One of the most frustrating things about the plumbing business is having to compete not only against hundreds of other plumbing companies, but also against hundreds of other so-called plumbers who practice the trade illegally. Usually one- or two-person operations, these are people who fail to obtain required plumbing licenses and otherwise ignore laws established to protect public health and safety. The work they do will often violate plumbing codes and they will avoid pulling permits for jobs that require them.
The Importance of Hiring Licensed Plumbers
Some unlicensed plumbers are household handymen who have never had any training in the plumbing trade. Others may be trained plumbers who were laid off or quit their jobs. They may know their way around a plumber’s toolbox but cut corners so they can charge cheap rates.
As the old saying goes, you get what you pay for. Be careful when dealing with ultra-cheap plumbers. They can cost you a lot more than meets the eye.
First of all, it reveals something about a person’s character to skirt the law. Do you really want to do business with someone who cheats? If someone breaks the rules governing his trade, do you think that person would hesitate to pull a fast one on you? Can you trust that person to come back and fix a problem if his work proves faulty?
Most important, you want to protect the health and safety of yourself and loved ones. Plumbing codes and licensing laws are established to assure that plumbers know how to safely work with electrical and gas connections and avoid cross-connections between fresh water and wastewater lines, just to name a few potential dangers. Plumbing codes specify safe practices, even though you may be able to save money by ignoring them.
In certain jurisdictions, potentially hazardous jobs like installing a water heater may require pulling a permit. Permits are usually a small part of the total cost of a job, but illegal plumbers will often try to save a few bucks by ignoring them. A permit allows building authorities the opportunity to inspect for compliance with codes. (In the real world, most installations go uninspected, simply because there are never enough inspectors. But the possibility of an inspection at least creates an incentive to do the job right.)
One more morsel of food for thought: “plumbers” who operate without a license usually are uninsured or barely so, because most insurance providers require proof of licensing. Without insurance, if something goes wrong and your home suffers damage, the only way to collect will be to sue the person who did the work. In most cases it will cost a lot more to hire a lawyer than you stand to gain in restitution.
So beware when someone quotes a suspiciously low price for plumbing or any other household repair or maintenance services. First thing you should do is ask for proof of licensing and insurance. If they can produce them, then ask yourself, what corners are they cutting that enables them to work so cheap?