Hiring a Plumber

Advice on when to hire a plumber, finding a plumber, verifying their qualifications, planning your plumbing work, what you need to do during the project and what to do if things go wrong.

When To Hire a Plumber

What plumbing concerns warrant calling a plumber?

Whether it’s fixing a dripping tap or adding a new bathroom, it is always best to ensure whoever you employ to undertake the work is qualified and experienced to do so. You may feel that you could probably have a go at changing tap washers yourself, but do you know where to turn the water off, and are you using the correct materials? Unless you are entirely confident that you can safely undertake the work yourself, it is strongly recommended that you hire a qualified professional to ensure proper fittings are used and to protect the quality of your water supply.

How do I know if I should contact a plumber or my water company?

The plumbing system in your home or business is your responsibility. That includes the section of underground supply pipe that comes into your property, generally from the property’s boundary. For this section of supply pipe there are two options:

  • Check to see if your water company offers free repairs to underground supply pipes – some companies do, so it may be worth contacting them first
  • Contact a plumber to fix any problems.

If you are experiencing a problem with your water quality or are not sure if the fault is within your home or business, it is always worth contacting your water company first for advice.

Finding a Plumber

How do I find a plumber in my area?

The WaterSafe website has a list of local approved plumbing businesses that it has already vetted. If you need to find a local approved plumbing business, use our postcode search facility. 

Are there approved plumbing businesses throughout the UK?

Yes. There are approved plumbing businesses in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. 

What if I can’t find an approved plumbing business close to me?

If you can’t find an approved plumbing business nearby, don’t worry. Some plumbers will travel to get to you. Use the WaterSafe search facility to expand your search to a wider area. By entering the first part of another postcode in your county, district or borough, you will have a better chance of getting results.

Why can’t WaterSafe arrange for a plumber to visit my house or business premises instead of giving me numbers to ring?

WaterSafe aims to give customers the best possible choice of approved plumbing businesses. We list those businesses in each postcode area and leave the final decision up to you, safe in the knowledge that each one of our member businesses employs plumbers who are suitably qualified and competent to do the work.

What is a WaterSafe approved plumbing business?

A WaterSafe approved plumbing businesses must already be an eligible member of one of the six existing Approved Contractor Schemes that make up WaterSafe. These are:

  • The Water Industry Approved Plumbers’ Scheme (WIAPS)

  • Association of Plumbing and Heating Contractors (APHC)

  • Chartered Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineering (CIPHE) Approved Contractor Persons

  • Scottish and Northern Ireland Plumbing Employers’ Federation (SNIPEF) Water Regulations Approved Contractors’ Scheme

  • Anglian Water’s A Plus

  • Severn Trent’s WaterMark

WaterSafe requires each member to employ suitably qualified and competent individuals. Each WaterSafe approved business must also have £2 million of public liability insurance, and employers’ liability cover – where appropriate – of £5 million in place.

WaterSafe requires each approved plumbing business to be audited within the first 12 months of membership as a minimum. Existing members are also audited on a regular basis.

To be suitably qualified, plumbers employed by a WaterSafe approved plumbing business are required to have a minimum of an NVQ level 2 in a plumbing related discipline and have a Water Fittings Regulations qualification.

What is a normal wait time to get an appointment for emergency work? For a non-emergency?

Each plumbing business will have different workloads and existing customers. The expected wait time could depend on this, in addition to the nature of the emergency. If you have a major leak, turn your water off at the internal stop tap (normally under your kitchen sink) and open all taps to drain the system. Even in an emergency, you may want to contact more than one plumber to get an idea of how soon they can schedule a visit.

For non-emergency work you should agree a suitable time for both yourself and the plumber for an appointment, bearing in mind this could be an evening or weekend. 

Verifying Qualifications

How do I know if a plumber is qualified to perform the work?

First, check their credentials. All WaterSafe approved plumbers have an ID badge with the WaterSafe logo, so you can ask to see their ID card.

You can also contact the plumber’s Approved Contractor Scheme to validate their membership and ask what their minimum membership requirements are. Ask if they can give you a breakdown of the range of works carried out by their members in your area.

Referrals and recommendations are another useful way to check a plumber’s competency and reliability but can’t always be guaranteed – that’s why we recommend using a WaterSafe approved plumbing business, as we’ve already done the competency checks for you. 

What information should a plumber provide prior to planning work?

In addition to their credentials and any referrals, you should always pick a plumber who can provide:

  • A physical address
  • A contact telephone number
  • An established time in business
  • Proof of insurance
  • Their WaterSafe Registration
  • Their Gas Safe Registration (if they work on gas systems)
  • Their Competent Person Scheme Registration - if applicable. This means they are qualified to carry out certain types of work (such as installing a new heating system or boiler) in accordance with Building Regulations. 

