The necessity for plumbing work often drives homeowners to pick up the wrench and do the work by themselves. And while you can probably install your own toilet or put in a new sink, a professional, licensed plumber is invaluable for helping with more difficult projects like creating a new bathroom, plumbing a laundry room, adding a shower or bathroom, or running plumbing to a new or remodeled kitchen.
Understand Emergency vs. Remodel or New Plumbing
Those ads, commercials, and trucks you might see all around town advertising plumbing work on-call are likely advertising for emergency plumbing, rather than scheduled remodel or new plumbing work. Knowing the difference between the two types of plumbing work will save you considerable money.
Emergency plumbers show up at your door quickly—usually within an hour or two—and take care of burst pipes, overflowing toilets, balky showers, and clogged bathtubs. Emergency plumbing work is valuable because it is a fast solution to a big problem. Emergency plumbers are expensive but usually worth it: The cost of fixing a ceiling, replacing flooring, or repairing the lower half of your walls' drywall typically far exceeds the cost of even the most expensive emergency plumber.
Remodeling or New-Construction Plumbing
When you need to put in a toilet, shower, or bathtub or need to plumb an entire kitchen or bathroom and time is not of the essence, you will schedule a plumber for remodeling or new-construction plumbing work. What you want is a plumber who will come prepared on an assigned date and perform the work, following a pre-determined estimate. Usually, the cost for scheduled work will differ from on-demand, emergency work. Often, plumbing companies that advertise as emergency plumbers will do scheduled remodel work, as well.
Check the Plumber's State Licensing
Check your state's licensing website to see if a plumber is licensed and has any pending or resolved complaints. If a plumber is licensed, that is not a recommendation from the licensing body; it just means that the plumber has satisfied the minimum requirements to become licensed and to remain licensed.
Create a Plumbing Plan
Make a solid plumbing plan before calling the plumber. The plan does not need to be refined down to types and sizes of pipe and fittings since the plumber will do that. But you do need to know what you want the final result to be. If the project is small enough, the plumber will likely arrive ready to work.
Having a solid idea of your plumbing project is only a start. Besides the physical labor provided by the plumber, experience and advice are the other advantages of hiring a plumber rather than doing it yourself. Be flexible and listen to the plumber.
Make a Spreadsheet for Your Estimates
When calling plumbing companies, be sure that you are ready to ask the right questions:
- Hourly rates
- Rates for non-plumbing tasks such as opening up a wall
- Is the customer charged while plumber waits for on-site delivery of parts
- If the plumber will obtain a permit for you
- Projected start dates
Obtain a Plumbing Permit
Assuming that the plumber is not obtaining the permit for you, obtain the plumbing permit as early as you can. You can usually complete the entire process online. With a permit started, work can then begin. Inspectors will check the plumber's work upon completion. If the work is satisfactory, the permit is "finalled" or approved.
Buy Your Own Plumbing Fixtures
Plumbers supply pipes, valves, and other parts responsible for moving water in or out of your house. As for toilets, sinks, fixtures, bathtubs, and showers, you or your general contractor will be responsible for supplying these items.
Prepare the Job Site for the Plumber
Avoid having your expensive plumber wasting valuable time and money by opening up walls, clearing crawlspaces, and lighting dark basements. Even if you think that the plumber should do this, do this for them. The quicker you can get the plumber to the actual plumbing work, the faster the project will go.
Remain Near the Job Site During Work
Remain out of sight but within calling distance for questions from the plumber. Most plumbers will tolerate some hovering from the customer. But too much hovering can distract the plumber, extending project time, and costing more money.