Have your water pipes burst? Is there no hot water? God forbid – is the toilet refusing to flush? It could be time to call in a plumber!

Plumbers install, repair and service almost anything relating to plumbing equipment: that means water and gas pipes, fixtures, central-heating system, drinking-water systems, and waste-disposal systems (or toilets, as you might know them better).

There is, however, a real shortage of plumbers, which means that the good ones are always busy and that prices can often be higher than you would like.

Contained in this guide is information on when you might need a plumber, where to find one, approximate costs, and some essential advice when dealing with plumbers.

When might I need one?

There are two types of occasions when you may need a plumber: for general maintenance and in case of an emergency.

As you might expect, plumbers’ rates are a lot higher under ‘emergency’ circumstances, but more on that later.

Common services that a plumber might offer include:

  • Fixing replacing, or servicing water or gas pipes;
  • Fixing, replacing, or servicing a central heating system (boilers, radiators);
  • Fixing, replacing or installing bathroom fittings (shower, sink);
  • Fixing, replacing or installing kitchen fittings (dishwasher).

In addition to these common jobs, some plumbers will also offer assistance with other types of work such as kitchen tiling.

What are the benefits of using a licensed plumber over a D.I.Y. job?

Performing an extremely basic task, such as changing a tap washer or reading a meter is something that most people will be happy to do themselves. However, more complex tasks are normally way beyond most homeowners’ level of expertise.

Unless you are confident, and have some prior plumbing experience, it is probably best to leave anything important or complex to the professionals: not only can you cause serious and potentially very costly damage to your house’s plumbing system, but – if your work is not up to scratch – you might actually be breaking the law!

Anyone who modifies a plumbing system, connected to the water supply, is subject to the same regulations and standards as a professional plumber. If you fail to comply, and are caught, you could face prosecution and monetary fines.

Besides this, a plumber will have years of expertise and know-how, and will often be able to fix the problem far quicker than you will, in addition to giving you peace of mind. Also, bear in mind that a job may require specialist tools or knowledge that you do not have access to.

One last, and fairly major, advantage of using a plumber as opposed to doing a D.I.Y. job is this: you will have someone to go back to if something should go wrong. When you consider the cost of replacing an entire central heating system, for example, this becomes a major advantage.

What qualifications/accreditation’s should you look for?

It’s important to use a properly qualified plumber to ensure that their techniques and knowledge are top-notch.

Recently qualified plumbers will have a National Vocational Qualification (NVQ). It is widely recommended that they have a Level 2 NVQ as a minimum, with a Level 3 being an advantage.

Plumbers who qualified a little less recently are likely to have City & Guilds qualifications in plumbing at the Advanced Craft level. In fact, experienced older plumbers may well have started off as an apprentice and progressed in this manner. If this is the case, they may not hold any qualification whatsoever, but will have lots of experience and should be very competent.

The easiest way to ensure that your plumber is sufficiently qualified and up-to-date with relevant advances is to use a plumber who is a member of the Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineering. All members of the IPHE are vetted to ensure that their qualifications and work experience are adequate.

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