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Typical Plumbing Rates Vary

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When it's time to call a plumber, the issue of plumbing rates is often a significant concern for homeowners. Plumbing rates can vary depending on a variety of factors, including the type of repair call and the area of the country. Most plumbers will charge a higher rate for emergency calls -- those that require a response on nights or weekends. Also, the cost for a plumber is generally higher in larger cities, where the overall cost of living is also higher than smaller cities. For example, plumbers in the Northeast generally will charge more for similar repairs than their counterparts in the Southeast, where the cost of living is not as high. In general, plumbers use one of two methods to charge for their services.

Time and Material Pricing. Under this pricing formula, plumbers charge an hourly cost and then add in the cost of any materials used on top of the hourly price. This is similar to the rate structure used by many repairmen, including mechanics. The hourly cost will vary from plumber to plumber, primarily based on the experience of the worker involved. Plumbing companies that employ plumber's assistants and handymen will usually charge lower rates for those workers, reserving the highest hourly rate for master plumbers. A plumber in his or her first year on the charge will not charge as much as a plumber with much more experience.

Flat Rate Pricing. Plumbing rates are calculated differently under this pricing plan. Instead of a charge based largely on how long it takes to perform the job, some plumbers offer set prices for certain repairs. Additionally, some flat rate plumbers will charge more if the job takes significantly longer than expected, requiring the customer to pay for the unseen complications.

Extra charges. These charges also vary from plumber to plumber. Many plumbers establish a set rate to show up for a job. Under time and material pricing, the plumber might charge only that minimum fee if the job is fairly simple and performed quickly. If the job is more complicated, hourly rates and material costs are then added in the bill. For flat rate pricing, the minimum charge to show up for a job is sometimes reflected as a travel charge that is not related to the flat rate for the particular job at hand.

Get estimates. While homeowners have little control over plumbing rates, they can be as informed as possible. Virtually all plumbers offer free estimates for non-emergency jobs. Homeowners can ask for estimates in writing, along with a written description of any foreseeable additional fees. That way, the customer can compare plumbing estimates and use the total as one factor in the decision of who to hire for the job.

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