13 Things Your Plumber Won't Tell You...

Discussion in 'Plumbing Forum, Professional & DIY Advice' started by Cookie, Mar 30, 2010.

  1. Cookie

    Cookie .

    I saw this on Yahoo, from Readers Digest. Any truth? or not?

    13 More Things Your Plumber Won't Tell You

    Plumbers around the country give us the scoop on how to find a good plumber, lower your water bill, and save money on repairs.
    Interviews by Tara Conry

    1. Don’t hang clothes on those exposed pipes in your basement. I’ve seen them break and flood a basement.

    2. I see this all the time: Women want a new toilet seat and ask their husbands to make the switch. If the seat is old and has metal bolts, you probably need to cut it off with a hacksaw, not unscrew it. A wrench may slip, damaging the bowl and bloodying your knuckles.

    3. Don’t get wrapped up in how much I’m charging for the materials. “Sure, my material cost is different than the guy who runs his business out of his garage,†says Bill Stevens, owner of Berkey’s Plumbing, Heating & Air Conditioning in Texas. “But it’s not the copper you’re paying for, it’s the experience. At the end of the day, my material cost is between 25-30 percent of the cost of the job.â€

    4. Another way to avoid a service call from your plumber is to make sure the outside faucets are turned off in the winter and make sure you disconnect the outside hoses. You need to shut the water off from the inside. We call this valve a “tit.†Then, open the valve on the outside to let the water that’s in there drain out. So you switch both of them to the opposite direction so one is always closed and one is always open. We have to fix tons of these in the spring mostly because people leave their outside hoses connected and they freeze up. The repair could cost $100-$200 or more. Another tip would be if you’re going away for any length of time, like on vacation, turn off your water, and if on any of those days the temperature drops below freezing have someone check in on your house. I’ve been called to homes where the family returned from vacation and there was water flooding out from the front door.

    5. A company that has a good reputation for quality service might charge a little more up-front, but you’ll save in the long run by avoiding call-backs and extra charges. Look for a company that warranties its service for up to a year for major installations or repairs.

    6. Small drips can waste over eight gallons of water a day, and a continuously running toilet can waste more than 200 gallons of water daily. If you ignore them, you’ll pay for it when your water bill arrives.

    7. Sure, we’ll be happy to check those supply valves under your sink free of charge after we finish the work you’re paying us for. Just ask. Same goes for checking your water pressure.

    8. I had another lady who said she wanted to run to the grocery store to get some coffee to make for me and my guys while we were installing her new kitchen. She said she was just gonna run to the store and asked if we wouldn’t mind keeping an eye out for her 1-year-old daughter who was sleeping at the time. We said fine, but she ended up not returning until four hours later. The kid was screaming her head off and we didn’t know what to do. We tried holding her. We didn’t know if she was hungry or what to feed her. She just kept crying.

    9. “Don’t assume that every Mr. Fix-it advertising his services in the local Pennysaver or on craigslist is a licensed plumber,†says one New York plumber. There is no national standard for issuing licenses. Some plumbers are licensed by the state, others by the counties they work in. Check with your local city hall or chamber of commerce. They should be able to direct you to the appropriate source for a list of licensed plumbers in your area.

    10. When I was working regularly at a senior citizens housing building I was walking into the building and one lady was outside, and I said “Hi Grace! What are you doing?†She said, “Picking apples.†"But aren’t you cold?†I asked. “No, I need to pick these apples because I’m going to be making an apple pie for Thanksgiving,†she replied. “But aren’t you cold?†I asked again. You see, she was stark naked. All she had on was a hat and a pair of boots.â€

    11. “Don’t go to the Yellow Pages to find a plumber,†says Berkey’s Bill Stevens. “It’s like guessing lottery numbers. Anyone can make an appealing ad, but that doesn’t mean they are legitimate. In this industry, it’s easy for a plumber who develops a poor reputation to advertise under a different name. They come and go.†Look for a plumber who is well-established in your community. Check the Better Business Bureau and read customer reviews at sites such as ServiceMagic.com, AngiesList.com or Citysearch.com. Local contractors or plumbing fixture stores can also refer you to a quality plumber, according to Grady Daniel, who owns a plumbing company in Austin, Texas. “Most of these firms won’t work with bad plumbers.†Or simply ask your neighbors for a referral. A trusted plumber that consistently delivers quality service does not remain a secret for very long.

