Plumbing is a complex task requiring both precision and knowledge. Page through any city phonebook, however, and you'll find a host of plumbers claiming they do work not just fast, but cheap.
Unfortunately, some are in the business just to make a quick buck and aren't shy about running a scam! Here are four of the most common plumbing scams … and how to avoid them.
The 'three dressed up as a nine'
This scam revolves around materials. High-quality, cross-linked polyethylene (PEX) piping or copper tubing comes with a high cost, and many homeowners aren't shy about shelling out for products that will keep a home's plumbing in good condition for the next decade. Unscrupulous plumbers, however, tell you they're using only the best materials, charge you as if they were and then use lower-cost alternatives.
There are two ways to beat this scam. First, ask for a list of parts your contractor plans to use, then take the list to your local hardware or home-improvement store. If the plumber is using high-end materials but overcharging, call his/her bluff. If she's using low-end products but making a massive profit, find another contractor.
Second, check to make sure what's on the invoice matches what's behind your walls. If your plumber says she's using a particular brand of PEX tubing, examine it before installation and make sure she isn't trying a bait-and-switch.
The 'busy beaver'
For this scam,
your plumber sets to work as soon as the ink dries on his contract, but within a week you notice there are more people in your home than necessary. In some cases, "extra" workers may be apprentices, but some contractors try to ramp up their profits by subcontracting parts of the job they could finish themselves out to friends or family, and then claiming they have no control over hourly rates except their own.
Always ask exactly why each person is needed. If you aren't sure who's doing what in your home, stop the work and make sure extra costs aren't being incurred from unnecessary labor.
The 'golden spoon'
If you live in an affluent neighborhood, you may be getting overcharged. Plumbers aren't required to have a fixed hourly rate, meaning they can charge whatever you're willing to pay. Some contractors who see nice cars in your driveway, a hot tub in the backyard or a high-end flatscreen TV in your living room may assume you have deep pockets and will up hourly rates by as much as 50 or even 100 percent.
Before you agree to any work, have at least three plumbers look at your job and provide estimates for labor and materials. Check out Angie's List for local reviews to see what other people in your area are paying.
The 'evasive estimator'
How to identify a scam