What are the benefits of choosing a WaterSafe approved plumbing business?

WaterSafe approved plumbing businesses are fully qualified to carry out plumbing work in homes and business premises. They have specific training in Water Fittings Regulations, which enables them to ensure there should be no risk from poor installation or sub-standard materials that could cause contamination of the drinking water supply.

For most types of plumbing work, plumbers have a legal duty to notify your water supply company before they start work - this can lead to delays. However, WaterSafe approved plumbing businesses can carry out some work without the need to provide this advanced notification to the water supply company.

A ‘work completed’ certificate issued by a WaterSafe approved plumbing business provides a defence for property owners who are challenged by a water supplier enforcing the Water Fittings Regulations and Byelaws.

WaterSafe approved plumbing businesses must also adhere to the WaterSafe code of conduct and customer commitments - where they fail to meet these standards, a disciplinary process applies. Furthermore, a WaterSafe approved plumbing business which fails to uphold the standards will be subject to a range of penalties; in serious cases, this would result in its membership of WaterSafe being revoked.

A WaterSafe approved plumbing business will be required to put their work right if it does not meet the requirements of the Water Fittings Regulations or Byelaws, enforced by the water supplier.

What qualifications should plumbers have?

Plumbers employed by a WaterSafe approved plumbing business need to have successfully completed at least an NVQ Level 2 in a plumbing related discipline as a minimum, and hold a water industry-recognised Water Fittings Regulations qualification to ensure they are competent and have the relevant knowledge. In addition, if a plumbing individual does gas work then they are legally obliged to be on the GasSafe Register.

Planning your Plumbing Work

How do I obtain a quote?

Clearly describe the work needed in writing, or draw sketches to provide to the plumber. Be sure you understand exactly what you need. Take advice, but don’t be afraid to ask questions and have them explain their reasoning. An experienced plumber will be happy to do this.

Always ask for a quotation, not an estimate. An estimate is just a rough guess of how much the work will cost, and it is not binding. They may need to provide an estimate if full information is not available at the pricing stage, such as if the work cannot be properly surveyed, but an experienced plumber should be able to give you a fixed price for the work.

In all but emergency work you should expect to receive a fixed price in writing prior to the work taking place. The quotation should provide detail on the range of works to be carried out and the price for that work.

Should I obtain multiple quotes before beginning work?

We recommend getting at least three quotes from qualified plumbers to ensure you get a reasonable price. If you have provided complete information, they should all be able to provide a comparative breakdown of the work to be undertaken. Be sure that all work is included in each quote so that your comparison is accurate.

The prices quoted may vary significantly. Be aware that the least expensive may not always be the best value, but the most expensive may not be the highest quality, either.

Is there anything I should be aware of when comparing quotes?

Be sure to check whether VAT applies to your quote or not – if it does apply, the price will go up by a further 20%, if this has not been included. Take this into account when comparing quotes.

Ask if any or all of the work is covered by a guarantee and how long it lasts. Check if any components supplied (e.g. a boiler) are covered by a warranty, and for how long.

If the price from your preferred plumber is higher than you can afford, talk to them to see if there is any way the price could be reduced. Don’t agree to start the work until you have agreed that the price quoted is acceptable.

If it is a big job, make sure start and completion dates are included on the contract.

What should be included in a plumbing contract?

Before you accept a quotation, you should form a proper contract. Verbal agreements are difficult to enforce and aren’t recommended.

A simple contract could be signed acceptance of the quote, while a more detailed contract could detail conditions and clauses that are binding on both parties – including what happens when things go wrong (which we cover in more detail here).

It is normal for start and finish times to be detailed in the plumbing contract. You may want to stipulate what time they will arrive and leave, and that they should come every day until the job is complete.

If the work is inside your home, check whether you need to remove any furniture, carpets, or curtains. Check what safeguards the plumber will make to protect your home, and confirm that the plumber carries public liability insurance in the event of any damage. Every WaterSafe approved business is required to hold public liability cover of at least £2 million and employers’ liability insurance where appropriate.

Be sure to check what items are excluded from the contract, as well. Pipework boxing or re-decorating as a consequence of the work will often be excluded from the price.

Spell out payment arrangements clearly in the contract. Check whether a deposit is required and when final payment becomes due. It is always preferable to make payments in a phased way up to completion.

Do I need to notify my water supply company of planned plumbing work?

Possibly. Some types of plumbing work are covered by laws called the Water Supply (Water Fittings) Regulations or Byelaws in Scotland and so do require permission to be granted by your local water supply company before they can begin.

