Local plumber ratings help you choose a reliable plumber before you need one

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The only time most people call a plumber is when they have a plumbing emergency. But that can be risky if you don't already know of a good plumber with reasonable fees.

"You can get some sense of how much a plumber's going to charge for work by just asking, what's your hourly rate?" explained Executive Editor Kevin Brasler.

Brasler and the Checkbook research team surveyed thousands of local subscribers for their latest ratings of plumbers in the Puget Sound region.

Unlike other popular consumer rating services, Checkbook is strictly subscriber-based and does not take money from businesses for referrals, memberships, or advertising.

"We don't take any money from companies," said Brasler. "We don't even have ads in our magazine."

Brasler says Checkbook reviews are always based on response from subscribers who actually use specific services.

In the case of plumbers, local consumers weighed in on whether work was done properly, whether crews showed up when they said they would, the extent to which costs were disclosed early, and overall quality.

The Checkbook team also researched prices, as wells as complaint rates at the Washington state Attorney General's office.

Checkbook's secret shoppers found suprising difference in price quotes. To supply and install an InSinkErator Pro garbage disposer for example, the quotes ranged from a low of $300 to a high of $875.

To supply and install an American Standard Cadet Pro toilet the quotes ranged from a low of $438 to a high of $895.

To supply and install a Bradford-White gas water heater, the lowest quote was $898. The highest was $1,800.

And then, there's the issue of quality.

"Some plumbers just do lousy work. They end up causing more problems than they fix," Brasler said. "Plumbers are always kinda fixing other people's work."

Common plumber complaints include no-shows, lateness, slow response to problems or complaints, poor work quality, and excessive charges.

Of the 79 local plumbers in the Checkbook survey, many were rated superior by most of their customers but others got surprisingly poor ratings.

So, if you want the job done right, for a fair price- don't wait for an emergency. Do your homework and find a good plumber when you don't need one- so you'll know who to call when you do.

Again, Checkbook's ratings are a subscriber-based service that offers ratings and tips addressing a wide variety of important consumer services.

A 2-year subscription- 2 publications a year and continual access on line- costs only $34. That's money well spent considering the hundreds, even thousands of dollars people lose to unscrupulous, incompetent or inferior companies they never bother to thorouoghly investigate.

Remember, anyone can start a website, get a license and insurance, buy advertising and offer a service.

Also be aware that not all rating services are created equally. Some contractor rating and referral services also take money from the companies they rate and refer. How does that work? How do they avoid a conflict of interest? Do the companies that pay get prefferental treatment over equally good or better companies that don't pay?

When you check contractor ratings it's important to check multiple sources.

As a courtesy to KOMO viewers, you can get free access the full Checkbook plumbers ratings on this website until the end of January.

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