Hello all...

My home had a fire last year, and everything was gutted & rebuilt. Now, I'm in the process of converting from oil to gas. I need a stand-alone gas-fired hot water heater to be installed in my basement (since there's already a combination furnace & A/C unit in my attic, installed by the contractor).

I have two estimates from a local plumber for a complete "rip out the old & install the new" job (in Nassau County, Long Island, NY):

Estimate #1:
1- remove & dispose of the old oil burner & boiler, including all connected pipes and vents
2- "cap off" (whatever that means) the exterior wall chimney hole
3- install a new plastic PVC vent pipe through the exterior wall
4- install a new AO Smith GPHE-50 (65,000 BTU) gas-fired power vented water heater
5- install a new thermal expansion tank on the cold water inlet piping to the heater
6- install the gas connection + hot & cold water piping connections to the water heater
7- start, test, and adjust the new installation

Price is $3495 + tax or signed capital improvement form.

Estimate #2:
Same as #1 except:
3- install a new stainless steel chimney liner for the new water heater vent pipe.
4- install a new AO Smith GCVX-50 (65,000 BTU) gas-fired water heater

Price is $2490 + tax or signed capital improvement form.

I think the prices are outrageous, but then I'm a lay person who knows nothing about blue collar work and what's being charged these days. I need this done ASAP so that I can move back into my house by the end of September. My contractor's plumbers are hard to track down/find (basically, they do whatever work they want to, on their own schedule, and aren't held accountable by the contractor), so I can't and won't use them to do the work. I've had 2 other plumbers refuse to give me an estimate, siting "ethical and/or legal reasons" why they won't even consider the job. They say that the contractor's plumbers should do it since they are on record for the plumbing permit with my Town.

So... what else can I do besides go with one of those estimates? Are those estimates reasonable, or am I being taken advantage of because I need this done ASAP?

Thanks for all opinions...

- Chris S.