When you're in need of a plumber, it can be tempting to simply grab a local directory or do a quick search online and choose the first one who crops up (depending on how urgent it is).
But, like all other trades, finding a good plumber isn’t always easy. Get it wrong and you could end up with the same problem returning or find you've acquired some new issues.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when choosing a plumber.
Always choose a qualified plumber
If you have a very basic plumbing problem and you're a DIY enthusiast, then you might be able to tackle the issue yourself or find a local handyman to sort it. But for anything else, always go for a qualified plumber.
To ensure you get a good qualified plumber, look for those who are either listed on trade association websites, or who display the trade association logos on their website or adverts.
The main trade associations who cover plumbers are:
Association of Plumbing and Heating Contractors (APHC). They work with the government, councils, trade unions and consumer organisations to ensure their members meet specific standards.
Chartered Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineering (CIPHE). With more than 7,500 members, this association aims to raise standards across the industry and ensure its members live up to them.
Gas Safe Register. This is the official list of gas engineers who are qualified to work safely and legally on gas appliances. By law, gas engineers must be on this register to carry out work in the UK, Isle of Man and Guernsey.
Members of these trade associations are expected to meet minimum standards of safety and competency, as well as providing good customer service.
A qualified plumber registered with these groups will be unlikely to jeopardise their standing with bad practices and excessive costs.
Should you choose a local plumber?
There are pros and cons for going with a local plumber versus a national plumbing company.
The following are some reasons why a local plumber could make more sense:
Price. Quite often a local plumber will be more flexible with regards to price, and will be more likely to consider all the intricacies of a job. Larger plumbing companies usually work off a rate card, which is generally less open to negotiation.
Reputation. A genuinely good local plumber won’t want their reputation tarnished, and with sites like Rated People and Checkatrade it’s easier than ever for customers to make their dissatisfaction known. That’s not to say bigger companies will be less likely to offer a good service, but a bad review for a big company usually has less impact than for a local plumber.
Supporting local business. This is more of a personal point, but you might feel choosing a local plumber and supporting their business is beneficial for your town or city.
But there are also reasons why a national company might be a better option for you:
Speed. National companies employ lots of people, so you might find they're quicker to get to you, whether you have an emergency situation or not.
Less risk. Calling on a big national chain means the risk of getting a unqualified plumber is reduced, because the brand is more likely to have a stringent hiring and training process, and actively keep their staff qualified.
Professional dispute resolution. While good local plumbers will take great pride in getting every job done as well as possible, you might find dealing with a bigger company easier should something go wrong. Having dedicated customer service representatives can help remove those awkward face to face conversations when you're trying to sort an issue directly. That said, it can also mean some disputes take longer to resolve.
Ultimately though, your decision may simply come down to who can deal with your problem the fastest.
How much should a plumber cost?
Prices for plumbers vary depending on location, the nature of the job and the time of the call-out (out-of-hours will often cost more).
Unfortunately, there aren’t standardised charges across the industry. But when it comes to skilled trades like plumbing, you’re paying for the ability and expertise, not just the time spent on the job. It’s better to pay an expert top rates and have the problem fixed in 10 minutes, than a cowboy who takes two hours to bodge it.
To help give you can idea on prices, Which? offers a cost guide for typical plumbing jobs.
Choosing a good plumber can seem daunting, but making a careful decision can save you a lot of time and money in the long run.