Top 10 Things You NEED to Know About Plumbers
- Why do we need plumbers?
If you’ve ever had a bad experience with a plumber, or had to pay a plumber for a job you felt you could’ve done yourself, you may have asked yourself: why do I even need a plumber? We totally understand where you’re coming from! The answer to this question is a lot easier to comprehend if you’ve ever felt “saved” by a plumber. If you’ve felt wronged by a plumber, the answer probably won’t resonate with you. And the answer to the question: why do we need plumbers is, because of licensing, training, and expertise. There are many situations in plumbing that can create problems if not handled properly, and licensed plumbers are trained to handle these situations properly.
It’s sad that so many people have had bad experiences with plumbers, and it makes our job even more difficult when we have to walk into a home where the homeowner has felt wronged by a plumber in the past. Then again, that also is an opportunity to turn a denier into a believer. It would be easy for a plumber to walk into that house, do the job, and get out with the “rip-it-off-like-a-bandage” mentality. But a good plumber will go above and beyond to show the homeowner what they’re doing and why they’re doing it. Demonstrating value to the customer can really create a beneficial customer relationship for everyone.
- What does a plumber work on?
A simple rule of thumb is to ask yourself: Does this involve water, sewer, or gas? If you answered yes to any of those, a plumber is the right person to call. The last part; gas, is something that not all homeowners are aware of. Plumbers have the license to work on gas, and not just gas lines that go to water heaters. They also work on gas lines that go to stoves, fireplaces, and any other fixture or appliance that uses gas as well as the lines in your yard. If you think you have a gas leak or a problem with a gas fixture or appliance you should call a plumber. If it’s a situation that you feel is threatening your safety, call the gas company to turn your gas off immediately.
Plumbers can also work on water lines. This include everything from the city meter up into your house and to every fixture that calls for water. A water line problem might not be as dangerous as gas issues, but a ruptured water line, or a water line leak can cause extensive damage to your home. If the proper steps aren’t taken before beginning a project involving live water lines, you may end up with a lot of water in places you don’t want it.
Sewer: Everyone knows that plumbers work on sewer lines. So much so, that when plumbers meet people for the first time outside of work, most people ask something along the lines of “Do you ever get used to the smell?” Unless a plumber is working on a sewer, there probably isn’t any bad smells. So what does a plumber work on? Every line that brings water and gas into your home, and every line that takes waste out of your home. If your issue involves any of those, you need to call a plumber.
- Why are plumbers so expensive?
If a plumber had a nickel for every time a customer asked why the prices were so high, that plumber wouldn’t have to be a plumber ever again. Yes, sometimes plumbers charge more than a client expects, but keep in mind that not all plumbers are created equal. Like many things, plumbers who charge more, usually have reason for it. Whether it’s their extensive training, or it’s the equipment they use, or possibly even that the plumber goes above and beyond just fixing a minor repair then leaving for the next job. In Texas, it takes five years to become a Journeyman Plumber. On top of that, the companies they work for spend a lot of money investing in training and background checks, as well as tools and equipment for their plumbers to make the jobs easier and accurate. These types of investments have a purpose; to make plumbers better at their job. The vast majority of plumbing companies want to help people and provide a positive experience for their customers. Sometimes that involves investing in specialized equipment, training, uniforms and vehicle paint/wraps. Also, plumbers are in high demand. There are just not enough plumbers to fix all the problems that these buildings and homes have. On top of all this, plumber wages are high. Plumbing companies have to at least pay market value wages in order to attract good plumbers, and the wages keep rising. Most plumbers hate having to tell customers about expensive bills or jobs. We understand that most people live on a pretty tight budget. But these problems won’t go away unless a trained professional gets out there to fix it.
- Are plumbers in demand in the US?