Types of plumbing work that must be notified to water suppliers include:

  • Building a house or other property/structure
  • Extending or altering the water system on a non-household building
  • Changing the use of a building or installing water systems, such as rainwater harvesting
  • Installing a swimming pool or pond over 10,000 litres
  • A garden watering system (unless operated by hand)
  • A bath which holds more than 230 litres of water
  • A bidet with an upward spray or flexible hose
  • A pump or booster that delivers more than 12 litres of water per minute
  • A reverse osmosis unit (for cleaning water)
  • A water treatment unit which produces waste water
  • A reduced pressure zone (RPZ) valve assembly or similar
  • Any water system outside a building that is either less than 750mm (0.75 metres) or more than 1350mm (1.35 metres) below ground.

In Northern Ireland and Scotland, notification is also required for:

  • Grey water, recycled water, reclaimed water and rainwater harvesting
  • Water systems for firefighting, including domestic sprinklers
  • A flexible shower hose or other flexible outlet for use with a WC
  • A ‘shower toilet’ or ‘bidet-toilet’ either as part of the WC itself or where as an addition or adaptation of it, a stream of water is provided from below the spillover level of the WC pan for personal cleansing.

In Scotland, there is an additional requirement for notification of any system incorporating a private water supply.

Not everyone is aware of the regulations, but WaterSafe approved plumbing businesses are. They are in place to ensure the plumbing meets the Water Fittings Regulations and Byelaws which are designed to keep drinking water supplies safe and healthy.

If you are unsure, consult your local water supply company. 

How do I notify my water supply company of planned work?

In many cases, the water supply company will simply need a description, diagram and plan of the work, the contact details of who is authorising it and the details of the plumber/plumbing business being used. More details can be found on the WaterSafe website.

If you use a WaterSafe approved plumbing business, they are able to carry out some types of work without notification. This is because they have specific training in the strict regulations required to install pipes and fittings to supply drinking water.

Getting permission is quick and free, but failure to notify your water supply company could result in extra costs to put poor plumbing right or, worse, contamination of water supplies and a court prosecution.

Download our leaflet on notifying about plumbing work.

During the Project

What records do I need to keep?

Be sure to retain copies of your quote and contract. Make a note of any discussions, additions, or changes to the proposed scope, and request that your plumber documents these changes and provides you with a copy for your records.

Be sure that you receive written receipts for all payments you make. Always pay the business doing the work and not an individual person, unless the business is run by a sole trader i.e. the plumber. Be sure to get a receipt for every payment made, signed by the plumber/plumbing business.

When the work is complete, be sure you’ve received any certificates or documents for the items supplied or fitted, including warranty information.

If Something Goes Wrong

What can and cannot be expected of plumbers? If a problem recurs, is the plumber responsible for fixing it again?

Be sure to specify at the contract stage what will happen in the event that repairs are needed to the work, such as a faulty part or improper fitting - we cover the importance of contracts here.

It would be reasonable to expect a plumber to fix a problem in the first instance. This could be down to an error during installation or a faulty fitting. However, persistent failure of a particular fitting would probably warrant contacting the manufacturer to resolve the issue. They may provide a free replacement but you could incur the cost of fitting it.

What protection is there for a customer if something goes wrong with the work carried out by a WaterSafe approved plumbing business?

Every WaterSafe approved plumbing business is required to hold public liability cover of at least £2 million and employers’ liability insurance where appropriate. By using an unrecognised plumber, customers may well be unprotected if the worst should happen.

WaterSafe approved plumbing businesses must also adhere to the WaterSafe code of conduct and customer commitments - where they fail to meet these standards, a disciplinary process applies. Furthermore, a WaterSafe approved plumbing business which fails to uphold the standards will be subject to a range of penalties; in serious cases, this would result in its membership of WaterSafe being revoked.

A WaterSafe approved business will be required to put their work right if it does not meet the requirements of the Water Fittings Regulations or Byelaws that are enforced by the water supply company.

What should I do if something goes wrong?

Inform the plumber/plumbing business straight away in writing, detailing what’s wrong and what you feel would be a good way to resolve the problem.

If there are problems on completion, they are obliged to put items right that fall within the quotation or contract, plus anything else that came about due to work taking place in your property - such as damage to carpets or curtains.

It would not be fair or reasonable to expect that they take responsibility for items excluded such as the performance of an existing plumbing or heating system.

If a WaterSafe approved plumbing business fails to respond or refuses to return to your property, you can file a complaint with the Approved Contractor Scheme that they are a member of, or with WaterSafe directly.

How do I make a complaint?

You should contact the Approved Contractor Scheme that the plumbing business is a member of, or WaterSafe directly on 0333 207 9030. If the latter, WaterSafe will arrange for the Approved Contractor Scheme to contact the customer to investigate their complaint.

Our Partners

WaterSafe Approved Contractors' Scheme Operators

Anglian WaterAssociation of Plumbing & Heating ContractorsCIPHESevern TrentSNIPEFWIAPS

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