At some point, most homeowners encounter plumbing projects that will take the skill of a trained plumbing contractor. Whether it’s replacing a sink or the bathtub, or adding on a third bathroom, you will need a professional that understands how to work with pre-existing residential plumbing.
A good remodeling plumbing contractor knows how to repair older models of fixtures, and what replacement parts will work for an older toilet or shower. He’ll have an understanding of old plumbing systems and what will need to be done to bring the existing pipes and fixtures to current building code. A good plumbing contractor will also have the sense to protect your floors, walls, and carpet from damage and holes in the walls and ceiling to the bare minimum.
When it comes to finding the right man for the job, flipping through the Yellow Pages is the last place you should search for a qualified plumbing contractor.
If you have hired a reputable general contractor to handle the remodel of your home, he will have an “A list” of plumbing contractors he can recommend. General contractors have first hand experience with working with plumbers, and have seen the quality of the work behind the walls. They know that sloppy plumbing, leaks and unsoldered joints can damage wooden floors, ceilings and walls, turning a remodeling project into a costly lawsuit.
For minor plumbing projects or do-it-yourself general contracting, finding a reputable plumbing will take a little more work. Not all plumbers have the skill to do all projects and it’s important to find someone who can handle the system within your home. A plumber who can handle replacing your 30 year old kitchen sink might not have the skill to restore a 70 year old bathroom sink.
Finding the right plumber for the job
So how do you find the right plumber for the job? You can begin by asking your friends, relatives, and coworkers. Most owners of pre 1950s homes have had to deal with repairing vintage plumbing fixtures and pipes, and should have the names of a reputable plumbers they’ve used. If you own an older home, an old house plumber is the right man for the job. Old house plumbers usually handle both older and newer projects ~ and have the necessary skills for modernizing an older system while still maintaining an authentic “vintage look.” If your home is newer, you won’t be quite as limited and should be able to assemble a broader list of referrals.
If you’ve completely struck out with referrals from friends, a last resort is to check with a well established, local plumbing supply house. We found our plumbing contractor through the local Kohler dealer, when searching for replacement tanks for a 75 year old Kohler toilet. The dealer put us in touch with an “old time” plumbing contractor who knew how to repair old fixtures. Quality dealers usually work with quality plumbers and can give you a list of names of plumbers they trust with their products.
What distinguishes a good plumber from a bad one
Having had both good and bad plumbers in the past, there are several things that distinguish quality plumbing contractors from all the rest. The quality of the work is certainly the most important distinction, but there’s also common courtesy. A reputable plumber does not leave the kitchen torn apart for months and leave you wondering if he ever plans of coming back. He will also keep you informed of the progress of the project, why certain parts had to be replaced, and how certain repairs were made. A reputable plumber also protects the surface of your home while working, and cleans up every night after he leaves.
There’s another general rule worth noting. Most reputable plumbers do not ask for standard materials cost “up front,” unless the home owner is ordering expensive, custom fixtures. Professionals in the field usually have established credit at most supply houses, which is an indicator they are on good terms with their suppliers.
As with any contractor, there are a few other things that a homeowner should check before accepting a plumbing bid. Ask to view a copy of the plumber’s license and proof of insurance, and take the time to verify that all this information is current. I also call the Better Business Bureau and check with the local County Courthouse for records of legal action against the contractor. While it’s hard to avoid an occasional lawsuit in the building industry, a contractor who’s in bankruptcy or has a history of lawsuits for non-performance is someone to stay away from.
Shopping for a plumbing contractor can be time consuming, but is absolutely necessary for both security and peace of mind. Asking for referrals, checking references, verifying insurance and examining the quality of previous work are easy things that all homeowners should do before giving any contractor unlimited access to your home.