Why do plumbing contractors charge the way they do?

If you have ever tried to call around to get a plumbing quote, you have likely discovered some frustrating information. Overall, there are a few ways plumbing contractors charge, and understanding it may help you be a better informed consumer and hopefully less discouraged.

Here are the industry standards for how plumbing contractors charge, along with some pros and cons of each. Finding a plumber who charges in a way that makes the most sense for you should be your objective.

First, it is important to note that some plumbing contractors won’t quote over the phone and therefore may charge a nominal fee to come to your home to see the work and provide a quote. Some do offer it for free as well. The service call fee, or the quote fee, is usually just enough to cover their time to drive over and give an estimate. Most plumbers will apply this fee to work performed when the bid is accepted by the homeowner.

The Flat Rate Plumber: “We charge an upfront fee”

Plumbing contractors who use flat rate pricing allow you to know what you will pay upfront. They may use a range rather than a specific quote, ie. $150-$200.

Pro: You know what your invoice total will be when the job starts. They will likely add charges for unexpected changes from unseen problems such as removing a p-trap and discovering rust, or pulling a toilet and finding the subfloor has disintegrated.

Con: While you may know the price upfront, you may not know how long they will be there. The price isn’t hourly, so it depends a lot on the skill of the technician. Plumber A could take 1-2 hours for a job that Plumber B takes 3-4 on. Because you pay the same price either way, it doesn’t matter, unless your time does. Additionally, flat rate plumbers have the reputation for higher prices because very often they build the “worst case scenario” into their price.

Our suggestion: Ask how long the job should take and what parts are included so you know you are getting a fair price. Please don’t compare part prices to retailers as the quality is not the same and therefore can be deceiving.

The Traditionalist Plumbing Contractor: “We charge parts plus labor”

Plumbers traditionally have charged an hourly rate plus parts. Again, they may or may not quote over the phone, and if they do, it is a best estimate and may not be fully accurate until they see the job.

Pro: After seeing the job at hand, experienced plumbing contractors should still be able to give an estimate for the time and materials the job will take. Again, additional costs can come up from unforeseen problems.

Con: If you get a slow or unskilled plumber you could pay more for the same job as another customer with a faster or more experienced one.

Our suggestion: Find out how long the job takes on average. Let the plumber know if you prefer parts to be fixed rather than replaced as that will affect the pricing and without your stated preference plumbing contractors will do it the way they are accustomed.

Most of us will need to call a plumber at some time in our homeownership experience, but not enough to be experts on the matter. Garvin’s hopes to be a trusted resource for you, so please call if we can help. Depending on the needed service, we will quote you over the phone, and charge in the way that best serves the customer. If you have the need for plumbing contractors, give Garvin’s a call today!

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