Plumbing is seldom exciting. It works fine for years, filling, flowing, and flushing. But when you get a clog, or a pipe leaks through your ceiling just before your holiday guests arrive, the excitement may become unbearable. Even if you're stressed, don't dial a number from a radio jingle — ad budgets don't indicate great service. Instead, take a few minutes to find a plumber who will get the job done right for a fair price.
Here are some tips for hiring a plumber. For detailed advice, including ratings of local plumbing outfits for quality and price, visit www.checkbook.org/inquirer/plumbers. For the next month, Checkbook is giving readers of the Inquirer free access to its ratings of area plumbers.
Delaware Valley Consumers' Checkbook's surveys of local consumers turned up dozens of excellent plumbing outfits. Several companies were rated "superior" overall by at least 90 percent of their surveyed customers. But not all plumbers are up to snuff: Checkbook found that some companies compound — rather than solve — their customers' woes. For these companies, more than half of their surveyed customers rated them poorly overall, with reviews that include words like overcharged, unprofessional, incompetent, rude, messy, no-show, and dishonest.
After you have identified high-quality, reliable companies, you should consider price. To help, Checkbook's undercover shoppers called the companies and requested price quotes for eight plumbing jobs. Prices varied dramatically for the same work. Prices to supply and install an InsinkErator Premier Badger 5 garbage disposer ranged from $342 to $797 — a difference of $455. To supply and install a Bradford-White RG250T6N 50-gallon water heater, prices ranged from $798 to $2,520 — a difference of $1,722.
If you have a large remodeling job — a new kitchen or bathroom, say — getting several bids is critical. Not only is a large amount of money at stake, but the percentage variation in prices on such major jobs is larger than on smaller jobs. Checkbook's undercover shoppers obtained bids from local companies for a complete remodeling of a large master bath and received quotes ranging from $26,000 to $61,000.
The message is clear: Even for small jobs, it pays to shop around.
You don't have to pay more to get good work. Checkbook found that many companies that rate best for quality are among the cheapest.
For remodeling jobs, get a contract that includes: