Our homes are the places where we spend our most precious moments, surrounded by the people we love. That is why taking care of the homes we live in is so important. Ensuring their appropriate protection also means ensuring our own safety and comfortable living. But protecting our homes is not always an easy task as there are many risk factors that can harm their exploitation quality, exterior and interior aesthetics, healthy climate and overall functionality. Taking care and ensuring their prevention is a complex process consisting of careful initial planning and thorough continuous maintenance.
When it comes to defining the potential problems that our home may experience and the way they could be solved, the most important thing is, first of all, to find out how and why have they arisen. One of the main sources and risk factors that threaten the overall functionality and exploitation qualities of a home are water leakages and moisture. Because of the fact that such risks can cause significant problems, by spreading across the whole home, it is very important to tackle and prevent them at the right time. But finding what is the real reason and source of such problems can be a really tough task. That is when we should seek professional assistance.
Plumbers: when to contact one
Unidentified water leakage, problems with the drainage system, broken pipes, bathtub installation or insulation and so on and so forth – there are numerous reasons for you to call a plumbing company. But the main thing that you should do when it comes to water leakage or moisture problems is to act quickly. Do not hesitate to call a professional once you notice a specific problem.
Because of the fact that water leakage and moisture issues can spread very rapidly across your whole home and result into significant harms for its overall functionality and exploitation characteristics, tackling them in the right time is essential for mitigating the potential damage to the problematic areas and the surrounding premises. If you wonder when you should seek professional help, here is a list of few important signs that will warn you:
The first signs of potential water leakage and moisture problems in your home, often are visual ones. Such problematic issues usually lead to discoloring, peeling of the wall and ceiling finish, stains formation and etc. If you notice such problems in your home, it is important for you to seek professional help. These signs are alarming for the presence of serious issues, most of the time result from running water due to water leakage from a compromised drainage system, broken pipes, worsened hydro insulation and etc. Although most of time you will be able to notice the consequences from water- and moisture-related problems, there are some cases, when you won’t be able to do so. For example, if your home has dark-painted walls, you will hardly notice the stains formation. Or if you are not used to paying much attention to the corners of the rooms, you may not find the little spots, responsible for the mold formation. In these cases, you will most probably notice the worsened functionality and structural stability of different components in your home.
Structural stability and functionality
These unpleasant problems can tackle various structurally-important components of your home. For example, a broken pipe or a leakage from the drainage system may result into water penetration below the tiles in the bathroom and significantly harm the strength of the adhesive’s bond with the base. As a result of that you will have loosened joints, detached tiles, and cracks that should be fixed. Neighboring premises are prone to such problems too, as the finish of their walls and ceilings can be significantly harmed.
Water leakage and moisture penetration can lead to many other problems as well. One of them is the specific and very unpleasant smell that can start spreading across the different premises in your home. Bear in mind that if you find such problem to be present, you should be willing to check all the walls, ceilings and the corners between them for dark or green spots as mold and mildew formation may be the main reason for that. If this is the actual root of the problem, you can tackle it very effectively all by yourself. But it is important to localize the main source of moisture that has led to the mold and mildew formation – is it a leakage, a condensational issue or something else?
Mold, mildew, stains formation, discoloring, loosened adhesive and joints – all these consequences may be solved by yourself. But bear in mind that if the root of the problem is not found and tackled, these issues will appear again in the near future. That way you will be wasting your money for needless remodeling works, while the source of the leakage will be left active. That is why if you find some of the listed alarming signs, you should get in touch with a professional plumbing company to come on sight and run a thorough inspection.
Plumbing contractors and what they can do for you
First of all, it is important to make sure that you are able to differentiate a plumbing contractor from a plumber. That way you will know what type of professional should you call, depending on the complexity of the problem you face. Plumbing contractors are specialized in major plumbing services that require advanced technologies, better skillsets and more workforce. If you have a minor problem like a leaky sink, you may once again call a plumbing contractor but the company may be willing to send you either a subcontractor or refuse to deal with your case at all, because they are specialized in major projects.
Plumbing companies are one of the most important contractors that you can hire, because of the fact that their business is focused on solving the most persistent and complex problem that your home can face – water leakages and moisture penetration. Professional plumbing contractors will not only deal with the installation or repair of your shower stall or sink – just the opposite – they will handle various specific tasks such as bathtub, pipes, faucets, sewers, drainage installation and repair and many others. But what is the most important, is that they will be able to spot and fix the water leakage problem in your home by tracking it all the way from the actual consequences (dark spots, mold, moisture or etc.) right to its roots.