Absolutely! According to IBIS World in 10/2017, there are just over 473,000 plumbers, in the United States. The US has a population of over 325 million. That means there are about 687 residents per 1 plumber in the United States. That’s a major workload! Now consider that some areas are more densely populated than others, meaning that the distribution of plumbers isn’t equal across all parts of the country. Now consider all the new buildings popping up everywhere. Those buildings will need plumbers as well! If these trends continue, plumbers will be quite the hot commodity in the near future! It doesn’t just stop with plumbers either; electricians, welders, HVAC technicians all are in high demand and their demand will continue to grow as the population increases and people stop going into the trades instead of opting for college. We like to tell young people who are looking for direction to consider becoming a plumber, electrician, HVAC tech or something like that because the demand is very high, so the likelihood of getting a good paying job is high, and also, the cost of learning a trade is much less expensive than the cost of college tuition.
- What plumbers don’t like to tell homeowners…
There’s a few things that plumbers hate to tell homeowners.
- Believe it or not, most plumbers hate to tell homeowners that the cost of a job is going to be very expensive. Some plumbers know their value, the cost of materials, and the cost of labor very well, but often a plumber can tell if a family is on a tight budget.
- Plumbers hate to tell a customer that someone screwed them over in the past. While there are a lot of great people in plumbing, there are still some bad apples. It’s all too common that we hear horror stories of plumbers either charging someone way too much money, or kind of holding a customer hostage. Not literally, but metaphorically. Here’s an example; we had a customer call us because she thought she had a gas leak. She called a plumber and he came out for about 5 minutes, turned her gas off, and told her she needed an entire new yard service. He told her the repair would cost $10,000 dollars and that she had to pay that in order to get her gas turned back on. She called us for a second opinion. When we arrived we noticed she had a leak, but the repair was very minor and only a fraction of the price of what she had been quoted. All too often, people pay for services they don’t need. We hate telling them when that has happened. It gives our industry a bad name.
- How do plumbers do their job?
This question is a little confusing, it could be literally taken as “how does a plumber walk through the process of plumbing?” or it could be more of a figurative question… We’re going to answer the literal version.
- First the plumber arrives at the office, where they get prepped for the day. They make sure their truck is tidy, that have all their equipment, depending on who they work for they might do a morning training and briefing, then they go to their first call of the day according to dispatch.
- Next the plumber heads to the job. The plumber may first need to stop by a supply house to pick up some materials that are specific for the job.
- Once the plumber arrives, he or she will get more information, do their evaluation and a better idea of the issue that needs to be resolved.
- Once the plumber understands the issue they will then decide what the best ways to resolve the issue are and report to the homeowner.
- The homeowner will pick the option the like best and give the plumber approval to perform the work.
- The plumber can now get to work resolving the issue. The plumber wants to make sure they work quickly, but also wants to make sure that the job is performed properly and that no steps are skipped.
- Once the job is completed the plumber will then inform the homeowner that the work is completed and will walk them through what they did. Usually at this point the plumber will collect payment and make sure they’ve tidied up any messes they may have made.
- Before the plumber leaves the house they will call dispatch for a debriefing and to get their net assignment for the day.
Of course, things don’t always work out this smoothly and sometimes on-the-job differentiations must be made. In these cases, the more experience the plumber has, the better. These steps aren’t very detailed as well, there are certain processes in place for each step that is particular to each plumbing company. This was just a general overview.
- Why plumbers hate Drano…
The simplistic answer is because there’s a good chance it won’t work. Also, they can be very harmful not only to your plumbing system, but also to the plumber that has to come clean out the drain. The chemicals inside Drano are harsh. Very harsh. Sometimes they can damage the plumbing system you were trying to save. When we think of sewers, we often tend to think of the most bacteria infested, disgusting places ever. But here’s a little bit of truth; not all the bacteria in your sewer is bad bacteria. That’s right, there are actually some good bacteria that live in there that can eat some of the sludge and stuff inside. You can’t count on them alone to clean your drains, however. But if you pour harsh chemicals that kill bacteria down your drain, you’re killing our little allies down there as well as the villains. There is a new product out that we do recommend for sewers, it’s called Bio One and it’s a probiotic that feeds on the stuff in your pipes, essentially cleaning them. We sell this at our office and we include it in our Drain Cleaning specials.
