As a homeowner, you're going to need a small but reliable assortment of professionals to help keep your house in working order. One of the most important pros to have on-call is a good plumber. Picking out the right plumber for you isn't a decision to be made lightly; here are some important factors you'll want to consider.
You may as well start evaluating a plumber by checking up on their professional credentials. Before you seriously consider hiring a plumber, verify that they're licensed by the state and carrying proper insurance. Any reputable plumber will be happy to furnish a license number (in fact many plumbers paint it right on the side of their truck!) and proof of insurance. To verify that their insurance policies are in force, you may have to call their insurance company.
A quick phone call to the Better Business Bureau is also a good idea at this stage of the process. Don't be tempted by a good first impression, or even by a recommendation from a friend or relative. Even the most trustworthy-seeming plumber may have a horrible track record. The BBB can tell you if your potential plumber has had any serious trouble providing satisfactory service to prior customers.
Speaking of recommendations, though, getting some information directly from a plumber's previous employers can be very helpful. Check online to see if the plumber in question has been reviewed at any local directories (such as Yelp or Google +) or consumer feedback sites. You should also feel free to ask your plumber to provide references; any good professional will have at least one or two old customers who can vouch for them.
Ask your would-be plumber to provide an estimate of your current plumbing job's cost up front. If the plumber refuses to supply one, that's a fairly large warning flag. An estimate need not be precise; what you really want to see is a forthright effort made at being helpful to you. In the long term, you may forgo estimates from a trustworthy plumber who's done many jobs for you, but on their first try getting an estimate is vitally important.
If you do have your eye on a plumber you want to have a long-term relationship with, ask about their overall availability. Find out if they're available for after-hours or weekend emergency work, and ask them what their typical response time is. You may end up selecting different plumbers to take care of emergency jobs and planned-out projects.
Finally, don't forget the importance of guarantees and warranties. A good plumber should stand by the quality of his work; ask how long after the initial work the plumber will perform repairs free-of-charge. Also, remember that as the homeowner, you should receive the manufacturers' warranties for any parts and equipment the plumber installs.
Vetting a plumber thoroughly can take some real time and effort. The results are well worth it, though. No matter how well-maintained your home is, you're going to need professional plumbing work done from time to time. Having an experienced and trustworthy plumber tucked away in your list of contacts will ensure that your plumbing jobs always get done properly and promptly.