Why is it so hard to find a reliable Plumber?

by Readers Question

2 months ago

Why is it so hard to find a reliable Plumber?

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Why is it so hard to find a reliable Plumber?

We bought a house as an investment rental property in January 2016. A new boiler had been fitted in December 2015 so we were fairly confident that we would not be incurring expense on the boiler for a few years. We had used an agent for various activities on the marketing and letting process and their service had been good so we decided to use them for the gas safety check and boiler service which they carried out in Dec. 2016 and Dec.2017.

On Saturday the boiler failed completely the main heat exchanger badly corroded together with the secondary heat exchanger . The plumber confirmed that the filling loop had been installed incorrectly so mains water had been entering the whole system for 2 years . Other installation errors were also apparent albeit they would not have caused the boiler to fail.

He removed the magnetic plug and said it was full of debris from corrosion and probably because the system had probably not been power flushed on installation. It was the worst he had seen in 21 years .We now face a bill of £3451 to replace the boiler and rectify the faults. The boiler manufacturer’s engineer came out a year ago to change a faulty gas valve. So 2 services and a manufacturers engineer attend to the boiler and none of them check the magnetic plug or spot that the filling loop is incorrectly installed . Am I missing something here ?

The agent’s response is that it assigned 2 different engineers for the services ( which in my opinion makes their standard of service even worse ) and that it would be useful to have more clarity around boiler services .

Can Property 118 not develop a quality service and resource it to stop this sort of thing happening ?
Which conducted a survey recently and confirmed 40% of boiler services are inadequate and miss basic but in some cases critical items.

Rant over but any suggestions would be gratefully appreciated.
And yes I am writing to the boiler manufacturer next.

Christopher

Comments

Neil Patterson

2 months ago

Hi Christopher,

We (P118) did launch a directory service for service providers back in 2011/12. Unfortunately the take up and use was far to low to cover even a small percentage of the costs. There is also a lot of competition in this market like checkatrader and trustatrader etc.

British Gas may not be the cheapest for their Homecare cover, but many people find them reliable.

St. Jims

2 months ago

Hmm....

For a £3k bill I would get a second opinion from a different plumber. Tell 2nd plumber you're paying for his opinion only, and that he wont get the work if there is any to be done.

Debris and corrosion is an assumed element in any hot water heating system. The Magnetic plug is there to collect it. Nothing unusual in that by itself.

The boiler packed up on my very first day of home ownership (years ago...). The first plumber thorugh the door said it was an £1800 fix. The second plumber said it was an £80 job - and he was right!

Having employed electricians, refrigeration/air-conditioning engineers and plumbers for many years our experience is that either the clients will complain about call out engineers labour rates and yet take their cars to a garage and pay £50 + an hour. You get what you pay for. It does not have to be exorbitant but reasonable. But how many wait until a breakdown before they summon a tradesmen? Planned maintenance will reduce if not eliminate completely emergency calls. Many manufactures extend their warranties if equipment is serviced regularly. Similarly to the comment above some manufacturers of mechanical/electrical equipment have also attempted to introduce an annual maintenance health check but forced to shut them down due to lack of uptake. We are in a cold-spell now hence heating & boiler problems but when we get into the summer it will be cooling equipment breaking down as soon as hot-spell arrives. It happens every year but getting clients to have pre-season maintenance is virtually a waste of time. I have just had some work done on one of our holiday-let clients by a local [Cornwall] plumber and it was in our opinion very reasonable. Was this because it was a scheduled visit?

Dennis Leverett

2 months ago

As St. Jims says definitely get another opinion. I'm not a plumber but was Corgi Registered for many years as I had a Kitchen, Bathroom and Bedroom business and wanted to be in control of such important matters. The filling loop comment does not make sense as it sounds, because if it was leaking into the heat exchanger area the water pressure would drop quickly and boiler would keep cutting out, the filling loop is used to fill and maintain water pressure and turned off once pressure is set. What St.Jims says about the plug is correct especially in hard water areas and this should be part of a service to check and clean. I have saved many friends loads of money by questioning their "plumbers" re boiler repairs. 9 times out of 10 it's a simple problem. We use Domestic & General for our rental boiler insurance, not the cheapest but very efficient and excellent service using boiler manufacturer engineers, can't fault them, so far always sorted problems within 24 hours. Then for yearly servicing and gas certification we have a local heating engineer who is one of the good guys but always busy and we have to book him well in advance, we are lucky with him. The boiler would not have needed power flushing originally as long as installer flushed out pipes using mains supply before installing boiler. Power flushing is used mainly to clean out whole older complete systems, rads etc. Anyone can be a plumber which attracts all kinds thinking easy money!!! Ask around for recommendations and don't skimp on costs to save a couple of quid as it could cost you a lot more as you have experienced. Good luck.