Many homeowners think that finding the source of a leakage is an easy task. And that is their main mistake. For example – imagine that you are living in an apartment on the second floor of a given building. You have neighbors above and below your apartment – on the third and on the first floor. One day you find out that in the corner between the ceiling and the wall (that appears to be external for the building), there are mold and mildew that has started to appear. You immediately put the blame on your neighbors from the above apartment as it looks obvious that the problem is rooted somewhere there. But soon you find out that the neighbor below has the exact same problem and your initial judgement of the situation may not be the accurate.
This is a real-life example that will require you to consult a professional home advisor and plumbing specialists so that they will be able to track the problem and find out the exact source for the consequences that you and your neighbors are witnessing. After a brief inspection, the professional experts may conclude that the problem is due to a crack in the external side of the wall that during rainy weather (most of the time – side rains) is prone to water penetration. Due to the simple rules of gravity, the moisture that is left afterwards starts spreading downwards and the consequences of all that is the mold and mildew formation in your and your neighbor’s home. Or another possible reason for the leakage may be just a broken pipe that goes all the way through your apartments. With that said, bear in mind that the water leakage or moisture problems are rarely obvious as they are almost never at the same point as the visible damage. Due to the ability of the water to spread into every single crack that is finds and to take different paths through various construction elements in the building (usually the water takes the paths with least resistance), the consequences that we see are rather misleading for the root of the problem.
Depending on the type and the complexity of the problem that you are having, a professional plumbing contractor may not be able to locate the exact source for the leakage at first sight. But don’t worry, with the development of new technologies, there are some very comfortable ways for locating the roots for such problems like the thermal imaging cameras for example. The thermal imaging cameras offer non-invasive way to locate leaks in a given construction, without the need of initial wall or ceilings demolition. Also known as “infrared leak detection cameras”, this kind of equipment is essential for the professional plumbing company. But how does it work?
As thermal imaging cameras cannot locate water, they are designed to work in a different way, based on the simple walls of physics. After a given object becomes wet, due to air movement, a cooling effect appears on its surface (also known as “evaporation). The cameras are able to detect the effect of the water over the wet objects, their temperature and the surrounding environment. Every home inspector and plumbing contractor knows the benefits of the thermal imaging technology and will most probably suggest such solution if your problem appears to be hidden, but with serious consequences. Thermal imaging cameras will provide you with a visual, non-invasive way to locate leak sources instantaneously. On the top off that, if you have a home insurance, the expenses for such inspection will most probably be covered.
No matter whether it is a broken pipe, an external leak due to cracks in the stucco, condensation, slab, toilet, tub, shower, deck or roof one, an initial thermal imaging inspection will locate the exact problem and will make it cheaper and way easier to solve.
Plumbing services costs
When it comes to estimating the costs for hiring a professional plumbing contractor, it is important first of all to focus on the type of the problem that needs to be solved. Depending on the complexity of the tasks, the plumbing contractor will calculate the hours needed for the work to be completed and will then provide you with a final quote. Plumbing services are usually priced as a flat fee, instead of hourly (the flat rate is based on the hours needed for work). That way, you will be aware how much you should pay before starting the work process.
If your plumbing contractor works with flat fees, then you may expect receiving quotes, close to the following estimates:
|Type of work||Details||Approximate flat fee
|Installation of main water lines||The price is based on a 6-foot water line, made from copper||$1500 - $2300
|Leak repair||The price depends pretty much on the type of the leak. The following estimations are based on a broken pipe leak.||$200 - $300
|Pipeline installation||The price may vary due to the complexity of the project. The provided estimation is based on a 50 sq. ft. bathroom.||$2000 - $4500
|Drain cleaning||An easier process that won’t cost you a lot and may be handled even by a handyman.||$100 - $250
|Water heater installation||The provided estimate is only for labor. The price of the heating system can be anywhere from $500 to $1500.||$800 - $1500
|Bathtub installation||Average cost for a 5-foot long bathtub (labor and tub included).||$1800 - $3000
|Leak detection||The provided estimate is based on hiring a plumbing contractor who will perform a thermographic imaging inspection of a small area in your house. For whole-house inspection, you should expect to pay in the range of $800 - $1500.||$200 - $500
Although most of the plumbing contractors will charge you a flat fee, there are some who prefer sticking to hour rates payments. If the professional company you decide to hire to handle your project is one of them, you should expect to be charged in the range of $50 – $75 per hour. Also, if you are in the middle of an emergency situation and you have no previous experience or warranty from a plumbing contractor that you have worked with, you should expect to pay at a way higher hour rate such as $100 – $130 per hour.
