How to Find a Plumber for Your Home Repair or Project

Alison Kasch
Written by Alison Kasch
Updated May 3, 2023
Plumber fixing pipes
Photo: Tascha Rassadornyindee / EyeEm / Getty Images

Here’s how to find—and hire—a plumber you can count on

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Choosing a plumber is all about finding someone who has put in the work; this means having a state license, full-coverage liability insurance, and a written guarantee to back up their claims. Knowing all the key touch points will help you hire a plumber you can rely on for today’s toilet backup, tomorrow’s burst pipe, and any future curveballs your plumbing system might throw.

How to Find a Plumber

Flowing water usually creates a calming ambiance—unless it’s running onto your bathroom floor. Still, even if you’re ankle-deep, finding a plumber isn’t something you should do blindly. 

One of the best approaches is to search online to find a qualified local plumber, or you can find recommendations on social media. If you know a contractor, they’ll likely have a few good referrals to give. And (pro tip!) it’s best to do this before you need a plumber, so you’re not left scrambling when your only toilet breaks down.

Before You Hire a Plumber

Sometimes your plumbing needs repair, like, now. A plumbing emergency might tempt you to tap “call” on the first number Google suggests, but it’s wise to keep your trigger finger steady until you’ve had time to:

  • Evaluate your issue or project

  • Look up costs online

  • Compare quotes

  • Verify that you’ve found a qualified plumbing professional

  • Secure a detailed contract with a service guarantee

Plan Your Plumbing Project for Accurate Quotes

If you need to find a plumber, you should research online to get a ballpark idea of what the plumbing repair will cost before you request estimates. For basic repairs, there are many price-specific resources that can guide you toward what to expect. The cost of a plumbing leak, for example, is a pretty straightforward figure you can look up beforehand so you won’t get caught paying more than it’s worth.

When you’re trying to find plumbers for a project, such as adding an ensuite bathroom to your primary bedroom, you’ve got a little more time to plan. Take note of the following before you start the process of choosing a plumber:

  • Square footage you’re working with

  • What product(s) and amenities you’ll need

  • A list of “needs” versus “wants”

  • A target budget

Comparing quotes is the best way to find a plumber who will give you your dollar’s worth. If you can, get at least three quotes from qualified plumbers before taking next steps.

Find a Plumber With Credentials

Just because their service pops up on a Google search doesn’t mean every plumber-for-hire has the same qualifications. One major credential to look for is a state license. Certain states don’t require one, and it’s up to you to verify qualifications before choosing a plumber.

So, why does a plumber need a license, and how could that impact you? For one thing, if their work doesn’t pass inspection, then you won’t have any lifelines because you’re the one who chose to hire them. Insurance is also a crucial factor to look for—without insurance, you might be financially liable for any injuries that occur during the job.

Along with verifying the plumber’s credentials, you should check out their references and look at reviews online. If you know anyone who has hired them in the past, this can also help you make a well-informed decision.

Journeyperson vs. Master Plumber

A master plumber has more experience than a journeyman plumber—also known as a journeyperson plumber—and typically charges more for their work. Often, a master plumber has at least seven years of experience under their belt. In many areas, a master plumber must also pass a state exam. Master plumbers can work for themselves or as part of a company, though many tend to own their own businesses.

A journeyman plumber is a little less experience, but still a pro nonetheless. Though it varies by local labor laws, a journeyman plumber must complete at least four years of on-the-job training and pass a state exam. A journeyman plumber typically costs between $60 and $110 per hour, while master plumbers charge $80 to $200 per hour. Both types of plumbers may oversee an apprentice plumber working under their tutelage. Generally, you can trust a journeyman plumber to be qualified and skilled enough to take on any plumbing project.

Questions to Ask Before Choosing a Plumber

Before hiring a plumber, there are a few questions to ask:

  • Are you licensed and insured?

  • Is your fee a flat rate or is it hourly?

  • Is every possible cost covered in the estimate?

  • Who will do the work? Are they all licensed and qualified plumbers?

  • What happens if any breaks or damages occur?

  • Is cleanup included in the quote?

  • Do your services come with a guarantee?

After You Find Your Plumber

Once you find a qualified plumber, your next steps are to get a contract, maintain a record of the services, and ultimately pay for them once the job is complete. Avoid paying in full upfront, as there are some individuals who might take the money and run.

Get a Contract and Arrange Payments With Your Qualified Plumber

After you hire a plumber, you should secure a contract with them. This will spell out the tasks and conditions of the work, ensuring everything gets completed as promised. Most qualified plumbers ask for payment immediately following the service, but some offer financing for larger jobs. In any case, some sort of down payment is usually due right away.  

Keep Records of Your Plumbing Project

If your plumbers-for-hire are working on an ongoing project, log the time they work and note whether they’re sticking to the schedule. If any surprise charges happen, you’ll have your own records to reference. Securing a plumbing service agreement will also help record your maintenance and repair history.

Know Your Rights and Avoid Plumber Scams

While there are many qualified plumbers out there, there are some unsavory practices you should know about. As mentioned, there are some so-called plumbers who operate without a license, or worse, who aim to swindle you out of your hard-earned cash.

Here are a few red flags to watch for when choosing a plumber:

  • They are unable or unwilling to provide proof of licensure and credentials

  • They give a vague answer or change the subject when you ask for references

  • They cannot provide an invoice or receipt

  • They insist on cash-only payments

  • They ask for full payment upfront or a large down payment

  • They give you a firm estimate before evaluating the job in person

  • They refuse to provide a written quote

  • They pressure you to say “yes” to services before you fully understand them

A reputable plumber won’t hesitate to give you a calm and detailed explanation of the work needed, as well as how they’ll address it. They’ve also got their references and credentials at the ready—and they’re happy to provide them. If your plumber-for-hire rushes you, makes excuses about needing upfront payment, or seems purposely vague in their contract, trust your instincts and look elsewhere.

After Your Qualified Plumbing Pro Has Finished

Once you find a plumber and they complete the work, evaluate the results. Was everything fixed or completed as promised? If so, proceed with payment according to the terms in your contract.

Should anything be wrong with the work, contact the plumber and ask them to fix it (this should not incur any additional charge). If you can’t reach them or they can’t fix the issue, then you’ll have to try somebody else. Without a contract, service guarantee, or detailed invoice, you might not get a refund. Getting a written guarantee is the only way to avoid taking the “L” in this case.

If you’re extremely happy with the price point and outcome, leave a review online and offer to become a reference. That way, you can help others who are wondering how to find a plumber that’s worth their salt. You could even leave your plumber a tip!

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