I’m sure that anyone who’s been stuck in a situation with a blocked toilet or burst pipe, looks at plumbers like the heroes they can be. However, it isn’t all capes and spandex, plumbers do a number of domestic and commercial jobs; from unclogging drains to maintaining numerous types of piping systems found across waste disposal plants, power plants and factories.
Emergency call outs, are, however, a huge part of a plumbers job, and can often be extremely stressful for the person on the other end of the call – especially if this is your first time dealing with an incident in your own home. Unfortunately, due to their urgency, emergency call outs are often prime spots for the crooks in the profession to charge unfair and unreasonable prices, for what in many cases is a shoddy case of workmanship. With the great equaliser, the Internet, you’d think that these scams would become rarer, due to the immediacy of online feedback and review platforms, however, anyone who’s given Watchdog a watch, or has read one of their consumer reports, knows that scarily this is far from the case.
In an effort to help you avoid getting scammed by one of these rogue traders, we’ve compiled a quick guide on calling out a plumber to your property, from where to find one and what to be wary of.
When You Should Call a Plumber
In some cases, calling a plumber is going to be completely at your own discretion, as the homeowner, or the inhabitant, you should know when something is going seriously wrong in your household. However, there are a few situations that are
In some cases, calling a plumber is going to be completely at your own discretion, as the homeowner, or the inhabitant, you should know when something is going seriously wrong in your household. However, there are a few situations that are a definite cause for calling out a pro.
Low Water Pressure Throughout the House
Low water pressure in a particular room should be enough of a cause for concern, although if it’s localised in just one area of the house, it could be something as simple as a clogged aerator, which is a relatively easy fix – just unscrew the aerator and scrub out the sediment with a good scrub or a vinegar soak. If this doesn’t do the trick, or worse yet, if there’s low water pressure all over the house, then it’s definitely time to call in a plumber.
Low water pressure across the household can be caused by a number of factors, cracked pipes, a faulty supply line design, or obstructions, a good plumber is going to be able to analyse and diagnose the problem correctly. Even with all the WikiHow pages on the topic, without the right equipment and training, it’d be pretty impossible for you to fix that yourself.
No Hot Water
If you find your water is taking ages to heat up, there’s never enough of it to go around, or you just find yourself dealing with constant cold showers, it’s probably time to call in a plumber.
Whilst it may be frustrating because you know where the problem is originating, faulty boilers are tricky to diagnose. Whilst it could be something as simple as a blown fuse on an electric heater, at the same time, it could be something far more problematic.
Have a plumber check your igniters, fuses, thermostats, heating elements, and pipes in case it is something more serious, alongside walking you through checking your breaker.
At worst, a frozen pipe can burst open and cause some major water damage, at best, they can be a major inconvenience, often completely stopping the flow of water and completely disrupting your daily routines.
Although you can thaw a frozen pipe yourself, doing so can be incredibly risky, heating the pipes too fast can cause an intense pressure build up and force the pipes to rupture. The best thing to do is to shut off the main water valve and leave it to the professionals.
Sewer Line Stoppage
If your sewer line is continually backed up, even despite your best efforts to unclog them, you most likely have a bad plug in the line that runs out to the main sewer, like a tree root. You could rent a sewer rodding machine, but hiring out a plumber or drain cleaner ensures that if any damage
Your Tap Won’t Stop Dripping
Not only are you wasting water, and money, by the gallon with a leaky tap, but it could be indicative of larger problems at play within your plumbing system, such as a crack in a pipe or a pressure build up.
Sometimes a drip can be fixed by a small tightening or a bit of plumber’s tape, but as most plumbers charge by the hour, it’s worth getting one out to your house for a quick look, especially if you’ve already got a pretty stocked to do list.
Your Toilet Keeps Overflowing
If your toilet is overflowing, there could be a number of reasons why, from a simple blockage to a blockage in the main drain pipe or sewer line. If you’ve not caught onto a theme yet, it’s that a lot of plumbing issues are caused by a myriad of reasons which are often difficult to self-diagnose – super plumber to the rescue.
