Finding a good plumber or electrician is a difficult task for home owners.
One, plumbers and electricians possess, or pretend to possess, a skill most of us lack. After all, if we knew how to fix a broken pipe or wire the unfinished bonus room we wouldn’t need a good plumber or an electrician in first place.
Our ignorance not only makes us desperate for their services it also makes us vulnerable to their scams, cons, and thievery—not to mention their plain old shoddy work. To make matters worse, it’s usually an emergency that forces us to call a plumber or an electrician. In our panic for their help, we tend to let our guard down which makes us even more susceptible to their tricks and dirty tactics.
Furthermore, due to the nature of the business, it’s hard to prosecute a bad plumber or electrician. If you’re lucky enough to find them after they’ve swindled you out of your money, the plumber or electrician can usually claim—and do so well within the law—that they did everything you asked them to do; it’s their word against yours. In many cases the home owner is left with no recourse while the plumber or electrician moves onto their next victim.
REFERRAL MADNESS Finding a good plumber or electrician is difficult but not impossible. You probably already know the first step of process: find a plumber or electrician via word of mouth. Newspapers, phone books, and Web sites can be nothing but lies and exaggerations, but referrals, well, they tell a much more accurate story. Still, they are far from foolproof.
That’s why in order to find yourself a competent plumber or electrician you’re going to have to do more than just get a sound referral from a friend or colleague. You’re going to have to do six other things as well. Those six things are: research, put everything in writing, grow a backbone, be prepared, watch them work, and be careful with your money.
THE RESEARCH IS ON Once you get a referral from a friend or trusted colleague it’s time to go to work. First and foremost you need proof that the prospective plumber or electrician has insurance, both worker’s compensation and general liability. Don’t just take their word for it, call the insurance company and get a Certificate of Insurance. Getting that certificate is the most important thing you can do in your quest to acquire a good plumber or electrician.
Next, you’re going to want at least a half dozen references and you’re going to call them all. You will also want to know all the professional associations they belong too. Next, take some time to do some internet research. Google the plumber or the electrician’s name to see what you can find. You’ve probably spent hours on the internet researching that $50 MP3 player you use on the treadmill. So why not do the same thorough research on the plumbers and electricians that will be working on your home?
FIRST CONTRACT Once you’ve finished your homework and selected a plumber or electrician, make sure you both sign a detailed contract. The document should not only outline exactly what you want done but it should also contain ground rules for working in your home (whether or not they can listen to the radio, whether or not they can use your bathroom, stuff like that). Obviously, you’ll have to be flexible if it’s an emergency, but you should still have something in writing.
If the plumber or electrician balks at the idea, or tries to talk you out of signing a contract, then they have done you a big favor. They have just taken themselves out of the running to be your plumber or electrician. Professionals will gladly sign a detailed contract because they know it benefits you just as much as it benefits them.
HANGING TOUGH You can’t tell it from watching the evening news and seeing the countless horror stories about man’s inhumanity towards man, but most people in the world want to avoid conflict. That’s great when everyone wants to sing “Kumbaya,” but not so great when a plumber or electrician is trying to cheat you out of your hard earned money.
In an effort to gain your business, receive an early payout, or all-together get out of doing the job, some disreputable plumbers and electricians will try to tug on your heart strings. If that doesn’t work some will turn to threats. If they tell you they have a sick child in the hospital or they need their truck repaired don’t believe them. No professional would be that forthcoming with their life’s story. If they make any sort of threat to you or your home, you need to call the cops immediately. If you eventually take the crooks to court you’ll want to show the judge that police report of how they threatened you.
You don’t have to be rude or impolite to a plumber or an electrician, you just have to be tough if they try to pull one over on your. Being tough also helps when it comes to getting exactly what you want. In addition to avoiding conflict we also like to avoid hurting people’s feelings. However, when it comes to plumbing and electrical work feelings be damned. Plumbers and electricians aren’t in business to receive compliments and the warm fuzzies.
OPERATION PREPARATION Quite often we need a plumber or an electrician because of an emergency. That doesn’t negate the tips we have previous laid out for you, but it does mean you need to be prepared. Have a plumber and an electrician already picked out and ready to call for when something bad (God forbid) does happens. Waiting until a crisis and then hastily selecting a plumber or an electrician is going to increase your chances of getting ripped off and/or getting sloppy work.
WATCH, LOOK, LISTEN Sure you’re not a plumber or an electrician, but that doesn’t mean you can’t keep an eye on what’s going on. I’m not recommending that you hover over their shoulders but keep tabs on their work, ask questions, and if applicable, take pictures at various stages of the job. Remember that no one, not even the most professional plumber or electrician, cares as much about your house as you do.
IT’S ALL ABOUT THE BENJAMINS Finally, you have to understand the golden rule when it comes to not only hiring a plumber or an electrician, but anyone that works on your home, and that is money controls the job. You’re going to have to pay them at some point, and you may even have to pay some of the money up front, but once you give them all the money you lose all control. Keep this is mind even when dealing with the most venerated plumbers and electricians. Pay in full only when the job is complete and to your satisfaction.
CONCLUSION If you think I’m trying to turn you into a suspicious, untrusting, paranoid miser I do apologize. That is not my intent. However, we live in a world with unscrupulous people. It would be nice to take strangers at their word, just like it would be nice to leave our cars unlocked at night, but unfortunately we don’t have that luxury. Yes, hiring a good plumber or electrician is difficult and time consuming, but considering they will be working on your biggest investment, your home, a little distrust and paranoia is probably a good thing.