Even in the coldest winters, where temperatures are consistently below 30-degrees Fahrenheit, there are days of warmer winter weather before the next weather system blows in. Extremes in weather, hot or cold, test the integrity of your home’s systems, so if you’re going to have a problem with your plumbing, winter is more than likely the time.
As the weather gets warmer, listen for running water when the taps are turned off as the first sign of broken pipes. It won’t necessarily come from the faucets; you may just hear running water. You’ll need to find where it’s coming from, so follow the sound and turn off the water nearest the sound. Then it’s time to call the plumber.
How do you find a good plumber and not get soaked? We turned to our cold-weather plumbing expert, Pete, a plumber from Houston, Texas, who deals with frozen pipes every winter, for tips on what to look for.
* Talk to a person. Plumbers are going to be very busy after an especially cold snap, so the chances of talking to voice mail are high. Nonetheless, it’s still very important to talk directly to a company representative, not voice mail or the plumber’s kid. Don’t assume someone is on the way until you talk to a person. A professional plumber will understand the 24/7 nature of plumbing emergencies and will have equally professional phone coverage when he or she is not available.
* Get an in-person initial evaluation. How can anyone diagnose a problem without looking at it? Get an appointment window for that initial evaluation. Plumbers are very busy, especially at this time of year, but great plumbers, as with other contractors, are worth waiting for. Getting an appointment window will also prevent you from sitting around the house all day for nothing.
* Get a written quote before work begins. Don’t be so anxious to have things repaired quickly that you forget to act prudently. Unscrupulous contractors are just waiting for an opportunity to add costs that don’t really exist. A professional plumber, in business for years, will have seen your problem before and will know how to proceed.
* Use only a licensed plumber. Ask for the license number. If they say they don’t have it handy, they’re probably not licensed and what they don’t know could cost you dearly.
* Professional appearance counts. We’re not talking about suit and tie, but does the plumber care about his professional appearance to others by wearing a uniform, driving a truck or van with a professional logo and looking you in the eye when he talks to you? If a contractor doesn’t care about how he presents himself, he’s not going to care about your repairs and your house.
* Do your research before you have a problem. The best way to be sure you’re getting a good, professional plumber is to do your homework before you have a problem. It’s important to have a list of contractors you have researched so when there is a problem, you’ll have someone to call on that you’ve already vetted. Advance research should include a call to the local licensing board to look for complaints and how they were handled. Remember, though – complaints don’t necessarily mean a bad company; it’s how the complaints are handled that counts.
Getting an initial evaluation and written quote can all happen at the same time as the repair is done, but make sure you’ve gotten that done BEFORE work starts, so there are no questions if problems come up later. While these tips won’t absolutely guarantee a great repair, at least you’re on your way to protecting yourself and getting professional help.