What to Know When Working With a Professional Plumber

A professional plumber working with a clogged sink.

Sometimes, you need professional help. Before you hire a plumber, make sure you know what to expect, what they can’t do, and what you can actually DIY to fix your own plumbing problems. Get prepared for your plumber's visit and work with them the right way so you’ll end up paying less and getting more out of the professional you pick. When you know how to work with a professional plumber, you’ll end up having a better experience that’s less expensive.

Use a Pro

First and foremost, make sure you choose a professional plumber or company. Ask if they have a license, and if it's a master's license or a journeyman's license. Make sure they are fully insured, which protects both you and the plumber. Ask if any warranty or guarantee comes with the work. Some companies will give a one-year warranty on all work, for example. You can also do a quick check online for the company and see if there are negative reviews or ratings about them.

Plumber Prep

Plumbers can't come the instant you call them. Even if your problem seems like a serious emergency, you may have to wait while someone else's emergency is fixed. Make things easier on yourself by knowing where your shut-off valves are. Not only does every toilet and sink have its own shut-off valve (just check the pipes to find it), but there's a main shut-off valve for your entire home. This may be outside or in the basement, if you have one. Locate your shut-offs. If you have a leak and water is going everywhere, shut it off while you wait for the plumber. This is the first thing they'll do once they arrive at your house, anyway. This will save you a little extra time and a lot of extra water damage.

What They Won't Do

A professional plumber will not create a huge mess in your home and simply walk away. Plumbers will clean up after themselves. They carry items to cover their shoes and clothing, if needed, so they don't bring outside dirt into your home. They will clean any grime left behind by their tools.

What they won't do is clean up stuff that was already there. If you have standing water in your tub from a clog, the plumbers will get the drain flowing again—but they won't clean the dirt left behind by the water. Water damage done to your floors, walls, and fixtures also aren't the plumber's fault; you will have to clean and repair these areas yourself.

Be Forthcoming

Someone using a plumbing snake in a bathtub.

Don't hold information back from the plumber. Tell them everything about the problem you're having, and anything you may have already done to try to fix it. If you've used drain cleaners to treat a clog, for example, let the plumber know. What the plumber will tell you is that drain cleaners do their job too well; they eat away at your pipes in addition to clogs. If you want to use DIY skills to clear clogs yourself, use a snake or try a plunger and leave the drain cleaner at the store.

DIY Option

Someone working in the tank of a toilet.

There are some plumbing problems you can treat yourself, so you don't always have to call a plumber. A running toilet, for example, is often fixed with a simple piece called a flapper or a flap valve. This costs just a few dollars at any home improvement store and can be simply swapped out. Just take the lid off your toilet tank and flush the toilet. The rubber piece that lifts up inside the tank, usually at the bottom, is the flapper. Try replacing this and see if it fixes your running toilet problem.

Use Your Plumber

Many plumbing companies are going to charge a one-hour minimum no matter how long it takes to fix your problem. So while you have a plumber available, have them check every little problem you have. Chances are, there are little leaks and other issues all over the house whose repairs you've been putting off. Go ahead and use your plumber while they're on the premises, and have them address every little problem— at least until your hour is up, anyway.

Plumbers can help you change your water heater temperature, check water pressure, and sometimes remove the water saver from your shower for you. It's against the law in some states, but if you want more pressure, some plumbers will do this for you anyway. It never hurts to ask.