Plumber cost?

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I had a break in the water main running from the street to my house (Seattle area). The old pipe was cheap plastic, so I wanted to replace the entire 50' run with copper. A neighbor recommended a plumber to me. This guy works in commercial plumbing, but does occasional residential plumbing jobs on the side. My neighbor loves this guy, and said he had only charged them about $25 per hour, did great work, had worked on several neighbors houses, etc.
I called him and he gave me an over-the-phone estimate of $500 - $600 for the job. I tried to get him to break down labor vs materials, but he waffled around the question.
I spent a couple days digging trenches in my yard, drilling through concrete, and getting the entire job site ready for the plumber. He brought out a 50' roll of 1" copper and a small length of 3/4" copper. We had talked about 3/4" copper for the whole run, but he said he'd gotten a deal on the 1" roll -- $75!! I was thrilled, thinking he's trying to save me money here.
I helped him unroll and lay the pipe in the trench, and then he handled all the fittings and elbows. He worked for about 2.5 hours, and the job was done.
My jaw dropped when he said I owed him $600, adding "that's what we agreed on." He was right, of course, so I paid him. Two days later, I'm still fuming. I hadn't even bothered getting estimates from plumbers from the phone book, because this guy sounded reasonable and was personally recommended.
Is this an unreasonable charge or not? What would an average plumber charge for a job like this? At the very least, I'm feeling screwed because he got a deal on his materials without passing any savings along to me. Grrr...
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: I had a break in the water main running from the street to my house : (Seattle area). The old pipe was cheap plastic, so I wanted to replace : the entire 50' run with copper. A neighbor recommended a plumber to : me. This guy works in commercial plumbing, but does occasional : residential plumbing jobs on the side. My neighbor loves this guy, and : said he had only charged them about $25 per hour, did great work, had : worked on several neighbors houses, etc. : : I called him and he gave me an over-the-phone estimate of $500 - $600 : for the job. I tried to get him to break down labor vs materials, but : he waffled around the question. : : I spent a couple days digging trenches in my yard, drilling through : concrete, and getting the entire job site ready for the plumber. He : brought out a 50' roll of 1" copper and a small length of 3/4" copper. : We had talked about 3/4" copper for the whole run, but he said he'd : gotten a deal on the 1" roll -- $75!! I was thrilled, thinking he's : trying to save me money here. : : I helped him unroll and lay the pipe in the trench, and then he handled : all the fittings and elbows. He worked for about 2.5 hours, and the job : was done. : : My jaw dropped when he said I owed him $600, adding "that's what we : agreed on." He was right, of course, so I paid him. Two days later, : I'm still fuming. I hadn't even bothered getting estimates from : plumbers from the phone book, because this guy sounded reasonable and : was personally recommended. : : Is this an unreasonable charge or not? What would an average plumber : charge for a job like this? At the very least, I'm feeling screwed : because he got a deal on his materials without passing any savings along : to me. Grrr...
Well, you know he is going it simply because he is a good guy <grin>
Chalk this up to experience and vow not to do it again. Which is the better choice the PITA of getting contractors out to even look at the job, obtain estimates, check out the referrals and (if you have faith - the BBB) - OR - fume because you felt you got ripped? DAMHIKT :-)
Just about everytime I get a contractor out to 'assist' me with my repairs/improvements, no amount of owner-prep seemed to have accounted for in determining the cost. Seems like I end up paying them for my work <Grrrr>. Yet, I insist upon doing it myself simply so the job goes to mysatisfaction/QC. Only three or four have given any consideration to the fact that I labored right beside them the entire time, or simply made the job site clear ready to go. I make it a point to learn what I can each time, so I can tackle similar jobs in the future. I've never had to call the same trade out twice...
Here is a great website where you can go to check out typical construction costs. www.get-a-quote.net.
These cost guides (New construction, repair, insurance renovation, electrical, mechanical, and painting), are designed to assist a contractor with estimating construction costs.
Use the search ability to look up the key components of the entire task. In your case, the trenching, concrete cutting, the installation of the copper piping/removal of the old, etc. Now, you will have a better idea of what his cost is/was and even how much you 'might' be saving by performing some of the labor yourself <grin>.
Craftsman Book Company ( www.craftsman-book.com ) publishes this data for contractor's and will even sell you a construction cost estimating software at a very reasonable price. (download < $20) Unfortunately, their 30 day trial version will not run on XP, 2000, or Mac.
Best of luck!
Rick "Good martinis are like breasts on a woman. One ain't enough and three's too many."
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Good comments and advice, thanks! I did pay close attention to the work he did, and I'll feel more confident about handling that end myself next time.

