Look in the Dex Portland OR phone book and you will literally see hundreds of plumbing sites competing for your business. The metropolitan area of Portland has 2.1 million people and as of 2000 there were 237,269 housing units (which I’m sure has grown since then); all which at one point or another will need some type of plumbing services in the next five years. This begs the following question for a typical homeowner in Portland: how do you choose a good, honest, and professional plumbing business?
To start off with I would highly suggest you do all the legwork and due diligence way before you have plumbing issues. The question is not if something will happen in the future, it is when something will happen. Finding a plumbing company now that you like will make life easier later on because you will know exactly who to call when you need something.
Here are four questions to ask yourself any and prospective plumbing business in the Portland OR metro area.
First, make sure the company has all the credentials needed to operate a legitimate business of this nature in the city and state. To do plumbing work in Oregon you need a license. As state law mandates all plumbing companies need to register themselves with the Oregon Construction Contractors Board and the Oregon Department of Consumer & Business Services. Every company that is compliant with this receives what is called a “CCB”number. Look for it. Whether a company is advertising in the Dex Portland phone book or on the internet they should put that six digit number someplace where you can see it. Without it you cannot do any business in the city of Portland or for that matter the state of Oregon. These departments make certain that individuals and businesses have at least four years of experience or have completed some sort of apprenticeship school or program.
If they have that its times make make sure they are properly insured. Its standard practice for a legitimate plumbing company to have general liability insurance, be bonded, and carry a workers compensation policy if it has more than 3-4 employees. This may seem like asking a lot but all these things are requirements by law to keep substandard companies out of the local marketplace. Its the cost of doing business and protects them and you. The Building Codes Division of the Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services are known for rejecting permits of companies that hire unlicensed workers or do work at is not up to code. Several years ago this division shut down a large plumbing company, JRT Mechanical Inc, from doing work in the Portland area for five years because some of its workers did installation jobs in the city who did not have the proper credentials. You want to make sure the perspective plumbing company you get in the Portland area is good with this agency because if not it could be a sign of trouble.
Next, find out how long they have been in business. Optimally you want a plumbing business with at least three-five years of experience. By this period of time they have hopefully seen a lot of different scenarios and have solved many different kinds of problems. I hate to say avoid the newer less experienced companies, because everybody has to start from some beginning, but they are going to work slower and less efficient than well established ones. As you are in business for a while you gain hands-on expertise, knowledge, and the acquire the proper tools. This can only come to a business with time. According to the Portland Water Bureau corroded galvanized pipe in homes and businesses causes 90% of the water flow problems in Portland’s homes. Galvanized piped was installed in just about every home in the area before 1980 and its usually left without protection and uninsulated near the hot water heater, under the sinks, or on the property side of the water meter attached to the house. This type of pipe easily corrodes on the inside and that corrosion debris builds up in the pipes and either prevents or completely stops water flow. Again you need to find a company that is good at quickly diagnosing these problems, finding where the corrosion happened, and having the right tools on-site to fabricated new pipe and install it.
Next, I do not want to spend too much time on this next one but its important nonetheless. Make sure they have a real shop with a real address. Look for it. If you just see a PO Box you are most likely dealing with a sole proprietor who is working out of his home. He will probably be cheaper than other who do have a building but he will be limited in what he can do. A shop allows businesses to stock parts, fabricate tools, and should you need to see them in person you know where to go. A person with a PO Box can close up shop in an instant and you could never hear from them again. Its even better if they have multiple locations around Portland. This makes getting to your home easy and fast for their techs. The really good ones in town have offices or satellite locations in Beaverton (west side), Gresham (east side), Vancouver (Portland’s biggest suburb), and somewhere close to downtown. This makes life more convenient for you. If you have to go see them in person to dispute a bill or get some consultation you do not have to drive clear across town to do so.
Lastly, you want to ask them about their prices. An honest plumbing business should be upfront and straight about their hourly rates and charges. There should not be any hidden fees. If they charge a call-out service charge on top of their hourly rate it should be stated in advance. The standard rate for a legitimate plumbing company in Portland Or is between $80 on the lower end to $120 on the higher end for more well established ones. The standard business hours service times are 7AM-PM here so anything before or after that can be viewed as “after hours” here and higher prices ensue. Newer businesses just starting will usually offer tons of incentives and discounts while larger ones who have been around do not have to. You really have to balance out needs versus wants when deciding. The newer ones will be cheaper but may not have the expertise and tools to work on everything. The older ones who have been in business for more than twenty years will have everything but will be very expensive. I tend to go with the middle companies who have been around five to ten years.