Q: Should I get a plumbing service agreement?
Marsha S., Swannanoa, N.C.
A: A plumbing service maintenance agreement offers consumers peace of mind when it comes to keeping their home’s plumbing in good working order.
As a complex system with intricate parts and nonstop water flow, plumbing in the home typically develops problems sooner or later, so it’s a good idea to map out a plan ahead of time. When your kitchen line starts spurting water at 2 a.m. in the middle of winter, it’s good to own a service agreement that tells you exactly who to call and gives you preferential scheduling in emergencies.
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More and more plumbers offer service contracts, which involve paying an annual fee for regular inspections and maintenance (usually once a year) and other benefits. The routine maintenance (which you should invest in anyway, even if you don’t have a service contract) will keep plumbing components in tip-top shape and identify small problems before they become big ones. An expert eye can often identify a failing component long before it blows out. Plus, the plumbing company will remind you when it’s time for an inspection, should it slip your mind.
Of course, a service contract is only as good as the provider offering it. If you’re going to enter into a long-term arrangement, you want it to be with a plumber you trust and one with whom you have a good working relationship. You’re going to commit to them for a while, so be sure you know you can count on them to follow through when it matters most. If you don’t trust your plumber enough to handle a maintenance contract, you might want to think about finding a new plumber.
Take a close look, in writing, at what the maintenance agreement gets you.
▪ How often are the inspections?
▪ Does it include any specific services, such as water heater flushes? (Your water heater requires a yearly inspection and flush, after all.)
▪ Will you receive preferential scheduling in emergencies?
▪ Does it include a discount on parts and labor for future work?
Some companies offer different levels of service for higher fees. Carefully review the extra perks you get for a “gold” or “platinum” contract and decide whether the additional cost is worthwhile.
You should expect to pay a few hundred dollars a year for a good plumbing service maintenance agreement. Sometimes it pays for itself with the inspection alone, especially if your plumber heads off a major problem in the early stages.
Staff writer Paul Pogue contributed to this report.
Angie Hicks compiles the best advice from the most highly rated service pros on Angieslist.com to answer your questions. Ask Angie your question at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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