You'd think "What's your hourly rate?" would be easy for plumbing companies to answer. It's not. See what factors Charlotte plumbers say determine prices.
Drain clogged? Water dripping from an upstairs pipe? Plenty of Charlotte-area plumbers will answer your call, but it may be hard to determine the price.
An Angie's List member recently inquired about the average hourly rate for a plumber in Charlotte, so we turned to the pros for answers.
Interviews with several highly rated plumbers in the Charlotte region yielded this conclusion on plumbing costs: It depends.
Many plumbers have moved away from a strict hourly rate, says Steve Scott of highly rated Carolina's Finest Plumbing in Charlotte. "We use a tiered system," he said, depending on the complexity of the job.
His firm doesn't quote over the phone, because he says customers' diagnosis skills aren't perfect. "Situations vary so much," Scott says. "We have one of our plumbers take a look, and they can give a price on the site."
Carolina's Finest Plumbing does charge a $49 dispatch fee to cover transportation costs.
Scott says he has two master plumbers on his staff with more than 20 years of experience and others with at least 12 years of experience. He trusts their judgment.
Flat fees for some projects
At McCoy Plumbing, another highly rated Charlotte plumber, you may get a clear price quote over the phone for a straightforward project. For example, installing a kitchen faucet will cost about $185, and installing a toilet is about $145.
McCoy charges a diagnostic fee of $89, but may apply that to the job if the customers use them for the work.
The plumbing company has been in business since 1997 and used to charge by the hour, but office manager Mary Jane Haggerty says customers often like to have a flat fee. "We know how long it's going to take to do a basic job, and it works out," she says.
Many jobs have similar prices around the city, as providers look to cover materials, labor, insurance, overhead and other costs. Service call fees seem to vary more, especially if the calls are after hours.
Beyond hourly rates
Highly rated All About the Pipes Plumbing uses a combination of a labor charge and on-site estimates to give customers a fair idea of the cost of a job.
Generally, labor is $147 an hour, says operations manager Mary Geiger, but some jobs have a flat rate, such as installing garbage disposals. It costs about $300 to provide a basic disposal, install it and dispose of an old one.
Other jobs, such as installing a bathtub, vary more widely, depending on the style of tub and the condition of the flooring around it. "Some things, you have to see," she says.
Drain cleaning also falls into that category. "We have no control over what you put down the drain," Geiger says.
The charge to clear your sewer pipe may vary, but All About the Pipes offers a free to tip to avoid the trouble in the first place: Don't flush anything that isn't toilet paper.
Need plumbing service for a specific project? Don't forget to check the Plumbing Big Deals available in your area.