10 questions to ask your plumbing company
As you already know, the water leaks and moisture problems are one of the most serious and hard-to-handle that your home may face. Solving them is not an easy task. And serious problems require serious experience. But finding a plumbing contractor that fits these requirements, to solve your problem can often be a tough task. The most popular way to do that is to ask a friend of yours to recommend you someone good enough. Although this is a useful strategy, it is always better if you do your homework and are well prepared to ask questions and request information.
You can always judge whether the contractor you are considering to hire is a good fit for your project, just by looking at his strategy and work ethics for solving your problem. For you to easily navigate the process of hiring a suitable plumbing contractor to handle the water-related problem in your home, here is a list of few questions that you should ask initially. Depending on the answers you receive, you will be able to judge whether you can trust the professional or you should move on to finding another one.
1) Ask whether the plumbing contractor has a license.
The first and the most typical question that you should start with. Although many people forget to ask it, it is even better if you go further and require a proof for the professional’s license and not take his words for granted. Being licensed means that the quality of the plumbing contractor’s services is backed by a local or state governing organization. You may think that this is not necessary, but bear in mind that, although a non-licensed professional may deliver the work professionally and effectively, your insurance company may decide to avoid covering it. And even if your problem is solved for now, there is no guarantee that you won’t experience the need for further remodeling or reconstruction works on the exact same area in the near future. If such thing happens, it will be very hard for you to request any warranty from a non-licensed professional. So paying less for the services of a non-licensed contractor is not your best choice if you want to ensure the future comfort of your home.
Bear in mind that a licensed professional plumber is required to take annual tests for re-certification in order to remain up to date with the current trends and building codes. This is something you will prefer your contractor to have, because if you opt to work with an unlicensed one, you risk the quality of execution of the whole project, as well as its compliance with the local building codes. Unlicensed plumbing contractors are unable to pull legal permits for different types of plumbing jobs, which may result in you paying for an illegal work, susceptible to fines if inspected.
2) Ask whether the plumbing contractor is insured.
Except having a license, your plumbing contractor needs to have a valid insurance too. That way, you will feel safe if any accidents or complications occur during the working process. You will also minimize the risk of experiencing any significant problems that later on, may cost you a lot to be fixed. The last thing you want is to cover for the medical bills of an injured worker, handling your plumbing project. The only way to avoid such issues is to request your plumbing contractor to show you his insurance. If he rejects or states that it is not active at the moment, you should better move on to hiring another professional.
When it comes to insurance, bear in mind that you should ask who will perform the work. A common problem is that the contractor is insured, but the people who are handling your projects (if other subcontractors are hired), are not. That way, the insurance of the contractor doesn’t mean anything. That is why it is important for you to ask who are the people that will be executing the works on your project.
3) Ask about background, references and if the contractor has solid experience in handling similar projects to yours.
Bear in mind that a good plumbing company will have plenty of satisfied customers behind his back and will be willing to show them on your request. You should always aim at receiving at least 5 different references, in order to be confident that your problem will be effectively solved by an experienced professional.
Checking the contractor’s credentials is also very helpful when judging whether he is the right one for your project. A trusted professional will be engaged in what they do and will be a part of different plumber unions, organizations like the Better Business Bureau or etc. in order to stay on top of the industry trends and building codes.
Last but not least, be sure to ask about the types of works that the contractor is specialized at and whether he can guarantee that your problem will be solved effectively for the long-term. Finding out what tasks the given plumbing company can handle best is an important thing to do before hiring him. That way, you will be quite sure that you have chosen a professional contractor that will help you restore the comfort of your home and fix your problems without hesitation.
4) Ask why he thinks he is the right one to handle your project.
