• Stu Clark

What to look for when hiring a plumber 2019

Updated: Sep 23, 2019

I'm going to tell you some of the most important things to look for when first hiring a plumber, heating engineer, bathroom fitter, kitchen fitter, electrician, or tradesmen of any kind really.

Everyone knows how hard it is to find reliable, honest, hard working tradesmen to do work around the home or business. Will they turn up on time? Will they do a good job? Are they going to overcharge me? Will I be able to get hold of them if there are any problems with the work? These are just a few questions that go through most peoples minds when trying to find a skilled professional to do a job for them.

Well here are a few tips that I've come up with, to help you find the right man, or women, for the job.

Let's start with how to find a reliable professional tradesmen.

Generally word of mouth is a great source for finding someone to do good quality work. As the person recommending them wouldn't do so if the work wasn't adequate or to their standard. Just be cautious as to how high (or low) their standards are. Don't take everyone's advice. just because the work was good enough for them doesn't mean it will be up to your level of expectation. Be wary of who you ask and if possible, ask to see the work that was done, that way you can see for yourself if the level of quality is what you're looking for, and also, depending on how close you are to your source, find out what they paid for the service. You can't expect the same standard of work if your budget is different to what others have paid.

Use online reviews. If a company has a website, which, to be honest if they don't is a bit of a red flag to start with, check their reviews. There are plenty of places where people can leave reviews, such as Google, Facebook, Yelp, Yell, Trustpilot, Yahoo, Bing, Twitter, Houz etc.

These platforms have enabled other clients of that company to give their feedback on the work they've had done.

Similar to online reviews, there are platforms online that companies can pay to advertise on, such as Checkatrade, Which? Trusted Traders, Rated People, My Builder etc. These advertising platforms are more indepth than the likes of Google and Facebook, as the business advertising will be vetted and assessed before being able to advertise through the advertising company. Websites such as Checkatrade will personally interview the owner of the company, ask for reviews from a random selection of recent customers, ensure that the companies insurance policies are up to date, check to see whether or not the company has a complaints or returns procedure and assess whether or not the company is compatible with image that Checkatrade are looking to promote on their website.

Once they're on the website they've chosen to subscribe to, the company can then acquire more reviews from it's customers and have them displayed on their own bio page on the website which generally has links to the company website, contact details, a company description and sometimes photos of their work.

The good thing, from a negative point of view, about using a company that is marketing themselves through an additional median such as Checkatrade or Which? is that if you were ever to have a problem with the company you've chosen to do your work, you can contact the website you found them on and the issue will be investigated by them on your behalf.

A quick point to make, please don't trust some of these companies that have 5 stars, or 10/10 or 100% positive reviews. No one is perfect, not every single one of their customers are happy with their work. What these companies are doing is being selective about who gives them a review, ensuring that it is only "good customers" that they know will give them a top mark for their work. Look for honest companies that have shown that they made a mistake and that they've tried everything they could to rectify it.

So you've found the right company for you, you think. Now what?

First things first you need a price for the work, an estimate or a fixed quote depending on what it is. This can be done over the phone or in person, or via email. Look for someone who is honest and transparent with their pricing, do they have it on their website? will they tell you it over the phone? how professional do their quotes look like? How specific are they in their quotes?.

If the company you've rang can't give you a price over the phone, to be honest unless it's a specific service or a fairly simply job it's quite difficult to do so, ask them for their hourly rate, or day rate if it's a big job. This will allow you to immediately assess whether you have the budget for them, it saves a lot of wasted time getting someone round, only to find out that the work involved is a lot more expensive than what you first thought, or that simply the tradesmen is a bit too expensive.

Two examples of this would be;

Quote A - Replacing an old combi boiler for a like for like swap - £1500.

Quote B - Replace old 32kw Vaillant combi boiler for new model £1000, labour 8 hours @ £40ph, materials £250. Repair any damage to the internal or external wall £200. Allowance for electrician to wire up new boiler £100. Total costs £1870.

At first glance Quote A is cheaper, so you would use them right?. But what if they hadn't allowed for repairing the brick work that was damaged when they removed the old flue? What if they hadn't allowed for an electrician to come along and wire the new boiler up and it's too complicated for them to wire it up themselves?

All of a sudden you're paying more, or you're then having to negotiate about pricing, potentially getting into an argument over money because you thought it was included.

Always use a company that is clear in it's pricing, specific in what they're quoting for and honest and transparent in their pricing. You are protecting yourself from potential embarrassment, increased costs and unfinished work due to unpaid invoices. It's not unheard of for rogue traders quoting vague, too good to be true prices, only for them to start hassling the customer for more money and leaving site, leaving your home in unlivable conditions, because they have under priced the work.

Communication. It's key to a job running smoothly. Have a plan.

This may sound simple, but it's often the reason a lot of jobs don't go as well as expected. Partly because the idea someone had in their head, didn't look like the work that someone else has done, because it's in their head. It's not been explained properly, not been designed, or sometimes not even been mentioned. I've been on sites where the tiler has just finished tiling a wall, to a great standard, very clean and looking great, only for the customer to turn round and say "oh, I thought you were going to lay them this way round, that's the way I wanted them done." This seems obvious and straight forward, but people have different tastes, styles and wants. Make sure that what you want, and what you're expecting from the trades involved is explained clearly, written down or designed so that everyone knows where they stand.

To put it another way, if a plumber came to your house to replace your hot water cylinder and boiler and it would take them two days to do it and you wouldn't have any hot water or heating over those two days you'd like to be told. You don't want to come home after a long day at work to a cold house with no way of soaking in the tub or showering. Communication. Find out what's involved, what the process of the work is and how long everything is going to take. With bigger projects such as a bathroom or kitchen renovation or a building extension make sure there is someone, an experienced tradesmen acting as project manager to ensure that the whole job runs smoothly.

Pay on time. Discuss a payment method and if necessary a payment plan.

There's nothing worse than coming to the end of a job and there's some big burly builder standing there on your doorway with his hand out waiting for a load of cash before he leaves. Even more so if you're not expecting to have to pay them there and then, or with cash because they "don't do bank transfers or cheques".

To avoid this uncomfortable situation when dealing with a company or tradesmen make sure that you find out how and when they require paying before any work has taken place. Bank transfers are simple and quick, most invoices should have payment details on them, but some companies now are turning to the online world where payments can be made via Paypal, Stripe or some other online payment software. This makes it easier for you and easier for them.

Find out when the invoice is due and pay it on time. Please. There is nothing worse than chasing people for money, especially when you've done a great job, on time and to budget. Some companies prefer to structure their cash flow by requiring a deposit, then a partial payment mid way through and then a final at the end. Others with a bigger bank balance may not need you to pay until the works finished, and some may even give you 7, 14 or 28 days to pay the invoice. It's always good to know where you stand with regards to paying and also allows you to plan payments and keep an eye on the budget.

A quick bonus tip.

This goes back to the importance of communication but also involves the last note about payments. It's always a good idea to keep in close talks with your main contractor or project manager when it comes to keeping an eye on the budget, make sure to have regular meetings to ensure everything is going to schedule and on budget.

You don't want a surprise bill at the end of the job as there were extras that weren't accounted for and not brought up during the time the work was going on.

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