheating.


Recent innovations have allowed homeowners to move away from the water heater tank system though, and can provide significant savings because water will only be heated when it is needed, and only in the amount that is needed.


There is a still more efficient method than either of these, and it is to use the energy from the Sun to heat your water. Solar energy collection is a mature industry, and one of the best developed implementations of renewable energy technologies on the market. A solar collector sits atop the roof and the fluid within transfers heat to the water supply, which is stored in a tank, ready for delivery to the plumbing fixtures.


While this system depends at its foundation upon sunshine, it is well known that there is no place where the Sun always shines. There may be several days – or, in some locations – even weeks, when sunshine is scarce. There is also Winter, when the energy from the Sun is decreased. For this reason, a solar heating system includes a booster, which keeps the temperature of the water at the desired level. If your home is in an area which receives a great deal of sunshine during most of the year, however, it is likely that the booster will not have to be engaged for weeks at a time, or longer.


Consumers are always looking for cheaper ways to supply their needs. While some of the ideas spoken of can be expensive to implement, the overall costs of operating with these environmentally friendly methods are far less over the course of time, and including these aspects of environmental stewardship at construction time will give you a far more efficient and more affordable option.


Tankless Water Heater Savings

May. 22nd 2012

When you’re looking to lower your energy bills during a blazing hot summer or a long, frigid, winter, there are always a few tricks of the trade that you can adopt in order to spare yourself an imminent slide into bankruptcy and homelessness. You can keep the air conditioner or heater off as long as possible, by using portable fans or space heaters. You can make sure all the windows in the home are properly sealed to ward off the biting winter cold. You can make sure the drapes in all your rooms are down, in order to reflect back that murderous, searing heat.

And when it comes to heating up water during those long, miserable, winter months, there is a brand new trick on the market that will do more than any other to put much needed coins back in your purse, whilst simultaneously saving you from turning into an icicle in your own bathtub. The tankless water heater is an invaluable component of every modern, fully furnished home, and you should strive to familiarize yourself with the benefits it can bring to you and your family. Even if your home has already been fitted with a traditional, old fashioned (and obsolete) tank using water heater, no worries! You can remove that wasteful, money guzzling, old Brontosaurus, and have your home fitted with a brand new, twice as efficient, penny pinching new tankless water heater!

One of the very first benefits you’ll notice when you switch to a tankless water heater is also one of the longest lasting ones. You sure can’t miss noticing when you’ve been in the shower for ten or fifteen minutes and the hot water is still going strong, with no sign of cooling off or petering out! The satisfaction you get from a good, relaxing, hot bath or shower, especially in the dead of winter, just can’t be measured in words. And with a tankless heater, that satisfaction can and will be yours!

Consider this: a tankless water heater heats up the water that you need, exactly when you need it. Not before, and not hours later! A tankless heater doesn’t limit you to the amount of water that can be safely and efficiently stored in an old fashioned storage tank heater. A tankless water heater will heat any available source of water at your command, and in a hurry. Whether you need a good supply of hot water for your bath or shower, or for doing the dishes, a tankless water heater simply draws on your home’s supply of water, and heats it up. It’s dependent on the water that can be drawn from your house’s well or neighborhood source of water – NOT from the amount of water that a storage tank can hold!

Simply put, the difference between a conventional old fashioned, storage tank water heater and the new tankless water heater is the difference between an old vinyl long playing record and a digital Ipod. Sure, they both play music, but with the vinyl record, you need a big, clunky, turntable to play it, and you can only get 35-45 minutes of music out of it. With the Ipod, you can have access to an inexhaustible supply of music straight from your computer, and it can store hours upon hours of music.

The same comparison applies to the tankless water heater. As noted above, it draws from your neighborhood’s water supply, not a severely limited storage tank. So, your days of budgeting your time in the shower because you know full well the hot water will soon run out are over, and none too soon! The tankless water heater will heat your bath for as long as you care to remain within it. It will give your dishwasher piping hot water to scrub those dirty dishes clean with. It will do both tasks, and plenty more, simultaneously. Since there is no lack of water to draw upon, there is no time limit during which it can perform its tasks!

Of course, there is another, very large, benefit of switching to a tankless water heater: major savings on your energy bill come winter time! The average tankless water heater has been clinically tested and proven to enable its user to save up to 40% on their average winter heating and energy bills. A large part of this savings is due to the fact that, unlike a traditional water storage heater which runs on a set schedule and sometimes requires hours to power up and off, a tankless water heater will only heat water when it is needed. You determine when it runs and when it doesn’t, simply by switching your hot water tap off and on. So, there’s no more annoying groaning and scraping of rusty old pipes, no more water damage from leaking or broken pipes, and no more huge energy bills!

And here is another huge issue which a tankless water heater neatly cuts down to size: storage space! We all know that the traditional, storage tank, water heaters are big behemoths which can monopolize up to 18 square feet of floor space which could be more profitably employed for other uses. Some of these old Brontosaurs can occupy a whole room by themselves! In contrast, your average tankless water heater measures roughly the same dimensions as a carry on suitcase! Think about it: endless hours of piping hot water, courtesy of a nifty little gadget no larger than the flight bag you took on the plane with you last summer when you flew down to Miami! A tankless water heater is portable as well. Install one on any wall inside your home, and forget about it!

