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Old 12-08-2011, 02:18 PM
 
55 posts, read 365,161 times
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Our water heater was shot and we got one of those "friend of a friend" referrals. We wanted to avoid the time and hassle of getting multiple estimates, so we decided to trust the friend, who was familiar with the plumber's work.

So the job was: Replace a 40 gallon gas hot water heater, as well as some copper piping and other hardware. The tank is in the attic, so not the ideal -- but I actually helped the guy carry the old tank down as well as haul the new tank up (kind of figured this alone would entitle me to a discount!) The water in and out lines were moved from the less than ideal suspended in the air (with wire support) to running along beams on the floor, so it wasn't simply a switch-out of the old hot water heater for a new one.

Also, I drained the water heater with a hose for an hour before the plumber arrived...he said this would save time and therefore some money...

The guy showed up at 9:30...the next 30-40 minutes were spent with removing old water heater and carrying the new one up into the attic...and as mentioned, half the muscle work was provided by me. From about 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., he worked steadily in the attic, re-piping and installing the new water heater.

I was able to determine that the water heater only cost him about $300. About another $125 for some copper pipe and insulation and other supplies.

So bottom line: About $425 in material costs for the plumber, and 4.5 hours in labor. Total cost to me: $1150. Oh...and that was with an alleged discount for cash/check (versus credit card).

So.....that's $160 per hour.

Seems kind of steep, considering that I materially participated in the job, at his request (since when does the customer help remove and carry up 130 lb tanks? Glad I had a back brace!!) Maybe I'm feeling like I should have gotten a better deal, all things considered...

For what it's worth, the guy is a licensed Master Plumber. But does that hourly rate seem reasonable for a plumber? This is Atlanta...not Manhattan!

Last edited by GeorgeSpelvin; 12-08-2011 at 02:26 PM..
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Old 12-08-2011, 02:21 PM
 
Location: State of Being
35,881 posts, read 72,331,976 times
Reputation: 22650
I got estimates for a water heater three years ago and the lowest w/ installation and taking away the old one was $850. So I dunno. Sounds about right to me, since he did some extra work. Of course, this was for a second home, so I didn't choose the highest priced water heater, but I also didn't put in the lowest priced, either. I didn't even see one that I would have wanted for $300 retail, but then - the local supplier did not have a big choice for me, either. Oh - and this was for electric, not gas.
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Old 12-08-2011, 02:41 PM
 
Location: The Triad (NC)
32,453 posts, read 75,383,459 times
Reputation: 40131
Quote:
Originally Posted by GeorgeSpelvin View Post
...helped the guy carry the old tank down as well as haul the new tank up
(kind of figured this alone would entitle me to a discount!)
The "discount" you saved was not having to pay for some other helper type person to be there
or for the plumber to have taken more time working alone.

Quote:
Seems kind of steep...
Nope... It's about par for a plumbing contractor.

btw... What do YOU do for a living?
What do your customers say about those prices?

hth
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Old 12-08-2011, 03:01 PM
 
Location: Grosse Ile Michigan
29,912 posts, read 73,163,807 times
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$160 per hour seems very high. A Mechanic chrges $45 - 90 per hour. A carpenter charges $25-60 per hour, a lawyer charges $180 - 500 per hour (more for some of the overpriced big firms).

however I am not sure that you are considering all of the hours that he may have spent on your project.

Did he pick out and pick up and deliver the water heater for you, or did you buy it and supply it at the house?

Did you go and get the pipe or other materials that he needed or did he have to go to the store to get them?


How long did it take him to get to your house? Did he have other jobs in your neighborhood that day?


