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Q & A

Answers to commonly asked questions from the experts on Thumbtack.

What are plumbers and what do they do?

Plumbers are skilled professionals who are trained to install and maintain pipes and systems for drinking water, sewage and drainage. They usually have trained through four- to five-year training programs, which include apprenticeships, via trade schools and community colleges. Plumbers’ areas of expertise typically go beyond pipes to include mathematics, blueprint reading, plumbing codes and water distribution. They handle plumbing emergencies, such as broken pipes or clogged drains, and install and maintain everything from a new piping system to a replacement faucet. Plumbers also know how to install bathtubs and showers, toilets, water heaters and dishwashers. Plumbers may work on residential or commercial sites, sometimes designing and laying out a pipe system during construction.

How long is a water heater supposed to last?

Your water heater is an essential part of your home, heating water for showers, dishwashing, laundry and more. On average, a traditional water heater will last 8-12 years. The general consensus is that it’s better to replace your water heater with a new one than to repair one that’s 10 years old or more. Older models are less energy-efficient and thus more costly to run than newer models with better technology. Here are some indicators of when it may be time to replace an old water heater instead of repairing it:

  • Leaks: If leaking is not caused by loose connections, the water may be seeping out through slight fractures in the metal of the tank that have formed over time.
  • Strange noises: Clanking, rumbling and other noises can mean that sediment has formed on the base of your tank, contributing to fissures leaks, and inefficiency.
  • Age: If it’s more than 10 years old, it’s probably time to replace.
  • Discolored or rusty water: Have a pro check it out; if the problem isn’t resolved by draining and cleaning, you’ll want to replace the heater.
  • Lack of hot water: Inconsistent heating and hot water supply that runs out too quickly likely means it’s time for a new unit.

How long should a bathroom remodel take?

With proper planning and a good general contractor, your bathroom remodeling project doesn’t have to take forever. The construction phase of the project will always vary based on your scope of work, the square footage and the condition of your bathroom under the surface layer. Inevitably an 80-square-foot master bathroom with major changes will take longer than a 25-square-foot guest bath undergoing a minor renovation. For a smaller bathroom, a facelift — the industry term for sprucing up the surface layer (such as paint, vanity, tiles or light fixtures) but keeping the existing footprint of the space — may take five to eight working days, as long as there are no surprises like mold waiting when the old vanity comes out. A more complex bathroom remodel that revamps the shower area (customizing the plumbing, installing tile and changing the shower door), updates the flooring and cabinetry, and adds new paint and new lighting could take anywhere from one week to three weeks. A full bathroom remodel that guts the room, changing the footprint and moving the electrical wiring and plumbing lines, could take four to eight weeks or more. To keep your bathroom remodel on schedule, have your materials ordered and waiting, and don’t make any change orders once construction begins. Planning is key to keeping a bathroom remodel on schedule.   

For more on how long a bathroom remodel should take check out The Complete Thumbtack Bathroom Remodel Guide.

Where should I start when remodeling a bathroom?

Bathroom remodeling doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Before starting a bathroom remodel it’s crucial to know what you want and have a clear understanding of your maximum budget. If you’d love all marble fixtures but have $3,000 total, you will have to compromise. Being realistic about materials and money before you even contact a contractor will have you on the road to success. Here are some simple steps to follow in the planning stages of bathroom remodeling:

  • List your remodeling priorities in order of importance (e.g., 1. New shower head, 2. Replace flooring, 3. Install recessed lighting, etc.).
  • Calculate what you can realistically afford to spend on your bathroom remodel. Identify an “all in” price — meaning the absolute maximum you’re willing to pay, as well as what you’d prefer to spend.
  • Gather ideas from Pinterest about colors and finishes.
  • Research the costs of the materials and finishes you want and begin making choices about what is and isn’t possible to fit into your budget (once labor is included). If you’d like to stay under $10,000 total, but really love a $2,000 tub, plan to downgrade in other areas.
  • Request quotes from at least three reputable general contractors, share your vision and ideal materials, and work together from there.

How do I plan a bathroom remodeling project?

If you’re stumped on how to plan a bathroom remodeling project, it pays to hire a designer. This is especially important if you’re changing your bathroom layout in any way. Designers create contractor-friendly drawings indicating exactly where each tile and fixture will be installed, down to the light switches. This investment might cost you $300-$500 but save you significant frustration and miscommunication, while ensuring you get precisely what you want.

If you’re going to do your own design, planning a bathroom remodeling project means being organized and planning ahead. Create a general outline of what you want and the budget you have. Identify the specific fixtures, tiles, paint and vanity you prefer. Get all this organized before requesting quotes from two to three reputable general contractors. Once you find the right pro, get a written contract outlining scope of work, materials that will be used, timeframe and payment schedule. Communicate clearly about when to order your materials so they are ready and waiting by the time the contractor gets the permits. Your job from here is to communicate clearly, pay the contractor as the work progresses, and enjoy your remodel when it’s done.

For more on where to start when remodeling a bathroom check out The Complete Thumbtack Bathroom Remodel Guide.

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