How To Tell A Good Plumber From The One You Should Keep Away From?

Reader warning! You may wish to skip this page if you have had a bad experience in dealing with a plumber (in which case you may have steam coming out of your ears quite soon). If you are about to hire a plumber, then…carry on reading! Having read your article titled What To Consider When Hiring A Professional Plumber For Your New House, I would like to offer some of my own experience from working in the plumbing trade. Call it an insider’s perspective, if you like.

”We hired a plumber a few months back to fix quite a big leak in our home. We suspected a water leak because our water bill rose a lot over a period of a few months. To cut a long story short, we detected a leak and got a local plumber to perform leak detection and then repair the problem. Our friends recommended him to us. He then proceeded to make a mess of our house. In the end, we lost all confidence and hired a well-known, local firm who fixed the leak and got our property in some sort of order!” This was the experience of one customer.

Here is what she learnt about spotting a potentially bad plumber:

1. They have an answer for everything and they actively discourage you from seeking a second option. We all like to think that we know best and that we have the right competence in most areas that affect us. Most of us take pride in our work and our knowledge, it’s natural. However, actively discouraging us from seeking a second opinion and shouting over us when we ‘phone another contractor  for their opinion, is a definite sign that your plumber isn’t what he makes out. If they cannot give a good explanation and some references of the work they have done (it is your money they are getting, after all as you are THE point of their work), instead belittling the competition, then you may want to cut them loose.

2. They only seem to have parts from one manufacturer. A good plumber must able to offer you a choice of different types of piping, taps, etc and to outline what circumstances might dictate which you may wish to use, how long they may last, etc. If they don’t offer this, then chances are they are a) buying the cheapest parts and ripping you off or b) they simply don’t have the knowledge required to deal with your problem. You may wish to ask them why they don’t have more for you to choose from. Sometimes a simple PVC pipe will do just fine and sometimes you will need a copper one.

3. They are evasive when you ask for references. This is a pretty straightforward one. If your customers like you, you will want to tell the world about it. Are they registered? Are they insured? Can they prove that they are? If they cannot produce any evidence on the spot, thank them for their time and send them on their way.

4. They’ve seen it all in, they’ll know the problem before they’ve even had a look. We’re all for experience and it certainly counts, but if you try to explain what you are seeing/symptoms, they might just ignore you and form their own opinion before even taking a proper look. We believe in working with homeowners; after all, you have experienced something and called us out. We may as well know what you’ve seen/heard/felt. Small details might mean it’s a different problem to the one we assumed it was.

5. They ask for cash-in-hand. They could be trying to avoid tax. In which case you won’t get a receipt. If they’re being dishonest about this, then what else are they not telling you? Have they broken your costs down for you properly? Be assertive and ask for an itemized bill. If they refuse to give one, report them to trading standard. How else are you going to claim warranty if the work is sub-standard?

6. Are they upfront about their call-out charges? A call-out charge should not cost more than $120 in a big metropolitan area and substantially less outside these areas. Do your research, call a few plumbers and if any of them are wildly out of sync, ask yourself why this is? If they are asking for far too much of your hard-earned cash compared to other plumbers, then this may be a sign that they are willing to rip their customer off. And if they are quoting you considerably under an average you are being quoted by other plumbers, then this can be a sign that they are struggling for business. Why would that be? Of course emergency plumbing costs considerably more, particularly for out-of-hours service.

And now onto a good plumber..

1. Are they registered? Can they give their registration details when asked?

2. Your plumber speaks to you as they find and fix your problem. You need to know what the problem is and to know what you are paying for. A good plumber should do this not just out of courtesy; they show their professional competency by speaking to you and telling you what they have found and how they went about finding it. Your plumber needs to relate to you and vice-versa. They should also be able to offer you a relatively consistent estimate for the work done.

3. They show you the evidence. If they tell you that something needs replacing, or that you need major work, they will be able to show you exactly what they’re talking about. No-nonsense, see for yourself approach. They will also offer you options, e.g. fix something cheaper for the short-term, but plan to do a bigger repair within a couple of years, or go for the bigger central heating repair now. You will have the pros and the cons of both approaches and not pressure you into a decision.

4. They have good reviews. This is quite obvious however a good plumber performing your plumbing on leak detection work should be happy to give a list of references if they have a happy customer base

5. They have a range of tools. Again, quite an obvious one but this indicated a plumber skilled in the various types of plumbing jobs and scenarios; they recognise that there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to tools of their trade.

5. They have professional indemnity insurance and can give it upon request.

6. They offer you tips and hints. A reliable sign of a good plumber is someone who, when you call them, will first ask you questions and offer advice on things that you can do yourself, without the need for them to come to see you if you can fix the problem on your own. This often happens when boilers, radiators and taps are in question. They offer you advice that you may be able to use, at no cost. It’s called honestly and it is greatly appreciated by customers.

7. They look the part. Specialised clothing isn’t only required for health and safety reasons. A plumber who takes pride in his professional appearance and outfit is likely to take pride in their work.


We hope that you have enjoyed reading our tips and hints on being able to tell a good plumber from a not so good one. Of course, there are nuances in dealing with people however as plumbers, we know our trade and we’ve seen and fixed the aftermath of poor work from many members of our trade. At London Leak Detection Specialists, we’re determined to help people in London, UK avoid nightmare scenarios when dealing with a water leak, or seeing go issue a gas safety certificate. Although we could write a lot more, we hope that we’ve provided some pointers for you to take away and use to your advantage.

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