    12. Be wary of price quotes that are strikingly lower or higher than competitors. Get a minimum of three bids. Estimates for an average-sized job should be within a few hundred dollars. Be suspicious of anything that is substantially lower or double the price of the rest, and watch out for hidden fees, like charges for travel expenses. A good plumber will not nickel and dime you like this, and many of us will offer free estimates.

    13. You’re calling to say your garage-door opener doesn’t work ever since I fixed your faucet? Get a clue -- and an electrician.

    From readersdigest.com
    Sources: Plumbers in California, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Texas, and Wisconsin.
  2. Terry

    Terry Administrator Staff Member

    Bothell, Washington
    1) Get a new toilet seat today.
    When is the last time your seat was replaced.
    Think about how many people and how many times it's been used.
    There are only two sized in the US, Regular (Round) and Elongated.
    I like plastic, they come with better shaping, don't chip, and some have nice slow closing hinges.
    Very nice if you are a guy.

    For deluxe seats, consider a bidet or washlet seat.
    Warm when you sit down, warm water wash and warm air dry.
    After Chemo and Radiation this Fall, it was a life saver.
    Now everyone in the house likes this bathroom, so nice to seat on a warm seat in Winter, and so much cleaner when washing with water.

    3) Many service plumbers are charging by the job,
    A big time saver when the bill needs to be written up.
    My guys spend more time working, and less time writting long priced lists in the truck long after the work is done.
    It's slam, bam, we're out of here.
    Everybody saves this way.
    Heck, it's just a service call. You don't ask the dentist for a breakdown of materials when you get your teeth cleaned.

    4) It's Winter, if you haven't takine the hose off of your outside faucet, do it now.
    We do a lot of replacement hosebib repairs in the Spring.
    In the North, we use frostfree faucets, about 6" long, which means getting into a inside wall for replacement when they split.
    You don't repair a split pipe on the faucet, you replace it.

    8) Babysitting?
    I've never been asked to babysit before. Funny.
    Last edited: May 24, 2014
  3. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Cave Creek, Arizona
    1 It will NEVER happen if the lines are even slightly properly supported.
    3. I never sell at my cost and do not care what other companies charge.
    4. A "tit"? I have never heard that term used for anything. My realtor told me that when she was young and worked in her dad's hardware store a "pervert" asked her for a 3/8" nipple so she slapped his face.
    5. If they want a cheaper plumber, I will give them some phone numbers.
    8. I was doing a repair job and the lady asked me to watch her twins, who were asleep. I completed the job and then waited 3 hours for he to come back home. When the twins woke up, all I had to do was go into the room and they laid back down. She didn't think I would charge her overtime for taking care of them.
    9. WE have lots of "fly by nights" advertising in the papers, but they have to say, "unlicensed and uninsured" in the ad, and they are not supposed to do anything that requires a license, permit, or total cost is more than $700.00, but they do.
    11. I only advertise in the Yellow Pages.

    This article sounds like one Johnny Carson would read to Ed, and then Ed would say, "That article covers EVERYTHING about the subject".

    Terry #1. There are only two SIZES of toilet, but there are some special models. Eljer Emblem and American Standard Roma being two of them which require a specific seat, and in the case of A/S it costs more than many toilets.

    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 31, 2010
  4. shacko

    shacko Master Plumber-Gas Fitter

    Rosedale, Md
    I think this post should be named (THINGS YOUR PLUMBER TELLS YOU THAT YOU CHOSE TO IGNORE) lol.
  5. netmouse

    netmouse Member

    quote - "3) Many service plumbers are charging by the job,"

    Maybe a decade ago this began in my area in NJ, electricians too. I much prefer paying by the hour. Home owners often have little quick tasks to do, and a task cost now, with one thing done, is about the same as the old hour cost where more than one thing might be done. Paying by the job just seems a way for plumbers to jack the price up, and is not better for the home owner.

