When it comes to home improvements, you’re probably not having daydreams about a big plumbing project. But plumbing is an essential part of any home, and whether you’re redoing a bathroom or putting in a master bedroom, you may be surprised how many home improvement projects require a plumber.
Like all home improvement projects, finding and hiring a plumber starts with research. Layout the scope and budget of your project before compiling a list of possible plumbers for the job. Then, verify the credentials of your candidates before asking for estimates and seeing if they’d be a good fit for your needs.
Plumbers fix running toilets and leaky faucets, but they do a lot more than that, too. Plumbers are called to both residential and commercial properties for a variety of reasons. Some of the services that licensed plumbers offer include:
Basically, if it uses water or your home’s pipes, a licensed plumber may be the one to fix it.
It’s a good idea to establish a relationship with a plumber before really needing one. Hiring for nonemergency repairs or fixture installations during regular work hours is a good way to build rapport. When you get to know a plumber and their work, you’ll feel more comfortable calling them in emergencies or for a larger home improvement project.
So, how do you do it?
Before choosing a plumber, explore both national and local companies. Read the online reviews and ask friends or family for recommendations of plumbers they’ve used in the past. Many homeowners, especially those who’ve lived in their house for a whole, have a plumber they can trust, and you’re sure to get plenty of opinions.
Most states require plumbers to be licensed. You can find a plumber’s license and insurance information through your state’s Department of Labor or the equivalent, or ask a plumber straight up for proof of a license.
You should also ensure they have an active workers’ comp policy and at least $500,000 in liability insurance.
If you’re working on a major home improvement project, it’s important to figure out exactly what you want. That way, you can provide as much information as possible to get an accurate estimate. For example, plumbing costs would vary between an ensuite bathroom addition and a gut renovation of a kitchen.
Make note of the following before approaching anyone for an estimate:
All of this information will help the plumbing company determine a timeline, what level of experience the team needs (master plumbers are more expensive than journeypeople), and how much the project will cost.
Depending on the project or urgency, you could skip this step and just have the plumber get to work. (For instance, fixing a leak isn’t going to be so variably priced between plumbers as to be worth spending extra time gathering estimates.) But if you’re working on a home improvement project, you want to find the best price possible, which means having a plumber quote you a price for the project over the phone or in-person. Make sure to gather a few estimates before making a choice.
Before making your final choice, here are some good questions to ask your plumber if you haven’t already:
Professional plumbers don’t come cheap, so it’s in your best interest to handle as much plumbing work as you can on your own. Everyday drips, clogs, and leaks are probably in your wheelhouse. (At least with the help of a YouTube video.)
Everyone has their own threshold for when it’s time to hire a plumber, but the simple answer is if you don’t know how to fix a plumbing problem, then it’s time to call a plumber! Likewise, if you’re doing a home improvement project and don’t know how to make the plumbing work, you need a pro.
Plumbers have extensive knowledge of code requirements, parts, and experience working with specific materials that you likely don’t have. Of course, you should call in an emergency, but it’s not a bad idea to establish a relationship with a plumber before it gets to that point by having one come in for intermediate fixes. A plumber who knows you’re an easy, valued customer is more likely to rush out in a pinch than one who doesn’t know you at all.
For home improvement plumbing, hold off on calling until you’ve had time to evaluate your project, look up some price ranges online, and verify that the person you’re calling is a qualified, licensed professional.
A journeyman plumber has completed an apprenticeship and passed a licensing exam, allowing them to work independently under a master plumber's supervision. They can handle various plumbing tasks but may have less experience than a master plumber.
A master plumber is highly experienced, having undergone additional training and often worked as a journeyman plumber. They can handle more complex projects, provide expert guidance, and may run their own businesses. Master plumbers also mentor and supervise journeyman plumbers.
Hire a journeyman plumber for routine plumbing repairs and installations where the work is straightforward and doesn't require extensive expertise. If the project is complex, involves major renovations, or requires expert advice, consider hiring a master plumber who has the experience and skills to handle intricate tasks and provide in-depth guidance.
We’ll be blunt: Plumbing work is not cheap. Especially major work like adding a bathroom.
The bright side? Most plumbers charge by the hour and good plumbers work fast. For basic plumbing services, like leak repairs or installing new traps, expect to pay $45 to $65 per hour, plus the cost of any parts. For slightly more involved services, expect to pay at least $70 per hour for work on drain lines and $125 per hour for work on sewer lines. (Although before or after hours may carry additional charges.
If you consider these labor prices, plus the cost of parts, you should expect a 1 to2 day plumbing project to run you several hundred to several thousand dollars depending on complexity.
When all is said and done, make sure you evaluate the work and verify that it’s up to your standards and meets the terms of your contract. Most plumbers will not charge additional fees to come back and fix any issues with their work. Nevertheless, always make sure to get a written service guarantee and detailed invoice to protect your investment.
If you’re hiring your first plumber, you probably have a lot of questions. Here are answers to some of the most commonly asked questions.
Installing a garbage disposal falls in the “intermediate level” of home maintenance. You certainly could do it yourself, but if you don’t have much experience working under the sink or with plumbing in general, a good plumber can install a disposal in under an hour.
Yes, most plumbers will give you a free consultation to understand the scope of your plumbing problem and offer a free estimate before getting started.
No, any reputable plumbing service will complete the work before giving you an official invoice.
Immediately locate and turn off the main water shut-off valve to stop water flow. If you don’t have a plumbing service you trust already, turn to Google and look for the highest-reviewed service and call them immediately. You can describe the problem on the phone and they’ll dispatch someone quickly. While waiting for help, contain leaks with buckets or towels, and open faucets to drain remaining water.
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