Experiencing plumbing troubles? In-home estimates and inspections will save you money and extend the life of your plumbing.
Don Ochs, Service Manager at D&F Plumbing, wants to save you from spending more than you should on plumbing repairs. He’s sharing pro advice from the perspective of 37 years in the plumbing industry in Oregon and Washington.
Don has worked in many phases of plumbing, including residential service and remodels. So he understands what it takes to handle a plumbing project the right way.
With enough time and use, your fixtures and pipes will eventually need professional attention. Cost is a big deciding factor for most homeowners when choosing a plumbing company. The last thing you want is to spend money on an unexpected repair.
And for most people, plumbing is the hardest thing to spend money on because you can’t see most of it. Unless you’re eagerly planning a bathroom remodel or kitchen remodel, fixing pipes that hide out-of-sight may not feel like an exciting investment (even though it’s crucial to your health and home!).
But hiring the cheapest company or handyman you can find isn’t always the best choice. In fact, Don visits lots of homes where DIY-jobs and unskilled amateurs did more harm than good. And despite trying to save money, the homeowner spent more in the long run.
Should I Price Shop To Compare Plumbers?
When you call a plumbing company, you might be tempted to ask for pricing over the phone. For most purchases, this seems like an obvious way to price-shop and compare.
Unfortunately, plumbing solutions aren’t so clear-cut. Most of your plumbing is hidden behind walls, in ceilings or underground. That makes it hard to offer a price for any given service. Every home is unique and every problem is different.
When choosing a plumbing contractor in Portland, OR or Vancouver, WA, it’s better to investigate the quality of their work and experience. Instead of cost, consider things like:
- Is the plumber licensed and trained to handle local safety codes?
- How long has the plumbing company been in business?
- Does the plumbing company have a good reputation?
- Is the plumbing company insured in the event of an injury?
- Is the rate hourly or project-based?
- Does the rate include materials?
These questions will give you a clearer outline of whether the company is qualified to handle your plumbing problem.
Another huge factor in cost is the problem itself. You might think you’re facing a simple issue, but it could be the symptom of something much bigger.
For example, in the Pacific Northwest, clogged drains are commonly caused by tree root invasion. This is a much bigger threat to your plumbing then a clump of hair stuck in the shower drain. But how could a plumber know which is the actual cause of your clogged drain without a detailed in-person inspection?
Another example is water heaters. Water heater services may seem straightforward, but there are a lot of variables that affect water heater repair and replacement. Here are just a few factors that affect the plumbing cost for a new water heater:
- The type (gas, electric, solar, hybrid, tankless, etc)
- The location (basement, laundry room, garage, etc)
- Size of tank
- Is it easily accessible?
- Do you have the correct pipes and condensation drainage already in place?
- Are the pipes in good shape?
- What material are your pipes and fittings?
- Is the space large enough to accommodate a new, larger tank?
- Will drywall be removed or repatched during installation?
You can see how so many details affect the scope of work! Because of this, it’s nearly impossible to give an accurate price without investigating the situation.
With insight on the many factors that a plumber is faced with, our Service Manager, Don, explains that many homeowners aren’t familiar enough with plumbing to know what they’re looking at:
“Asking a non-expert to describe the problem is not the same as a journeyman plumber examining all the details in-person.”
Don says that’s why in-home estimates by a professional are so important. How can they really know what’s going on without getting their eyes on the problem?
Pricing over the phone is also challenging because the person you’re talking to isn’t a plumbing specialist.
How To Identify The Correct Plumbing Problem
The person answering your call is often referred to as a Customer Service Representative (CSR) or Dispatcher. Their role is customer service, scheduling, and dispatching.
Your friendly CSR will listen to your needs and ask questions like:
- What problem are you experiencing?
- How long has this been happening?
- How old is the equipment?
- Have you taken any steps to fix the issue?
While they might be familiar with industry terminology, or they might sound like they know a bit about plumbing, they are not a licensed and trained technician.
