How To Price A Plumbing Job: From A-To-Z

Expert Tips
Denis Yankovsky November 8, 2021 11 min read

Need to learn how to better price your plumbing jobs? This article is for you! We go through 5 easy steps to better price your plumbing jobs!

Plumbing job

Quick Guide

    The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the employment of plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters is projected to grow 16 percent from 2016 to 2026. That means there is a good chance for you to scale your business if you find the right strategy for winning more orders.

    The plumbing business is a business where literally time is money. That’s why the ability to accurately forecast the time and efforts needed for the job is very important in order to announce to customers the right price that will both secure you a job and bring a good profit.

    Estimates are golden when you work in the plumbing industry for two reasons. One, they paint a clear picture to the customer of what the plumbing job will cost. And two, having an accurate price estimate offers you an outline of how you can land the job over the competition. 

    If you’re a veteran plumbing professional or maybe you’re just starting out, providing plumbing estimates is an art form you can improve on to help you win the gig each time. We share easy tips on how to estimate plumbing works.

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    Plumbing Estimates: The Basics

    Set the tone when meeting clients for the first time by offering them a plumbing estimate with all the details needed to hire your company. A thorough and clear outline of the estimate can help you land the job! 

    Cost estimation is an extremely important stage of a project in any industry requiring work in the field, and invoicing a plumbing business is no different than construction job estimation for that matter. While you can offer a verbal estimate, a written one helps make your business look more professional. Check the average estimations range in your local area and create the outline ahead of time so it’s easy to plug in the information, plus the consistency is helpful for you and your potential clients. Cover the following points:

    • Contact information
    • Summary of the project
    • Materials list
    • Cost estimate
    • Permits required
    • Your insurance and licensure details
    • Work guarantee

    If there are additional points you want to add, go for it. Even adding a well-designed cover page can do the trick.

    Set Your Rates

    The biggest decision a plumbing professional can make is whether to offer a flat rate or hourly service to his or her clients. If you’re not sure which is best for you, the following will help shed some light on the matter: 

    Hourly Rate

    When facing a large job, most plumbers charge an hourly rate. The rate varies greatly, especially depending on where you’re looking. Ranges can go from $45 to $200 per hour, and the most common hourly charge is usually about $85 per hour. 

    In addition, most plumbers may also charge a one-time service or inspection fee – like arriving at the client’s home to look at the work required. This can range from $50 to $100 and is usually added to the final cost.

    The national average hourly rate for all plumbing positions is $25.69.

    Flat Fee

    On top of hourly charges, most plumbers may charge a flat fee for smaller jobs. These jobs have an additional fee of $50 to $100 for inspection or as a service call. However, a plumber may waive the fee if proceeding with a larger job.

    See some examples of flat fees per jobs below: 

    • Drain cleaning: ranges from $100 to $300 – drain cleaning is usually performed with a mechanical plumbing snake.
    • Main water line installation: ranges from $1,500 to $2,000 – this is for a 6-foot copper water line.
    • Appliance installation: ranges from $200 – $600 – however,  installing kitchen appliances as a dedicated service could cost $75 – $100, if all the plumbing and electrical work are set up. 
    • Leak repair: usually starts at $200 and goes up depending on how severe the leak is if it’s difficult to access and if the pipes should be replaced – a major leak can cost thousands.
    • Piping Installation: depending on how complex the project is, these are the usual costs: 
      • A standard bathroom (40 sq.ft.) pipe installation can take 45 hours and ranges between $3,500 and $5,000. 
      • A standard kitchen (100 sq.ft.) can take 60 hours and ranges between $5,000 and $6,000 – as it’s a larger size and is a more complex task.
      • Piping materials easily add on another $1,000 – $5,000. Inspection fees can range from $50 to $100. Any if any existing piping needs to be removed then that’s an extra $1,000 to $3,000.
    • Sump pump installation: sump pumps 2 move water away from a building foundation and can cost $1,000 to $3,000, not including the sump pump. A sump pump costs $100 to $400 on average.
    • Water heater installation: a water heater must be properly installed therefore you must hire a licensed plumber for safety reasons. As such, a professional water heater installation can cost around $800 to $1,500, just for the labor. A water heater itself ranges from $500 to $1,500 for an electric water heater or a gas water heater costs between $300 to $800.
    plumber doing his job
    Photo by Anıl Karakaya from Pexels

    Factor In Additional Expenses

    Basic materials, fixtures, and so on are simple factors to include in a plumbing estimate, however, your client probably hasn’t consider the expenses we outline below. In addition, plumbers also forget about the added expenses but forgetting these in an estimate, can cost you big time, especially as your client may not want to cover the additional expense. So cover all your bases and remember these additional expenses.

    • On-site dumpsters and removal of debris

    You may be responsible for disposing of garbage if there is no on-site dumpster and haul-away.

    • Correction of existing plumbing code violations

    When working on projects with older or neglected properties, this is very common. It is crucial you factor in the additional expense, calculate any required profit on the project, and communicate any adjustments to the client. 

    • Protection of homeowner’s other property

    Consider this, a pipe bursts in the living room damages the floor while you’re almost done completing a job in the kitchen – are you responsible for this expense? Include a temporary protection exclusion that makes it crystal clear you are only responsible for the specific job(s) and work area(s).

