Looking to the professionals
Valley News Correspondent
Regardless of whether you find an electrician or plumber through an internet search, the recommendation of a neighbor or driving past a business, there are a few important steps you can take to ensure the work you have done is quality, up to code and lasting.
If you are new to an area, it is a good idea to establish a relationship with a local business that can come to your house any hour of the day, and any day of the week. You don’t want to be frantically calling around when a pipe bursts or when you have no heat on New Year’s Day. But to find that reliable business, there are a few steps a homeowner can take.
“First of all you want to make sure they are licensed,” said Marc Prindiville, chief mechanical inspector for the state of New Hampshire.
Homeowners can log onto the Secretary of State’s website and make sure all the licenses are in place by looking up the name of a business.
The New Hampshire of Professional Licensure and Certification has what is called a “license lookup,” Prindiville said.
“It is for everything, not just plumbing but electrical, real estate, pharmaceutical; you can look up anyone’s license to make sure it is active,” Prindiville said. “So there are a few things you can do to make sure you are hiring a licensed person with a legitimate company.”
Bradley Talbot, with the Vermont Licensed Plumbers Association, which represents 400 plumbers across the state, gives similar advice for his state. But Talbot also explained that Vermont is unique in that permits and inspections are not required to work on homes that have wells and their own septic system, only those on public water and sewer.
Vermont homeowners who want to see if the plumber or electrician they are thinking of hiring is licensed can go on the Vermont Department of Fire and Safety website. That site will show all licenses as well as those for gas and fuel oil technicians, Talbot said.
Talbot said depending on the work you need done in your house, he urges people to ask about labor rates — some are hourly, while others can be a fixed rate for work performed regardless of how long it takes. He also said there is a difference between fixing a leaky faucet, a broken drain pipe or replacing a broken toilet, for which a permit is not needed.
“If you are doing anything major you should do a contract,” Talbot said. “With a contract, there should be all the stipulations involved in doing the work.”
A large project, such as replacing a hot water heater, will likely require an upfront deposit because items have to be purchased by the contractor. For a smaller job, the parts are usually stock items that can be used on different jobs.
Prindiville said in New Hampshire, when a business registers with the Secretary of State it also has to get a mechanical business entity license, even if it is a one-person business.
“You have to get that because even though you have a license, say as a master plumber, you still need an MBE license and the reason is because they need proof of liability insurance to be registered,” Prindiville said. “So if they show you the MBE, you know they are licensed and insured. It is absolutely the right of the homeowner to ask for proof of insurance.”
It is also important to remember that plumbers and others need to have their licenses renewed every couple of years and that requires continuing education. Courses are taught at various locations around each state.
With some homework, homeowners can feel comfortable that the business they have hired will not end up costing more money in the long run because their qualifications were not properly vetted.
Patrick O’Grady can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.