Not all plumbers are created equal. In the plumbing industry, you typically find two different types of plumbers:
- Plumbers who charge by the hour
- Plumbers who do the job for a flat fee
As a plumbing contractor with 25 years in the field, including 15 with his own business, Georg Efird of Blue Planet Plumbing has performed both types of plumbing. This blog post examines the pros and cons of plumbers who charge by the hour. While each type offers advantages with the right plumber, hourly plumbers in general put the risk on you, the homeowner. Here’s why…
The Hourly Plumber Model
Typically, these plumbers give free estimates, but no matter what their initial estimate, it’s just that: an estimate. This figure includes only what you say you want done before the work starts. If the plumber finds any issues along the way — any surprises that he didn’t notice when providing the estimate or something that breaks off in his hand — it’s an additional charge. So the only surprise may be to you.
Hourly plumbers charge between $85 and $160 an hour, depending on the region you’re in. And they may mark up all the material they need from 25 to 150 percent. Occasionally, they may need a second pair of hands for your job, so you have to pay an additional fee of about $25 to $50 an hour — although some companies include the helper in the plumber’s hourly fee.
These plumbers like charging by the hour because they get paid for every minute they’re on the job. Some even charge you for the drive time to and from the shop. So, when you hire a plumber who charges by the hour, you hope that:
- He’s proficient and conscientious
- He has everything he needs in his vehicle to complete your job
- He’s motivated to complete the job efficiently and quickly
Characteristics of an Hourly Plumber
Most hourly plumbers are honest, intelligent, efficient, organized and very good at what they do. You can find some who come to your home with a fully-stocked van. They can work on every make, model and brand. They often have 10 to 15 years’ experience. If they can, for example, fix your toilet for $100, that’s a bargain you can’t beat.
Hourly plumbers prefer working on new construction, remodeling jobs and service work. Because they’re in demand, especially during periods of heavy construction, you may find that they don’t always answer their phones. You have to leave a message and hope they return your call in a timely manner.
They’re generally more relaxed about scheduling, so they can’t always give you an exact time when they’ll arrive for a repair. They may not even be able to give you a window. It’s inconvenient, but it’s indicative of technicians who give their attention to who’s paying the most. When a big job calls, that’s where they go.
The Risks of Hourly Plumbers
If your hourly plumber forgot to restock his van or doesn’t have what he needs for your job and has to go get something, you’re paying for that time. If he decides to stop for lunch on his way back to your home, you’re likely paying for that time too. If he spends 15 minutes explaining to you what he’s doing, you’re paying for that time. If he takes or makes a phone call while working, that’s time you’re paying for. If he makes a mistake on the job, he’s not going to mention it to you. He’ll just fix the mistake, which takes extra time that — you got it — you’re paying for.
So the risk in this model is on you, not the plumber. There’s no guarantee how much time your project will take or how much it will really cost. It’s completely reliant on how efficient your plumber is.
Plumbers paid by the hour aren’t rewarded for their performance or efficiency. They have no incentive to finish quickly, and in fact have an economic incentive to take their time. If you hired an owner/operator, he’ll do an excellent job. But you may get an employee who has less incentive and fewer skills. If you can’t keep an eye on him, you have to trust him, and that’s a leap of faith if he’s a stranger.
Make Your Choice
In the end, it can be risky hiring an hourly plumber. There are dozens of good plumbers in the area who charge by the hour. They’ve built great businesses by being honest and delivering quality work quickly and expertly. If you find one who always gives you what you expect, great.
But when you think about your scariest plumbing nightmare — a guy who comes in, promises a low rate, but ends up nickel-and-diming you all along the way — that’s what you can get with an hourly plumber if you’re not careful. That’s what homeowners fear when they call a plumber. And this is one of the main reasons Blue Planet Plumbing charges a flat fee for every job.
The Asheville plumbers from Blue Planet Plumbing offer knowledgeable advice so you can make an informed decision. They recommend the most up-to-date, cost-effective and environmentally conscious plumbing available. Call Blue Planet Plumbing at 828-423-6289 for all your plumbing needs.