How to Hire a Good Plumber in Philadelphia
Water is expensive in Philadelphia when compared to other major cities in the nation with residents paying between 20 to 40 more than the rest of the nation. However, you may be adding some hundred dollars to this high bill by having unattended leakages in your indoor and outdoor plumbing system. A single household leak can waste up to 90 gallons of water per day. If you have seen a sudden spike in your water bill, it is time to invite a qualified plumber to help fix undetected leaks and run routine maintenance to optimize your water usage. When in search of a plumber in Philadelphia, ask the following questions to ensure you are making a good hire:
- Are You Licensed to Practice as a Plumber in the City of Philadelphia?
- How Much Do You Charge Compared to Plumbers in the City of Philadelphia?
- Do You Comply with the City of Philadelphia Building Code for Plumbing?
- Will You Get the Plumbing Permits as Required by the City of Philadelphia Code?
- What Kind of Plumbing Services Do You Offer?
- Do You Offer Emergency Plumbing Services in the City of Philadelphia?
- Do You Carry the Necessary Insurance Policy for Plumbers in the City of Philadelphia?
Are You Licensed to Practice as a Plumber in the City of Philadelphia?
Per section G102.1(3) of the Philadelphia Plumbing code, you must not employ the services of an unlicensed plumber for your project. This means intended plumbers for your projects must have obtained the relevant plumbing licenses issued by the Permits and Licenses Center of the City of Philadelphia Department of Licenses and Inspections.
The city's Permits and Licenses Center is responsible for issuing licenses to apprentice plumbers, journeyman plumbers, and masters plumbers who wish to operate in the city. Individuals applying for apprentice plumber licenses must be at least 16 years old and must also provide an employment certification issued by a licensed master plumber in the city. For a journeyman plumber license, the applicant must provide proof of having been registered as an apprentice plumber for not less than four years, usually in the form of a tax record reflecting employment in plumbing construction or proof of licensure in plumbing construction. In addition to this, the journeyman plumber applicant must provide evidence of completing an examination as stipulated by the Department. Finally, master plumber applicants are required to submit the following when applying for a plumbing license:
- A copy of the applicant's commercial activity license and tax identification number.
- Proof of obtaining requisite insurance policies.
- Proof of being licensed as an apprentice plumber for not less than four years and a journeyman plumber for not less than a year.
- Proof of completing a Philadelphia master plumber examination no more than a year before submitting a master plumber license application.
In addition to the requirements stated above, the master plumber applicant must comply with the Department's tax obligations and all additional requirements imposed by the Department. Before hiring plumbers in the city, you must make sure you confirm they have obtained the required licenses, and you can use the city's Permit and License Center L&I's online tool to do this. You can also confirm if your intended plumber's licenses have been revoked or suspended through the suspended contractor's directory maintained by the city's Permit and License Center.
How Much Do You Charge Compared to Plumbers in the City of Philadelphia?
How much you spend when hiring plumbers in the City of Philadelphia depends on the nature of the work you are hiring them for. Also, additional factors that may affect cost include the permits required for the projects and the cost of materials that may be required. It is advisable to compare estimates from different plumbers in the city before picking the most suitable plumber for your budget.
A plumber in the City of Philadelphia earns an annual average wage of $69,030. Below is a breakdown of the average hourly wages for plumbers in Philadelphia compared with plumbers in other parts of Pennsylvania and other major cities in the country:Philadelphia Plumbers Hourly Average Wage$33.19Pennsylvania Plumbers Hourly Average Wage$29.65New York City Plumbers Hourly Average Wage$35.78Houston Plumbers Hourly Average Wage$26.71Detroit Plumbers Hourly Average Wage$33.24Miami Plumbers Hourly Average Wage$22.66Boston Plumbers Hourly Average Wage$40.46
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Do You Comply with the City of Philadelphia Building Code for Plumbing?