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snipped-for-privacy@NO.scn.SPAM.org says...

( snip)

If the water main line upstream of my service entrance broke, I'd call the county water utility office and they would fix it for free. It's their responsibility until it gets to my water meter. Why on earth would you consider paying for it yourself?
This is standard practice everywhere I've lived, but I suppose some municipalities may differ
Marc
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snipped-for-privacy@somewhere.com wrote ...

Where I live, the city is responsible only to the property line.
--
- Ray ROT 13: snipped-for-privacy@pbtrpb.pn
Without geometry, life is pointless.
  Click to see the full signature.
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When he bid the job did he know you would do most of the work? Is the job done to code and done properly? If not and he hasnt cashed the CK the banks open tomorrow. Stop pay and renigotiate. Is 600 fair, yes - no ,, he spent time driving and buying equipment. His price was still a bit off.
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Yes, he knew I would do all the digging and get everything ready. His estimate included only the materials and labor. Whether it was done to code, I don't know, but I have a city inspector coming out tomorrow to check it out. Thanks...
snipped-for-privacy@webtv.net (m Ransley) wrote in 3138.bay.webtv.net:

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You got screwed if you did all the prep work. Go to HD or Lowes and check the price of copper pipe, (probably should have used the 200 psi black pipe), couplers, and new valves. All totalled this would proably come to less than $100 buck and his time would have been less than 2 hours under the worst circumstance. So the total should have been less than $320. More likely closer to $200.
Peter A wrote:

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I certainly agree with the poly pipe being a much better choice than copper but... I do this type work in my well pump business and I'll tell you the prices you are stating are very low if the job were hired out. I wouldn't be the guy to do yours if you're comparing my charges to a DIYer buying the material from the big box store and doing the work himself; like you and most others are in this case.
If the DIYer screws it up he starts over at his expense. If I did that, it's at my expense, my insurance premiums, time and materials etc.. Plus my related travel time and expenses etc. plus any job I may have had had I not had to go back out to your place to redo something. I'm not risking my financial and other well being working for laborer's wages ya know. They couldn't pay but a very small part of my expeses. So, we're talking two widely different things here and really, they are not comparable.
Gary Quality Water Associates www.qualitywaterassociates.com Bulletin Board www.qualitywaterassociates.com/phpBB2/
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Gary Slusser wrote:

Come on. You could do that job with iron pipe, including cutting threads on every pipe end in less than hour. What the plumber did was charge the guy not only for the work the plumber did but the work the house owner did in digging the trench. It was a rip off
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If you're a plumber, I want your phone number. I'm hiring you to be on my crew. You are one fast, cheap worker and I'm lookin' for you!! I'll pay you $25 an hour....no benefits, no 401K, no unemployment, no workmens comp., no vacation, no sick time, no health insurance, you provide tools and transportation and you're a 1099 independent contractor. How fast can you put in a replacement 40 gal gas hot water heater? Under an hour? NY Metro area.......
wrote

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Hell no I'm no plumber. How long do you take to replace a length of pipe when everything is out in the open?
Haven't ever replace a gas water heater. But I guess about an hour. The 50 gallon electric one took about 1-1/2 hours but I was eating lunch at the time. BTH, that's about what I work for minus the $25, but then I work for myself and usually just save money. Can't beat saving $100 buck for an hours worth of work.
art wrote:

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Unfortunately, in my case. The city's responsibility ends at the meter, and mine begins there. That's where I tied the new line in.

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Not in New York.............It's the homeowner's responsibility from the street to the water meter...........
says...

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$25 an hour is cheap for a plumber anywhere...where is he cutting corners, and why does he think so little of his time? BTW, PVC pipe underground is normally better than copper..

And thats his right. Did he ask you what you did for a living and how much you made? Seriously...he gave you an estimate....did you call around for others? Did you compare his estimate to see if it was at least ballpark to the others in your area? ALWAYS do that. I even suggest it to my customers. I told one yesterday, here is my price for this repair of that unit, I would not throw money at it, and here is a quote on a system replacement. I suggest you call around and get other prices and compare.

Thats not a bad price on a 1 inch roll of copper...altho....plumbers and HVAC use different sizes...so was it really 1 inch copper or 7/8ths??? :-) If it was really 7/8ths, then that roll can be had for about $45...at todays copper price at a wholesale outlet...NOT Home Depot or Lowes..etc.

