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Educational Consumer Tips

Home Improvements - Plumbing

Author: Better Business Bureau

This report is general in nature and is not intended as a reliability report on any company, service or product.

When considering a contractor, check to see if they are licensed with the state of PA at or 1-888-520-6680. You may also ask whether they belong to a professional association with standards for membership and ask that they will obtain any necessary building permits. The Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association is such a professional trade association dedicated to the promotion, advancement, education and training of the industry, for the protection of our environment and the health, safety, and comfort of society.

·          Check with your local building inspector or town clerk to see if a building permit is required

·          Check with your local municipality to see what licensing requirements the contractor must have

·          Solicit two or three bids for the work you are planning, make sure all bids are based on the same specifications and materials and length of time. Do not automatically accept the lowest bid, sometimes this can be due to inferior product quality or workmanship

·          Once you have found a contractor, request proof of a current insurance certificate covering workman’s compensation, property damage and personal liability

·          Read and understand any contract in it’s entirety, don’t sign a blank contract or any with blank lines, a copy of the signed contract is to be given to you at time of signature

·          Do not pay for a job in its entirety or in cash. The PA Home Improvement Consumer Protection Act (517.9. Prohibited acts) states for any sale of over $5000, the contractor cannot accept a deposit of more than 1/3 of the price, or 1/3 of the price plus the cost of special order materials. Never make a final payment or sign an affidavit of release until the job has completed any inspections and any subcontractors have been paid and you are satisfied that the work has been done to your specifications

·          Effective April 22, 2010, all work in homes that pre-date 1978 must be done by contractors that have completed the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) course entitled: Certification to Conduct Lead-Based Paint Activities and Renovations. Contractors must provide the consumer with proof of course completion with a certificate. Certification may be verified by visiting the EPA website and using the search feature.

***EPA provides extension
Home improvement contractors will have more time to meet new federal requirements for dealing with lead paint. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said it will delay the April 22 deadline until Oct. 1, 2010 to register for training. This delay allows contractors to sign up for training by Sept. 30. All training must be completed by Dec. 31.

Plumbing contractors are able to assemble, install, and repair pipes, fittings, and fixtures of water, gas, and waste disposal systems. They can work with piping systems that transport liquid, gas, or semisolid materials and can provide you with ongoing plumbing maintenance of existing systems.

ENERGY STAR is a joint program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy helping consumers save money and protect the environment through energy efficient products and practices. Energy Star qualified products meet strict energy efficiency guidelines set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and offer long-term energy savings. To locate a product that a plumber might install such as a dishwasher, washing machine, or a hot water heater that is Energy Star qualified, click here.

Some questions to ask when looking for a plumbing contractor can include:

• Do you offer 24-hour emergency service?
• Are all of your service technicians licensed plumbers?
• What is your average response time once a call for help is placed? Do you charge for travel time?
• What are your service rates? Do you charge flat rates or hourly rates?
• Are your trucks fully stocked, or do you charge for going to get parts?
• Do you charge overtime rates, and if so, when do they come into effect?

For more advice you can trust from your local BBB on avoiding scams and fraud, go to

Updated 8/10