When I first decided to set up My Plumber, believe me, I knew nothing about plumbing. I was just a posh girl from the City. Quite honestly, changing careers from being a commercial solicitor to owning a plumbing company was like walking into a different world.
Ladies, you need to have your wits about you when choosing someone to work in your home. This is not just about plumbers. These tips apply across the board to all trades.
1) Find out as much information about the problem as possible.
Find out what you can about the problem before you call a plumber. If you have a leak, the first thing is PLEASE DON'T PANIC. It will all be ok. Turn off your stop cock - don't tell me you don't know where it is as I have already told you how to find it in my previous blog! Now you are calm, try to look at where the leak is coming from. Is it from a pipe under the sink? is it when you have a shower? is it from a central heating pipe (that's the pipe that joins up the radiators)? Write down what you can see and when it happens. Be ready as any good plumber will try to identify what the problem is when you call. If you have an Iphone, take a photo or a little video of the problem. The more information the better. If a valve or pump is leaking, look to see the make and model and note it down.
If it's not an emergency, then you can watch your problem for awhile and learn more about it. Another quick tip, if you have a water stain on the ceiling, draw around it with a pencil. If it is getting worse, the patch will extend past the lines of the pencil and you know that you need help!
This is obviously of no use if you have a flood! We are talking about the slow drip, drip leaks.
2. How do I find a good plumber? Reputation, Reputation, Reputation.
Please do not pick up your Yellow Pages and call the first plumbing company that you see. You need to do some research:
You can start by calling a friend - do you know someone who might be able to recommend a plumber that they know?
If your friend doesn't know anyone or she is too busy putting Harry to bed, then do some research on the internet. Look for a local company to begin with so you might type in "Plumber in Chiswick" or "Gas Engineer in Chiswick" a whole stack of companies will come up in the search. Take your time and look at some websites.
You are looking for a plumbing company that has been in operation for a long time, has a number of experienced engineers (try to avoid sole traders as they are very difficult to vet and can disappear very quickly when there is a problem***) and explains how it charges. Check that the company has experience in the problem that you are trying to solve. Write a short list of the plumbing companies and check the reputations of each company. Type in the name of the company e.g. "My Plumber" and "reviews" and as if by magic you will see what people are saying abut that company.
If most of the reviews are good, then you can be pretty confident that you will be dealt with honestly. Good companies care about their reputation - which means that they want you to be happy. These are the companies you should consider calling to help you.
*** Please note that there are many good soletraders out there, I am just saying that you need to be careful and be sure about their reputation first.
3) Chat to the staff at the plumbing company before you book your project.
Call the office and see what they sound like. Ask a few questions. Do the staff sound friendly and keen? Are they interested? You will soon get a feel for the company just from the staff answering the phone. If you don't like the sound of them, then call the next company on the list.
4) How you can save money even before the plumber comes out to you.
When you have found a plumbing company that you like the sound of, tell them all about your plumbing problem. Give them as much information as possible, including any serial numbers of parts where possible. You can also offer to email photos (they will tell you if this would be useful in your situation).
Now remember, if you say that your Grundfos pump is leaking (be sure about this) and you give the company the serial number, sometimes it is quicker and easier for the plumber to bring a new Grundfos pump (as in this example) with him. It will be cheaper for you because then all the plumber needs to do is replace the pump and you don't have to pay for him to go to the suppliers to pick one up. There is two caveats to this advice: Please make sure that it is actually the pump that is leaking - if it's not and the plumber has to take the pump back to the suppliers there could be a re-stocking charge. Secondly, there could be (and often is)
other problems that will need to be fixed as well which might require a visit to the supplier in any case.
5) Always ask the prices before you book in any work
Make sure that you understand how you will be charged. Some companies charge a call out, some charge on an hourly rate, some will give you a quote over the phone. However the company charges, make sure you know what to expect when it comes to paying and when you will be expected to pay.
6) Check that the plumbing company is insured
All good plumbing companies will have Public Liability Insurance - check that they have up to date insurance - just in case.
7) Ensure that the Gas Safe registration is up to date (for boiler and gas work)
Please, please do not have anyone in your home working on your gas appliances if they are not Gas Safe registered. Even more than that, I would go further and say do not have anyone working in your home with out being Gas Safe registered and without at least 5 years experience. Hopefully, it is obvious that you need someone with skill and experience if they are working on your boiler or gas applicances. Someone who has just finished their Gas Safe course will not have a clue what they are doing (they might have a bit of a clue but not much). Gas can be dangerous and you need to be safe.
8) Be nice to your plumber
Once you have taken some time to choose your plumber and you have booked in your visit, please be nice to him. If you have chosen well, your plumber will do his best to sort out your issues for you. Sometimes things go wrong, it is ALWAYS better to try and sort out the problems by discussing them rather than by sending a sharp email. The reason I say this is because good plumbers really will want to sort the problem out. This really is the cheapest way to move forwards. Talk on the phone and explain why you are not happy. Communication is absolutely key.
9) Once you find a good plumber - keep the details
Once you have found a good plumber, keep his number. It sounds obvious but you should always try to maintain a good relationship with your plumber as you will need him probably a few times a year for various things. Also, you need the number to hand when you have an emergency. You really do not want to have to carry out research on the internet when you need someone to come quickly. If you build up a good relationship, your plumber will be there for you when you need him. Also, your plumber will get to know your system. This is always helpful.
10) Be sure to leave positive feedback if you are happy with your experience
Leaving feedback is good for everyone. Many people have a great service and forget to do this but it not only helps other people see that the company you used is a good one but also, it will make your plumber feel good. This is a good thing. Happy plumbers want to help. See note 8 above.
Angie Lyons-Redman can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org for any questions. Although she is not a plumber (!!), she knows quite a few who will be happy to help. Also, she has a wealth of tips and advice on doing up your home. My-Plumber is a Chiswick based company covering the whole of west and central London. Have a look at www.my-plumber.co.uk for up to date information on plumbing, heating and electrics or call My Plumber on 020 3078 5920.