Don’t expect a CSR to know the ins and outs of plumbing. A quote from a CSR would be nothing more than a guess.
Having a skilled plumber on-site to investigate your plumbing is the only way to correctly determine the problem.
What If I Take A Picture Or Video?
Some customers will ask if they can just send a picture or video to get a quote. While a visual is helpful, Don says it’s not enough information to correctly diagnose the problem:
“A picture doesn’t do it justice. What’s on the other side of the wall? Was the plumbing installed without a permit? Are pipes corroded and rotting away? A pro needs to look at the whole plumbing system. You’ve got to turn on the water, test the pressure, look into the drain… You can never give a final price if you can’t see it in-person.”
And without accurate troubleshooting, how can you be sure the repair is actually going to fix the problem?
After all, if you’re paying for work to be done, you want the result to last. That’s where a dispatch fee comes in.
Why A Dispatch Fee? And What Does It Include?
Some people bristle when they hear a company say “dispatch fee.” But it’s an essential part of investing in a lasting solution for your plumbing.
Dispatch fees are very common in the home service industry. You may hear different terms like “consultation,” “inspection,” or “proposal,” but they all mean the same thing; you’re investing in a visit from a licensed, bonded and insured technician who’s an expert in their field to assess the situation.
You’re not just paying for the time a plumber spends at your home, you’re paying for years of experience, skilled craftsmanship, tools, equipment, and on-going education.
Don likes to fill customers in on a dirty little industry secret. He explains:
“Many companies won’t claim to have dispatch fees. But chances are that cost is hidden within their standard pricing. Most people will end up paying for a dispatch fee whether they realize it or not.”
At D&F Plumbing, we do our best to be up-front and transparent. Paying for quality is crucial to your plumbing’s lifespan and performance. Because of that, we charge a competitive dispatch and diagnosis fee for our highly-skilled plumbers.
D&F Plumbing’s dispatch fee guarantees:
- You’ll get on the schedule quickly: Same-day appointments are a must in your time of need!
- You can enjoy the undivided attention of a qualified technician: Instead of rushing out the door to get to the next customer, your plumber will spend time focusing on your plumbing.
- Your tech will get their eyes on the problem: This allows them to properly evaluate your unique problem and find the right solution.
- You’ll have years of training and industry knowledge at your disposal to find you the best, long-lasting repair.
The dispatch fee also includes a complimentary, in-depth 5-point visual inspection. This is the best way to have all your most important plumbing components checked while you already have a plumber in your home.
Homeowners love taking advantage of the 5-point inspection for preventative maintenance and avoiding emergencies!
What To Expect From An Inspection
How can you get the most for your money when a trained expert arrives to look at your plumbing? Don says to make sure you:
“Hire a plumbing contractor who will inspect the whole plumbing system to look for deeper, underlying causes, not just the task at hand.”
With an in-home inspection, Don says you should expect a good plumber to:
- Examine the problem and all associated problems
- Take you along and show you what they see
- Educate you on any available options
- Bring other potential problems to your attention
- Go over any factory warranties
- Review your solution and explain clear, upfront pricing
Having a plumber stop by for a repair or maintenance isn’t a bad thing. It’s a good time for you to be notified of any possible future problems. This will save you from surprise emergencies, inconvenience, and damage to your home.
“Bringing any other problems to your attention isn’t to upsell. It’s to protect you. It’s an education.”
Don explains that a good plumber should be honest with customers, even when it’s not what they want to hear. The ultimate goal is solving the real problem, not slapping on a bandaid.
At D&F Plumbing, we love problem-solving. Investigating the root cause of your plumbing issue is just the beginning. Our 5-point visual inspection will safeguard your plumbing and wallet. And we always offer pricing-by-the-project and options to keep the repair in your control.
Need the help of an experienced plumber? Our techs pay attention to the little details and provide fast, high-quality work. Call D&F Plumbing to schedule a qualified specialist today!