Tips for Hiring a Plumber

Similar to other types of contractors it is very important that you ensure you find a qualified, skilled and reliable plumber. As many households often require a plumber urgently this sometimes means that they rush finding a plumbing company. By rushing and not spending the time to check if the plumber or plumbing company they are taking on is of a good standard with good recommendations they run the risk of having the work done poorly.

Below there is more detailed information on the best ways to find a reputable plumber.

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Get recommendations from friends or family

The best way by far to choose a reliable plumber, electrician or builder is by word of mouth. Ask family, neighbours, colleagues or nearby friends for referrals.

It’s also worth asking industry contacts. For example, if you’re looking for a reliable plumber and you’ve had a good experience with another professional, such as a roofer or an electrician, try asking them for a recommendation. Make sure you let the plumber know who referred you and they might even give you a discount.

When friends and family can’t recommend anyone, it’s hard to know where to look – closing your eyes and stabbing a finger in local business directories to find a firm is not recommended.

 

Local recommendations

Use the post code search at the Trading Standards website to find your local office and then get in contact for advice and recommendations.

The Local Authority Assured Trader Scheme Network (LAATSN) links together some of the schemes run by 18 local authority trading standards services. LAATSN requires businesses to comply with all trading standards legislation and civil law obligations, to refrain from high-pressure selling, to have an effective complaints procedure and a strong emphasis on customer service.

Approved trader scheme

TrustMark is a not-for-profit government-backed scheme.
On the website you simply put in your postcode and say what sort of trader you want. The database is then searched within 50 miles of your postcode and comes up with a list of trader contacts in order of those closest to you.

It is a quality mark which operates a framework under which 30 plus scheme operators work in the repair, maintenance and improvement sector, including trade associations, local government trading standards teams, and independent scheme operators.

These schemes are approved to carry the TrustMark logo and recruit reputable and trustworthy tradesmen whose technical skills, quality of work and financial status have all been checked.

This enables the TrustMark scheme operators to promote improved sector standards, and tackle related issues such as better enforcement. All of these scheme operators are audited annually by TrustMark, to ensure processes, standards and complaint procedures are being maintained.

A TrustMark logo means:

  • A firm’s technical skills have been independently checked through regular on-site inspections, as well as checks on their trading record and financial status;
  • Firms have signed up to a code of practice that includes insurance, good health and safety practices and customer care;
  • The approved scheme operator has checked and will continue to monitor the firm’s quality of work, trading practices and customer satisfaction.

TrustMark checks can never guarantee a firm will not hit financial difficulties – which is why it insists all registered firms offer you the opportunity to buy a warranty, which should offer better protection if the firm should go out of business.

The online recommendation services

Online recommendation hubs can be a bit hit or miss, but they can be a better option than just picking out a trader at random.

There are a number of different sites in the UK, all of which work by providing a transparent space for customers to post jobs or traders to advertise their services.

It works on a similar basis to word of mouth recommendations – in theory, traders are all judged and rated based on previous jobs.

This can prove highly valuable in hunting down a good tradesman, and the more reviews on a site the better it tends to be – similar to how ratings systems on well used sites like eBay and TripAdvisor work.

But remember that businesses pay to be listed on the trader sites – so they are essentially the customer.

There has been much debate, and even complaints, by users over whether this means that sites are more likely to pander to businesses, for example by removing negative reviews, although this is firmly denied by the sites themselves.

It’s also not unheard of for tradesmen to list their own jobs under a pseudonym and then ‘rate’ themselves positively, or ask friends and family to post a good review.

Nevertheless, many people using online recommendations have had positive experiences.

RatedPeople is one of the UK’s largest trade referral services.

You simply post your location and a clear description of the job you want doing on the website, and up to three ‘recommended traders’ who subscribe to the service then contact you to quote on the work. You can read up about the traders online and make a decision based on what other customers have said about them.

After the job is complete, you go back and rate the trader on the work they have done.

But Trustmark’s Stuart Carter points out: ‘With this kind of option, the commercial organisation usually send a message out to a number of traders in the area of the postcode before picking a few. They charge each firm that’s picked, which have to pay even if they do not get the job. The problem with that is that often people will post a job just to get an idea of price and then go down to their local trader. So the churn is considerable on these find-a-job websites.’

Trustatrader.com is another recommendation-based directory where consumers can do a postcode search to locate a list of traders in their local area – not just builders but also retailers, car sales and garage services.

Before contacting traders on the list, consumers can access feedback left by previous customers, plus online images of previous work carried out. Trustatrader also claims that it checks out and monitors traders who join the service to see that they ‘have a minimum of two year’s experience in their field and are members of the relevant trade association’.

mybuilder.com is another site that seems to have lots of positive experiences from users.

While useful for checking customer views of traders you may be considering, be aware that recommendation sites do not give the same assurances as government-backed sites, and unlike Trustmark they don’t take any responsibility for the quality of the work.

TrustMark’s Mr Carter adds: ‘They’re commercial sites and although they say checks have been made, they rudimentary checks and don’t carry out onsite inspection or require a specific standard, instead they bring them into their services by charging fee.’
Apart from the recommendations, there are a few other important things to check before hiring a plumber.

Pricing

To ensure that you get a better idea of the cost of the job it is good to get at least three estimates.  Don’t necessarily take the lowest estimate as that is not always the best. If one of the estimates is a lot lower than the other two then avoid the lowest one as it could mean that they are using inferior parts.

Licences and certifications

Make sure you check that the plumbing company have the correct licences and certifications.

The Companies length of time in business

Ask them how long they have been in business. It is better to work with plumbing companies that have been around for several years or more. This will mean they are more likely to have a proven track record of a good standard of work.

Insurance

Insurance will mean that both you and the plumber are covered encase of any injury or accident. Make sure you check that they are insured.

Warranty

All plumbing companies should guarantee their work and this includes parts. A lot of the time they will provide warranties for a year. Make sure you check them for any warranties as this is important.