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It’s sort of surprising that we’ve never defined the term before so here it goes. Wait…….before we go on, please don’t say sprinkler fitting should be plumbers work or refrigeration piping is plumbers work, etc. most piping trades have quite a bit of skill set overlap in their respective fields.
We are trying to give you the standard explanation of what a plumbing service is, trying to encompass what most experts would agree is the scope of a plumbers job.
A plumbing service is any service or installation done to a potable water distribution system, waste or storm drainage system or the installation of any appurtenances/fixtures that are hooked up to the aforementioned systems in a residential, commercial or industrial building.
Plumbing Service Terms
Here are some of the terms that would be used to describe the different services done within the plumbing field.
Sewer Rodding (This includes but is not limited to removal of tree root from the sewer system.) Sewer rodding or sewer snaking (I hate the term snaking) is when a plumbing technician uses a mechanical device to remove sludge, waste, debris or tree roots from the sewer system. In theory, the larger the diameter of the clogged pipe the greater the need for a bigger machine. You can’t use a Ridgid K-50 to rod 4″ pipe. There will be instances when you can use a smaller machine however the clog is too big and a bigger machine is necessary. Make sure your plumbing contractor has the right tools for the job. If a sewer rodding is necessary ask to see what machine they will be using.
Camera Locating/Video Camera Location (A rigid cable with a camera on the end is inserted into a sewer line and a break or blockage can be seen and the location can be pinpointed along with the pipe depth. This video can be recorded on a VHS tape or more conveniently burned to a DVD or a memory card.)
Sewer Line Jetting (A high-pressure water line not unlike a pressure washer is inserted into a sewer line breaking up a blockage. Multiple heads are installed to break up different kinds of blockage material)
Water Heater Repair and Installation – Not every water heater malfunction necessitates the need for a new water heater. A plumbing service technician should be well versed in repairs to thermocouples, burner cleaning, expansion tank replacement and T&P valve replacement. If your water heater is leaking you almost always need a replacement.
Tankless Water Heater Repair and Installation – Even though tankless water heaters have been around since the mid to late 90’s many plumbing service contractors don’t install them or aren’t comfortable installing them. Mostly because they haven’t been educated on proper installation and service needs. I’ve always liked to use contractors that are the most educated in their craft. Even if they don’t necessarily favor one product or technique at least they have the ability to articulate why they favor say a tank-type heater over a tankless heater.
Water Softener installation. (This is a real gray area in the US. Most plumbing contractors are skilled enough to install almost any water softener however this is a specialized service. Many softener installers do not have a plumbing license as this is all they do. A common practice at least in union labor environments is the softener is set in place by the softener company and the connections to the potable water and waste piping are done by a plumber.)
Water Filtration – This is another gray area of plumbing service. There are water treatment contractors in every metropolitan area that specialize in water treatment. They furnish and install water filters and water softeners and are not licensed plumbers. In the case of potable water, I like hiring contractors that are licensed in the trade. However, some of the finest water treatment companies I know are not plumbing contractors. Make sure any company you choose has a great reputation. Do your research. There are many licensed plumbing contractors that can provide water treatment options as well.
Dishwasher Hook-up – (This is another gray area in plumbing service, sometimes the appliance installer will hook up the dishwasher.)
Ice Maker Hook-up – Because you have to run small diameter water piping to the ice maker some appliance installers feel less comfortable installing so we’re calling it a plumbing service for sure.
Toilet Repair – This encompasses changing the inside of the tank type flushing mechanism, removing and resetting a toilet leak at the floor, repairing or replacing the flush handle. This can also include removing and replacing the closet flange that the toilet mounts on to. This can get tricky in older homes. Many times closet flanges especially if they are cast iron, can corrode and need to be repaired using a spanner flange or they need to be completely replaced. If the plumbing service tech removes the toilet and winces and what they see start asking questions…fast.
Lavatory, Kitchen Sink Faucet Repair – Does your plumber know how to repair the many brands available? Or do they take the easy way out and insist you need a new faucet. Many especially the major brands can be repaired. Again ask questions. If your kitchen sink or lavatory faucet is 35 years old maybe it’s time for an upgrade. Make sure your favorite plumber can do both.