In conclusion, the benefits of owning a tankless water heater far outweigh the uncertainty associated with taking a risk on a new, untested, bit of technology. There simply is no risk! Except, of course, the risk of missing out on an incredible new money saving device which could possibly even save your life one frigid winter night! So, check out a tankless water heater today. Your family, as well as your family’s bank account, will thank you!

Hiring a Plumber

May. 13th 2012

Let’s face it, when things go south with your plumbing, you’re in for a heck of a quandary, not to mention an unholy mess. Plumbing disasters are a subject few of us would broach at the dinner table or in polite conversation. Consequently, when accidents do happen, they tend to find most of us completely unprepared for them. We don’t spend our time conversing over the best plumbing techniques or inquiring even of a plumber friend about the precise details of what he does for a living, so most of us don’t even know how to react to a plumbing disaster when it occurs.

Granted that plumbing is the last thing we tend to concern ourselves with (at least when everything is flowing smoothly), there are a few do’s and don’ts which it is wise to bear in mind well before a possible breakdown (or backup) occurs. For one, when your toilet overflows and leaves unspeakable substances all over the floor, don’t just call the first person in the phone book or the first name that pops up after a fifteen second internet search.

Remember, plumbers are licensed, fully trained, professionals that don’t just get hired and go to work, learning as they go. The average American plumber serves an apprenticeship of anywhere from six months to a year. Some inherit the job, training with their fathers. Others go to specialized industrial schools to learn their trade. Regardless, make sure the person you hire is fully qualified for the job. Ask a friend or a relative for the name of an excellent plumber who they have dealt with in the past. This is one trade in which a man’s reputation counts for everything. Bad reputation? Bad service. It’s as simple as that.

Search the internet to see if your local plumber or plumbing service has any customer service reviews on the internet or, better yet, is listed with the local chapter of the Better Business Bureau. Again, reputation counts for everything in the plumbing business. Don’t get stuck with a crooked, incompetent, dunce, who will overcharge you and leave the job botched or half finished!

When you make that phone call to the plumber you’ve chosen for the job, make sure to give him as accurate a picture of your problem as you possibly can. Don’t leave out even the tiniest little detail. Make sure before you pay for him to come out to your home that he knows more than he could possibly ever forget about every last little feature of your current emergency. The more details you give him, the better informed he’ll be about the precise nature of your problem. And, furthermore, the more knowledge he has in advance of the issue, the less he’ll have to “guesstimate” concerning that problem when he gets to your home. The better prepared he is to put out the fire, the more efficiently he’ll labor – and the sooner he’ll be through.

Which brings us to the next issue: make sure to inquire of your potential plumber well in advance whether there is a minimum charge for the time he spends at your house. After all, you certainly don’t want to pay for an hour’s worth of work if he only spends five minutes fixing your problem. Make sure you know in advance whether there is such a minimum charge, as well as what his precise charges for his time are. For example, if he spends two or three hours fixing your problem, you ought to be informed by him well in advance of just exactly how much money you are going to owe him for his services once he has completed the job. Don’t fall victim to “special fix” fees and “overtime” charges! Work all of the details ought before he lifts his wrench to start the job!

Speaking of wrenches, does he have on hand all the tools of the trade that he’ll need for the job? It’s one thing to make a few trips out to the truck to get a tool that he didn’t think he’d need when he first got started. However, it’s a whole other thing to suddenly announce that he’ll have to make a special trip to a parts store to buy a specific tool that the job requires. How bad does he really need this tool, and will he charge you to buy it? And will he add the gas he used to go to the store to your bill as well? These are all questions you should have worked out between you well in advance of him starting any work in your house.

Suppose he injures himself on the job? Has he got insurance which covers him in such events? If the answer is no, it’s a bad sign. For all you know, he could be a crook who merely masquerades as a plumber, then “injures” himself on the job in order to sue you for every penny you’ve got. Make sure he’s covered by his employer’s or his own personal insurance plan before you trust him to labor on your behalf. The last thing you need is to be held liable for a fat five figure fee that this charlatan has racked up in hospital time!

Maybe the real issue here is not so much your potential, but you. Perhaps you’re…a cheapskate, pure and simple, and don’t care to pay big bills to get your problem fixed. Maybe you’ve got a friend or a friend of a friend who’s a plumber, and wouldn’t mind earning a few extra bucks under the counter, off the clock, and off the company radar? Why not make that call, get connected, and let a few bucks change hands outside the IRS’s jurisdiction? He makes a few extra bucks, and you save a few!

Regardless of how you do it, be careful when you bring an unknown individual into your home. Make sure he’s fully vetted, and understands exactly what he needs to do. Make doubly sure that you understand how much the job will cost you! Good luck, and happy plumbing!

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