Plumbers are skilled professionals who repair, install and replace pipes and fixtures. All of the pipes and fixtures that make up the water, gas and sewage systems in a home, office or other building are referred to as "plumbing". Common calls for a plumbing contractor include burst pipes, leaky pipes, noisy pipes, clogged pipes, strange smells, poor water pressure, poor temperature, nonoperational appliances, and fixtures that aren’t draining or flushing. Troublesome parts of the plumbing system can include pipes and drains, toilets, sinks and faucets, dishwashers, garbage disposals, water heaters, showers or tubs, water treatment systems, septic systems, outdoor plumbing, wells, sump pumps—and sometimes an entire building. Many factors affect the average cost of plumbing services, including the type of plumbing problem, the location of the job (is it a broken sewer pipe? or is it a standard plumbing problem such as a clogged drain or a toilet that needs a new wax ring?), and whether or not the plumbing job is an emergency situation like a burst pipe.
Geographic location—which area of the country as well as location within a region—can affect the cost of services. Cities such as New York City and San Francisco are typically more expensive than rural areas where the cost of living is lower. Location of the job site can also affect the cost of services. For example, Black Mountain Plumbing in San Diego charges a travel surcharge of $18.50 if a job is located outside the company’s 20-mile service area. This rate covers fuel and vehicle maintenance.
Hourly versus flat rates
Typically plumbers do not charge hourly rates because there are too many variables involved in plumbing work. Most provide a flat rate estimate once they see all the work to be done.
Some plumbers charge fixed-rate fees for a few standard projects that are easy to accurately predetermine the cost of their time on. For example, Celtic Plumbing & Heating in New York City typically charges $150 for a toilet installation. Costs increase when the plumber provides the toilet bowl.
Clogs generally don’t require replacing or repairing pipes but rather removing blockages to the water or waste flow. Celtic Plumbing & Heating has the following pricing structure for common clog calls:
Backed up drain in a shower or sink: $75–$100
- Snaking all the drains in a house: $150–$500. Costs increase when it’s necessary to run a camera through the pipes.
Cracked pipes can lead to leaking, flooding or bursts that require much more expensive solutions down the road. The cost of pipe repair or replacement varies based on what the pipes are made of (PVC is cheaper than cast iron, for example) and where they are located. Pipes inside a wall or under a floor cost more to repair or replace than pipes that are exposed and easy for a plumber to access. According to Celtic Plumbing & Heating, in New York City most areas are coded for cast iron lines so fixing cracks is costly: $1,200 and up for pipe repair and replacement. If the cracked or burst pipes have caused any water damage, the plumber may recommend some additional carpentry or tile work, which will also cost extra.
Water heaters and shower installations
Licensed plumbers can also install and repair water heaters. Prices depend on whether the work involves repairing, replacement or installation in a new home, and whether any damage has been caused by faulty fixtures. Plumbers also frequently install shower bodies. Here’s how Celtic Plumbing & Heating’s pricing breaks down:
Shower body installation: $350–$1,000. Costs vary greatly depending on whether it’s a standard shower body or a shower with jet sprays and multiple water fixtures. This price range does not include the shower body and fixtures.
- Water heater installation: $1,200–$1,700. The average house uses a 40-gallon water heater, and this price range includes the cost of the water heater itself.
Plumbers also install, replace and repair radiators. Here are average costs from Celtic Plumbing & Heating:
New radiator: $100–$300.
- Radiator installation: $200–$300
Plumbing nightmares don’t always happen between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Customers will pay a premium for plumbing repair service calls after hours, on holidays and over the weekend. Typically, midnight jobs and holiday calls for Celtic Plumbing & Heating start at $500 and can go higher if there are extensive plumbing repairs or sewer line repairs.
Sometimes a customer can save by having materials on hand before the plumber arrives. It’s a good idea to clear any purchases with the plumbing contractor beforehand to make sure you have the proper materials. For example, if you want a new toilet or new sink installed, you can save time and money by purchasing those items ahead of time.
Always include photos of what you need fixed or repaired to get a more accurate quote.
- Keep in mind that if a plumber needs to open walls to access pipes, you may have to budget for and hire a handyman or contractor to patch things up after the plumbing job is complete.