Keep in mind that he is not getting $160 per hour. That must cover his office/warehouse, truck, (and maybe a trailer), insurance, taxes, buiness license, advertising, telephone, clerical worker, security, interest carry, equipment costs, and many other expenses. Of course if he is a work from his truck plumber who has no office, only a cheap cell phone and no insurance, then those costs may be minimal.
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Old 12-08-2011, 03:03 PM
 
Location: Visitation between Wal-Mart & Home Depot
8,307 posts, read 37,305,419 times
Reputation: 7161
I would say that your friends actually gave you a pretty good referral. I would rather have a plumber who thinks he's worth more than a bargain, honestly...
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Old 12-08-2011, 04:55 PM
 
Location: Lexington, SC
4,281 posts, read 11,955,985 times
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I always ask for an "estimate" and or agree on a price before the work is done. Sometimes the job goes fast/quick and I think I over paid and other times the job goes slow/troublesome and I am grateful we agreed on the price.

I also pay cash and let that be known from the get go.

Being asked to "provide" a hand is one issue. Carrying/hauling/schlepping is another issue.

Friend of a friend or not (or a friend, or a relative, whatever), this is how I do it.

An aside. Before any "twitZ" could find out prices of everything/anything, a job quote was usually parts, material, labor, all inclusive, etc. Well ones overhead may well have not changed (but actually gone up) and now one has to "charge" where they can charge.

Old story. A fellow is called into to a major factory that has shut down due to a machine malfunction. It is costing them a small fortune to be shut down. The fellow walks around, looks, listens, and then asks for a big hammer. He hits the machine a mighty blow. The machine starts working, all are happy. He submits his bill for $12,000.00. Some "bean counter" asks him to itemize his bill. He responds, $10.00 for the hammer blow, $11,990.00 for knowing where to deliver the hammer blow.

Last edited by accufitgolf; 12-08-2011 at 05:08 PM..
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Old 12-08-2011, 07:28 PM
 
Location: In the woods
3,315 posts, read 9,590,663 times
Reputation: 1524
I had an estimate to replace my water heater --electric, 50 gallon, and in the basement. The total cost of everything was $850. The plumber also supplied the water heater. I did not get it from Home Depot of Lowes. Can't remember the brand but can go downstairs and check. I did not assist with anything (I was at work).

So, given that your plumber did some pipe-work, this would be close to my estimate. I live in northern Virginia, about an hour from Washington, DC.
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Old 12-08-2011, 07:38 PM
 
Location: Cartersville, GA
1,263 posts, read 3,278,951 times
Reputation: 1118
Very good point regarding an estimate. I have always asked for one, and have never had a professional stray too far from that price.

Given the fact that he apparently delivered the new tank to your house, hauled the old tank away, and disposed of it for you, I would say the price is pretty fair. At the very least, you should add 1-2 hours for the labor involved in handling the transportation and disposal.

I would be more concerned about quality work. A job that will last, and that the plumber is willing to guarantee, is a valuable commodity. For a job like this, I'll pay a couple of hundred dollars more for quality work that won't result in water dripping from my ceiling.
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Old 12-08-2011, 07:56 PM
 
Location: Out there somewhere...a traveling man.
42,439 posts, read 56,271,817 times
Reputation: 120010
Actually that was a fair price. Licensed plumbers usually charge portal to portal plus picking up materials and delivering them to the job site, then disposing of the old materials. You were probably charged in the neighborhood of about $85.00-$90.00 per hour for the whole job.
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Old 12-08-2011, 10:59 PM
 
55 posts, read 365,161 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Coldjensens View Post
Keep in mind that he is not getting $160 per hour. That must cover his office/warehouse, truck, (and maybe a trailer), insurance, taxes, buiness license, advertising, telephone, clerical worker, security, interest carry, equipment costs, and many other expenses.
Sure...but that's true for anyone who's in business for himself or herself... However, it's always a bit shady to me when folks (such as this plumber) don't itemize out their costs for you and just present a bill with one number...thus concealing the wholesale prices they pay for parts...and the mark-up they also add to those parts... Not itemizing hourly labor and parts charges prevents transparency.

All things considered, though, given what appears to be a quality job and the fact that some additional work was done beyond simply switching out the water heater, I don't think I was "ripped off." However, I do think that the rate charged is somewhat above average for this area.

In the end, though, I figure that plumbers like any other contractors that do good work at fair prices will keep steadily employed. Those who charge beyond market value for their services or "pad" the bill through shady practices eventually get a bad rep....
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