Paul Shears

2 months ago

After many years I have found that all trades are a nightmare of the dumb & irresponsible.
If you get a good tradesman, look after him/her and part on mutually beneficial terms once the job is complete, there is still a very high probability, in my extensive experience, that they will not remain a good trader.
Something will happen in their life which renders them either a liability or completely useless.
In my own mind, based on my own experience, I have a hierarchy of unreliability across the trades. I would put plumbers right at the bottom.
Recommendations have proven to be pretty much worthless.
Web sites like Trusted Trade & CheckaTrade have to be feedback interpreted just like buying on Ebay.
If most of the feedback is that every time some “excellent” 10/10 trader goes to a house, he fits a new boiler then you don’t need to be Sherlock Holmes to draw some sort of sensible conclusion.
Also, you most certainly do not get what you pay for.
Just paying a high price has absolutely no effect on the service you get unless the price quoted is what common sense might tell you, is simply uneconomic for the trader.
I have a few tradesmen that I try to call on when needed but on countless occasions, I pay the idiots just to get rid of them and then do the job myself.
Heat exchangers are about £60 depending on the model of boiler and they don’t vary much.
You do need a MagnaClean or similar and there is absolutely no point in installing a small one as they all cost about the same amount of money in the scheme of things.
Most boiler installation can be done for £2500 in total including a top size domestic boiler for a large house.
Remember it’s the traders and not the customer who CheckaTrade get their money from.
This structural conflict of interest occurs everywhere in society and you have to be aware and use judgement.
If you try to talk to CheckaTrade yourself, they simply do not want to get involved.
CheckaTrade have none of the skills of the people that they derive their income from and they use this as an excuse for not making their own judgement calls.
Also the same tradesman can appear with different identities on the same web site and this most certainly, from my experience, includes CheckaTrade.
Having said that, you have to start somewhere and I know of no better place.
So having done the best that you can, you have to just take a risk and accept the fact that you may have to pay multiple tradesmen to do the same job.
The closed shop of licencing people who are briefly trained (A single day on a specific boiler for example) and have paid some membership fees, does little or nothing to address the requirement that they can ever actually do the job.
I once had a chap do a very simple boiler replacement at a cost of £3000.
He was gas safe registered, trained on the specific boiler and has been a self-employed plumber for many years.
It took him 18 days to “install” the boiler and on day 17 he rang me at 07.20 having clearly not slept that night, to look for a way of getting out of the simple low skilled task that was clearly completely beyond him.
Having listed 43 major failings, some of which were repeated, I came to the conclusion that this chap was simply not bright enough to hold down a job as a plumbers mate.
And yet this was how he had earned his living for many years.
Having paid that idiot off to get rid of him, I hired another plumber who came highly recommended from a trade organisation.
He proved to be even worse.
One thing he told me was that it was the customer’s job to hang radiators and not the job of a plumber.
I asked him what that left the plumber to do and he could not answer.
So I ripped out every single pipe and joint that these full time “professionals” had “installed” and did the job myself.
As usual all parties had gone through the meaningless ritual of agreeing both verbally and in writing, backed up by a detailed drawing, what was to be done, how it was to be done and when it was to be done.
All this actually achieves is to weed out the worst of these people.
Their visits, assuming they can actually find the property, can be as short as five minutes.
So a win-win situation there.
I don’t want them and they don’t want me.
It was one such of these people that told me as he was leaving that the appointment that I had booked later that day and which I had not discussed with him, would not take place as it was, in fact, his alter ego.
It does nothing to guarantee the desired result.
It really infuriates me how low the entry level to the “trades” really is.
Any have-a-go-harry can join the club.
And these idiots, most of whom cannot even find their way to work on time (The same day would be nice!) are so stupid as to lecture me on tasks that I can do with my eyes closed and are completely beyond them.
It’s not just that these people have not been adequately trained, rather it is that they are not trainable and lack the most basic tools to do the job.
I often end up lending them a lot of my own tools which is something of an education for them as some of them they have never seen.
In every walk of society now it is most certainly the case that employment consists of filling out forms in order to get someone else to take on the minutiae of low skilled tasks and walking away.
I have a few good tradesmen that I call on but they are a tiny fraction of the total that I have tried to or actually done business with over the decades.
These people can pretty much charge what they like and if it happens to be a big firm, I give the actual hands on guys and extra £20 each for a job well done.
This can amount to over an extra £100 for two days work or less.
I don’t expect anything back for this but I do like to encourage people who are competent.
My sincere good wishes on your challenge but I am quite certain that any solution that you find will have a limited life and be even more difficult to solve next time due to the ever increasing dumbing down and bureaucratic regulation of society.
Process over reason and evidence almost every time.

