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10 Money Lies Your Plumber Might Be Telling You

You might not have a clue why your pipes are leaking, but here's how you can tell if a plumber is spouting you a line—and how to avoid getting ripped off.

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work tool with planDenBoma/Getty Images

Don’t flush money down the drain

Ugh! It’s so frustrating when you start hearing your toilet gurgle, have no hot water for your shower, or discover your kitchen sink is clogged. Unless you already have a reputable plumber, you’re at the mercy of one you don’t know. Before you decide on a plumber, here’s how two licensed plumbers say you can flush out the lies from the truth. Find out 31 secrets your plumber won’t tell you.

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Fitting repair with wrench. Seniour handyman repairing washbasindima_sidelnikov/Getty Images

There’s nothing to see here

Even if you have no working knowledge of the plumbing system in your home, a plumber should show you evidence of the problem. “If your plumber is making recommendations without physically showing you proof of a problem, they may be using dishonest tacts,” says Max Rose, owner of Four Seasons Plumbing in Asheville, North Carolina. This includes the hard-to-access places like the attic or crawl space; a plumber should show you pictures if you can’t see for yourself. “If the plumber gives you the run-around, get a second opinion from a reputable plumber in your area,” advises Rose. Never pour these things down the drain, and you might just save yourself from an expensive service call.

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House water heating boiler with pump, ball valves and filtersdidecs/Getty Images

You need a new hot water heater

You never realize how much you take hot water for granted until you step into a cold shower. A fast fix is essential, but if your plumber doesn’t come up with repair options for a water heater that has no visible leaks, give the plumber the cold shoulder and get a second opinion. “There are some rare cases where a water heater might have some serious issues apart from leaks and can not be repaired, but 99 percent of the time you should expect a plumber to give you both repair and replacement options, as well as inform you of the manufactured date and life expectancy of the particular unit,” says Rose. By the way, here are 40 home repairs anyone can do.

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toilet bowlCunaplus_M.Faba/Getty Images

You need a new sewer line

Far worse than a cold shower is a backed-up sewer line. A foul odor coming from one of the drains or the distinct sound of a gurgling toilet could be signs of a backed-up sewer line. “If your plumber recommends a sewer line replacement without a sewer camera inspection first, they may be hungry for a big sale and might not have your best interests in mind,” warns Rose. Always ask to see a camera inspection to confirm that replacement is your only option, Rose says. If you think pulling a hairy ball of gunk out of your sink drain is gross, wait till you see what these plumbers found!

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woman in an orange work coat with a tablet near a white utility vansturti/Getty Images

We’re cheaper than other plumbers

It’s a pleasant surprise to get a cheap rate on a service call— until a week or month later when your pipes spring a leak again. “Plumbing is a service, which is the opposite of a product. Products are easier to control in regards to quality, because they are typically all produced the same way and by machine. Services require humans hands, and humans have flaws,” says Mitch Kenney, owner of Colepepper Plumbing in San Diego. “Quality service at a low price is extremely rare.” Quality service should include a written warranty or a guarantee that any work done will last at least a year. Speaking of human flaws—never flush these things down your toilet!

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construction project conceptkemaltaner/Getty Images

You don’t need a permit

It’s true that you might not need a permit to fix small plumbing problems like a leaky faucet. Still, the larger scale plumbing problems such as replacing a hot water heater, sewer replacement, or even moving existing plumbing to a new location during a kitchen remodel, usually requires a permit. “These permits are required for public safety, yet many plumbing contractors skip permitting to save on costs and to do shoddy work,” says Kenney. If you’re not confident with your plumber’s decision, check your local plumbing codes. (Google “plumbing codes” for your county.) While pulling a permit can be time-consuming and add an expense, the upside is that having one means the final work is inspected. “It will protect you from poor and illegal work and it’s also a great selling point if you decide to ever sell your house,” says Kenney. Here’s exactly how to to find the right contractor for your project.

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Repairing a sinkU. J. Alexander/Getty Images

It’s going to take longer than we expected

The plumber said it would only take a couple of days to fix the problem. Two weeks later, and the crew is still in your house. “Many companies are lowering their hiring standards just to attract employees,” Kenney says, noting there’s a shortage of qualified applicants. An underqualified person might not just take longer to get the job done, the work might not be up to par—costing more money down the road. To save yourself a headache down the road, ask about the credentials of the people who are going to be working in your house. “Research the licensing standards your plumbing company requires of its employees,” says Kenney. These are the 16 clear signs an online review is fake.

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plumber working on the sink in a bathroommonkeybusinessimages/Getty Images

I’m the expert, not you

If you ever received a diagnosis from a doctor and were given only one option of treating it, chances are you’ll seek out a second opinion. The same is true for plumbing. “If your plumber is just giving you one expensive option and not even exploring minimum repairs, they are probably trying to take advantage of you,” says Rose. Ask for more options, including a minimum repair, he suggests. If they refuse, it’s time to call in a different plumber. You should know these red flags of a home improvement scam.

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Plumber.Kurhan/Getty Images

We don’t need to do a test

Spotty water glasses and green or brown stains on plumbing fixtures often point to poor water quality—but not always. An accurate water quality test determines if water filtration is needed and identifies the type of filtration required to resolve the problem. “If your plumber recommends a water softener or any major filtration without a water quality test, they could be trying to sell you something you don’t need,” Rose says. Move on to another plumber who will conduct a water quality test and review the results options to remedy the issue with you. Pay attention to these 13 silent signs your home could be making you sick.

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Home residential problem, Damage ceiling in restroom, water leak out from waste piping system make ceiling damagedSasinParaksa/Getty Images

We can do the job for $200

What a relief! The plumber is at your doorstep a few hours after you call and gives you a verbal price for the repairs. Unfortunately, once the plumber finishes the job, they claim the repair was more time-consuming than they originally anticipated and raise the price. You’re in a pickle now. “Feeling held hostage, you regrettably pay,” says Kenney. His suggestion to avoid this: “work with a company that always charges flat-rate pricing and sign a contract before the work begins. This way, there will be no surprises at the end.” Here are 12 other red flags you’re about to hire a bad contractor.

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Woman sitting near leaking sink in laundry room calling for helpMariakray/Getty Images

We’re here when you need us…

…Except after 5 p.m. and on the weekends. Unfortunately, plumbing calamities often after hours. “Many smaller companies work out of their garages and won’t provide service after regular business hours,” says Kenney. “Sure, they may offer you a lower price, but what if their work fails in the near future? Make sure you work with a company that has plumbers available 24/7,” advises Kenney. A plumbing problem is no laughing matter—until it’s solved. Check out these 36 cringe-worthy plumbing nightmares.

Lisa Marie Conklin
Lisa Marie Conklin is a Baltimore-based writer who writes regularly about pets and home improvement for Reader's Digest. Her work has also been published in The Healthy, HealthiNation, The Family Handyman, Taste of Home, and, among other outlets. She's also a certified personal trainer and walking coach for a local senior center. Follow her on Instagram @lisamariewrites4food and Twitter @cornish_conklin.

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