When you hire someone to fix your broken tap, you want to be sure that they have the specialist knowledge and skills to do a good job the first time round rather than leaving you open to further hassle and costs a few months down the line. But with many of us confused by the wide range of plumbing and heating qualifications and registers out there, it can be difficult to know what to look for as proof of your installer's credentials. We've written this brief guide with the aim of helping you to uncode what different certificates mean so the next time you discover a leaking tap or need your boiler replaced you're quickly able to recognise the signs of a truly competent plumber.
Professional diplomas are the main qualification required in order to begin a career in plumbing. Any plumber contracted to undertake domestic work in your property should have at least an NVQ Level 2 (Level 2 Diploma in Installing and Maintaining Domestic Heating Systems).
Many will also go on to complete an NVQ Level 3 (Level 3 Diploma in Domestic Plumbing and Heating). NVQs typically combine wide range of underpinning studying and on the job training. They are accredited by the awarding bodies City & Guilds, EAL and BPEC. The industry recognise NVQs delivered by the industry Awarding Bodies as the measure of competence of a plumbers ability, skills, knowledge and professionalism and at Level 3 can undertake complex sizing, design, installation, commissioning, fault finding and servicing tasks.
NVQs should not be confused with short or fast-track courses and Vocational Related Qualifications (VRQs), which are unlikely to cover the full range of skills and knowledge required to become a quality plumber. If your plumber has undertaken such a course, be sure to ask how much practical training the course involved as well as checking whether the course is industry recognised.
Mature plumbers who left school and went straight into their first plumbing job may not have qualifications but may possess instead many years of valuable experience. Trade bodies like APHC recognise this through experienced worker schemes.
Gas Safe Register
While installers undertaking traditional plumbing jobs such as fixing taps are not legally required to hold a specific certificate, those installing boilers or work involving gas must be on the Gas Safe Register. This regulatory scheme ensures that contractors are qualified and safe to undertake work on gas appliances so you should make it your number one priority to ask for Gas Safe accreditation when hiring someone to do gas work in your home. Horror stories of whole families dying from carbon monoxide poisoning due to gas work performed by an illegal installer are well documented in the news. Asking for proof of credentials could well save your life so it simply isn't worth taking the risk.
In order to join the Association of Plumbing and Heating Contractors (APHC), installers must pass strict quality assurance criteria and have minimum levels or work experience and qualifications, so by choosing an APHC member you can have peace of mind that work is being undertaken by a professional. To search for an APHC member in your local area, simply visit http://www.aphc.co.uk/find_an_installer.asp.