‘Honestly, it’s chaos’: Getting a plumber out in Manchester seems impossible at the minute… why?

I went on an adventure.

Not a fun adventure to IKEA or the Peak District, but an adventure nonetheless.

Tried to book a plumber at the last minute.

The problem was minor – a leaking bath drain line. This could be the cause of my problem.

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Good plumbers are busy.

They fill up quickly and bigger jobs mean more money.

It’s not easy to pull them out for a small job – as important as it may seem to you.

I tried 15 plumbers.

I even called all the plumbers on TrustATrader who serve the Manchester area where I live.

I got through to eight, none of whom were available to help the same day.

The best availability was a phone call within two days.

A plumber working on a gas boiler

A towel to mop up the leaking water should do for now.

The lack of availability piqued my interest.

I wanted to know why it is so busy.

So I asked my eight plumbers why booking a plumber is such a difficult task right now.

I was wondering if it was because of Covid. Or is it something else?

Chris van Heys Plumbing thinks it’s so busy because of a lack of qualified plumbers.

“There’s just a huge demand for home improvements right now,” he tells me.

“Many European workers have returned to their countries and that has caused a bottleneck.

“There are not enough workers.”

Some of the other plumbers I spoke to laughed and agreed it’s a busy time but couldn’t tell me why.

Sam van, JB Plumbing and Heating, said: “We’ve been very busy. I’ve had clients say it’s been hectic.

“All jobs vary, so I can’t give an exact answer.”

Getting a plumber on the phone can still be considered an achievement.

Out of my 15 calls, seven didn’t even arrive ‘hello’.

A plumber’s phone number wasn’t even real.

Tried to call twice and was told twice that I had dialed a wrong phone number.

The second stopped accepting incoming calls.

The third was on annual leave.

All the plumbers I spoke to except Chris said they had no idea why there was such a sudden avalanche of bookings.

One said: “I don’t know why.

“Honestly, it’s chaos. We’ll get you in next week.’

A friendly and helpful plumber – fully booked until September – couldn’t tell me why it was so busy but was glad the money was pouring in.

He said, “I’m not so sure.

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“I said this to a customer yesterday. My phone is ringing constantly. I’m not complaining.”

To try and get to the bottom of this plumberless problem, I went to the top and spoke to the Chartered Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineering.

CEO Kevin Wellman said: “Good plumbers are busy plumbers, who are often fully booked for months, so getting a professional fitter on the same day will always be a boost.

“There is a lot of demand for plumbers.

“For example, the pandemic has led to a boom in people renovating and moving properties, with new heating systems, bathrooms, and suites and kitchens often topping the list of requirements.”

My problem with the plumbing was a small leak in the tub, which, compared to a full bathroom remodel, probably doesn’t seem like an exciting – or profitable – job.

Kevin added: “In addition, the industry has experienced a skills gap for decades.

“Currently, not enough apprentices are being trained to replace the highly informed and skilled professionals retiring from the industry.”

So, while I’m sure I can get my bath repaired next week, let’s hope nobody needs emergency pipes in Manchester for the next 48 hours.

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