Direct Line magazine

How to choose a good plumber

Updated on: 22 May 2020

A plumber does some pipe work under a sink.

Want to choose a good plumber? Begin by making sure they have a trade association membership and positive customer reviews online.

There are other things to keep in mind, but these two combined will ensure that the plumber meets certain standards and delivers good work.

Most people will simply grab a local directory or search online and, depending on the urgency of the problem, choose the first plumber who crops up.

But, like all other trades, finding a good plumber isn’t always easy. Get it wrong and you could end up with the problem cropping up again, or even worse, find you have acquired some new issues.

There are a few simple things to keep in mind when choosing a plumber.

Always choose a qualified plumber

If you have a very basic plumbing problem and are a DIY enthusiast then you might be able to tackle the problem yourself, alternatively a local handyman should be able to sort things like a leaky tap. But for anything else, always go for a qualified plumber.

To ensure you get a good plumber, and one who is qualified, look for plumbers who are either listed on trade association websites, or who display the trade association logos on their site 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 over 12,000 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 highly 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 displeasure known. That’s not to say big companies will be less likely to offer 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 when you choose a local plumber you’re supporting local business, which is usually good for your town or city.

But there are reasons why a national company could be best:

  • Speed. Because national companies employ lots of people you might find they are 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 dodgy plumber is reduced, because the brand is more likely to have a stringent hiring and training process. Big plumbing companies will be members of professional organisations and keep their staff qualified.

  • Professional dispute resolution. While good local plumbers will take great pride in getting every job done as well as possible, should something go wrong, you might find dealing with a big company easier.

    They will have dedicated customer service representatives, which means you have less of the awkward calls and voicemails. But don’t forget that sometimes dealing with a big company can mean that issues 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 always cost quite a bit more). But generally speaking expect to pay:

  • £45 plus for the call-out fee (this often includes some labour time)

  • £35 plus per hour for labour, in London this can rise to more than £100 per hour

For genuine emergency plumbing jobs you can expect to pay a lot more too, especially if it is out of regular hours.

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.

You can also look at the Which? Website, where there is a list of prices 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.

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