How do plumbers decide on what to charge?

Discussion in 'Plumbing Forum, Professional & DIY Advice, Tips & ' started by Maxine, Dec 18, 2006.

  1. Maxine

    Maxine New Member

    Messages:
    4
    Location:
    New Jersey
    I just had my first plumber come on Saturday (here in NJ) to reduce a gas pipe so I can push my new gas range all the way back against the wall. He charged $45 for a site visit. After he assessed it, he charged $319, and he fixed the pipe in about 20-30 minutes. My total with tax came out to almost $400.

    How do plumbers decide on how much to charge? I don't want to say I was gouged, but it was pretty expensive. Next time I call for a plumber, is it possible to get an estimate over the phone, or some rate? I didn't ask, figuring they wouldn't tell me. Do plumbers who belong to Better Business Bureau cost more?

    Thanks!
  2. Blade_Jones

    Blade_Jones New Member

    Messages:
    9
    Location:
    Santa Monica, CA
    I think they check out the neighborhood and size you up, and if you look like you're got $$ then they charge as much as they want to. Of course you never hire them again. I know a guy who majored in Physics, who makes $90 a hour working at a major aerospace company. I keep telling him he could be making $100 - $200 an hour as a plumber. I've been replacing sewer pipes in my driveway. I got 2 quotes of $12,000 and $6,500 for the job. It's going to wind up taking me about 30 hours and costing my about $500. So I've been saving $200 an hour!

    Learning to do your own plumbing and buying your own tools is one of the best investments of your time and money.
    Last edited: Dec 18, 2006
  3. figure about 89 per hour

    I charge about 89 per hour....89 for the first 30 minutes

    that is pulling up to your home with a

    fairley new looking ford 2000 E350 extended heavy duty van
    and about 25k worth or materials inside that van....
    so I dont have to go get anything...


    when someone calls me I can usually ball park the
    estimate over the phone with a "not to exceed price"
    rangeing usually around 115--$150. for average repairs.




    if they want to charge you to look at it , that usually tells
    you waht you are getting into from the get-go

    and you probably wont call that fellow back either....

    he should have at the very least gone out to his
    truck for 30 minutes and acted like he was
    working on something.

    to make you feel like you got your monies worth...
  4. Randyj

    Randyj Master Plumber

    Messages:
    1,047
    Location:
    Alabama
    I do things alot of people won't or won't touch. Today I drove 60 miles to a job which took 5 minutes. I couldn't justify charging the $150 I had in my head and not feel guilty about it. In the end I collected on a $150 item I had sold this customer several months ago plus $75 for the long drive... I didn't even charge for the job. This is a regular customer that I get a heck of alot of work out of, usually cash, I've got extremely low overhead, no insurance.. and always get at least $50 per hour.... If I have to bid a job I double on what I think I can do it for. If I had the expenses of alot of people I'd have to work 7 days a week and get $75-100 per hour just to make what I make now working a few days a week....mostly just odd jobs. I have a friend who is paying $1500 per month just for his yellow pages ad. He makes very good money and has alot of business but only does drain cleaning and is not even a licensed plumber.
    Last edited: Dec 18, 2006
  5. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    26,270
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    rate

    I charge by the hour and never quote over the phone, because what you describe and what the job entails can be entirely different things. For a small job, such as yours, I would only come to the house if I was going to do the work. It would cost almost as much in time and effort to give the estimate as it would to do the job, from your description. But Saturday work would be at the time and a half rate.

  6. http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v70/DUNBAR/GL001.jpg

    http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v70/DUNBAR/GL002.jpg

    http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v70/DUNBAR/GL003.jpg


    The pictures above was 4 hours work, I was working tired and hand threading almost all of it. I charged $350 on a friday evening and would of been $380 but I gave a veteran's discount.

    When I work local....I'm $70 an hour from the minute I hit the driveway until I finish writing the bill and heading towards your front door expecting payment.

    All weekend work is $85/hour on up; drain cleaning and water heater replacements are always flat rate.

    The customer above got their money's worth for sure. I was exhausted but I was pulling wrenches all week and signing off on a gas line job on a friday evening wasn't a smart move on my part.


    Any service provider that has been inquired on will have a listing on the BBB. A "member" status costs around $400/year and has some perks, but not many.

    I get many calls that I was chosen because of my member status. I get the use of that logo which must stand for something because there's a lot of plumbers in my area that don't use it. So I set myself away from the competition when that happens.

    I only give phone estimates.....always include the possibility of what ifs on many levels that compromises what the final tally can be. Being there in person is the best way to estimate but I don't have time to do that.

    I'd rather pass on the work and wait for the phone to ring when X customer wants X work done and is X ready to pay without question. Sometimes that is not fair to some customers but I know for a fact that the working force of this world does not drive to work everyday to find out if they have to work or not.


    For what you charged against what I did and what I charged......I'm sure you wouldn't of questioned my charges for the work done. The mere fact you are shocked by what they charged for a 1/2 hours work will probably prevent you from ever using them again.

