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Thread: How do plumbers decide on what to charge?

  1. #1
    DIY Junior Member Maxine's Avatar
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    Default How do plumbers decide on what to charge?

    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. #2
    DIY Junior Member Blade_Jones's Avatar
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    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 by Blade_Jones; 12-18-2006 at 02:30 PM.

  3. #3
    Master Plumber master plumber mark's Avatar
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    Talking 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. #4

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    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 by Randyj; 12-18-2006 at 03:21 PM.

  5. #5
    Moderator & Master Plumber hj's Avatar
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    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. #6
    Master Plumber Dunbar Plumbing's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Maxine
    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!

    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."
    Read what the end of this sentence means.

  7. #7
    Master Plumber master plumber mark's Avatar
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    Talking 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. #8
    Moderator & Master Plumber hj's Avatar
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    Default 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. #9
    Plumber Cass's Avatar
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    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. #10
    Moderator & Master Plumber hj's Avatar
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    Default 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. #11
    Plumber Cass's Avatar
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    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 by Cass; 12-19-2006 at 02:22 PM.

  12. #12
    Plumbing Contractor srdenny's Avatar
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    Default 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. #13
    DIY Junior Member Maxine's Avatar
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    Default 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. #14
    Master Plumber Dunbar Plumbing's Avatar
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    Thumbs up

    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!
    Last edited by Dunbar Plumbing; 12-19-2006 at 08:37 AM.
    Read what the end of this sentence means.

  15. #15
    DIY Member pump's Avatar
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    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?

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