That may sound you a bit harsh, but it is an important question, in case you are not in the middle of an emergency situation when you won’t care about the answer. If the contractor is licensed and has solid experience, you may also skip this point. But bear in mind that plumbing works are very specific and complex, and if you are not working with the right one, you risk damaging your whole home. There are some plumbers that aim at just taking your money, even if they have no previous experience with similar projects. That is why you should ask for and receive a brief explanation about their experience and the way he intends to solve the problem.
Of course if you have called the plumber to tighten your faucets, then you won’t need to ask such questions. But if your project is a complex one like bathtub installation, pipes repair or localizing leaks, then you should request to receive such information. And the plumbing contractor will be more than willing to share why he thinks he is the best match for your project, because he will be able to expose his strengths and previous experience.
5) Ask about the budget and the payment structure.
If you hire a licensed contractor with solid experience, you should not expect any complications with the financial side of the project. But there are some contractors that may act unprofessionally and lure you to pay earlier, at once or for some unexpected costs, add-ins and etc. When it comes to the cost estimation, there is one thing that you should be willing to request from the plumbing company – a valid contract with the total cost involved. Many contractors offer estimates to clients, at the start of the project, that are way lower than the amount that you will end up paying in the end, only for you to hire them initially. You may even receive such estimate on the phone, without any inspection. If that is the case – be aware that you will end up paying way more.
And even when the plumbing contractor comes at sight to check the characteristics of the problem and provide you with a final quote, you should ask whether materials and labor are included, because they can make the needed funds skyrocket.
Another thing to ask your contractor is whether the provided labor cost is hour or flat rate. That is a very important factor that can significantly change the total cost of your project. For example, if the provided labor cost is flat rate, the risk from prolonged working process and excessive complications is bared by the contractor. And on the other hand – if you are paying hourly rate, then you will be charged if, during the working process, some significant issues appear.
Bear in mind to ask about the payment schedule as well. You should be aware how much of the total cost, does the contractor wants to be payed initially. There are some contractors that may request for you to pay 90 or even 100% of the sum before they start working. If that is your case, do not hire them. The best-case scenario for you is to pay by milestones. That means that whenever a certain portion of the work is completed, you will be requested to pay a given amount. That way, you will be confident that you are paying only when the given stage of the project is fulfilled.
Last but not least, when it comes to the financial side of the project, ask about the amount of the contractor’s service fee. A service fee is basically a little sum that you pay for the contractor to visit your home and run an initial inspection. You are obliged to pay that fee no matter whether you decide to hire the given expert to handle your project or not. Most of the plumbing companies work with nonnegotiable flat fees, but it is always important for you to ask before you request a visit.
6) Ask whether the delivered work has some warranty and what are its terms.
You should be willing to find out the answer of this question before making the decision to hire a certain contractor. That is important because of the fact that plumbing works are very specific and complex ones that may often require some other refinishing tasks such as painting, tiling etc. For all these you will be spending additional funds and you do not want your brand new tiles to be removed in a year or two because of the fact that the plumbing works didn’t have the actual quality that you had paid for. Make sure to request having your warranty in a written form, because otherwise, you may be left only with verbal promises that will require you to pay some additional cash in order to fix a problem that is covered by the initial, “unofficial” warranty.
7) Ask whether the plumbing contractor is capable of handling mystery leaks and how.
This will tell you a lot about his work ethics and professionalism. The mystery leaks are a very common problem and if you haven’t heard about it, just run a Google search. You will be surprised when you see that there are more than 10 million results which means that people are facing such problems more than often. Mystery leaks basically make you see just the consequences of the water-related problem, such as dark spots, mold and mildew formation, loosened joints and tiles, peeling of wall and ceilings finish and so on and so forth. What differentiates the professional and experienced plumbing professional is the ability to find and solve such problems without the need to demolish your or your neighbor’s walls.
When you ask your contractor about such problems, he will most probably explain you whether he thinks that the leakage may be caused by a hidden component, or may lay elsewhere. Depending on his opinion, he will then use a thermal imaging camera in order to locate the roots of the leakage and explain to you the best and the least invasive ways to stop it. You can also go further and ask whether he has solved similar problems before and request some proofs for that – photos, references and etc. If the contractor has done it, he will be more than willing to show them to you.
8) Ask about the potential complications and challenges that may arise during the working process.