The Philadelphia Plumbing Code establishes a set of requirements to provide a reasonable level of safety, public health, protection to the life and property of Philadelphia residents. It also regulates and controls the design of buildings, installation of quality of materials, operation, and maintenance or use of plumbing equipment and systems. The code also applies to the erection, installation, alteration, addition, service, or maintenance of plumbing systems in residential and commercial buildings and structures. This is why it is essential you only hire plumbers who are duly licensed by the city's Department of Licenses and Inspections for your intended projects. Typically, licensed plumbers are conversant with the city's plumbing code provisions, which may help ensure you do not violate any relevant sections of this code. You can seek further clarification regarding the city's plumbing code, its requirements, and possible code violations from the Department of Licenses and Inspections by submitting an online request to 311 calling 311 directly.
Will You Get the Plumbing Permits as Required by the City of Philadelphia Code?
Plumbers are typically required to obtain city issued permits for any planned plumbing projects before commencing work. The Philadelphia Department of Licenses and Inspections via its Permits and Licenses Center is responsible for issuing plumbing permits for intended plumbing projects in the city. However, certain plumbing works in the city do not require plumbing permits, and these include:
- Minor repairs like the replacement of faucets, valves, and parts.
- Removing and re-installing toilets, if no pipes or fixtures will be replaced or moved.
- Stopping leaks and clearing stoppages.
Either a project owner or a licensed master plumber can apply for plumbing permits in Philadelphia. To commence your application, you need to download and complete the EZ permit standard: plumbing permits without plans application form, which must include your detailed information and the complete scope of the intended project. It is important to note that you must confirm that your property falls within the City of Philadelphia before applying for your permit. You can do this via the online portal provided by the city's Office of Property Assessment. You should also apply for these permits with the address provided by your property search on this portal. If your plumbing permit application requires plans, you must ensure it follows the city's plan requirements. You can submit your application in person at the city's Permit and License Center located at:
- Municipal Services Building
- 1401 John F. Kennedy Boulevard.
- MSB, Public Service Concourse
- Philadelphia, PA 19102
- Office hours: 8:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Monday through Friday
Note that you will be required to book an appointment before making in-person submissions. Alternatively, you can complete an application online and upload all required documents. If your hired licensed plumber is completing the application, they will be required to link their professional license to the online application account. In addition to this, the Department issues rough-in permits to enable you to install pipes before your full plumbing permit is issued, and these rough-in licenses are valid for 60 days. The same mode of application for standard plumbing permits can also be utilized when applying for rough-in permits in the city. You will be required to pay filing fees, surcharge fees, and permit application fees when submitting your plumbing permit applications online and in person.
Also, if your plumbing permit is approved,you will be automatically assigned an inspector, and you will need to arrange for inspections with this individual. Note that inspectors are not automatically assigned when permit applications are submitted online, and you will have to request for an inspector via the online portal or by calling the city's Permit and Licenses Center at (215) 255-4040. Once the inspection is completed, you will be issued a certificate of approval.
The processing time for plumbing permits by the city's Permit and Licenses Center depends on the application method used. For instance, standard plumbing permits applications usually take 20 days, while expedited plumbing permits applications are reviewed within five business days. If your licensed plumber is responsible for applying for your project's plumbing permits, you can use the city's Department of Licenses and Inspections permit lookup tool to confirm that all required permits have been obtained.
What Kind of Plumbing Services Do You Offer?
When you have confirmed that your intended plumbers have been duly licensed, you also need to confirm that the area of specialization of the plumbers conforms with the projects at hand. Plumbers in the City of Philadelphia offer different plumbing services to residents and other interested parties. Some of these plumbers specialize in residential or commercial buildings, while some only deal with plumbing equipment services and repairs, including their maintenance in residential and commercial buildings.
The average cost that homeowners in the City of Philadelphia pay for plumbing services is between $175 to $450. Usually, these service costs are not inclusive of the permits and inspections fee. Below is an estimated cost associated with plumbing services in the City of Philadelphia:Clogged drain clearing/fixing$135 - $165Drain line repair$281 - $322Fixture and faucet repair/replacement$89 - $120Bathtub installation for acrylic tub$2,084 - $2,548Septic System installation$8,006 - $9,512Sewer Line Cleaning$225 - $361Water main installation or repair$34 - $57 per linear footWater softener installation$1,142 - $1,533
Do You Offer Emergency Plumbing Services in the City of Philadelphia?
