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Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Plumber in the City of Chicago
The Chicago Department of Water Management receives about 145,000 calls annually on complaints about flooded basements, broken water mains, frozen pipes during winter, and open hydrants in the summer. Hiring a duly licensed professional plumber in Chicago to fix water leaks and renovate your house plumbing system can relieve you of the financial burden of spending on the same plumbing issues multiple times. Typically, when planning to hire plumbers in Chicago, you can rely on referrals from family, friends, and other building professionals. However, you must verify the plumber's competence and qualifications to operate in the city by asking the following questions:
- Are You Licensed to Practice as a Plumber in the City of Chicago?
- How Much Do You Charge Compared to Plumbers in the City of Chicago?
- Do You Comply with the City of Chicago Building Code for Plumbing?
- Will You Get the Plumbing Permits as Required by the City of Chicago Code?
- What Kind of Plumbing Services Do You Offer?
- Do You Offer Emergency Plumbing Services in the City of Chicago?
- Do You Carry the Necessary Insurance Policy for Plumbers in the City of Chicago?
- How to File a Complaint Against a Bad Plumber in the City of Chicago
Are You Licensed to Practice as a Plumber in the City of Chicago?
If your intended plumber has acquired all the relevant licensing from the appropriate agencies, it not only guarantees satisfactory work but also saves you the stress of filing complaints and potential financial loss. Per section 4-336-010 of the Chicago Construction Codes, any business carried on by unlicensed plumbers in the city shall be deemed illegal. Such plumbers will be fined under Section 14A-3-302 of the Chicago Construction Codes for each offense they commit while carrying on work without a city registration certificate. These fines can range from $500 to $1000 per offense.
The Chicago Department of Buildings is responsible for registering and issuing licenses to eligible plumber apprentices and plumbing contractors. To be eligible, the plumbing apprentices must be 16 years of age and enrolled in a city-approved apprentice program to be registered as plumber's apprentices in the city. The applicants must provide notarized letters from licensed plumbing contractors, and such letters must be on the plumbing contractor's official letterhead paper. The letters must verify that the applicants will work as plumber apprentices and receive requisite training from the plumbing contractors and must also include the plumbing contractor's license number. Also, plumbing contractors must provide a bond when registering as new applicants while renewing applicants must provide a bond continuation letter for the existing bond on record.
You can verify the licensing status of your intended City of Chicago plumbers via the licensed plumbing contractors directory maintained by the city's Building Department.
How Much Do You Charge Compared to Plumbers in the City of Chicago?
When hiring plumbers in the city, you should use different estimates to ensure you end up with the right plumber. Various factors influence how much the plumber may charge, such as the kind of work the plumber will carry out, the cost of materials, and how much it may cost to obtain the requisite permits.
A plumber in the City of Chicago earns an annual average wage of $91,940. Below is a breakdown of the average hourly wages for plumbers in Chicago compared with plumbers in other parts of Illinois and other major cities in the country:
Do You Comply with the City of Chicago Building Code for Plumbing?
When the plumber you hire is conversant with the city's Building Code and duly licensed, it assures you that you are not violating the city's code. The Chicago Building Code establishes the minimum standards for the construction, alteration, repair, maintenance, and demolition of buildings and other structures to protect and promote public health, safety, and welfare. The code ensures structural quality and provides coverage for water heaters, fixtures, faucets, fitting and water supply and distribution, special piping, and storage systems. Typically, licensed plumbers are well informed about the relevant requirements of the city's Building Code for any intended plumbing projects. However, before you commence work on your projects, it is advisable to clarify the necessary city requirements from your intended plumber. You can also direct your queries regarding the city's Building Code requirements to the Department of Building at (312) 744-3449.
Will You Get the Plumbing Permits as Required by the City of Chicago Code?
According to the Chicago Building Code, you generally need to obtain a plumbing permit for new building construction, renovations, or any plumbing work. However, some projects do not require you to obtain permits, and these include situations where:
- The plumber needs to stop leaks in drains or vent pipes within a building or within five feet of a building's foundation.
- The plumber has to clear stoppages or repair leaks in pipes, valves, or fixtures provided that the repair does not go beyond five feet from the building foundation.
- The plumber has to remove or reinstall water closets
The Chicago Department of Buildings is charged with issuing all building permits in the city, and these include permits for plumbing-related projects. This department issues several types of permits, and the specific type of permit that you will need is mostly dependent on the type and size of your project. For instance, if your projects are for small, simple homes and building improvements, including replacements and repairs, you need an Easy Permit (EPP), and this type of permit is usually approved on the day of the application. On the other hand, permit applications for Standard Plan Reviews (SPR) and Developer Services (DS) permits for mid-size and larger projects usually take a more extended period for approval.
The permit process in Chicago is designed to ensure strict compliance with the minimum standard of safety established under the Chicago Building Code. To ensure compliance, you have to confirm that your project requires a permit. If it does, you need to confirm if your projects require zoning approval during the permit application process. The Zoning Ordinance Administration can help you determine if your intended projects require zoning approval or are subject to landmark approvals. Once you have verified all requirements, you can complete and submit a duly signed appropriate permit application to the Department of Buildings at:Chicago City Hall,
Department of Buildings
121 North LaSalle Street
Chicago, IL 60602
Phone: (312) 744-3449
Hours: 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m, Monday through Friday
Alternatively, your licensed plumber can submit the relevant permits application online for the intended projects. Chicago's online building permit system allows only duly licensed plumbers to create permit applications, check permit status, pay permit fees, and download approved plans and building permit certificates. To confirm that your plumber has obtained all required permits, and for any other relevant queries, you can contact the city's Department of Building at (312) 744-3449. Alternatively, you can visit the office's physical location at the address provided above to make necessary inquiries.
