When hiring a plumber, a plumbing contractor, or a specialist, a Staten Island resident or business owner should consider many things. Some you may think of, some you may not.
In our first post in the plumber/contractor series, we examined how to find quality Staten Island plumbers and plumbing contractors.
Next we looked at the differences between plumbers and plumbing contractors — we address both specifically here — and the types of specialty plumbing available.
We conclude the series by examining what Staten Island homeowners, apartment dwellers, and business owners should consider when hiring a plumber, a plumbing contractor, a contractor/company, or specialist.
Looking at Plumbers and Contractors
When considering different Staten Island plumbers or plumbing companies, there are many things to consider, including references, appearance (believe it or not), experience, communication skills, price, licenses, among others.
Checking references is one of the most important things you can do when looking for a Staten Island plumbing company, especially if you are new to the boroughs or New York area. In looking for a plumber, you will receive information and recommendations from many diverse areas, including friends, neighbors, acquaintances, the Internet. Who can you trust. Who is suspect?
One of the best ways to eliminate riffraff or suspicious plumbing companies or plumbers, is to diligently check up on at least three references, maybe more. Make sure the references can speak directly to the work you need done — is it basic repair, installing a tub, a complex remodel, or installing fire suppression.
Checking on references not only will help you determine if the Staten Island plumber or plumbing company is worth working with, it can help you differentiate between similar reputable candidates.
Yes, this seems silly, but you really don’t want an unkept, disheveled, sloppy-looking plumber or contractor coming into your home, apartment, or business. That doesn’t mean he needs to wear a coat and tie. And at times plumbers will go from job to job and look like they’ve been crawling around in an attic. But, for the most part, you can tell if they’ve been actively working or if they just look unprofessional. Professional appearance defines professionalism and approach to business.
If checking on references is one of the most important things you can do when looking for a Staten Island plumbing company, then experience is the most important attribute when considering who to hire.
Don’t think of experience exclusively as years in the profession. Narrow it to your particular project because, as we have learned, not all plumbers are equal.
A good Staten Island plumber or plumbing company should be experienced working on your kind of project. He should be able to identify and explain the reason or reasons for the issue you are having. He should also tell you how he’s going to fix the problem so it won’t happen again.
The Staten Island plumber or company you are considering should also have an extensive portfolio of past jobs that are similar to your needs and provide references to back up his claims of work done or client satisfaction.
Communication is under valued and usually overlooked. When considering a Staten Island plumber to hire, are you comfortable with him? Do you understand him? Do know the problem you are having and how he will fix it? When you talk with him, does he listen or does he insist in talking in tech terms and plumbing mumbo jumbo that you really don’t understand?
When hiring a Staten Island plumbing company, you should have a clear understanding of the problem at hand, what caused it, what he is going to do to fix it, what it will cost, and how to avoid the problem in the future. Anything short of that . . . find another plumber.
For many people, price is the No. 1 determining factor when hiring a Staten Island plumber. It’s important, yes. But other factors are in play. Keep an open mind when considering a plumbing company. Use price as a way to compare candidates of similar skill sets and experience. If talent and experience are close, then price can be differentiating.
While it may be convenient and timely, you really don’t want price quotes to be jotted down hastily on a scrap piece of paper or on standardized form spit out on a printer in the cab of a pickup truck.
You want a written estimate that is smart, that documents the problem at hand, what is going to be done about it, how much it is going to cost, and what are the contingencies for unexpected findings and changes of scope.
Written documentation is essential for your files and provides a historical understanding of the work you’ve had done to your Staten Island home, apartment, or business.
Does the Staten Island plumber or plumbing company offer a guarantee or warranty for his work? If he does, this is a good sign: Those willing to stand behind their work often provide quality service.
As discussed in a recent post, licensing is important in plumbing as it demonstrates that an plumber or plumbing contractor has proficiency at various junctures in the trade and has the knowledge and experience to meet your needs. Ask to see licenses. If he or she does not provide (over a reasonable period of time) or makes excuses, find another plumber.
It’s important that a plumber, plumbing contractor, and specialist carry insurance in case there are mistakes or accidents that happen in your Staten Island home, apartment, or business during the job. Any plumber you consider should hold a current workers’ compensation policy and a minimum of $500,000 liability insurance. If he does not carry insurance and there are problems, you may have to pay for repairs. An insured service technician gives homeowners a peace of mind.
Additional Questions to Ask
Do you charge by the hour or the project?
Make sure you know what you are getting, especially when engaging plumbers more so than plumbing contractors.
How do you determine your rates?
Rates depend on a variety of factors, including the type of repair call or project, timing, and location. Emergencies — calls that occur after hours or on weekends — are always more expensive.
Do you use time and material pricing?
Under this formula, plumbers and plumbing contractors charge an hourly rate and then add in the cost of materials. This is similar to the rate structure used by many repair professionals, including mechanics.
Do you use flat rate pricing?
Instead of charging based on how long it takes to perform the job, some plumbers and plumbing contractors offer set prices for certain repairs. However, if the job takes significantly longer than expected to complete, the customer may be required to pay for unseen complications. What are the specifics?
As an example, plumbers specializing in drain-cleaning services may charge $70 per hour for drain lines and $125 per hour for sewer lines. Most problems can be fixed in an hour. Weekend or night calls are more expensive.
For basic plumbing services like repairing leaks or installing new traps, you may pay $45 to $65 per hour, in addition to parts (which the plumber will mark up from his wholesale price). Weekend and night calls may be $100 just for the call and $75 afterward.
What do remodeling plumbers charge?
Again, this varies according to location. As a ballpark figure, remodeling plumbers charge at least $50 to $65 per hour for one man, one truck, and it does not include parts.
More and more plumbers are charging “by the fixture,” and their bids are based on the rough-in for drain and supply lines ($300-$400, varying by location) and installation of the fixtures themselves like a $200 faucet set. Add up the needed fixtures (faucet, sink, toilet) and you might be spending $1,000 but at least you’ll know the turnkey price going into the job.
When do you want payment?
It depends on the repair or project. If it’s a simple repair, it’s customary to pay after the repair is completed. If it’s a project and a plumbing contractor wants 100 percent upfront, walk away. Some contractors also use a series of “milestones” or “time” payments.
How long have you been in business in Staten Island, the surrounding boroughs, or New York?
Is he or the company involved in the community? The longer in business, and with a good standing in the community, indicates better business practices and integrity.
Have you worked on this particular type of project before?
Ask for examples. Probe — nicely — for details. What was the problem? Is it similar to what you face in your home? How did he fix it? Anything unexpected pop up along the way? What did he do?
What caused your problem?
Was it the age of the home? Prior workmanship? Something you or the kids did? Is there a chance the problem can return?
What is necessary to prevent the problem for returning?
Do you clean up your mess?
You shouldn’t have to ask, but some plumbing companies don’t do a good job clearing away old parts, boxes for new materials, or sloppily put back stuff under the kitchen sink, for example. Some companies charge for cleanup, which you shouldn’t have to pay for unless it’s extreme — like renovating a master bathroom and hauling away old tile, sinks, bath tubs, or shower enclosures.