Plumbing, like many other construction or remodeling works, may offer some unexpected complications and if that is your case, do not be bothered. Instead, before hiring a contractor for the specific task, ask him about all the risks involved and what can go wrong during the process. That way, you will be prepared about any potential problems that may arise. When it comes to the plumbing contractor, he should be willing to tell you whether there are some potential issues that may arise and how difficult it may be to solve them. It is always better for the contractor to initially inform you about the risks involved, so that he will feel confident that nothing is left undiscussed. And bear in mind that if he says that there are no risks involved (depending on the complexity of the given task of course) and he is capable of handling everything without providing you any further clarity, it may be better for you to reconsider your choice.
9) Ask whether the given contractor offers a 24/7 emergency assistance.
Although many homeowners do not consider such service as a crucial one for choosing a given contractor, it is always better if the one you hire to handle your project will be able to react instantaneously if some sudden problems arise. Emergency plumbing situations require fast professional assistance and quick fixing, because they are able to cause significant damage to your home. Some experts suggest that the difference between a plumber arriving in the first hour of an emergency situation and one arriving whenever he could, may result in a complete water disaster costing you thousands of dollars.
10) Ask who handles the cleaning after the work is done.
Even if that doesn’t seem like an important question for you, bear in mind that plumbing works often result in pretty serious mess all around the place. The experienced and proven plumbing contractors will always take care of that once, they have finished the needed work, because they realize how important it is to leave the place as they had found it. Also, they value your feedback and understand that they should do whatever they can to satisfy you and make you feel that the money you have paid are worth it. Even if the cleaning process may take less than an hour, it is not your job to deal with the replaced pipes, old drainage components or the water all around your bathroom for example. You are paying for quality and professionally-delivered work and that is what you should receive in the end.
When it comes to choosing your plumbing contractor, there are some useful things that you should bear in mind in order to find the perfect solution for your project. And even when you find a suitable company to handle the works, it is always better if you take in consideration the following tips:
On thermal imaging cameras. The infrared cameras have proven themselves as the best industry choice when it comes to localizing hidden water leakage. Finding the problem may not be a solution itself, but it is always the first and most important step in this complicated process. If your contractor is about to run a thermal imaging inspection of your home, bear in mind to ask whether his technology provides temperature measurements also.
An infrared camera alone, without such features will not reveal any significant information about the structural condition and the further complications of the problem. It may also be a little bit misleading because often, infrared imaging alone can reveal a problem that actually does not exist. On the other hand, if the thermal imaging camera that your contractor has at his disposal, incorporate temperature measurements, the results of the inspection will be informative enough, which will help him create an effective work plan. Although infrared cameras are the best tools for locating a moisture- or water-related problem, sometimes the problem is simple and it is not necessary to pay for such services.
Experts recommend that you should request your professional plumbing contractor to run a thermal imaging inspection of your home after water damage events like floods, compromised pipes, roofs and etc. It is also advisable to proceed with such infrared diagnostics in case of warranty expiration of a new construction or before acquiring real estate (check whether the basement walls are covered by some finish that may hide potential moisture issues) in order to be confident that you won’t have any exploitation problems for the next few years. Be sure to have a thermal imaging inspection if doors, windows or other components of your home are suspected of leakages or in case you want to determine the quality of the existing insulation.
On mold and mildew formation. Although the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency suggests that there is no practical working strategy that can make you completely eliminate the mold spores in your home, there are some effective steps that you can take. First of all, do not fool yourself that if there are no visual signs, there is no mold in your home. In fact, it takes only 24 hours after a leak or massive moisture generation in particular areas of your home, for the spores to become active. That is why the easiest way to control mold formation is to control the moisture levels in your home. You can do that by investing in a humidity controlling unit or by ensuring a constant airflow passing through your premises. That way you will make your home less vulnerable to mold and mildew formation. Bear in mind that if you find some visual signs of them, it may be indicative of a serious water- or moisture-related problem. You should focus on removing the mold as soon as possible, so that you will be able to secure a more comfortable and healthy climate in your home, while the plumbing contractor is focused on fixing the real source of the problem.
Finding a suitable plumbing contractor is not always a pleasant task because it means that you are already having a problem to solve. But if you manage to find a trusted and experienced company, you should feel confident that whatever the issue you have to deal with is, it will be solved quickly and professionally. The most important thing that you have to do when you are about to hire a plumbing contractor for your project is to check whether he is licensed and certified. These are factors that are industry musts and at the same time, act as a clear sign that the quality of the work that you are paying for, is guaranteed by leading professional organizations.