Plumbers are trained to handle all sorts of plumbing problems in homes and commercial buildings. However, plumbers can vary significantly in the quality of their work, the prices they charge and their overall reliability. Assess a plumber’s reputation, value and skills by asking a few simple questions before hiring him. Technically, all working plumbers must be licensed by the state in which they work and be able to provide proof that they have completed the necessary training to become a professional plumber. Some plumbers, however, learned the tricks of the trade on their own and are, in fact, not licensed. While these types of plumbers can often get the work done as well as trained plumbers, they are considerably less reliable. It’s better to hire a licensed plumber. As with any repair or construction work, you should know the cost of the job upfront. Some plumbers will provide a free estimate by coming to your house and calculating the repair costs at no extra charge, with the hopes that you’ll hire them. Other plumbers will charge an estimate fee, even if you don’t decide to hire them. Demand a written estimate of all costs involved to avoid conflicts in the future. Good professional plumbers are skilled at estimating costs and time frames for repairs, which should always be their responsibility, not yours. All professional plumbers should be insured in case a major accident occurs. Burst pipes, major floods, fires and other accidents do happen, so make sure your plumber is fully insured in the event that something unexpected happens. Ask the plumber to provide all of his insurance information up front to avoid any problems should an accident occur. Checking references is an excellent, tried-and-true method for determining a plumber’s level of experience and reliability. Ask for a list of references and follow up on them, asking other customers about their level of satisfaction with the plumber’s job and if there were any issues. If a plumber cannot provide any solid references, keep looking. Good, honest plumbers will include estimated travel time or overtime costs in the initial cost write-up, but sometimes they can be quite sneaky. Be upfront with your potential plumber and ask about these things in the beginning. Ask the plumber to provide this information in written form.