Plumbing is an essential system of every home, and occasional repairs and improvements are needed to keep the water running where and when it should. Without correct installation and quick attention to plumbing problems, you may experience low water pressure, inadequate hot water supply, or drainage problems, and various areas of your home may be vulnerable water damage from leaks.
The plumbing of a home is one of its most complex and important systems, so it’s important to get the job done right. When it’s time to install new water or drain lines, replace a fixture, or repair a leaky pipe, a licensed plumber is the pro to call.
1. What Does a Plumber do?
Plumbers install, repair, and maintain the water supply and drain systems in a home. The services of a licensed residential plumber typically include installing, repairing, and replacing water supply pipes and valves, drain lines, vent pipes, traps, and sewer lines. Plumbers also install water-handling appliances, fixtures, and devices such as well pumps, pressure tanks, water softeners, water heaters, toilets, faucets, and garbage disposals. Some plumbers also install gas lines and fittings, work on boilers and hydronic heating systems, or install and service septic and irrigation systems. Plumbing contractors generally handle all aspects of a large installation or repair project, while general service plumbers typically respond to smaller repair and improvement jobs.
You may need to find a specialized pro for some specific installations or appliances, such as well pumps and water softeners, or coordinate the work of a plumber with a pro from a different trade to complete a particular project. For example, to convert from a gas water heater to an electric model, you will need an electrician to install the new power supply before the plumber can disconnect the old appliance and install the new one.
2. Why Hire a Plumber?
Problems with plumbing can lead to leaks, but the potential scope of damage is very broad. Prolonged exposure to water can lead to deterioration of various building materials, wood rot, mold growth, and unsanitary conditions—all issues that are expensive and disruptive to repair.
Professional plumbers receive thorough training on how to plan, install, and repair plumbing systems to ensure correct and leak-free function. Plumbers are also knowledgeable about which materials to use for various applications, and the correct techniques needed to make sure their work satisfies local code requirements.
Most municipalities require that a licensed plumber performs various installation and repair projects, so in addition to the practical reasons to hire a pro, there may be legal concerns to keep in mind. A licensed plumber will pull any permits needed for the job, will ensure his or her work meets or exceeds code standards, and will carry liability insurance that protects you and your home in the event of an accident or error.
3. Importance of Finding a Quality Plumber
Since faulty plumbing can lead to major problems and expensive repairs, it is essential to hire a pro with the right skills for the job and who will stand behind his workmanship. A quality pro will have adequate formal training in the field, as well as several years of hands-on experience before being granted a license by state authorities. With that knowledge, a pro can troubleshoot tricky problems, propose efficient solutions, and recommend upgrades and changes that can improve convenience and economy with your plumbing system and appliances.
4. Characteristics of Good Plumber
A good plumber will carry any licenses required by your state or city to complete the type of work he or she offers, and will provide documentation on request. Requirements for some services vary by location, so if you aren’t sure if you need a licensed pro or a permit for your project, make a call to your local building, planning, or code enforcement office to check.
A good plumber will have a track record of quality work and will be willing to provide a list of past customers you can contact for references. Satisfied clients are usually happy to discuss the level skill and professionalism demonstrated by a plumber they have hired.
A good plumber will be clear and direct about the services he offers and skill areas he works in. There is a vast range of plumbing applications that may require attention, and not all plumbers work on all systems. If your project involves a specific device or system, such as a septic system, water softener, irrigation system, or boiler, a quality pro will let you know up front if he has the credentials to work on it. Likewise, a good plumber’s estimate or quote will specify the scope of work he will complete. In many cases, pros from other trades will be needed to complete part of an installation or complete structural or cosmetic work after a plumbing repair is complete—the plumber should let you know exactly which parts of the job he will do and what work will be left unfinished.
5. Signs of a Poor Plumber
One of the main criteria for a hiring a quality plumber is his credentials, so if you cannot verify your plumber’s license or insurance coverage, you may not be able to count on his workmanship or reliability. Likewise, if a plumber does not offer a warranty on workmanship or provide a written contract when appropriate, his skill level may be inadequate.
Look out for plumbers who are not familiar with code requirements and modern materials, or who discourage you from seeking additional opinions and estimates—especially for a substantial job. Also, be wary of plumbers who are unwilling to coordinate their work with other pros, since careful scheduling is often necessary on repair, remodeling and construction projects.
6. Type of Jobs for a Plumber
A number of jobs around the house call for the skills of a professional plumber, from repairing a minor leak to replacing an entire fixture.
- Faucet Repair: Whether in the kitchen, bath, or utility room, a leaky faucet can be both annoying and wasteful. In most cases, a pro can replace a few parts and leave your faucet as good as new within an hour.
- Shower Repair: Shower repairs can range from replacing a showerhead to fixing a leaky drain or supply line. Problems with shower plumbing are often hidden behind walls and between floors, so it may take a pro to track down and repair the issue with minimal damage.
- Sink Repair: Replacing and repairing sink, supply, and drain components can stop problematic leaks and clogs. A plumber can repair most common sink issues within a few hours.
- Toilet Repair: A running, leaking, or inefficient toilet can usually be repaired by replacing tank parts or gaskets. A skilled plumber can diagnose and resolve most issues quickly.
- Leak Repair: The most difficult part of many leak repair projects is locating the source of the leak. Experienced pros can trace leaks quickly to help repair them as efficiently as possible.
The scope of a plumber’s work is rarely limited to minor repairs. Whether you need a new bathroom roughed-in, a drain cleared, or a water line installed for an icemaker, a plumber is the pro to call to get the job done right.
7. What is the Cost to Hire a Plumber?
The cost of a plumbing project will depend on several things, from the nature and scope of the job to the cost of labor where you live. In general, plumbers base their rates on hourly fees that often range from $60 to $150.
Large projects like new construction plumbing, replacing a sewer line, or repiping an entire home are often priced as a whole, based on the time and materials needed for the job. Repair work is priced similarly, though many pros charge a minimum or service call fee that is equivalent to two or three hours of labor charges, and some plumbers price appliance and fixture installations with flat rates, since the conditions are usually predictable.
Visit our Plumbing Home Guides to see how the features of your plumbing project could affect the difficulty and price of the job. Keep in mind that related preparation and repair work, such as electrical installations and drywall patching, may not be provided or coordinated by your plumber. Hiring additional pros to complete each aspect of the job will add to the bottom line.
8. Find a Local Plumber
When you need a qualified plumber to complete an installation, repair, or improvement project at your home, be sure to connect with a trusted, local plumber. Each plumber in our network of providers has been background checked and verified by our in-house team-- we’ve done the legwork to help you screen pros in your neighborhood. We will match you with the top local plumbers so you can request estimates and choose the one who is the best fit for the job and your budget.