Choosing the right plumber is an important decision that no one ever really thinks about until they experience a plumbing emergency. But picking the first person you come across in the phone book is never a wise choice. Getting the right plumber in Oxford means researching the best ones available, getting quotes, and then picking a plumber based on your needs and their skills, not how much they charge.
Then there are heating engineers. How many of us understand what a heating engineer does or how they are different from a plumber? Figuring out if you need a plumber or a heating engineer can compound an already stressful situation further.
In this article, we will explain what plumbers and heating engineers do, what their differences are, as well as giving you tips on how to choose the right tradesmen for your problem in the Oxford area.
What are the main differences between general plumbers and heating engineers in Oxford?
Many people struggle to understand the differences between a plumber and a heating engineer. But, while both work in similar areas, there are several key differences that you should be aware of, especially if you have an issue that needs fixing urgently.
So, what are the differences?
Well, first let’s look at where the word plumber actually comes from (bear with us this will make sense in a moment). The word plumber comes from the Roman word ‘plumbum’ meaning lead. The first plumbers worked on the lead piping that serviced the spas, bathhouses, and mansions of the Roman era. While modern piping is no longer made from lead, the word plumber has continued to be used in reference to servicing pipework.
In short, a plumber is somebody who works with and fixes water piping in or around a property. The modern plumber is a Swiss Army Knife craftsman trained to work on all types of dry and wet pipes, as well as often being able to work on heating systems (although this will depend on experience, training, and Gas Safe registration). It’s important to note that no regulations govern the qualifications that a plumber must have and the UK has no mandatory registry for plumbers (although there are some voluntary ones).
Heating engineers, on the other hand, are craftsmen trained to work solely on the heating infrastructure of a building. They can maintain and install pipework and other fixtures and fittings used to heat a property. They can also service and maintain boilers and other heating apparatus. Heating Engineers solely work on the heating infrastructure of a property and rarely venture into any other aspect of plumbing work.
So, how do I choose a Plumber in Oxford?
There are a number of things to consider when looking for a plumber or heating engineer in Oxford, including:
Look for a plumber with the right qualifications
While there are no requirements for a plumber to have qualifications in the UK, there are several courses that can be undertaken to enhance abilities. Look for a plumber that has undertaken a recognised training scheme, such as an NVQ or City & Guilds certificate (for details on both courses check out the City & Guild website here). This will show that they have at least a basic level of competence and should be able to fix most plumbing problems easily.
If your issue is with your boiler or central heating system, make sure you hire a heating engineer or a plumber with the required qualifications to work on your system. All tradesmen must be Gas Safe registered to legally carry out work on a boiler or other gas appliance. Being Gas Safe registered is a sign that a plumber knows how to service gas appliances and won’t leave you with unsafe equipment. You can find a Gas Safe registered plumber in Oxford here.
Look for a plumber who is a member of a trade association
Again, there is no requirement for a plumber to join one of the plumbing trade associations out there but if they do, it can be a good sign that the work they complete is of a competent standard. That’s not to say that all plumbers who don’t become a member are bad (many are incredibly competent). Some reputable and larger plumbing firms choose not to join trade associations for their own reasons.
Generally speaking, a plumber with a trade association membership has a badge of professionalism and is held to higher standards. Trade associations encourage high standards for the quality of work, technical ability, and customer service from their members.
Good trade association badges to look for are The Association of Plumbing & Heating Contractors (APHC) and the Chartered Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineering (CIPHE). If you require a plumber to fix a boiler, then being Gas Safe registered is also a must.
Look for a plumber with good customer service
Being technically competent is a given for any plumber but customer service is equally important. It’s no good knowing a technically adept plumber who can fix any problem if you can never get hold of them on the phone.
Make sure communication between you and the plumber is clear and detailed, especially when talking about estimates and billing. If your first experience with a plumber is chasing him down on the phone or waiting for a call back that never happens, it might be a good idea to look elsewhere.
Look for a plumber who gives you a clear and detailed quotation
Long gone are the days when a plumber would jot down a quote on the back of an envelope with little information of what you were paying for. While you may still find that some plumbers have a slipshod approach to quotes, most are now far more professional in their approach and will give you a clear breakdown of what the work costs (including parts and labour) in an invoice style document.
This quote will form part of the contract between you and the plumber and this adds extra emphasis on the tradesmen to ensure it is as accurate and covers the required details.
Sometimes the quote will be given over the phone. If it is, be aware that any prices will be provisional and based on certain assumptions of the quality of pipework etc. On closer inspection, the plumber may need to revise prices.
