Reading The Plumber’s Mind

Even for the most seasoned households, an encounter with a plumber puts them in mind of an alarmist or a skeptic. Thorough investigation into the nature of plumbing and practices employed by various plumbers of high standing reveal that good plumbers are—distinctly recognizable.


The mantra of short shelf-life sprouted in the manufacturing business world and surreptitiously seeped into the service industry with a maladjusted postscript that read: attached to a term of highly unreliable service. Evident in almost all commodities is the deliberate engineering to prevent repair possibilities supplanted by the forced option of replacing the entire product. Extending the same logic to the building industry it’s not difficult to imagine the plumbers prefiguring their services with a catch-22 call me back for more element that would lead to a series of malfunctions which would additionally earns them the obvious position of a suspect for using substandard material in a bid to increase their profit margin.

Jan Moir from The Telegraph in her article featuring the celebrated plumber Charlie Mullins unhesitatingly chose “bogeyman” as the appropriate appellation to identify the average plumber, thanks to a large number of unscrupulous untrained and sometimes novices posing as plumbers. Why do I use the word posing? Because the sub-standard (and in several cases incompetent) services at lowered rates good enough to trap the unsuspecting and credulous are offered by someone incompetent and without credentials for the job. I’m sure many of us have personally experienced the inveigling cowboy plumber and the combined testimonies of the unsuspecting targets would resonate in unison about how the finished job met all the parameters of a trap that either landed someone in an accident or the entire commissioning proved to be a waste of money and left the affected party in a worse situation. Such experiences serve as good lessons and prompt us to exercise a good amount of caution before we commission a plumbing job.

The list of questions postulated below is assembled and recommended by discerning professionals from the plumbing industry qualifies and constitutes as mandatory caution we must exercise.

  • Does the plumber have a license? What does it mean if they don’t have one?

  • Does the plumber carry an insurance to cover unforeseen damages?

  • Can the plumber be contacted on a landline at his office address?

  • Will an estimate be handed in written entailing material cost, labour charges and VAT?

  • Does he deal only in cash?

Let’s assume the people you have been in touch with have furnished the requested items and supplied you the relevant information along with a list of client numbers for references, it is still your prerogative check the veracity of all furnished information. Fake certificates and references as well can be manufactured in our very own digital world, let’s not forget that the plumber like the rest of us has friends and is capable of supplying references who are more likely to be friends than customers and wouldn’t mind being ventriloquised by the plumber. As a result we hear many stories of how the people were left in a deplorable situation by a recommended plumber that they chose to repair it with the help of Do it Yourself(DIY) manuals rather than hire an unreliable tradesperson. The alarmist sentiment is dominate the consumer psyche with increasing number of rogue trading incidents listed with the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) which estimates £1.5billion worth damages incurred by households all over UK owing to substandard repair work.

There are certain well established modes of operation that reek from a cowboy’s penumbra as a forewarning. As noticed in most cases the cowboy shows up at your door posing as a Good Samaritan and offers to fix your problems for a minimal fee and adds his classic discount scheme, which happens to be one of the most powerful weapons in the cowboy’s arsenal as it is meant to blind your rational mind appealing solely to your greed and lo, you have been cajoled into a viscous trap fated to culminate in a dreadful end. You are lucky if the job ends within a matter of hours and without a seismic mishap followed by heavy expenditure. The predictable sequence entails the use of substandard material over the requisite standard component, even rubbish is condoned if left unsupervised, the trademark signature finish, however, is left for posterity as a reminder of your credulity.

License please

The absence of a license automatically means no insurance which puts you in a vulnerable position of assuming the injured plumber’s responsibility if they were to suffer an injury at your premises. Big contractors may send an inexperienced albeit licensed practitioner who may not be as competent as a seasoned campaigner which prompts us to consider calling for a specialist as plumbers just like doctors specialize in different areas of plumbing and therefore a more specific request will invite a professional with relevant skills.

Look for other professional affiliations that recognize licensed plumbers such as the Chartered Institute of Plumbing and Heating (CIPHE) which provides a liability insurance cover of close to £2 million to their members.

Along with the assurance of delivering quality service professional practitioners also help you choose suitable hardware to upgrade the plumbing system.  Their awareness of equipment upgrades is very high and they probe until they get to the root of the problem. Detailed analysis, aligned to the most scientific approach that would save time money and minimize damage to the existing layout or structure, they are well armed with appropriate equipment, use high-quality and always proceed towards comprehensive solution.

Don’t do it yourself

Doing it yourself is not as easy as it sounds, especially if it’s not minor patch up work. Remember this for a fact that a professional will always do a thorough job and to your satisfaction and would ultimately prove cost effective. Your grasp of the situation in complex problems would be limited and thus your approach and your methodology would be seriously truncated leaving you frustrated in the middle of nowhere. Lastly the issue of safety counsels us to seek professional help due to the nature of the job which may be liable to risk and as a result proscribed by law.

Our expectations

Given the demands of the trade that is founded on the principles of odd hour availability and damage control expertise, plumbers are expected to deliver results in a time bound situation and largely fall into the category of the mentally tough, well-versed in facing the unpleasant and the unexpected. The odd encounter with the con artist devastates our trust and relegates the plumber from a tradesperson to a ferocious swindler. The indiscreet vilification continues in our minds until the day we meet a genuine professional. But to keep the imposters out of our lives we must take proactive steps by reporting cowboys to the Association of Plumbing and Heating Contractors (APHC) in the U.K. and this would be the most meaningful contribution we would make towards a safer means in obtaining the expected result by blacklisting and opportunists who practice professional deception and are culpable as criminals. Almost every expert on the subject proposes the hiring of a plumber with credentials and that choice comes at a premium which should not deter us but rather instill confidence in our decision to opt for comprehensive solutions rather than cheap quick fixes which accumulate and inherit additional damages that cost much more in the long run.

The reins and the course

But if you are uneasy with the fundamental question of how should you safeguard yourself then follow the one simple power law that really matters in this transaction: Money

Money matters the most and is directly proportional to the outcome that is to follow only if you do not pay everything or a major chunk as advance. As a rule never pay more than 20 percent as advance and wait till the job is done to your satisfaction before you pay the balance and that is the only trump in your hands as any dispute can be later settled in a court of law for which you are better equipped and in most likelihood won’t be the plaintiff.

The general impression left in our minds about most plumbers is one of being raised in a cesspool under the supervision of a ferocious predator. A plumber, nonetheless, must scale various parameters of service expectations to reach a particular position from where his expertise can be taken seriously. The plumbing business like many other fragile niches is devoid of assured number of gigs every week , which may lead a person to invent methods of creating a pool for steady income by planting a yeast for recurring assignments—a classic theme in corrupt practice. Many professional plumbers are of the opinion that the law is not strong enough to prevent phony gatecrashers from bringing disrepute to their craft and seek tougher legislation from the government, but until that happens and even if that happens we must never give up our critical reasoning and basic vigilance that assures us our right to decent service standards.