This week, Mike’s Tips focuses on choosing a plumber, HVAC, air conditioning service or any type of service to keep you cool when it’s hot, hot when it’s cold, with fresh air, and water where you need it and not anywhere else.
NOTE: In no way are these statements meant to disparage any business regardless of location, background, aggregator relationship, or any other tool one would use to find a plumbing services provider.
Let’s start with the basics. In New Jersey, to legally perform residential or commercial plumbing of any kind, it is imperative to have a valid license. This license should be current and clearly found on their website or any other communication means. That means that regardless of whether you are a homeowner or a business owner, you have the right and should exercise that right, to see the plumber’s license and workers comp insurance documents. This is to protect you from any lawsuits based on an accident on your premises by an employee or sub-contractor of the plumbing contractor you hired. Do not accept the equivalent of “I’ll bring it tomorrow”, or “I just changed insurance carriers and I don’t have the new ones with me.” While these might be true answers, you should not engage or sign a contract for work until you are presented with the proper documents.
Rule #1 – Do not go to Craigslist to find qualified, licensed plumbing and heating, HVAC technicians. There are reports of lawsuits filed against these so-called tradesmen of all areas (carpenters, painters, masonry work, electricians, and more). Craigslist, in my humble opinion, is for people who have some experience in one or more trades, work for cheap, provide low(er)-quality repair parts, and have no license or insurance. This is not meant as a complete burial of Craigslist (I’ve successfully bought some used but functional car parts.). There are dog walkers, math tutors, music teachers, and others who should be able to provide you with some evidence of success, if only a few names of people who used them and offer a testimonial.
Rule #2 – Trying to get someone working on a job across the street to “give you a deal” since they are already close by. This could be a good time to chat with your neighbor and ask him/her how they chose this plumbing service. Maybe it was a recommendation from a family friend, maybe he/she used them on another property – all good answers, but just remember that the person who priced the project may not be there. If not, it’s a “side job” for one of their workers, who may not be qualified to do what you need done. Qualified plumbers will typically have their name, phone number and license number right on their truck. So, before you offer your money to a stranger who happens to be across the street, call their office and ask for their plumbing license number and explain you would like a WRITTEN proposal.
Note: if it’s an emergency i.e. a pipe broke and you can’t find the shut off valve, be safe (bring the neighbor back to your house too), and ask for a fee for the fellow across the street to show you where the shut off valve is, and turn it off. Then you can say thank you, hand him a few dollars, and put in a call to the number on the truck outside. No number? Then ask someone on the job for their office number and verify they are who they claim to be.
Rule #3 – Trucks with no signs or worse HANDMADE signs, aren’t worthy of your time or your money. There are nightmare stories of jobs left half-finished while the tech went to buy parts with the money you gave him, and never came back. Oh, and that number on the truck? It is likely disconnected or a pizza store or the guy’s cell phone. Be smart, and be safe. Muccia Plumbing trucks are easily identifiable by their Fire Engine Red and White painted bodies, with our numbers clearly visible.
Rule #4 – Get a detailed estimate. A legitimate plumber will have a provide a document outlining exactly what you are asking them to repair, an estimate of the cost of parts and labor, and of course NJ Sales Tax. Why are these estimates? Two reasons, some parts have volatile prices. Copper, for example, reached an all-time high of 4.58 a pound in February of 2011 and a record low of 1.94 in January of 2016. Today it closed at $2.91, but with geo-politics and home-building starts changing weekly, it’s often difficult to be precise on parts. Likewise, labor costs are based on what’s visible during the inspection. As more debris is removed, unforeseen surprises can appear. Mold, termite damage, rotten pipes from years gone by may have become immovable, and must be removed with care to avoid further damage to connecting pipes. Asbestos covered pipes have to be removed in compliance with EPA guidelines and disposal costs can be high. Your signature on a contract does not give the contractor permission to start adding fees. Instead, as these discoveries are made, a qualified tech should provide a revised estimate covering these new issues, and how, where, when and how much it will take to remedy. Contract should also include an expected start and end date.
Rule #5 – Show your appreciation for a job well done. Today’s independent plumbing and heating companies rely on the word of mouth of happy customers. There are always going to be clients who, regardless of the circumstances, feel unhappy with the cost or the time it took to complete the job. We make every effort to keep them at a minimum. Therefore, when you are pleased with the work done, please consider providing a sentence or two as a testimonial we can use in our marketing. It not only helps us, but you too as we’ll show our appreciation with an appropriate discount on the next job you invite us to do for you.
Rule #6 – Understanding Aggregators. It would break our rule of non-disparagement of other companies if we were to name companies considered aggregators. Think of TV ads that promise that they have vetted the service you need and can provide a highly-qualified service tech. Beside plumbing, they provide this service for electrical work, basement and garage clean outs, and a host of other activities. In order to be a plumber who MIGHT get selected for a job, there is a significant fee payable to the aggregator to be on “Maggie’s Page” or “Your House Advisories”. Read the reviews, but realize that some are done by the vendors. Once, the job is identified, it’s put out as a lead to several different service providers, in this case plumbers, Again, and it’s worth repeating, Muccia Plumbing does not disparage the services offered by these aggregators, it’s just not how we’ve done business for 40 years.
One Final Thought. You have a choice, especially when it comes to letting strangers wearing a uniform into your home or business. Please know, beyond a doubt, that you can put your trust in Muccia Plumbing. Everything discussed above from contracts to licenses to response times are all clearly explained and documented in our contract. Yes, there are times where an initial estimate must be revised up in price, but as I mentioned before, it’s a matter of what we find as we begin the process of repairing your problem.