Don't let leaky pipes or leaking faucets rain on your parade. Hiring a professional plumber to handle minor plumbing problems will help prevent small issues from turning into major disasters. Maybe you have a faucet with a slow and steady drip that wastes precious water and raises your utility bills. Perhaps your pipes are old and are starting to show signs of wear, or you're noticing worrisome water spots. Leaks can occur when your home settles and joints get loosened. A clogged pipe can cause a leak if water gets backed up inside it over time. Water that freezes and expands in pipes during winter can cause small cracks or fissures that lead to leaks. Sudden low water pressure in specific fixtures or parts of your house could signal a leaky pipe somewhere. A kitchen faucet or sink drain can leak because of damage or because the fixture has worn out over time. And a leaky pipe leading into a water heater can create a big mess as well as a fire hazard.
Whatever the cause, it's best to have a pro handle your leaky pipes sooner rather than later. Leaky pipes and dripping faucets usually get worse over time. Dripping water, especially in your drywall or on your basement floor, can lead to mold, which can cause major health and financial problems if left unchecked. Fortunately, plumbers can easily replace leaking pipes and repair or replace dripping faucets for all types of indoor and outdoor plumbing. Most also offer weekend and after-hours help for emergencies. Here are the cost factors for leaky pipe and faucet repair.
Type of repair
The cost to repair a leak will depend on the condition of the plumbing in the house. A simple pipe repair can lead to the discovery of a much larger issue — or a leaky faucet may be just that. In general, contractors prefer to inspect the leak in person before giving a quote. If you need to repair or replace a water pipe, the type of pipes you have will also affect your costs. Some of the most common plumbing pipes include cross linked polyethylene pipe (PEX pipe, the most prevalent in new construction), polyvinyl chloride (PVC pipe, typically used for drain lines in new construction), galvanized steel (hard to work with, found in homes built before the 1980s), and copper pipes (durable and high-quality, but costly).
Many plumbers charge a flat rate after they consider the time, materials and labor requirements of a plumbing repair job. Most companies will calculate flat rates using an hourly rate for labor as part of the total cost. According to JEM Plumbing and Drain Cleaning in San Diego, California, hourly rates for plumbers can start around $55 on average and go up, depending on the complexity or hazards of the job. Rates can also vary based on geographic location and experience of the plumber. There are three primary pay grades for plumbers: apprentice plumbers, who can only provide services under the supervision of a licensed plumber; journeyman plumbers, who have years of experience and have passed a licensing exam by the state; and master plumbers, who typically have the equivalent of a contractor's license in their state and are extremely knowledgeable about building codes, blueprints, safety and more. Hiring a master plumber may cost more than working with a journeyman plumber.
Flat rates for faucets
Fixing or replacing a leaking faucet is a common job that most plumbers can tackle within a few hours. You may need to replace the cartridge inside the faucet, which means you can keep the exterior of your fixtures. However, if the mechanics of the faucet have completely worn out, it may be time to replace the fixture. Kitchen faucet fixtures typically cost more than bathroom fixtures. Because repairing and replacing faucets is so common, many plumbers can easily estimate costs for faucet jobs. Here are a few examples of average costs for faucet repair or replacement:
Spitfire Plumbing in Minneapolis, Minnesota
- Change the cartridge (the inner parts of the faucet) on a leaking faucet: $189-$225, including labor and materials
- Replace an old or nonfunctioning faucet: $250, including labor and two new shut-off valves at the wall and two new supply lines (does not include new fixtures)
- Completely replace an old or nonfunctioning bathroom faucet: $350, including labor, new faucet fixtures, two new shut-off valves at the wall and two new supply lines
- Completely replace an old or nonfunctioning kitchen faucet: $350-$400, including labor, new faucet fixtures, two new shut-off valves at the wall and two new supply lines
- Replace an outdoor hose spigot (silcock): $250, including labor and materials
Sweetwater Plumbing Company in Alvin, Texas
- Repair leaking faucet in bathroom or kitchen: $125-$400, depending on the grade of faucet and the location
Locating the source of a leak in a pipe can be difficult. The problem may require a simple repair, or it may indicate a larger problem that can require demolition to reach the faulty pipes and install new ones. If you need to cut out any walls or dig into the ground, costs can rise much more quickly than if the pipe to be repaired is accessible. The material your pipes are made of will also affect how easy the repair will be. Because each job is different, most plumbers give free estimates to assess the situation. Here are a few examples of possible leaky pipe average repair costs:
- Diagnosis only of a leak located inside a wall that ultimately requires demolition: $80-$100
- Simple waterline repair inside a wall, including diagnostic demolition: $150-$350
- Replace leaking water main (pipe coming in from the outside): $200 minimum, including labor, parts and replacement of the shut-off valve
- Starting price for pipe leak repair: $189 The same leaking pipe could turn into an $1,800 repair if the pipe is faulty and needs 50 new feet installed.
