What Qualifications Should My Plumber Have?
Choosing a tradesman to come into your home and do some work is often a tricky business, and one of the factors we consider when choosing a plumber is how well qualified they are. Qualifications seem to the homeowner to be important when trusting someone to work with water and plumbing where they could potentially cause a lot of damage should something go wrong, but is a poorly qualified plumber necessarily a poor plumber? Installing a bathroom suite, assembling the bathroom furniture or hanging bathroom cabinets on the wall may not require a rocket scientist, but what about checking the emissions on your gas boiler or calculating the heat loss to work out how many radiators you need ?
If you are dealing with an older plumber who left school relatively young, went straight into working in a local plumbing firm and learned on the job, it may be that he has no qualifications whatsoever.
This does not necessarily make him a bad plumber though as he will have many years of experience behind him first as an apprentice to an experienced tradesman, and then working on his own and building his skills as he goes. Many homeowners prefer to have an older, more experienced plumber in their home rather than a newly-qualified one, and this is where other factors such as personal recommendation and references from previous customers become more important.
City and Guilds or NVQ?
Before the introduction of NVQ qualifications, City and Guilds qualifications were the main certificates and exams which plumbers sat. Older plumbers may be City and Guilds qualified whereas younger plumbers will probably have studied NVQs, or SVQs in Scotland. Most plumbers who do domestic work should be qualified to NVQ level 2 standard, which is roughly equivalent to an A level. Many go further and take the level 3 exams also. NVQ training is typically done on the job, with the plumber starting off with simple jobs while studying at college in the evening or on a day release programme.
Some plumbers just stick to fixing taps or installing new bathroom suites, and although formal qualifications are an advantage for them, there is no legal requirement for them to hold specific certificates. However, many plumbers also take on work with central heating, such as installing new boilers and for any work which involves gas, the plumber or heating engineer must be Gas Safe registered by law. Gas Safe is the new regulatory body which replaced the Corgi registration scheme, and the first step when considering employing anyone to do work on your gas boiler or central heating is to check to see if they are registered on the Gas Safe website and ask to see their accreditation before they start work. Working with gas can be very dangerous, and taking a chance on employing an unregistered tradesman is just not worth the risk.
Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineering
The Chartered Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineering has a history dating back to 1906 and is the foremost professional body for plumbers in the UK. Membership of the IPHE is dependent on the plumber proving their competence, and this is another way of making sure that the person who you have coming into your home is capable of doing the work required. The IPHE makes it easy to find a registered plumber in your area through searching on their website, and their requirement for continuous professional development should guarantee that you are getting a plumber who is up to date with the latest developments, products and techniques.
Do It Yourself?
In the current economic climate more of us than ever are taking on jobs around the home, and the competent DIY enthusiast may well be able to tackle basic plumbing on their own. With the correct tools you may be able to tackle a dripping tap or replace a sink, but never be tempted to overstretch yourself and take on harder jobs than you feel comfortable to save money. It can often be false economy as you end up causing more damage and then have to pay for a professional to come in and fix the mess. Video tutorials online and books can be helpful, but are no substitute for proper tuition and having a professional who has done the job thousands of time before. Plumbing is probably better left to the experts.