    A rip-off example. A plumber replaced a bathroom sink faucet with a new one I had bought. It leaked. I ran next door to Home Depot and was back with a new one within 15 minutes. He charged me the full price for 2 separate tasks even though there was no second trip and he was done in under an hour. I forget the cost, but assume for this example it was $120 a task, so I paid $240. I never used him again for service. As Mr. Wonderful on the TV show Shark Tank says, "He is dead to me". Screw me over once, and you won't get a second chance.

    A great example: In the days of charging by the hour. An electrician was concerned he was done with the task I called for within maybe 20 minutes. So he began looking for things to do to fill up the hour he charged me for. This happened more than once and is typical on a service call. So he added a task to fix the flood light on my garage with a more sturdy connection that he said had not been done correctly when installed.

    The one thing I like about electricians, now with the "task" pricing, is they have an actual price list and they count the "things" to be done. Simple math, and it is clear what the cost is. My house was rewired to get rid of old tube and knob wiring. 3 bids were identical. Something like $100 an electric outlet, $115 for something a bit more work. Actually, when prices rise annually, you might correctly think they have a monopoly and collusion going on, which can be illegal. No competition. When I calculated the whole rewiring job over several days adding up the tasks cost, and compared to the cost if they charged by the hour, it was actually about the same which made me feel comfortable they were being fair and reasonable.
    Last edited: Apr 25, 2014
  6. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Cave Creek, Arizona
    quote; but assume for this example it was $120 a task, so I paid $240

    The mother of the editor of a national trade magazine called one of those "by the task" plumbers to change the fill valve in her toilet. He charger her $150.00. Since it only took about 10 minutes, she asked him to change the other one also. He did and charged her another $150.00. he editor "ripped" that company on his editorial page.

    Quote #2. So he began looking for things to do to fill up the hour he charged me for. This happened more than once and is typical on a service call.

    I NEVER "go looking for things to do". IF they ask about something else, I will take care of it, but if the original job only takes 30 seconds, (and many do), I make out the bill and I am gone. What if that "Extra job", becomes "one from Hell", and it takes him even more time, so your bill is higher than if he had not touched the task. Would you be happy about it?
  7. Tom Sawyer

    Tom Sawyer In the Trades

    Two words. Flat rate
  8. Terry

    Terry Administrator Staff Member

    Bothell, Washington
    I like flat rate too.
    I used to hate counting every little part I used. Speaking of parts, the other day I installed a 1-1/4" ball valve in replacement of a plastic shutoff.
    The two male adapters were $40.00 each, and the ball valve was $27.00
    That was $107.00 just for the replacement ball valve. By charging flat rate, I'm not forgetting every little part I use on the job.
    People have no idea how much some of those little things can cost, and forgetting to list them on the invoice can just kill the job. A "flat rate" takes an average of what the normal cost is, and we spend less time on book keeping, and more time installing.
    Last edited: Apr 25, 2014
  9. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Cave Creek, Arizona
    3) Many service plumbers are charging by the job,
    A big time saver when the bill needs to be written up.

    1. Unfortunately, few of my jobs fit the "charge by the job" category. For example, yesterday I changed two individual lav faucets A "slam dunk" 20 minute job, right? Wrong. Because of the way they had been installed, and the modification to the cabinet to get the new ones in it was a 2 hour job. And after than, a customer called for a price to "do something" because another something did not fit his whatever. I drove over to see what he was talking about and he wanted to change his faucet because he had a filter that had to attach in place of the aerator and his faucet did not have one. I told him it DID have an aerator and after about 5 minutes I got it unstuck and removed, then installed his filter unit. But, until I actually did it, there was no way to tell whether the aerator would come off or would split in two with one piece stuck in the spout.

    2. The clock doesn't stop until the invoice is finished.
  10. craigpump

    craigpump Well-Known Member


    The clock doesn't stop until the invoice is finished.

    I like that, too bad there's no way to predict how much time the customer will eat up while collecting the bill.
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