Garbage Disposal Repair and Replacement – I think I’ve expressed my displeasure for garbage disposals many times on the site. It really has nothing to do with the disposal. Most are fine products built by great manufacturers. As my IT people would say this is mostly user error. I have explained to family members the hows and whys of using a garbage disposal and they still throw, chicken bones, potato peels, pasta and anything else they don’t want to throw into the actual garbage into the disposal. They do it even after having their kitchen sink rodded 5 times in a year. People don’t use enough water and they refuse to listen. So yes this is a plumbing service and it’s necessary to repair and install great product but it is as important to educate the consumer on proper use.
Shower Valve Repair and Replacement – This is very similar to lavatory and kitchen faucet repair. Most major brands of shower valves can be repaired even if they are 20 years old. If a shower valve needs to be replaced it takes a bit more skill. You may have to open up the wall to increase the size of the valve opening so you can work effectively inside of the plumbing wall.
A leaking shower valve may require a professional if you do not have the experience. Any time that you feel unsure, it is better to book a reliable plumbing service around you than to let the problem continue or to try it yourself.
Waste and Over Flow Repair or Replacement – This is a tricky one. If you’re replacing a waste and overflow cover and gasket you can literally do it yourself. If the waste and overflow has deteriorated behind the tub you have to replace it from in the back of the tub or below the tub. What access do you have? Do you have a basement or crawlspace below the bathroom? Does the tub back up to a closet like in the picture below? If it’s just the gasket in the back of the tub you can use Blue Vue’s Leak Proof Gasket.
P-trap Repair – P-traps are installed on lavatory sinks, bar sinks, laundry tubs, open site drains, and kitchen sinks. Most are pretty easy to fix and if you’re the adventurous type you can do it yourself. The only place this gets tricky is on a kitchen sink or a slop sink with a cast iron trap standard. If a p-trap has deteriorated or is broken on a kitchen sink you usually have more tubular fittings to replace. Very rarely is it just the p-trap. When you go to remove the p-trap you may find the tailpiece or the continuous waste also in bad shape. In any case, it’s time to call a plumbing contractor.
If you have an old cast iron or terrazzo slop sink in your basement many times they site on a cast iron trap standard p-trap. These can be a bear for the homeowner to replace because the sinks are usually heavy. It’s also difficult to find a trap standard p-trap at the home centers. It’s best to call in a pro to make sure you’re getting the right parts and let them do the heavy lifting.
Angle Stop Repair – Angle stops are used to shut off the water on kitchen sinks, toilets, lavatories, laundry tubs and in some instances ice makers. If they are compression angle stops it’s usually super easy to replace. If they are soldered angle stops you may have to call a plumbing contractor. With the advent of Shark Bite fittings and PEX, these repairs have become significantly easier. If you’re going to tackle the project yourself make sure you turn off the water first. Most homes do not have isolation valves to shut off water to a particular area of the house so you may have to shut off the water at the meter to make your repair.
Plumbing Fixture Replacement or Upgrade – A plumbing professional can simply replace an existing fixture with the same if applicable or upgrade to a better fixture, i.e. better finish, more powerful flushing toilet, better build quality.
Gas Piping – Another gray area but here is how it’s commonly separated, the commercial gas piping is done by the pipe fitters and the residential gas piping is done by the plumber.
Water Piping Leak Repair – In my opinion, you should always call in plumbing service company for leaks on your water piping. There are so many things that can go wrong let a pro handle it. As I’ve stated in the above, PEX pipe and fittings and push-on fittings like Shark Bite make these repairs easier but I still say let someone who knows the ins and outs of plumbing make the repair.
Sewer Main Installation and Repair – Make the call. Have a plumber make the repair. Most times it takes heavy equipment and even if it doesn’t it takes digging. Don’t put yourself or any friends at risk. To add further fuel to the above, every municipality I’ve ever dealt with requires a permit to be pulled by a licensed plumber to dig on the property. Use a licensed and insured plumbing contractor to do this type of work. You are greatly limiting your exposure should anything go wrong.
