Time for a New Plumber?

vin009September 11, 2013


I wanted to get some feedback on plumbing work that I just had done and see if what I was charged seems fair. I feel like our long trusted plumber really gouged us, but before I over react I wanted to get some additional opinions.

We've been using the same plumber for the last ten years, and though he is not the least expensive, I've always trusted him not to charge us for unnecessary work. We live in a suburb of LA and prices here are a bit higher than in other parts of the country. I made the mistake of not getting an estimate because I've always been happy with his work and trusted his prices were fair. However, this past week I feel like he took advantage of that trust.

Our kitchen sink was draining slow and it would fill up when we ran the dishwasher. A sink in a nearby bathroom also would fill up from the dishwasher.

Our plumber spent a total of 3 1/2 hours on our plumbing issues which included the following:
- Snake the kitchen drain (he had to disassemble the pipes under the sink and do some repairs when he put it back together. There was corrosion on the drain pipe going into the wall and he had to do some work on the nipple. He also replaced several of the pipes which kept leaking when he reassembled the plumbing. This took him several hours.
- Our $150 Price Pfister faucet was dripping which I asked him to look at
- He snaked our the laundry clean out which took 20-30 minutes.

Based on what we've paid for past work I was expecting to pay between $300-$500. His bill was for $1200! I asked him for a break down of the work and below is the breakdown.
- $338 to clear the kitchen drain
- $161 to repair the drain nipple
- $350 to repair and reassemble the plumbing under the sink
- $215 to fix the drip on the faucet. He replaced the ceramic valve stems with brass ones
- $170 to snake the garage drain

When I started questioning him about the charges, I felt like he became defensive. When I pointed out he charged me more to fix the faucet than I paid for it, he justified the repair costs by saying he used quality parts and asked if I'd purchased the faucet at Home Depot suggesting that it was cheap.

I'm pretty certain I was drastically overcharged for the work. Even if I take a generous deduction for parts, he basically charged around $300 per hour. Before I start looking for a new plumber, I wanted to make sure that I'm not over looking something that would justify such I high repair bill.

Thank you in advance for your replies.

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That's a fair amount of work in that timeframe.

On the one hand you said total time was 3.5 hours, but also that he spent "several hours" for the kitchen pipes. Confused by that. What kind of pipes was he replacing? PVC? tubular plastic? copper?

Any trips for parts or did he carry everything on his truck?

Service business also have to account for overhead, drive time, etc. that you don't see. And pro's get more for the know-how and stocking materials.

As for the specific price, your market determines that. Do you know whether he charges by the hour or the task?

    Bookmark   September 11, 2013 at 2:07PM
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You were gouged,but truth is 90% of plumbers do it daily. The other 10% charge the same hourly rates but are skilled,well equiped and carry needed parts and send less skilled helpers when additional parts are nessary. The latter are in and out in far less time on any given job. It can actualy get worse when they come out, piddle around fixing nothing,givng lame excuses,blaming forces beound thier control and handing you a fat bill. How many have seen plumbers admit they don't know what's wrong and say "no charges today"?.

    Bookmark   September 11, 2013 at 5:52PM
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Find a new plumber.

    Bookmark   September 11, 2013 at 6:15PM
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New plumber.
He may have changed his pricing structure, but as you've been a long-time customer, he should have let you know ahead of time, or at least have been sensitive to your asking questions and easily clarified the bill.

    Bookmark   September 12, 2013 at 1:16AM
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Homebound, the total time he spent at our house today was 3.5 hours and he spent about 2.5 hours on the kitchen sink drain and pipes. No trips for parts, everything was on his truck. He charges by the task. But based on the time he spent, it comes out to $300 an hour. That seems like a lot to me.

    Bookmark   September 13, 2013 at 12:10PM
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I just had a bid on the following work in my little hometown: replace the drain/pipe under the sink; hook up my new dishwasher (old fittings are already there) install garbage disposal and put new faucet into the counter. $1750. I almost had a heart attack. Comments?

    Bookmark   December 21, 2013 at 10:03PM
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Too much! I might have to drive up there. : )

This post was edited by homebound on Sat, Dec 21, 13 at 22:09

    Bookmark   December 21, 2013 at 10:07PM
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How much, too much? What would be a standard rate for that job? Thanks!

    Bookmark   December 22, 2013 at 12:00AM
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More info on "replacing the drain". Do you mean a new trap, etc. to accommodate the fixtures? If so, you need to call someone else. Let's just say it's ridiculous.

    Bookmark   December 22, 2013 at 10:24AM
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Is everything working correctly now? For those saying it is ridiculous, let's keep in mind that he lives in LA too. It is pricey there. As well, he was properly equipped and had the material to do the job in one visit. If he had to make a supply house run you would have the same or larger bill spread over a longer time. He also understood what he had to do and got it done. As far as I can see, his only mistake was in not giving you the option to replace rather than repair the faucet. The question is, will these repairs last. If in 2-3 months you end up having to have the drains rodded again, then I think you can have the "value" discussion with him.

    Bookmark   December 22, 2013 at 11:32AM
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Homebound: Yes, to change the old trap/drain which had been clogged "with 60 years of Slovenian cooking".
Yes, ridiculous was the word I was looking for. I'm in ZIP code 55705--where most guys know how to fix everything, there are few inspections, and the only people keeping the plumbers in business, I suppose, are widows and divorcees. ...fair game. or unfair game...

    Bookmark   December 23, 2013 at 11:30PM
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I am a union electrician in NYC...and we do get paid well when you factor in our benefits package. So, for a contractor to make a profit I think they charge 175$ an hour for labor. My package is worth about 100$ an hour.

To charge 300 plus $$$ an hour for labor is ridiculous!

    Bookmark   December 28, 2013 at 1:09PM
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