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, it 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.
Plumbing Estimates: The Basics
Set the tone when meetings 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!
While you can offer a verbal estimate, a written one helps make your business look more professional. 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 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:
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 $40 to $150 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.
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.
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 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.
Keep the following in mind as well:
- 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.
- Time required to shut down, drain and refill water piping, etc.
Now that you know pricing options and additional expenses, let’s get into the specifics of how to estimate plumbing works.
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 work week then there’s 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 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.
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