How to find a good plumber, electrician, or HVAC tech
Do you need a pro to do repairs or maintenance on your home? Whether you need a plumber, electrician, or HVAC tech – with so many out there, it’s hard to know who to call. You don’t want to hire just any professional, you want to hire the right one for you.
Use our guide to learn how to find a pro to help get the work you need done, and done right.
It’s tempting to take the first available contractor. And, that’s okay if you’ve worked with them before or they’re recommended by a friend, family member, or coworker.
But you don’t want to hire just anyone to do the work. You want to hire the right professional to do the work. You need to have someone who will do the job right the first time.
Once you find a plumber, electrician, and/or HVAC tech that you like, keep their number handy. And call them first the next time you need a pro.
Make a list of professionals/contractors to contact
If you don’t have a reliable pro to call for the work you need done – and if you haven’t gotten any recommendations – take a few minutes to make some phone calls. It’s well worth the time to do this step. You can do it fast by sitting down with a list of phone numbers and some of your questions.
- Make your list of contractors to contact (ask around and look online for names and numbers)
- Make a short list of questions, such as:
- Can they do the job you need done? Have they done it before?
- What’s their estimated timeline for getting to your house and completing the work?
- Do they give free estimates?
- When can they give you an estimate?
- Are they licensed and insured?
- Do they take care of pulling the appropriate permits – in compliance with local law? (They should.)
- Call and ask your questions over the phone. Note how receptive and responsive they are to your questions. (If they don’t want to take the time, or are hesitant to answer some of the questions, you might want to cross them off the list.)
- Take notes as needed.
- If you’re satisfied with the answers, schedule an estimate.*
*If you called several contractors, narrow it down to three to call for an estimate.
Most contractors will come to your home, look at the work you need done, and give you an estimate.
But if you have a small job, some contractors won’t make the extra trip to your home to give you an estimate. They should still be able to provide you with an approximate cost of the work over the phone (ask for it in writing too). If they get to your home and see that there is more work needed, they should get your approval before doing the extra work.
It’s recommended that you always get three estimates on a job. The differences between some estimates could surprise you. If you get estimates with a significant variation in price, dig a little deeper and find out why.
Though the price shouldn’t be your top priority, it should be a consideration when deciding who to hire. The most important thing is to hire someone who you think you can trust to get the job done correctly and safely.
Do your homework before hiring
The estimate is very helpful in deciding who is right for the job. But you should dig a little deeper before making your final decision. Below are some things to check out before hiring a contractor.
🏠What’s their experience?
You may not need someone who has been doing the job for 20+ years. But you want someone who has enough experience to do the job, do it right, and deal with any unexpected issues. If in doubt, ask whether the contractor or technician has ever done work like the work you need done.
If the person giving the estimate will not be doing the work themselves, ask who will. Request their credentials, experience, and referrals (see below).
🏠Do they pull permits?
Many large electrical and plumbing jobs need approval from the city to do the work. Most plumbers and electricians will pull the permits for you. They’ll also get inspections from the city to ensure the work is up to code. They will bill you for the cost of the permit when work is complete. This should be part of your estimate.
🏠Check their licensure or other credentials
Ask if they’re licensed and insured. And before hiring them, ask for proof. Request a copy of their licensure and insurance certificate.
The State of Iowa requires plumbers and HVAC techs to be licensed by the Iowa Plumbing and Mechanical Systems Board. The Iowa Department of Public Health has an online portal where you can check the licensure of plumbing and HVAC professionals.
Iowa also requires proper licensure of electricians. To check on the licensure of an electrician or contractor, you can use the Iowa Fire Marshall’s search tool.
🏠Ask for references
Word of mouth from someone you know is best. But, if you don’t have a recommendation, ask for references directly from the contractor. Most will have a list of past customers with phone numbers you can contact. If they don’t, you don’t want to hire them.
Follow through and actually make the phone calls to the references. Sure, this takes a little extra time, but it’s only a few minutes – and it’s well worth it. Those few minutes could save you time and money in the long run.
🏠Check for complaints
Check with the Better Business Bureau to see if there are any complaints against the business or contractor you’re considering.
Online reviews can be helpful, but you shouldn’t give them too much weight – unless a business has a lot of bad reviews. As we all know, you can’t make 100% of the people happy 100% of the time. A few bad reviews among the good reviews is pretty normal for any business.
🏠What brands do they use?
While this might not be a deciding factor with an electrician or plumber, it is when you’re installing a new HVAC system. Find out the quality and type of equipment the contractor uses so you can compare apples to apples when looking at estimates and equipment features.
🏠Do they have a warranty or guarantee?
Most contractors will give some sort of guarantee on their work. Any equipment or parts that are installed typically come with a warranty. Ask the contractor about any guarantees or warranties they offer. Get this information in writing before hiring.
🏠How is payment handled?
Sometimes, if part of the job you need done includes expensive equipment, the contractor will ask for a small deposit. For instance, if you are getting an HVAC unit installed, the company might ask for a deposit, especially if you are financing the system.
But, typically, when you hire a contractor, you do not need to pay anything until the job is complete. If they are asking for a large sum of money up front before they start work, you should not hire them.
Make your decision
If contractors were patient and answered all your questions – and you checked all the boxes on your homework – you have to decide which one is best for the job.
After going through this guide and doing your homework, you’ll have a clearer picture of which one will best fit your needs.
Most of all, trust your intuition! You should feel confident and comfortable with the decision that you’ve chosen the right contractor for you.