What Kind of Plumbing Services Do You Offer?
It is your duty to confirm that your intended professional plumbers have obtained all required licenses that qualify them for the job. Plumbers in Chicago offer different services ranging from repairing or replacing faulty piping and fixtures in both new and existing buildings, fixing leaks, installing plumbing systems in new buildings. Plumbers in Chicago offer four types of plumbing services, and they are:
- Leak detection and repairs
- Drain cleaning services
- Inspections and maintenance
- Installations and replacements
Before hiring plumbers for your projects, ensure that the plumber's area of expertise is in line with your intended projects. For example, when hiring plumbers for large projects like commercial building projects, you must confirm that the intended plumbers have experience handling plumbing work in commercial projects.
Note that the type of work you hire the plumbers also determines the cost of the plumbing service. Below are some of the cost estimates for plumbing services in Chicago:
Do You Offer Emergency Plumbing Services in the City of Chicago?
In Chicago, plumbing issues like burst pipes, clogged toilets, and faulty sump pumps require emergency plumbing services. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, household leaks result in the loss of more than 1 trillion gallons of water annually. In addition to this, Chicago residents pay approximately $4 per 1000 gallons of water and approximately $31 per 1000 cubic feet of water, which makes any form of water wastage in the city quite expensive.
Even though your plumbing issues may require emergency attention, you must always ensure you do not hire just any plumbers for the work. Your intended plumber must be duly licensed and also possess the requisite skills to handle the job. To verify your intended plumbers licensing status, you can use the licensed plumbing contractors directory maintained by the city's Building Department. The plumber's contact information, licenses expiration date, and bond expiration date are also available in the directory. You can also utilize third-party websites like Better Business Bureau to search for plumbers near you in Chicago.
Do You Carry the Necessary Insurance Policy for Plumbers in the City of Chicago?
Plumbers in Chicago are not statutorily required to possess a commercial general liability insurance policy. However, it is advisable to always hire a plumber that has an insurance policy that provides coverage for on-the-job injuries. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Illinois had an estimated 158 fatal work injuries in 2019, with falls, slips, and trips being the third-most frequent fatal work event with 26 fatalities. Working with insured plumbers provides you with a certain level of assurance that you will not bear any financial burdens in the event of perils like work-related injuries.
However, it should be noted that Illinois law requires plumbers in Chicago to provide workers' compensation insurance policies for their employees. It is always in your best interest to make sure that your intended plumber has an active insurance policy, and you can do this by contacting the relevant issuing authority.
How to File a Complaint Against a Bad Plumber in the City of Chicago
In Chicago, remodeling projects, home improvements, and repairs are estimated to cost an average of $3100 per homeowner annually. Considering the cost associated with these activities, the importance of hiring only duly licensed plumbers in the city cannot be overstated. In 2020, a Chicago contractor was investigated by the Illinois Attorney General's Office for allegedly defrauding 12 residents by failing to properly perform home repair jobs that had been paid for. Different unscrupulous plumbers have different methods of defrauding Chicago residents of their money. For instance, these deceptive plumbers will quote prices out of line with the standard estimates or ask you to pay the entire amount for the job upfront. However, you can protect yourself against plumbing scams in Chicago by taking the following steps:
- Verifying that the plumber has been duly licensed via the city's licensed plumbing contractors directory.
- Requesting a copy of the "Home Repair: Know Your Consumer Rights" pamphlet from the plumber you are hiring for a home repair or remodeling contract estimated to cost over $1,000.
- Requesting previous work references from the plumber to enable you to inquire about previous jobs they have handled. If the plumber cannot provide any references, you may want to search for other plumbers near you.
- Negotiating a payment schedule, which should be based on the completion of specific stages of the job that the plumber is hired to carry out.
- Ensuring that there is a duly signed contract between you and the plumber. Also, always keep all paperwork related to your home repair project for easy reference.
- Ensuring that you find out if there are any subsisting or closed disciplinary complaints against the plumbers. You can get information on disciplinary actions against your intended plumbers when you contact the City of Chicago Department of Buildings at (312) 744-3449.
- Utilizing third-party websites like Better Business Bureau, Yelp, and Google Review to get additional reviews on the plumber. These reviews tend to be unbiased, and they can give you an insight into the plumber's level of expertise and skills.
If you have complaints against plumbers for unfair business practices or consumer frauds, you can do so at the City of Chicago Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection through the city's 311 system. If the department is unable to resolve your complaints, they will be forwarded to the appropriate government agency for further investigation. Note that this department cannot guarantee you monetary restitution when you file a consumer complaint. If you have a monetary claim against the plumbers who fraudulently collected payment without executing the work they were hired for, you can file a civil claim at the Circuit Court of Cook County. It is advisable to retain the services of a lawyer to help with the filing of your lawsuits.