How to Talk to a Plumber

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Many folks are nervous or unsure about contacting a plumber during an emergency. It’s understandable, even though they may be an expert plumber, highly skilled at their craft, with years of plumbing experience, many five star reviews and great customer testimonials, they’re still a stranger, entering our homes.

They may dig small holes in your yard, or bang on pipes in the kitchen, and it may not be obvious why, although the knowledge that an expensive cost may be looming in the future is enough to make any homeowner nervous.

As professional plumbers, we wanted to give you advice on how best to help your tradesperson help you. To help demystify the profession, and make it easier for you to get started on problem solving with any professional plumber, we put together a little list of talking points. Hopefully these money saving tips for better quality service will help get you started on making a better relationship with your plumber.

Remain Calm

First, don’t over-react! Not every problem is an emergency. Calmly give your plumber a call, and then relax knowing you’re going to be taken care of. By remaining calm, you can allow the plumber to focus all of their attention on identifying and troubleshooting the plumbing problem.

Learn Some Plumbing Basics

You don’t need to be an expert, but a little knowledge can go a long way. Here are some common problems, and essential things every homeowner should know about how they can respond to those problems before a plumber arrives.

Water Leak

Leaking pipes are a serious concern, even a pinhole leak can grow into a big problem very quickly. While some parts of the country may experience freezing weather that can crack water pipes, this is rare in Southern California. More often, pipes simply wear out from use. Unfortunately, all plumbing will eventually wear out.

When faced with a water leak, one thing every homeowner should know is where their water main shut off valve is located. If you don't already know how, the first thing you should ask your plumber is, “where is my water main shut off valve located, and how can I turn off the flow of water leading into my property?”

Slow or Clogged Drain

Clogged drains are a common problem. Tree roots are often the culprit of repeating problems, however many other objects can obstruct a sewer line. Food, oil, grease and other debris often get caught and accumulate in sewer pipes. The most common solution to a slow or stopped sewer drain is to use sewer drain cleaning equipment, such as a cable snake, or a hydro jetter, to scrape or remove sewer sludge and other obstructions from the line.

Before getting started on clearing out a line with a plumbing snake, or a hydro jetter, it is helpful to a plumber if they know the history of the problem, or sewer line. Did something recently happen to the line? Has this problem happened before? What solutions have been attempted before? Were they successful?

It can also be helpful to use a Sewer Line Inspection Camera to capture an HD video of the inside of your sewer line, to identify and pinpoint the exact problem. If the cause of the sewer line congestion isn’t immediately obvious, consider asking your plumber if they can perform a sewer line camera inspection.

Water Heater Behaving Improperly

Conventional water heaters will usually only last up to 10 years before they need to be replaced. (Tankless water heaters are not only more energy efficient, they can last far longer, up to 15 or even 20 years.) Plumbers often get called in to deal with a water heater when it’s begun to leak, however, water heaters should be replaced before they start to leak, whenever possible.

Most conventional water heaters come with a 6 year warranty, however some manufacturers may offer a 10 year warranty. Be sure to ask your plumber what kind of warranty comes with your water heater, and if there are other warranty options available.

Before the plumber arrives, it can be helpful to turn off the water intake shut off valve, and with gas water heaters, to turn off the gas valve as well. This can help prevent the extent of damage caused by leaks, and the risk of problems with overuse of gas.

Funny Smells

Sewer lines often emit pungent odors. It’s an unmistakable odor, once it hits your nose, you’ll know something isn’t right. Modern plumbing uses traps, which hold water and trap gas, preventing odors from entering into living spaces.

Drains that are rarely used, like laundry room floor drains, often emit funny smells when the water in the trap dries up. A quick and simple solution to a dry drain trap is to simply pour plain water into the drain. This will fill the trap, and ensure it works properly again.

If funny smells persist, be sure to try to locate the source as best you can. Your plumber will ask where the smell is coming from. It can be helpful for everyone if you’re ready to answer his question when he’s there.

Ask For an Estimate

Ask for an estimate up front, but don’t expect an exact price. Everyone wants to know what they’re committing to. With some routine services it’s easy to set fixed prices. However, with some situations, even an expert plumber can only make a best guess.

Ask About Payment Plan Options

A true emergency is often difficult to predict, and plumbers understand this. Many plumbers will offer payment plan options, on request. Don’t be afraid to propose to pay in installments, rather than one lump sum, if that’s what you need to do.

Let Them Work

Once the work has begun, it’s best to stay out of the plumber’s way. Many plumbers just want to get straight to work, and don’t want you to think they’re wasting your dime while on work time. And as much as you may want to help, not many people, regardless of the work they’re doing, like to have someone hovering over them while they work. Trust the professional plumber you’ve contracted. Let them do the work.

Follow The Golden Rule

It’s simple advice, and it applies to all things in life, really… treat your plumber as you would want to be treated. Most plumbers are hard working people, just trying to do the best work they can.

We hope this guide about how to talk to a plumber was helpful. Let us know if there's any way we can help you.

Call us any time at 626.448.6455