Back to the Drano though, if a plumber arrives to clean out a drain, please let them know if you’ve poured any chemicals down there so that they can be extra cautious and take care of the water and chemicals stuck in there properly. If you have poured chemicals down the drain with standing water, your plumber needs to wear proper gloves, a respirator, and safety glasses to safely handle the drain cleaning. They will also need to be careful with any tools and equipment they use to clean the drain out, and clean them off properly.
- How do plumbers find leaks?
Finding leaks is a combination of three things: the right training, the right equipment, and the right knowledge of plumbing systems. A plumber or a leak detection specialist can use all three to find the leak, and even walk you through multiple options of repair. While in the state of Texas leak detection does not require a license, it does require proper training of the processes used to find the leak. Since water leaks, sewer leaks, and gas leaks are all different, they have to be found differently.
- When it comes to water lines, plumbers or leak detections specialists will allow water to run through the system in the area where the homeowner has indicated that they’ve seen water and use geophones to listen for running water. They can then determine, with pretty good accuracy where the leak is.
- As far as sewer lines go, this can often take a little bit longer. The process involves test balls that can be inflated to plug up the sewer line. Then the system will be filled with water and monitored to see if it holds water. The test ball will then be pushed further into the system and into different branches of the system to isolate the lines. This allows our plumbers to narrow their search. Then a camera can be used to see inside the pipes where plumbers or leak detectors can find cracks or breaks in the line. Certain cameras can send electronic signals out so that a detector can find the exact spot where the issue is. Again, the plumber will be able to help the homeowner determine the best method of repair.
- Gauges can be put on gas system to make sure they hold pressure, if they do not there’s a few different ways to look for the leak. On the connections and fittings that are exposed, soap and water can be sprayed on the pipes, if there is a leak present it will creates bubbles. If it is a line that can’t be accessed more pressure may have to be added to make the leak make a louder noise. Gas leaks are dangerous and should be addressed as soon as you think there is one.
- What are a plumbers most common tools?
Pipe wrenches, crescent wrenches, channel locks, pliers, screwdriver or drill with a variety of bits, pipe cutters, pipe dope, PVC primer and glue, key-hole saw, torch for soldering, flux, solder. And to be honest, a whole lot more. Often plumbers have more than one tool bag. Different bags for different types of jobs. Working on fixtures a plumber may only needs a few wrenches and some basic tools for water line repair. If installing appliances the plumber may need some different tools to make sure the installation goes the right way and the appliance fits where it needs to. If working on water heaters, a plumber may need a few different tools to work on individual parts or on all the connections and fittings on it.
Have you ever seen the inside of a plumber’s truck? It’s a minimalists worst nightmare! There’s tools, materials, rags, glues and other adhesives. But it’s all there for a reason, because the plumber needs it. There seems to be this rule that as soon a plumber takes a tool out because they never use it, they’ll need it the day the take it out. Then it takes time to run to a store to buy another or run to the shop to pick their tool up. Some more common tools, well actually equipment, are sewer machines. There are companies that actually have trucks stocked only for drain cleanings and they have guys who run drain cleaning calls all day. For those companies they can perform many drain cleanings per day and they would definitely call sewer machine their most common tool.
- What plumbers wish you knew…
Where to start with this one? There’s a million things plumbers would love for their customers to know, so we’ll just do some basics.
- Know what goes in a drain, and what goes in the trash! Putting the wrong things down the drain (even with a garbage disposal) can cause big problems! When in doubt, just toss it in the trash.
- Know who’s the real deal. Believe it or not, there are people out there who will try to confuse you and make you think they’re an expert when really they don’t know anything at all. Using those kinds of people can lead to damage in your plumbing system and all sorts of headaches that you don’t want to have!
- Chemicals usually don’t work. When it comes to a clogged sink, either take the P-trap apart and clean it out yourself or call a plumber to. As we discussed earlier, chemicals can usually just cause more damage.
- You water heater needs some love every now and then. You can’t just forget about it and expect it to run like new forever. We have lots of info on water heaters, check out our water heater blog.
- The biggest and most important thing plumbers want you to know is that we’re just trying to help. Sometimes being a plumber nightmare can make you feel vulnerable, and we just want to get your house back up to running order.