Good, reliable skilled laborers, including plumbers, are hard to come by, and even harder to retain. However, every small business needs these pros, and trying to search for a plumber in the middle of the night after your pipes have exploded is not the ideal way to find the best person for the job. Believe it or not, the “middle of the night” scenario isn’t the worst case. Consider what would happen if your toilets backed up while your restaurant was full of diners? You’d have to close the place down immediately, losing lots of food, money, and unfortunately, some customers, too. Or think about what would happen if your office pipes burst – your electricity might short out, permanently damaging computers, vital records, and more. Even a small leak can wreak havoc by causing the development of dangerous levels of mold – leading to employee sicknesses and absences, worker’s comp, and mold remediation costs – not to mention the accumulated increase in your water bills. The top three things you should know about hiring a plumber are:
1. Find a certified plumber who has experience relevant to the work you’ll need completed.
2. Check references and ensure plumber has all necessary licensing and other requirements fulfilled.
3. Get at least two written estimates for the work, and make sure the estimates provide a full description of the services to be provided and the materials to be used.
Go to a professional matching serviceA plumber is one of those people you don’t think you’ll need – until you need him… but by then, it’s too late to be choosy. Before an emergency hits, compile a list of local plumbers through a plumber’s trade association or other reputable organization. Find someone who is available for routine maintenance work and emergencies (24-7).
Check them outUnfortunately, contracted professional laborers, including plumbers, do not have the best reputations for being reliable or honest. It’s essential that you check out your possible plumber before committing to anything. Ask for references from the plumber’s past and current clients, and then call them for the 411 on this contractor’s work ethic, reliability, and trustworthiness.
Require proof of insurance, license, and building permitsMany states require that plumbers be licensed to ensure that health/safety and building codes are followed. All plumbers must hold both liability and worker’s compensation insurance. Ask for proof of all of these, and call the insurance company, and (if required where you live) the building inspection and licensing department in your city, to verify all information is current and accurate.
Keep your costs downThere are many ways small business owners can keep down the cost of their plumbing expenses, including making smart investments, by replacing old, faulty fixtures with new water-saving plumbing fixtures; cutting down the plumber’s on-the-clock time by cleaning his work area before he arrives on the job, and helping him clean up afterwards; and buying your own plumbing fixtures from a nearby discount store to avoid paying the plumber’s mark-up on the same items.
Federal Trade Commission offers an excellent fact sheet about hiring contractors (though this page is designed for home improvement, it works just as well for your small biz projects). Find a Plumber offers you many tips and helpful hints for all your plumbing needs. If you need a professional plumber on the job, just enter your ZIP code to search your own neighborhood.
- Comply with regulations: Make sure the laborer follows local building codes and regulations, or you’ll be stuck paying fines and repairing the mistakes.
- Ask for a written estimate: Get an estimate in writing, and make sure the plumber provides a breakdown of the costs to your satisfaction.
- Check out your local Home Depot, Lowe’s, or other building supply store. Their employees work with trade professionals regularly, and can provide you with insider information, from who is on the top of his game to which contractor shows up smelling like a brewery.
- Never, ever pay before the work is complete – too many consumers and businesses have paid their plumbers or other laborers in advance, only to never see the contractors again!
- Don’t go for the low bid: Sometimes the lowest price isn’t the best value, if that low price means cutting too many corners or shoddy workmanship.