John Frith

2 months ago

I have found that when a new-to-me tradesman such as a plumber, electrician, repair man etc, first looks at a job, it is completely normal for them to list the incompetencies of whoever last worked on the item. It gives them an air of authority, which many people seem ready to accept at face value.

I also believe that if you are dealing with someone who is presenting themselves as an expert, it's a good opportunity for me to pick their brains for me to have better understanding of what has gone wrong, or what can be done better. You can tell a lot about them from their response. Some get defensive because they think your challenging their authority - these I avoid. Some start giving you a load of BS that is designed to mislead - avoid. Some are not good at explaining - well, they aren't paid to explain - but I am wary. The best are comfortable explaining their assessment of the work. Unfortunately, the incompetent still seem to find enough work to earn a living.

Dennis Leverett

2 months ago

Reply to the comment left by John Frith at 01/03/2018 - 15:11
I get what Paul Shears is saying but there are decent tradesmen about. I would never use the Checkatrades etc. for the obvious reasons Paul states, they make their money from tradesmen not customers. Someone that I had never met or done business with put a terrible review about me on Trustpilot, don't know why. I'm not even signed up with them and you would not believe the trouble I had with Trustpilot to get rid of it, had to threaten court action. Same thing happened with Amazon but they were brilliant and offered to back me to take this person to court who finally gave a written apology after receiving a "notice of intention to start court proceedings" notice. Can't trust most of those reviews. I have an excellent group of tradesmen around me now, not cheap not dear, but I look after them buy them a beer in the pub etc. You have to keep asking around to find them. Other landlords, people you know, as you see a tradesman at a neighbours house when he's gone ask the neighbour, look at what they did, how much did they charge, were you happy. The last 10 years of my KBB business was all recommendations from customers thanks to my three teams of fitters.

Paul Shears

2 months ago

Reply to the comment left by John Frith at 01/03/2018 - 15:11
Very well said.

Reply to the comment left by Paul Shears at 01/03/2018 - 13:00
There is a severe lack of tradespeople.
This shows as the less than average ones seem to do well.

Things work both ways- I am a 'trusted trader' in my local council trusted trader scheme, for which I have been assessed with a visit and background checks and I am also registered with SELECT and NICIEC.
I had a client leave me a bad review on a couple of websites because I refused to work on her dangerous electrical install.
We had agreed a landlord check and smoke detectors but I only did the landlord check (and only charged for the landlord check) as the install was dangerous and unsafe.
The wiring regs mean I cannot carry out new works until certain things are up to standard (but can do an inspection) on an unsafe install.
This worked in my favour as I put her reviews (screenshots and links with her name partially blocked out) on my website as it acts as a positive selling point for my business.
As others have said- the rated person trade sites rely on money from the traders so can be easily manipulated.
One other reason I don't use these as the sites can lead to a Dutch auction type of job where 'traders' bid lower for the job in order to beat other competitors.

Some people don't realise that if a job sounds too cheap to be true then it probably is.

In reply to Dennis (above) I emailed the lady who left a bad review thanking her for the feedback and gave her another 7 links of sites where she could leave me more reviews

Martin S

2 months ago

It's not just about unreliable plumbers, but over complicated boilers, with a tendency for unreliability, and inbuilt obsolescence. Most manufactures of combi boilers seem to be aiming at a maximum 10 year life cycle for any of their products, and make spares hard to obtain after this, and 'unavailable' very soon afterwards. Worcester-Bosch in my experience are masters of this (maybe others also) trick, assuming that you'll use their products again when needing a replacement. Such arrogance!
Having been in this position twice recently with WB boilers, and having previously done much homework on the subject, they've been replaced by a Dutch product, used extensively in that country for social housing.
What still continues to niggle is the fact that at home, and in one of the rental properties, we still our 33 year old Baxi boilers still working well, with very little to go wrong. In the wintertime, and especially with the recent weather, we keep the central heating on 24/7. Despite all of the propaganda to suggest these old boilers aren't efficient, something like 95% efficient, as opposed to 98% efficient, they are still very good, and our combined electricity/gas bill per annum is around £850 pa, and we work form home!
Of course, in the rental property, the 33 year old Baxi is so reliable, that it doesn't need a monthly contract of around £20 pcm to ensure tenants have heat & hot water. So much for progress.

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