Trades disambiguation: Plumbers & Gas fitters

images2DCW4NKZCertain knowledge comes with experience. I received a call from my brother last week. He is sharing a flat with fellow students. They’ve noticed damp spot on the wall. Before they knew it, half of the floor was missing and the problem was still there?! “How do I manage it?” How do I know I have the right tradie? What are they supposed to do?” my brother was asking.

For all young people out there I’m starting a series of posts about various trades. In combination with tips in my other posts, this should help you identify the right tradie for the job.

So, plumbers &  gas fitters.

What do they do? Plumbers specialise in installing and maintaining systems used for water supply and discharge, weather sealing (roof & gutters) and building temperature control (cooling/heating). It is usual for plumbers to have gas fitter’s license.

As part of their usual services, plumbers lay out, test and install fixtures, fittings, metal roofing, gas meters, regulators, units and appliances. They install equipment such as boilers, pumps, heating and cooling systems, natural gas appliances, water tanks, water heaters and solar water heating systems. Plumbers may also install, maintain and repair pipes in storm water or sewerage systems and drains, septic tanks, holding wells, sullage pits and absorption tracks.plumber

Additionally, plumbers may also perform the following tasks

  • install domestic and residential safety sprinkler systems;
  • fabricate and install steel pressure piping;
  • cut and join sheet metal;
  • locate and clear blockages;
  • fabricate and install sanitary stacks;
  • connect irrigation systems from drinking water supply.

Some of these works, for instance pipe blockage, require special equipment. Make sure that your plumber of choice specialises in this service so they don’t have to specifically hire equipment for your job. This would mean extra cost for you.

If you are buying a new house or endeavouring on house remodelling involving kitchen, bathroom and/or laundry – it’s a good idea to get a plumber to do an inspection of existing systems. This might save you from few bad surprises.

All plumbers should be able to perform the following tasks. This is part of their standard training:

  • Reading drawings, and specifications to determine layout of water supply, waste, and venting systems.
  • Detecting faults in plumbing appliances and systems, and correctly diagnosing their causes.
  • Installing, repairing and maintaining domestic, commercial, and industrial plumbing fixtures and systems.
  • Locating and marking positions for pipe connections, passage holes, and fixtures in walls and floors.
  • Measuring, cutting, bending, and threading pipes using hand and power tools or machines.
  • Joining pipes and fittings together using soldering techniques, compression fittings, threaded fittings, and push-on fittings.
  • Testing pipes for leaks using air and water pressure gauges.
  • Awareness of legal regulations and safety issues.
  • Ensuring safety standards and build regulations are met.

Every plumber/gas fitter in Australia should be able to present you with:

  1. Valid business registration number: ABN.
  2. Valid plumber’s, gasfitter’s and backflow licences. You can check the validity and business name assigned to the licence here.
  3. Valid and sufficient for your job Insurance policy such as public liability.
  4. It is always a good sign when your plumber is a member of Master Plumbers Association.
  5. Any additional credentials especially in water saving and sustainable practices are a big plus.

Don’t be afraid or uncomfortable requesting this information. It is usual practice and if your tradie gives you grief at this stage they are not the right fit for your job.

If you have a doubt about your plumber’s recommendation or course of action, get the second opinion from another plumber. I find it is good to just show the problem and see what recommendation another plumber gives.

Good luck! 🙂

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Rising inflation? Great!

ImageSo it’s gloom and doom according to Australian media based on indication of inflation spike.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics said Australia’s consumer prices index jumped 0.8 per cent in the three months to the end of December 2013 – more than twice as fast as expected apparently underpinned by increases in fruit and vegetable prices and the cost of domestic and international travel. Of course they forgot to mention that the real reason for the increase is that anything needing lots of petroleum, which has increased in AUD terms as the Aussie battler has declined by 15% against the USD, is now more expensive.

Great, let’s grow and eat own veggies and explore the local neighbourhood to spare servants of the people some grey hairs whilst keeping interest rates down. Unfortunately, there are other economy indicators like the unemployment rate and real salary trends that point towards leaner times. That’s when unexpected house expenditure can put extra strain on household budget.

Remember that any problem is an opportunity to learn to do things better. So let’s learn to choose our tradies better.

How to choose a tradie?

Here are some important tips on how to choose a good tradie.

  • ABN. Check that your trade contractor is registered at: http://abr.business.gov.au/ . Make sure that company name matches that on your quote.
  • Licenses. Many different tradesmen acquire their skills through apprenticeship and professional education programs. Tradesmen who have not completed apprenticeship in Australia are required to confirm their skills through obtaining Australian Recognised Trade Certificate.  There are also licensing associated with particular trades and high risk work. You can find more details on the Western Australian Department of Commerce site . Do check the license number against business name with appropriate licensing authority to escape disappointments.
  • Insurance. Ask for a copy of public liability insurance. This is in case you property gets damaged and tradie is low on cash.
  • Experience. Ask how many years of experience the tradie has. Is this job typical for them?
  • Awards, memberships and references. Memberships in trade’s top associations, professional accreditations, business awards and testimonials that can be verified speak volumes in favour of sound job performance.
  • Professional quote. Detailed written quote that lists both included and excluded items is a prerequisite for transparent, clear and professional engagement.
  • Rate. Obtain several quotes to understand the market average and so you don’t pay too much! Remember that accreditations and memberships cost money. So, if you are going for top of the pack reward them for their excellence – you might save on call-backs and inconveniencies. Don’t forget to ask about the terms of payment.
  • You. Providing a well defined job, time and budget will significantly increase your chances of getting the best tradie for the job. Develop relationship with good tradies you’ve found. Needless to say, pay your tradie on time.
  • Emergencies. Keep a record of tradies you have used in the past. You never know when you will have a plumbing or electrical emergency!

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