Plumbing FAQs

by Matt Solis

Do you have questions about your upcoming plumbing job or plumbing work in general? You’re not alone. Below, we answer some commonly asked questions about plumbing, as well as hiring and working with a plumbing contractor.


Q: Why won’t some plumbers give estimates over the phone?

A: Many plumbers won’t give estimates over the phone because it can be hard or impossible to accurately diagnose a plumbing problem without seeing it in person. Since plumbing fixtures and materials greatly vary, plumbing contractors who give estimates over the phone may end up changing the diagnosis and fee after arriving to the jobsite. However, many plumbers will give free estimates when they come to look at the plumbing problem in person. Others may charge for estimates but might apply the fee toward your repair costs if you hire them to handle the work.

Q: Is there an advantage to hiring a plumber who carries parts and equipment in their work truck?

A: Yes. Prepared plumbers can usually fix common plumbing problems faster because they have all the materials they need and don’t have to drive to a plumbing supply store.

Q: My plumber wants me to sign a Waiver of Right to Cancel for my emergency plumbing repairs. What is this? Is it legal?

A: In the state of California, consumers who sign a contract with a company that comes to their home to provide a service or product have three days to cancel the transaction. However, while that might be a protection for the consumer in some cases, it can cost plumbers thousands of dollars if a consumer decides to cancel the contract after an emergency plumbing service has been rendered. That’s because unlike products, consumers can’t return services, so if a customer cancels the transaction, the plumber will have essentially done all the work for free.

For that reason, some plumbers ask emergency plumbing customers to sign a Waiver of Right to Cancel, meaning that they accept and will pay the charges for the emergency plumbing repairs. Asking a customer to sign this waiver is legal, but only if the repairs are for a true emergency. To protect yourself from plumbers who try to take advantage of their customers by asking them to sign a waiver in a non-emergency situation, make sure the repairs you’re having done are truly required immediately.

Q: How can I prevent drain clogs?

A: If you find yourself regularly calling your plumber to fix clogged drains, there are some simple solutions that can help you avoid trouble in the future.

  • First, find out what type of pipes you have. Iron or galvanized pipes can rust and clog more easily. You may choose to hire a local plumbing company to repipe your home using copper or PVC pipes, which are less likely to clog and won’t rust.
  • Install stoppers and hair traps on all your sinks and bathtubs. Remove hair and other debris before it can be flushed down the drains.
  • Don’t pour cooking grease (or other liquids that may solidify when they cool) down your sink.
  • Regularly flush sinks and bathtubs with running water.
  • Never use your toilet as a garbage disposal or flush baby wipes or paper towels.

Q: We rarely use our guest bathroom. Is there anything we should do to keep the plumbing and fixtures working?

A: Toilets, piping and fixtures should be regularly flushed with water. This keeps the water traps full and avoids the backflow of odors and gasses into the home. Once a week, you should use or turn on the fixtures to keep them functioning. You can also pour a bucket of water in each toilet, sink, shower and floor drain in the unused bathrooms in your home.

Q: What are on-demand water heaters?

A: On-demand water heaters, also called tankless water heaters, heat water as you use it rather than heating and storing hot water in a tank. Because tankless water heaters don’t waste energy storing and maintaining the temperature of unused hot water, their operating costs can be up to 30 percent lower than those of a traditional water heater. And with the emphasis on energy-saving appliances, tax credits may be available if you purchase an on-demand water heater.

Q: Should I buy a low-flow showerhead or low-flush toilet?

A: Low-flow toilets and showerheads save substantial amounts of water compared to traditional showerheads and toilets. Numerous water-saving fixtures have been available since the National Energy Policy Act (which mandated low-flow toilets) was passed in 1995.

Q: What other water- and energy-saving plumbing fixtures are available?

A: These days, there are many options for energy-saving plumbing fixtures, including air-assisted toilets, gravity toilets, power-assisted toilets, aerators, tankless water heaters, graywater recycling fixtures, composting toilets, dual-flush toilets, waterless urinals, sensor-operated faucets, solar water heaters and hot water recirculating pumps. Call your local plumbing contractor for more information on available water-saving plumbing products and which ones will work best for you.

Q: My drains are running slow. Can I use a store-bought cleaner like Liquid-Plumr to clean out the pipes?

A: You may be able to fix clogged drains and stopped up sinks by using drain-cleaning products that you buy at the store, but for tough clogs that you can’t clear after a few attempts or drains and pipes that clog constantly, you may need to call a plumbing company to snake out your pipes.

Q: I think tree roots may be growing in our pipes. What should I do?

A: First, have a plumber confirm that you have roots in your piping. Some plumbers have camera equipment that can locate the problem area and give them a view of how to repair it. A plumber can also advise you on ways to prevent the problem from reoccurring, like removing bushes or trees that are growing into the piping, using a root-killing product, replacing the affected pipe with a stronger material, or snaking out the pipe or using high-pressure water to jet out the pipe and line it with an epoxy material.

Q: Why should I choose a Diamond Certified plumbing company?

A: Diamond Certified helps you choose a plumbing company with confidence by offering a list of top rated local companies that have passed the country’s most in-depth rating process. Only plumbers rated Highest in Quality and Helpful Expertise® earn the prestigious Diamond Certified award. Most companies can’t pass the ratings. American Ratings Corporation also monitors every Diamond Certified company with in-depth and ongoing research and ratings. And your purchase is backed by the Diamond Certified Performance Guarantee, so you’ll feel confident choosing a Diamond Certified plumbing contractor.