Generally, water leaks should be attended to as soon as possible to prevent water wastage. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, household leaks account for more than 1 trillion gallons of water wastage annually. Also, when you factor in Philadelphia water rates, which cost an average of $74 per 500 cubic feet for residential homes and $120 per 600 cubic feet for non-residential homes, it makes it essential to attend to water leaks within a short period. Even though you may want to take the do-it-yourself approach, it is advisable to hire experienced and duly licensed plumbers to resolve any emergency water leaks you may be experiencing. You can use the city's Department of Licenses and Inspections online find a contractor tool to get suitable licensed plumbers. You can also use third-party websites like Yelp and Better Business Bureau to find plumbers near you.
Do You Carry the Necessary Insurance Policy for Plumbers in the City of Philadelphia?
Master plumbers must provide proof of obtaining the required insurance when applying for plumbing licenses according to section G103.1 of the city's Plumbing Code. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, an estimated 63 fatal injuries were recorded in Philadelphia in 2018, with falls, slips, and trips accounting for 15% of the total injury. This makes it very important for you to hire plumbers with an active insurance policy that would provide coverage for all work-related perils that they may encounter on the job. Per section G103.2 of the city's Plumbing Code, all master plumbers duly licensed in the city must possess a certificate of insurance that includes the minimum coverage amounts for the following types of insurance:
- General liability: $500,000 per occurrence
- Automobile liability Insurance: $300,000
- $100,000 per accident
- $100,000 per employee
- $500,000 policy limit
If the master plumbers fail to purchase insurance coverage, their licenses will be revoked or non-renewal of their license. To confirm if your intended plumbers have acquired the necessary insurance policy, contact the city's Department of Licenses and Inspection by submitting an online request to 311 or calling 311.
How to File a Complaint Against a Bad Plumber in the City of Philadelphia
Homeowners in Philadelphia spend an average cost of $3200 annually on remodeling activities and home improvement. With the amount of money being expended on plumbing services in the city, there is always the threat of deceptive and unscrupulous professionals trying to defraud residents of Philadelphia through home improvement scams or unsolicited repair services. In September 2021, the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office issued a warning to the city's residents following Hurricane Ida about home repair improvement scams from home improvement contractors, including plumbing contractors operating within the city. To protect yourself and your household from falling victims to plumbing scams, you can take note of the following:
- Always request that your intended plumber provide you with written estimates and contracts before entering into an agreement.
- Never pay the total service fee upfront. Ensure you always have a payment plan for each stage of the work.
- Note that legitimate plumbers do not send residents of the city unsolicited offers or ask for large sums of money.
- Always compare estimates when you are hiring a plumbers service to give yourself a second opinion.
- Always verify that the intended plumbers have been duly licensed by the City of Philadelphia Department of Licenses and Inspections through its city's Permit and License Center L&I's online tool.
- Stay up to date by checking if the intended plumbers have been suspended or their licenses revoked for violating the city's plumbing code through the suspended contractor's directory maintained by its Permit and License Center.
- Never sign any documents that you do not fully understand.
- Always avoid pressure tactics employed by deceptive professionals who insist that you act fast.
If you have been a victim of deceptive plumbers in the city, you can report this to the Department of Licenses and Inspections by using an online Philly 311 form or calling 311. If you are outside Philadelphia, you can call (215) 686-8686 to make a complaint. You can also submit additional information to prove your complaints via email to this department, and you must include the 311 case number, the location of the project, and your phone number. The Pennsylvania Office of the Attorney General, through its Consumer Protection Bureau, also handles consumer complaints relating to deceptive business practices, including plumbing scams in Philadelphia. To file a complaint with the Attorney General's Office, you can complete its online complaint form.