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What to ask when hiring a plumber

(KOMO file photo)

Most of us don't have a plumber come to the house very often. If you need to hire one, do yourself a favor and get a few bids – especially when it’s not an emergency situation.

Secret shoppers with checkbook.org found that prices for the same job can vary by 100 percent or more. For example:

The price to supply and install an InsinkErator Pro Series 750 garbage disposer ranged from $300 to $875.

"And we found no relationship between quality and price. The best quality plumbers are just as likely to charge low prices as high prices,” said Kevin Brasler, Checkbook’s executive editor.

It’s harder to shop around when it’s an emergency, but even then there are some important questions you should ask before you have that plumber come to your house.

What's your minimum fee and what does that minimum fee cover? Does it just cover you showing up or does it cover the first 15 or 30 minutes on the job? What happens after that minimum time is up; do you charge me by the hour or what?

When it’s a planned project, contact a few plumbers and ask them to write up a fixed-price work order for that job. Many companies will do that.

"That's actually an ideal method for homeowners because you know how much you're going to pay, even if there's unforeseen work that needs to be done,” Brasler explained. “You have a fixed price that you can compare by calling other plumbers and asking them how much they charge for that work."

Checkbook.org is a subscriber-based, non-profit rating and education service to help you make smarter choices. As a courtesy to KOMO listeners and viewers, the full Checkbook report on Puget Sound area plumbing company ratings will be available by using this link until January 31, 2018.

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