    It sounds like the old logic that some plumbing companies do:

    "Get in, get out, charge as much as you can because you are never coming back."
  7. Fear of overchargeing....

    I used to have that problem....

    thinking or feeling guilty for chargeing for my work....

    Then I realized that 80% of
    most people dont care what you charge as long as they feel
    that you have done a good job and are A LIKEABLE FELLOW
    and fun to talk to and be around....

    thats really half the battle....
    they dont like having a a grouchey spiteful moron
    in their house giving them a stern lecture about anything...


    Most customers dont realize that you are doing this exact same service every day for maybe 5 other people for the same price...

    They dont really care how much you have made that day and their is no reason to feel you are over chargeing any of them...

    The good ones know you have bills too......and must survive.......

    75% of the problem is all in your own head....


    You can always them the bill and take off 25 bucks if they cry
    but you cant add to the bill if they dont flinch...
  8. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    26,270
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    rates

    If you charged those rates in this area, you would get a lot of business because we would send all the "bargain hunters" to you.
  9. Cass

    Cass Plumber

    Messages:
    5,980
    Location:
    Ohio
    I charge $79.00 when I work by the hour.

    Most jobs are quoted at a flat rate.

    Sometimes new customers will ask how much of that flat rate is labor and I tell them that it depends on how long it takes me. I then say that if I run into a problem and my time doubles that they pay the price quoted. This satisfies them.
  10. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    26,270
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    price

    I guess that is my problem with it. Either the "quote" has to have a large overage in it to cover any "problems" or you "lose" money on those jobs that do not go as anticipated.
  11. Cass

    Cass Plumber

    Messages:
    5,980
    Location:
    Ohio
    Rarely do I get into a situation where I run into an unexpected problem with the work quoted.

    The thing about flat rating is the comfort the customer has knowing the price he will pay. With an hourly rate they will be counting every minute and looking over your shoulder to see if you are done.

    One thing I do also is I tell the customer that if I run into an unexpected problem that is not a normal part of the toilet install the price will change ie.

    I'm installing a new toilet. The flat rate price is $149.00. for pull & install of new toilet, stop, and supply tube. I pull the toilet and the flange is broken. At this point the price changes because I am no longer just installing a new toilet. The flat rate was for a pull and install not fixing a flange. The flange repair will be a flat rate price also.

    The only way I can run into a problem is if the main house shutoff doesn't work and I have to go out to the pit to turn off the water. This normaly ends up being another job because not to many people want find themselves not being able to turn off their water in an emergency situation and it is not a free repair, and again this would be quoted as a flat rate repair.

    Flat rate pricing works for me.
    Last edited: Dec 19, 2006
  12. srdenny

    srdenny Plumbing Contractor

    Messages:
    361
    Location:
    SF Peninsula
    What do plumber's charge

    Plumbing, like any service business, is an expensive endeavor. Besides direct labor costs there are quite a few items to be taken into consideration. To begin with, there should be an amount calced into any particular job for diagnosis. If hj, for example, were to call himself a plumbing consultant and charge for all the (good) advice he has doled out over the last two years, on this site as well as others, he'd have to hire a fleet of armored cars to handle all the money.
    JMHO, Scott
  13. Maxine

    Maxine New Member

    Messages:
    4
    Location:
    New Jersey
    Thanks.

    The plumber that came was in the area (like 10 minutes away), and believe me, my family and I do not look like we are rolling in it. We live in a small-medium size house in Northern NJ and have regular cars like a Honda Accord and a Nissan Altima (and they are not new), nor do we live in a wealthy area. That being said, I think it just costs a fortune to get any sort of work done here in Northern NJ. I have been lucky and have a handy father who has helped me take care of any plumbing/electrical. But since this involved gas, and my dad is not a professional, I thought it required a professional. When I had called, they required that I put a credit card on file to hold my appointment. I had called a different plumber before this one, but that one had an answering service answer, then I was routed to a dispatcher who called me back to set up a time. I decided to go for the one I went with because of their ad (and their BBB insignia). I also have a slight constant drip with the kitchen faucet, and inquired how much more it would be to fix it ($100 - yeesh - he suggested just getting a new faucet). I think I might ask my dad to do that one, or just change the faucet ourselves. If only my husband was more handy... lol.

    Thanks for all the responses!
  14. I'm hourly for most work....flat rate on water heater replacements/sump pump replacements/drain cleaning.

    My hourly is fine by me...predicting another $5 increase next fall and I will stop there unless my materials and fuel charges skyrocket.

    I'm still not the cheapest though.....I get turned down on a regular basis because people think I'm high.

    And I won't charge $200 to show up, or $400 for a 1/2 hour's work to move a gas line.

    I'm still in the building phase of this business and I surely don't need to come off as expensive right now. Public awareness knows the company and its reputation so far and I'm in a position to make profit without the customer feeling overcharged.