    • Removal or replacement of deteriorated piping

    When working in older homes, you typically find old, galvanized metal piping. So when you’re working a job and you need to update with PVC, make sure you’re prepared to recommend that change to the client, but ensure you price out materials and calculate additional labor expense beforehand.

    Consider the following when factoring in additional expenses:

    Below we share a few more tasks you may need to account for as plumbing jobs don’t always work the same way, twice.

    • Before drilling or cutting, X-ray floors or walls.
    • Provision of backflow prevention devices when required.
    • Open, repair, or replace walls or ceilings before completing work.
    • The time required to shut down, drain and refill water piping, etc.

    Now that you know pricing options and additional expenses, we look at the specifics of how to estimate plumbing works.

    Digitize All Work Documentation For Accurate Accounting & Payroll

    Extensive manual paperwork is not only the most annoying and time-consuming part of every small business. It is also the most prone to errors “Achilles’ heel”  of any operation.

    Errors in tracking hours or calculating the paycheck are critical for your revenue. So by switching from the “old-school” manual time tracking and task management to modern plumbing business management apps you’re saving both time AND money, while also getting additional features and benefits.

    • Track work hours easily & precisely 

    Clocking in and out from smartphones, excluding breaks from the paid time, collecting technicians’ locations with GPS-stamps when they start working, so you can avoid buddy punching and time abuse. Also, it’s worth looking out for time-tracking solutions that automatically integrate with payroll software for 100% accurate payroll, like Connecteam does with Quickbooks Online and Gusto.

    • Track employees while on-the-go

    Live geo-tracking with Breadcrumb capabilities allows you to track employees throughout the day, even while on-the-go, providing managers with oversight on where employees are during the workday. It also has little effect on your employees’ battery life or data plan. You can even play a short animated video that connects the Breadcrumbs together and creates the route that was taken.

    • Schedule jobs and dispatch shifts in minutes

    A mobile app allows you to dispatch jobs or set recurring shifts, plus all employees have direct access to their upcoming schedule via their smartphone.

    • Automate day-to-day processes 

    Transform all checklists, forms, and reports to digital so that your employees can fill them at any time from anywhere. With the click of a button, you can gain feedback from summary reports, daily logs, incident reports, equipment checklists, and much more.

    • Create your professional knowledgebase

    Make all the useful information from installation tutorials, equipment manuals, safety policies, checklists available on your employee’s smartphone. That can include training and onboarding materials, procedures, protocols, videos, and so on. This allows employees to build their professional skills at a pace that works for them so they can provide amazing customer satisfaction.

    • Streamline communication with your employees or allies

    Keep everyone on the same page by starting a chat or group chat so your employees are aware of updates and important announcements.

    • Get things done faster & better

    Delegating jobs and checking the progress should be quick and easy. Forget about chasing your team and the back and forth hustle, by dispatching tasks through the task management app.

    Plumbing job dispatching & employee scheduling app

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    plumbers time tracking app with GPS

    5 Easy Steps To Price A Plumbing Job

    1. Work backwards to determine your base hourly rate

    In order to offer a quote, work backwards from your desired weekly take-home. If you want to take home $800 a week on a 40 workweek then there are a few things you need to keep in mind. For starters, you’ll lose around 30% (12 hours) of billable productivity due to driving, handling admin tasks, and so on. Therefore, you’re left with 28 hours per week of productive time.

    As a result, $800 per week is divided by 28 billable hours  = $28.57; that number is the minimum you must charge per hour, but you have to add in money for taxes, vacation, insurance, pension, etc. (this is known as ‘labor burden’), so round up the hourly charge to $40 per hour.

    2. Calculate your overhead and profit margin

    Calculating your overhead is key – that’s what it costs to keep your truck out on the road, the lights on, marketing, etc. Add that up and add on about 30% ($40 x 30% = $12), which brings you to a net of $52 per hour that you need to just break even on expenses and your weekly wage. But hey, you also want to profit, so…

    Let’s say your ideal profit is 25% after everything is said and done, then calculate 25% of your total hourly rate ($52 x 25% = $13). Then add that to the top-line to arrive at a net billable hourly rate of $65. And that is a reasonable and fair number! 

    3. Gather all your costs to bid on a job

    Find out the exact material costs, plus taxes, and add in any required permits, subcontracting, or extraordinary expenses we outlined above. Let’s say all this comes out to a total of $850. 

    4. Figure out your total labor hours

    Now you need to determine the total amount of labor hours you need in order to complete the job, for example, let’s say it’s 10. We need to multiply this by your hourly rate, so for our example, that’s $65 or $650 for the job. 

    5. Add it all up

    Add 1 ($850) and 2 ($650) together and that’s your quote: $1,500 + taxes.

    This will give you enough to buy the required materials including taxes, the wage you want to take home every week, to cover overhead, and earn a net profit!

    By following this simple formula, communicating with your customers, and being prepared puts you ahead of the competition and ensures a solid client base. 

    Bottom Line On Pricing A Plumbing Job

    Time is money, so in order to save time on manual paperwork, avoid errors in cost per hour estimations, and win more plumbing jobs you should have a robust and easy to use tool.

    Just like the necessary tools that you use in your plumbing work, a mobile app for plumbing business is a tool that allows you to get things done faster and better, and charge your customers fairly, without risking your profits because of organizational errors.

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