Soft copper....underground..did he wrap the pipe in pipewrap tape? Was it supported and covered with sand and not dirt? I see a big problem showing up shortly...

Ok...then now you have to ask...why didnt you call around, and why did you pay him if you thought it was unreasonable? You agreed on a price, you paid the price, and now you have buyers remorse.

For what he did, very, but you agreed to it.

They would have done all the work, including digging the old up, and getting the trench set correctly...(btw, he sounds like the average plumber, only his labor rates a bit on the low side.) I know that many of the plumbers in this area would not do that for less than what you agreed on...

Nope...you are not...you are feeling taken, and gulible. It happens. You agreed to the price, he did the work, you then thought you would bypass part of the labor by "helping" and you paid what you agreed on. Honestly....if you agreed to a set price, and he did it for the set price, what is the problem?

What I pay for my materials is none of my customers business. Some days I get a better deal than others, that does not change the retail price. All the parts, units and materials I have, have two retail prices. SMRP, and MY RP. Mine is always lower than the suggested. A flat rate repair has a set price, based upon my labor rate per hour for that repair, and the part. Most of my techs have no idea what I paid for the parts, and therefore, they cant even start to tell the customer what the wholesale price was, and I dont feel its anyones biz if I paid $40 for that $50 part, or paid $500 for that $700 part. You pay markups everywhere you go. You go to Wal-Mart and think..WOW...thats a low price for that doomaflatchy...and they didnt pay near that. You buy groceries? Ask your local retail grocery chain what they paid for every item in your cart, and you will be told that they cant tell you. I had a guy want to see the invoice one time when he had a compressor failure, and we had to go get it since it was a Climatuff that went in an old Trane...I showed it to him...none of my invoices have prices on them. Thats the way business is done.
Did you get screwed? I think so. Do I think full blame lies on the guy you had to do the work? Not at all.
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My neighbor gave me the $25 an hour figure -- I never could get the plumber to give me a labor rate, so I foolishly assumed materials were the bulk of his initial "$500 - $600" quote.

Another lesson learned. I didn't call for other estimates because I figured I'd do much better with a personal recommendation than random phone book picks. And I knew the $25 an hour figure couldn't be beat (if it had only turned out to be true!). Sigh...

He wrapped the short section going through concrete foundation with pipewrap tape. The rest of the run underground is bare soft copper. He did warn me about filtering out big rocks before covering up the trench. I haven't covered it up yet, because there's a city inspector coming out tomorrow. I'll ask the inspector about it, but you've made me nervous now. Should I tape or insulate the whole run before covering it up?

You're exactly right, which is why I paid without complaint. I'm just tyring to figure out what would have been a reasonable price for this.

Yep, agreed across the board. As I say, this has been a learning experience for me. Mistakes to avoid in the future: blindly trusting that a "friend of a friend" will quote a reasonable price, and not getting multiple competetive quotes.
Thanks for the comments and advice!
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I agree with most of what CBHVAC said. The bottom line is it is a business transaction. To think that the plumber is going to be a nice guy and "cut you a break" is naive. He is there for one reason and one reason only: to make money. He told you $500 to $600 and he came in on time and in budget. When I hire a contractor of any type I don't try to be their friend or pretend that I'm happy they are "there to help me". I hammer them with questions. I tell them what the job site will be like and what I want done. I ask if they will be charging an hourly rate plus parts or a flat fee for the job. Last time I hired a plumber we agreed on hourly fee and parts plus a 10% mark up on parts. We both knew what we were getting into. If he ran in to problems and the job took longer I got charged for it. Fair is fair. I don't care if they don't like my attitude. There are 10 more guys right behind them I can call. If they are not professional and seem put off by my questions I don't offer them the job no matter how low their bid is.
Greg
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snipped-for-privacy@windsweptsoftware.com (Greg) wrote in message

It may be naive to assume that someone will "cut-a-break." But when did it become acceptable for home-improvement contractors to work for "one reason only: to make money." I'm in my field of work because I love what I do, and I take pride in a job well done, knowing that it not only satifies me, but my clients.
BH
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I like what I do too. But If I did not get paid well for it, I'd like it a whole lot less. Ed
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Peter A wrote:

would have charged about $100 plus per foot and you did it to save money so that was less money he would have made as he would have gotten someone to so it for $50 or less per foot...
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