Minimum service fee
Some plumbers charge a minimum service fee to perform work (not to be confused with an on-site estimate, which is usually free and does not obligate you to hire that plumber for the job). For example, Spitfire Plumbing typically charges a minimum of $100 to pull out tools for work, but estimates are always free. JEM Plumbing and Drain Cleaning also does not charge for estimates, but charges a minimum service fee of $90. A minimum service fee enables the plumber to offer services for smaller jobs without losing money, and factors in the cost of employee labor plus business overhead (liability insurance, vehicle maintenance, cost of equipment).
Preventing pipe problems
Even if you don't know the first thing about plumbing, paying attention to your pipes can save you from a world of hurt. Regularly inspecting your pipes — maybe once a quarter or twice a year — can let you catch trouble before it turns into a flooded basement. Spend five minutes walking through your home and around exterior where there are visible plumbing pipes. Look under your bathroom and kitchen sinks, moving all the cleaning supplies and toiletries to have a clear view of the supply lines, fixture and drain lines. If you see collected moisture, a broken pipe or major damage, call your pro. If it's accessible, look behind your washing machine to make sure the plumbing lines appear to be in healthy condition and no dampness or mold is present. Walk outside the house and inspect any faucets, making sure they turn cleanly on and off. If you see water dripping from a pipe, rust or corrosion forming on a pipe, or any kind of damage to your plumbing lines, it may be time to call for a checkup.
How to hire a plumber
A good plumber doesn't have to be hard to find. Before first reaching out, read online customer reviews. In general, look for a company that is reliable, responsive and honest. If you see a bad review, look to see how they respond to their customers. The next step is to request a free estimate. Your plumbing system is interconnected, so even if all you need is a simple plumbing leak repair, a competent plumber will first check to make sure there aren't bigger problems at play. Many plumbers can estimate ballpark rates for simple tasks such as faucet replacement, but be wary of anyone who makes pricing promises over the phone.
Make sure the plumber has the proper credentials to provide plumbing repair. Look for a qualified plumber, not just a handyman. Your plumbing can affect the health and safety not just of your household but of your community. Plumbers receive special training and licensing, and the work requires expertise. Many states require plumbers to have a plumbing contractor's license, and offer online license verification portals such as the one for the state of Alabama. Each state or municipality has its own regulatory mechanism for consumer services such as plumbing. A licensed plumber's rates may not be as cheap as hourly, unlicensed labor, but you get what you pay for.
What to do in an emergency
If your leaky pipes have burst and you come home to standing water in your living room, Maria Neumann, owner of Water Damage Recovery in Northern California, has expert advice on what to do. First, if you can do so safely, turn off appliances and power outlets in or near the areas that have flooded. No one wants to get electrocuted. Next, turn off your water main or central water source to prevent more water from compounding the problem. After that, call a plumbing professional. You need the plumbing problem resolved before you can start to repair the damage.
Once you have a plumber on the way, get your artwork and valuables out of harm's way. Remove any wet rugs or floor coverings, and take wet items out of the house that are safe for you to carry. If your water damage is extensive or involves a sewage line, you may need water damage professionals to handle the job. Especially in the case of sewage, it's critical to your health to have any contaminated areas safely cleaned by trained professionals. Sewage spills are the type of situation, explains Neumann, where you can end up paying much more later on if you don't do it right the first time.
- Read reviews to make sure you're choosing the right pro for your project. For more, check out our tips for smart hiring.