When the hot shower in your shower turns tepid, when your toilets or sink drains clog, when your pipes freeze after a bad winter storm, your first inclination may be to contact a plumber. If you own your home and have not yet experienced a plumbing problem, you may not have a ready number to call. It is not uncommon to rely upon word of mouth for references, but there are ways to avoid hiring such a home mechanic to improve the way water flows through your home.

Is there a wrong way to hire a plumber? Yes, indeed. If you want to put your pipes and fixtures at risk, these are the best methods:

1) Don't ask friends and family for help. You trust the people closest to you to assist in finding recommended products and services. When you need a plumber, you may be inclined to ask a friend who they call in an emergency. Without this helpful expertise, you are left to peruse dozens of local listings, all of whom will claim they are the best. Who is, really?

2) Don't check ratings online. Organizations like Angie's List and the Better Business Bureau are set up to keep consumers informed if rogue companies have given homeowners trouble. These days you can log into a site and search potential plumbers for quality ratings and complaints. Even using Google search on a plumber will pull up reviews, which is a great way to learn more about the people you are thinking of hiring.

3) Call the first one you see and give them the job. It is okay to ask plumbers for an initial estimate. If you live in a large, urban area chances are you will have many choices. Don't feel as though you need to hire the first person you contact. Get the information you need, then comparison shop. Check websites and social media accounts to get a feel for how everybody stacks up. Then make the final call.

Remember, the plumbing mechanic you bring into your home is supposed to fix the problem for good. If you work full time, this will involve altering your schedule to accommodate the plumber while he or she works. You definitely do not want to keep calling people in to repair the first fix, so make sure you research thoroughly your options before giving one person the job. Your wallet and your sanity will remain intact.

Kathryn Lively is a freelance writer specializing in articles on Virginia Beach plumbers.

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