Your quote should include:
- Clear details of the issue you are having and what is required to fix them
- Details of any parts required to complete the job including their cost
- Details of labour charges broken down into hours with a final price
- Any VAT charges that apply to both parts and labour
- Details of how the bill (should work go ahead) is to be paid, including any deposits and upfront payments required
- A list of any other terms and conditions that apply to the work or are specific to the plumber
Make sure your plumber has a valid insurance certificate
All tradesmen should have correct and proper insurance for the work they undertake. If they don’t, they are putting themselves and you, as their customer, at risk. If a plumber does not have insurance and an issue arises you could be left in the lurch. Even worse, if they cause damage to a neighbour’s property you could be held liable for the cost of repairs.
Do a bit of research before hiring
You’ll probably come across details of most of the plumbers you hire via a recommendation from a friend or family member. But don’t just take their word for it. Ask around for what other people think about them. Look for recommendations or testimonials online. Read reviews for the plumber on trade websites like Checkatrade.com. These steps are even more important if you happened upon the plumber’s details online or in a phonebook.
Once you’ve chosen a plumber, don’t be afraid to ask for testimonials from customers who required similar work to yours. Ask the plumber for copies of their qualifications, insurance, and trade association memberships. Don’t feel like you are being unreasonable by doing your homework before you hire. And if the plumber is reluctant to do any of these things, look elsewhere. It could be a sign that they aren’t telling the truth.
Other things to consider when researching a Plumber in Oxford:
- How long have they been in business: While the length of time a plumber has been in business isn’t always a good guide on quality, it can be used as an indicator of how experienced they are. Most new plumbers come into the business with many of the skills required to complete work to a high standard. But until they’ve worked on a variety of jobs, they won’t have the understanding required to deal with issues that don’t run smoothly or are a bit out of the ordinary.
- Does the plumber offer a guarantee or warranty for their work: Some plumbers guarantee their work to last for a minimum length of time. This is sometimes backed by an insurance policy or warranty. Hiring a plumber who guarantees work is a great way to ensure you have total peace of mind. Always check before hiring a tradesman what sort of warranties they provide.
- Look for extra fees: Make sure you read terms and conditions thoroughly to ensure you aren’t hit with any unforeseen costs during work. Check to see if the plumber charges more for working on specific days or if they are called out in an emergency. Make sure you understand exactly what they charge in all cases before hiring them for a job.
Why you should choose a local Oxford plumber or heating engineer
It may be tempting to opt for a large national agency (like British Gas for example) over an independent company, but choosing a local plumber has many advantages. Here are a few to consider:
- The cost of work may be cheaper: Most large national companies charge an arm and a leg for completing plumbing and heating work. This is understandable when you consider that most of the tradesmen they hire have to travel large distances to complete work. Prices of such companies are often flat fees given on a rate card with no flexibility on pricing. Hiring an out-of-town company has similar problems with travel often pushing up prices. Local plumbers, on the other hand, have less distance to travel, will generally offer flexible rates based on the amount of work required not an arbitrary cost, and will know where to source cheaper local material.
- Local plumbers will want to protect their reputation: Local businesses rely on their reputation and word of mouth to make money. One bad review can tarnish their hard work and reduce their ability to earn in the future. That’s not to say that out of town or large national plumbing firms don’t care about their reputation. But one bad review for a national company is unlikely to cause a great stir and bad word of mouth for an out-of-town company may not filter back to their home location. Check out websites like com and Ratedpeople.com for reviews of plumbers in Oxford.
- Work can be completed quicker: Local plumbers and heating engineers have less distance to travel and generally source materials locally. This often means they can complete work quicker and more efficiently.
- Oxford plumbers and heating engineers understand Oxford properties: Properties in Oxford range from centuries-old cottages to new-build semi-detached houses and take in every type of building in between. A local experienced Oxford plumber or heating engineer is likely to understand the intricacies of Oxford properties far better than somebody from out of town.
- It’s easier to gauge word of mouth: Finding information and recommendations is far easier if the plumber you hire is local.
- You are supporting local business: With the year we’ve had, supporting local business is important for the economy. Many plumbers and heating engineers have felt the pinch of COVID-19 just like everybody else. By hiring locally, you are helping keep them in business for the future.
Choosing the right plumber is a difficult task. But armed with a little knowledge and the tips in our guide can make the process far easier.
The next time you need a plumber in Oxford, remember the tips above and hire local. You won’t be disappointed.