Pipe Dreams, and Scams
Despite popular belief, there are ways around the high cost of plumbers. Sure
most of them can afford better cars than the average attorney, but if you
learn the tricks of the trade, you may be able to avoid being the latest
customer to pay for the Benz.
Problem One: All plumbing issues require a house call. This means a higher
labor fee just to drive to your home and look at the problem. Forget actually
fixing it. Since each visit means a $50 to $75 "mobilization charge," which
normally only covers the first hour, you may want to have the plumber look at
more than one problem at a time. This may not be so easy if a burst pipe is
flooding your house, but if the problem is more minor, see if he can look at
a few other plumbing-related problems while he's there. It will save you
money in the long run.
Problem Two: Getting an estimate for plumbing problems is not so easy. Be
sure to explain the problem in as detailed a manner as possible. Ask how it
will be fixed, how much it will cost and how long it will take. This will
give you a rough estimate, at least.
Problem Three: Different rates for different customers. Whatever you do,
don't give your phone number or address before you get your rough estimate.
Some plumbers will automatically raise the prices if your number or address
is in an affluent neighborhood. If you live in a ritzy area, you would do
well to call plumbers in areas surrounding your neighborhood, but no inside
Problem Four: One bid is risky. Always call around. If your repair is going
to be under $200, you can get your bids over the phone. There may be some
variance when the plumber actually shows up on site, but you can get a
ballpark figure. If, however, your job is a little more complicated, you may
need to get onsite estimates. This is especially true in older homes where
building codes may require more work than is immediately visible.
Problem Five: The invisible problem. You know you have water in your home and
it's not where it's supposed to be. You need a plumber to find the problem.
In this case, you may not be able to get a ballpark estimate. But don't let
that situation push you into letting the plumber having free rein. Negotiate
a flat rate to find out what the problem is first, then get an estimate to
fix the actual problem. This is a much better way to keep an eye on your
Problem Six: The hidden costs. Make sure to find out if travel is included if
you hire a plumber who charges a flat rate per hour. Some plumbers will
charge you a fee for coming to your home, travel back to the office and any
time spent in stores picking up parts.
Problem Seven: Cheap parts. Make sure that your plumber isn't cutting corners
by using ¬‡-inch pipe instead of ¬æ-inch. You will want K or L grade copper
piping that can last 15 to 20 years, instead of the cheaper M grade that only
lasts five to 10. Know what your plumber is using before he begins the job
and insist on the best grade.
Problem Eight: Price gouging. If you suspect that you are being played like a
sucker, check it out. You can easily find out prices of lavatories, commodes
and other plumbing fixtures by visiting a bathroom showroom or contacting the
manufacturer. Don't pay $400 for an $80 toilet. Check it out first.
Source: Based on information found in Smart Money