    There are some new construction plumbers in my area that charge $45/hour for residential service...just to keep money coming in. That is insane wages and that is what I'm against; both them and I are legit companies doing good work.....just a huge price swing and I'm on no proving grounds to prove why I'm almost $30 more than the plumber down the street.

    People won't bother if you are pricing up with the big companies. I'm certainly not at that level, never will be either. I just want to make a living and move along not thinking I raped someone on price. It sucks to be on that end of the stick and makes you feel violated.




    Wooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo Tara Conner got to keep her crown, Miss USA from Kentucky. Thanks Donald Trump! :D
    Last edited: Dec 19, 2006
  15. sumppumppimp

    sumppumppimp New Member

    Messages:
    104
    Just curious, what do you guys charge to change out a sump pump? Old pump is in the pit already and you guys have to switch it out with a new pump, what is the average cost?

  16. $135 for a M53
    $85 for labor to switch out
    $16 for the check valve
    N/C for nylon ties for strapping wire
    N/C for disposal of old one


    $220-$250 installed dictated by time of day/weekend charges


    The one I did yesterday was $210 installed with no check valve replacement BUT I'm set to install a battery back up after christmas on this same job for around $250-$300 labor
  17. Randyj

    Randyj Master Plumber

    Messages:
    1,047
    Location:
    Alabama
    The biggest reason I charge no more than what I do is because I'm trying to build a business. Fortunately I don't have calls from people who are distressed and can not pay. Those are very rare for me. Like I said, $50 per hour is the LEAST I'll go for. I have been on a few jobs that I made $150 per hour. Since I have been privy to Roto-Rooter's price list I now have some kind of idea of what to charge for various jobs which is extremely helpful. Just knowing what to charge makes me feel better about charging the going rate. For me, it's prices I'm not used to paying and the kind of money I'm not used to making. I'm exceedingly happy to be able to afford a few nice things now and still only work a couple of days a week on average. Where I moved there are ALOT of new expensive vacation homes going up. I've talked to several of the contractors but so far I've not been able to get any of them to put me to work unless I want to start out at $10-12 per hour... I'm better off working for myself with a job here and there and make in a day what I'd be making in a week working for those guys.... as for the sump pump question (similar to a water heater swap out to me)... depending on how hard it is to get it in and out and whether I have to pick up and deliver the water heater I start at $200 and go up from there... plus the cost of materials with a very small mark up to cover supplies.
    Last edited: Dec 19, 2006
  18. srdenny

    srdenny Plumbing Contractor

    Messages:
    361
    Location:
    SF Peninsula
    Change out a pump

    "Just curious, what do you guys charge to change out a sump pump? Old pump is in the pit already and you guys have to switch it out with a new pump, what is the average cost?"
    I just changed out a Zoeller M-98 the other day. Replaced it with a M-137. Old one drowned in mud which got into the sump due to lack of care taken by the owner's contractors. Total bill was $630.00. $380.00 for the pump and $250.00 for 2 hours work: two trips to site, run to pick up pump, electrical box was in difficult to access location.
    Last edited: Dec 19, 2006
  19. Randyj

    Randyj Master Plumber

    Messages:
    1,047
    Location:
    Alabama
    That sounds pretty much in the ball game of what a serious pluming company would charge. Smaller guys who usually drop off business cards at the local home town hardware store would probably do it much cheaper. The going rate around town for guys in the repair business runs $60-75 per hour. Big time service companies get $120 per hour and for parts not normally stocked they get $55 add on to go get the parts at the local hardware store.
  20. Terry

    Terry Administrator Staff Member

    Messages:
    14,776
    Location:
    Bothell, Washington
    Not everybodys hour is the same.
    Some get more done than others in the same hour, so saying you charge by the hour doesn't really say much.

    Some people charge an amount for the first 30 minutes on the job, which to the customer may sound like an "hourly" quote. It's not.
    Almost nothing in plumbing can be done in the first 30 minutes.
    You will wind up paying more than the "come on" price.

    For most of our work, we like to charge by the job.
    That way, no matter who works on your project, you wind up paying the same. It also means if two people show up, there isn't so much math to keep track of.
    There are books that show the average time it should take. Those are nice, a standard of averages.
    Not that everyone has the average job. But many do.

    Some of the things we do in the Seattle area are are very well priced.
    We include in the price, many things that are considered extras.
    One West Seattle shop charges to take away the old toilet. So when the job is done, there's the old toilet setting in your front yard ready to use as a planter. If you want them to take it, you get hit with a nice add on.
    When we do our installs, the toilet winds up in our truck, and off it goes.
    We also include the wax, closet bolts and the supply tube. It's not Extra, Extra, Extra.
    Of course the best part, is being part of a Busines that was nominated for the Better Business Bureau's 2006 Business of the Year Award.
    [​IMG]

    Love Plumbing & Remodel.
    Also Angie's List Honor Roll every year.
    Last edited: Oct 9, 2012
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