Ben Thompson (not his real name) was annoyed. He’d noticed water on the floor beneath the bathroom sink and called a plumber who had been recommended to him. In his younger days Mr. Thompson might have attempted the repair himself, but at 79, he decided it was wiser to hire a professional. The plumber arrived promptly, surmised the problem was leakage from the holes in the top of the sink cabinet (that were invisible beneath the trim), and proceeded to remove the trim and caulk the holes. The next morning, the floor was soaking wet again. Mr. Thompson called the plumber back and got his voicemail. Frustrated, he turned to the Internet and quickly located a plumber with excellent online reviews, who was available right away. The new plumber identified the problem as a worn on/off valve. He replaced it, curing the leak. Mr. Thompson now has the new plumber’s number programmed into his phone. But was this entire scenario necessary?
Common Plumbing Mistakes
Everybody makes mistakes occasionally, even experienced plumbers. Here are some common plumbing mistakes made by both plumbers and homeowners. Know to avoid them, and you’ll be ahead of the game.
The first plumber Mr. Thompson contacted looked at the leak and conjectured that when someone used the sink, water that splashed on the basin then seeped under the trim and into the holes in the wooden cabinet surface into which the sink was mounted. Plausible, but unlikely. The second plumber asked when the house was built. Upon learning it was new in 1960, he reasoned that the leak might be due to age (the sink valve’s age, not Mr. Thompson’s). Replacing this basic part was a simple solution, once he had more information. If your plumber doesn’t ask questions before starting work, be sure to share any details you feel will help in diagnosing the problem.
Just as you wouldn’t go to a heart specialist to repair a bladder problem, be sure you hire the right plumber to doctor your pipes. In an emergency, people look for any plumber who can come out now. Tree roots that are clogging drainpipes qualifies as an emergency, as one couple discovered when an ordinary toilet flush flooded their downstairs bathroom. Panicked, the wife Googled “plumber” and called the first one with a local number. The team that arrived spent most of the afternoon at the house, charged a hefty fee, and did not, in fact, clear the pipes.
A plumber might want to complete a simple repair quickly in order to take on a more lucrative assignment, but not spending the time necessary to do a thorough job, no matter how basic, can have negative consequences.
Price Over Skill
The saying, “You get what you pay for” applies in all businesses. While you don’t necessarily need to hire the most expensive plumber, neither should you select someone on price alone. Value is key. If you hire a plumber solely on price, you could end up paying twice, as Mr. Thompson did. Find a balance between quality and thrift.
Steps to Take After a Botched Job
Sometimes identifying a mistake is easy: The sink still leaks, the drainpipes still don’t drain. As soon as you realize a plumbing job hasn’t been handled correctly, do the following:
- Contact the plumber, and ask him/her to return and fix the problem. This should be done at no additional charge.
- Get the repair guarantee in writing.
- If the work remains unsatisfactory, or the plumber can’t be reached, contact another plumber. If it’s not an emergency, ask for and check references.
- Allow the plumber the time needed to do the job correctly. You can ask them for a time estimate beforehand
- Provide pertinent information about the house and the plumbing issue.
- When the work is completed, ask for an explanation of both the problem and the solution. This information should also be summarized on your invoice.
Should a Homeowner Try Doing It Themselves?
Just as you take your car to a mechanic rather than attempting your own automotive repairs, in most circumstances it’s best to let someone with specialized knowledge, skills, tools, and experience handle your plumbing needs. Many people do their own car oil changes, and, if you’re handy, it’s okay to do minor plumbing repairs yourself, too. On the other hand, tackling projects that are beyond your skill level could end up costing you a bundle if you bungle them. It’s smart to use a professional for complicated plumbing jobs such as installing a new toilet or a new washing machine, for example. Sometimes, even jobs that appear easy aren’t. A family with teen daughters had a stopped-up toilet. Their mother tried plunging it without success, so they called a plumber. It turns out, someone had accidentally flushed a comb! This sort of mishap is surprisingly common, tough to spot, and better for a plumber to take on. If you’re unsure whether you can handle something yourself, reach out to a plumber! A reliable one should be able to give you an idea of the extent of the repair. Most importantly, whether you plan to DIY or call in a professional, know where your home’s main water shut-off valve is located. Quick action is critical in an emergency.
How to Choose a Reliable Plumber
- Research plumbers before you need one. Ask friends, relatives, other homeowners, or a building contractor whom they recommend.
- Visit the plumber’s website, then call. Over the phone, tell them you’re seeking a reliable plumber as your go-to resource and would like to know how long they have been in business, the hourly rate, the service guarantee, and whether they are generally available on short notice.
- When the plumber arrives, ask to see their license and proof of insurance. All plumbers, even journeymen and sub-contractors, are required to be licensed by the state. The license number should also appear on their advertising and on their website.
- Get references from the plumber, and check online reviews.
Now you’re prepared for successful plumbing repairs, but if you’re still unsure of where to find a reliable plumber, check out C&W Plumbing. Their guaranteed and licensed technicians are efficient and always willing to answer any questions you have.
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