If your toilet started to flow immediately after a flush, you’re probably experiencing a blockage, whereas if your water starts to back up and overflow for seemingly no reason whatsoever, it’s most likely the main drain pipe that’s clogged. A blockage in the toilet can occasionally be solved by a plunger as they dislodge whatever is stuck. On the other hand, if a few plunges don’t work, stop and call a plumber, as keeping at it can damage your toilet and piping.
If your toilet begins to overflow, turn off your water, and, if possible, use other facilities until a professional is able to come and check it over.
Relax – Don’t DIY It
Even if you feel fairly confident finding your way around a couple of pipe valves, unless it’s a very simplistic job which requires little to no tampering of the internal workings of your plumbing system, it’s always better to leave it to a professional.
Professional plumbers have undertaken training requiring a knowledge base that spans from basic carpentry, enabling them to access inside walls and brace pipes, to a practical competency in welding. Not to mention the wealth of experience necessary to make complex decisions about materials, piping systems and construction.
As well as being able to fix the problem in a more efficient and safer way than your average DIY household hobbyist, by hiring a professional you’re setting up a safety net that covers the cost and the blame in case the repair doesn’t quite go to plan.
Not to mention, by attempting to modify a plumbing system connected to the national water system, you’re essentially allowing yourself to be held up, by law, to the same standards and regulations as a professional plumber, and failure to comply to these laws and regulations, could mean prosecution and a hefty monetary fine. Why didn’t you just call out a plumber in the first place?
Where to Find a Plumber
As I mentioned previously, the Internet is a great way to find local plumbers and get a somewhat accurate representation of their reputability from Google and Yelp reviews. However, going around local businesses, whilst not ideal in an emergency, and seeing if they personally endorse any plumbers is a great way to grasp the trustworthiness of a plumber’s practice.
Average Price of a Callout in the UK
The rates plumbers charge can vary significantly and depends if a plumber charges by the hour or by the project cost, your geographical location, the plumber’s own overheads (hiring tools or ordering parts), and the urgency of the job.
Bare in mind that an emergency job may be charged at higher rates, so if the problem is not urgent, and you can afford to wait for a plumber to come out to you, do so.
It is essential that you do your research and get a few, at least three, quotes before agreeing on a price, as they can often vary widely and always get a written estimate with a breakdown of costs before making any final decisions. Providing no unforeseen obstacles reveal themselves, the final cost should not differ too much from the one previously written down.
For reference, the price sharing community, whatprice.co.uk, compiled a list of standardised prices for various plumbing repairs.
Necessary Qualifications and Accreditations
To ensure that the work on your plumbing is being done safely and within the confines of the law, it’s on you to make sure that your plumber is fully qualified to undertake work in your home.
Whilst the qualifications for plumbers can vary from an NVQ to a City & Guilds Qualification dependent on age and experience, you can verify that your plumber is up to code by checking that they are a member of the Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineering. Members of the IPHE are continuously vetted to ensure that their qualifications and work experience are up to code.
Similarly, if you’re having any work done on a gas boiler, ensure that your plumber is CORGI registered and a member of the Gas Safety Register. Alternatively, if your plumber is going to be working with the electrics, ask for proof of Electrical Competency.
Once you’ve decided on a firm or independent practitioner, get a full breakdown of all costs, preferably with some kind of written estimate, so you don’t get stung later on by hidden call out charges.
Make sure you inform the plumber of the extent of the problem to your knowledge and gather together any information they may potentially need, such as the brand and model of appliances.
Before any work is carried out, be sure to arrange and agree on a price. Plumbers may ask to be paid for the completion of the job or per hour. Avoid paying the full amount until completion, to give yourself a safeguard in case the job is left unfinished, or not to your satisfaction.
Be sure to get a written invoice after the job is completed, and keep this safe with your estimate, on the small chance you are unsatisfied and may need to take further action.