The One Question You Need to Ask Before Hiring a Plumber

...And more helpful hints when it's time to call the pros for your home repairs.

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Hire a handyman - plumber working under sink
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Choose your plumber, then your fixtures

If your plumber is charging you by the hour to install new bathroom or kitchen fixtures, here’s a sure way to save money: Ask them what brand they like best. Chances are this will be a common, dependable brand that they’re very familiar with. Choose models made by this brand, and your plumber will install them more efficiently, saving time and money by not having to struggle through detailed instructions about what washers go where and what size wrench is needed to tighten everything. Also, your plumber will be more likely to install products correctly if they’ve already done it countless times before, and that will save you repair costs in the long run.

Find out six things professional plumbers never do in their own homes.

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Hire a handyman - breaker box
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Dealing with wiring? Hire a qualified electrician

A general handyman can be a real help when it comes to tackling small jobs you don’t have time to complete, or skilled jobs you just don’t feel comfortable attempting. You may even be tempted to give your handyman small wiring jobs or other electrical work. Before you do, however, make sure he or she is licensed to do electrical work (if local code requires it) and that their work is up to snuff.

“You get the wrong guy messing around with your electrical wiring—someone who doesn’t know what he’s doing—and you’re in trouble,” says Jim Abbott, owner of Handyman Matters in Toronto.

The mistakes, which can be dangerous, are hidden behind walls or within electrical panels. Look for red flags, such as light switches and outlets in strange places. “I’ve seen it,” Abbott says. “A guy runs out of wire and puts a switch at eye level or an outlet halfway up the wall.”

Planning a larger-scale renovation? Here’s what you should know before hiring a contractor.

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Hire a handyman - shaking hands
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Ask your handyman for a guarantee

“A lot of handymen give their customers the tailgate warranty,” says Jim Abbott. “They drive away in their pickup truck with your cash in pocket, and all you see is their tailgate disappearing. That’s it. That’s your warranty.”

Instead, ask them if they’ll guarantee their work for up to a year. If they will, get it in writing. If they won’t, take their reluctance as a red flag.

Check out HGTV star Bryan Baeumler’s best kitchen renovation advice.

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Tools in toolbox
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More tips to shorten that repair visit

Paying your repairperson by the hour? With a little forethought, you can make sure that every minute of their visit is spent productively.

  1. Discuss all of the details of the job over the phone—while the clock isn’t ticking. This also ensures that the worker will arrive with all of the necessary tools and materials.
  2. Clear away any obstructions in advance of the repairperson’s arrival, and make sure there’s proper light for the worker to see by.
  3. Check the house over for all tasks that this particular repairperson could handle—thus saving you service charges in the future.
  4. Tell the worker not to bother cleaning up. Cleanup is never done to your specifications anyway, is it? The worker will be out your door in a minimum of time—and your bill will reflect that efficiency.

Do you really need to hire a handyman, or is it a do-it-yourself job? Check out 10 home repairs you can tackle in 10 minutes or less.

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