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