How to Price a Plumbing Job
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Getting paid by the hour for plumbing work is the most effective way to ensure your costs are covered. To do this, however, customers must trust you completely. Through experience and guidance from industry standards, you can reasonably gauge the time and materials needed to complete most commercial and residential plumbing jobs.
Determine Your Needs
The going hourly rate for contract plumbers was between $48 and $71 at the time of publication, according to Homewyse, a consumer advice site. Before setting prices, determine how much money will be needed to pay your bills and remain competitive. Your hourly rate shouldn’t include job supplies, which are charged separately. Tell the customer your hourly wage and estimate the number of hours it will take to do the job. For small jobs with easy access, many plumbers charge at least a 1.5- or two-hour minimum.
Experienced plumbers usually take about an hour to install a garbage disposal or toilet, while putting in a new bathtub may take four to five hours. Before estimating a job, examine the pipes and surrounding areas to see where they lead and if whether they're easily accessible. Consider the time it will take to replace rusted or stripped screws. Build in more time if it's necessary to slither under a house to reach a leak or to turn off the water. It’s often the peripheral work that ends up taking extra time and not the actual job itself.
For larger jobs and commercial contracts, you'll need drawings of the buildings that include where the plumbing is to be installed or rehabbed. Those costs should be passed along. Use colored markers to highlight the various pipes, routes and equipment involved in the job. For example, use green for mechanical equipment and fixtures, yellow for waste vents and blue and red for cold- and hot-water pipes. Once you’ve got a grasp on the entire job, figure how many subcontractors with special licenses are needed and call them for estimates. Total the projected costs and then add an extra 3 percent -- the average margin of error in most plumbing estimates -- to cover any variations or overages.
Room for Discussion
Whether you’re estimating a huge urban-renewal project or working with a builder on a new house, include language in the estimate that covers exclusions that aren’t part of your estimate. Consider things like clean-up, dumpster rentals, security guards, permits, pipe removal and other issues that may arise. In the estimate, write that these tasks and fees are not included in the total estimate, but can be if required by the client. Prepare to come up with charges if the customer asks you to take care of every aspect of the job.
Linda Ray is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years reporting experience. She's covered business for newspapers and magazines, including the "Greenville News," "Success Magazine" and "American City Business Journals." Ray holds a journalism degree and teaches writing, career development and an FDIC course called "Money Smart."