RPZ Testing – This usually done by a licensed plumber with a secondary cross-connection license. There is no situation where this should be done by a homeowner. God forbid you Google how to test your RPZ and your potable water is cross-contaminated with water from your sprinkler system. Don’t do it.
Downspout Drainage Repair – If the repair or replacement includes the roof head/drains and the storm piping call a plumber if it’s gutter work call a handyman.
Tub Spout, Shower Head Repair – Although I heavily favor calling a plumbing service provider on home plumbing this is one you can do yourself.
Custom Shower Design and Installation (Some Plumbing Professionals have the ability to design the look of a new bathroom, most know how to install once it’s designed.)
Solar Hot Water (Potable Water. This is another gray area, it really depends on which part of the country you’re in, one thing is universal though. Once you get to the storage tank it’s plumbers work.)
Gray Water and Rain Water Harvesting – These are really two separate categories even though they tend to be lumped together. Greywater was potable water that has been used in a kitchen or lavatory that is filtered to some degree and can be used to flush toilets. It is not meant to be ingested. With gray water piping and drainage, you need a plumbing pro. In fact, most plumbing service companies aren’t well versed enough in the space to be able to service or install. I’m sure they are out there but there isn’t an abundance of them. Do your research and find a contractor with experience. We never worked on a gray water system in the 25 years I was in the business.
Rainwater harvesting is completely different. The harvesting itself can be done by anyone. It has nothing to do with potable water. Where this gets tricky is if you are going to use that water to flush toilets in your house. If that is the intent you need a plumber with cross-connection knowledge to prevent cross-contamination. The installation and service of the above really depend on the application.
Sump Pump Repair and Installation – I’m not a big fan of basement flooding. I’ve written about it extensively. I will always lean to the side of using a plumbing service company even though it’s fairly easy to replace a sump pump I want a professional’s eyes on the ground to assess the situation. When I look at a sump pump install or repair I always look at other things. Is the basement finished? How high is the ceiling? Does the pump run frequently? How is the lot graded? I know most people just want their sump pump replaced or fixed but I try to solve the bigger issue and I think most homeowners appreciate it.
Battery Back-up System (Sump Pump) – Please see above.
Flood Control Systems/Backwater Valve Installation – I’ve written about this area extensively as well. When you’re dealing with a sump pump you’re removing groundwater to prevent flooding when talking about flood control systems and backwater valves you’re trying to prevent sewage from backing up into your basement. I am amazed at how little even experienced plumbing contractors know about preventing sewage backups. If your town experiences heavy flooding when it rains and homes are affected call the village and ask for recommendations. Don’t tackle this yourself it’s tricky enough for people who do it for a living.
Hot Water System Balancing – Call a plumber, it takes finesse and an understanding of valves and water pressure. If you’re having an issue with hot or cold water bleeding into the other it takes someone who knows their stuff.
Ejector Pump Repair and Installation – Please see sump pump repair and replacement. I’m not a huge fan of fixing ejectors unless its super simple. You’re better off replacing the pump for the amount of time it takes to remove the sealed lid, remove the pump, clean the basin and pump and replace and faulty parts. Quite frankly it’s why most plumbing service companies quote replacing the pump from the beginning. What plumber is going to warranty an ejector pump that they just clean off and replace a switch? I wouldn’t.
House Pump/Booster Pump Installation – Plumber’s put them in but they are usually designed by a mechanical engineer or the pump manufacturer. Metropolitan Industries out of Illinois is one of the premier pump designers/manufacturers. They meet with owners, engineers, architects and designers to write specifications for buildings around the world. With water pressure being an issue around the US there are quite a few home booster pump options available. Theses are usually prepackaged. predesigned units that are easy to install for a pro.
Home Sprinkler System Repair and Installation – We’ll get some fight here, not all states require a licensed plumber to install a lawn sprinkler system. Our opinion is its potable water, plumbers do potable water.