6 Key Reasons Why Plumbers Are So Expensive

Lawrence Bonk
Written by Lawrence Bonk
Updated January 11, 2022
A plumber installing new kitchen sink faucet
Photo: Alistair Berg / DigitalVision / Getty Images

Highlights

  • Plumbers cost $45 to $200 per hour and earn an average yearly income of around $56,000.

  • However, an Associate’s Degree in Plumbing Technology costs as much as $23,000.

  • Plumbers are highly trained and experienced professionals who make house calls for emergencies. 

  • Plumbers must purchase and maintain liability insurance, pay any subcontractors, keep up on licensing fees, and payout many other overhead costs.

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Hiring a plumber costs $45 to $200 per hour, depending on the job type, the location, and related factors. If a burst pipe has woken up your household in the middle of the night, you know that a good plumber is worth every penny. However, some homeowners wonder why plumbers charge such a high hourly rate when other contractors get by with charging less. Here are six reasons why your local plumbing professional costs more than, say, a pizza delivery. 

Reason 1: Training and Experience

Plumbers go through rigorous training programs that are quite expensive. According to Vocational Training HQ, an Associate's Degree in Plumbing Technology costs as much as $23,000. Students also pay between $500 and $10,000 in related expenses, such as books, tools, apprenticeship programs, uniforms, and more. 

Professional plumbers clock hundreds of hours as an assistant before they handle jobs on their own. Some plumbers go on to train as master plumbers, with most states requiring five years of experience to begin this training. Becoming a master plumber requires more schooling, and you guessed it, more money. Master plumbers are the go-to professionals for complex jobs involving waste systems, sump pumps, septic tanks, blueprints, and more. 

Reason 2: High Demand 

Plumbing is essential, as anyone who has experienced a plumbing emergency can attest. In other words, competent plumbers are in high demand. Plumbers make a decent yearly salary, averaging $56,000 per year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

So, what’s the problem? Despite the relatively high average salary, many young people are saying “no” to the prospect of vocational plumbing. As a matter of fact, over one-half of America’s trade professionals are nearing retirement age. Meanwhile, only three percent of 18 to 25 year olds consider a career in the trades, according to a study conducted by the National Association of Homebuilders

As current plumbers retire and replacements are scarce, demand continues to rise, making it difficult to find a qualified professional plumber. 

Reason 3: System Complexity

A plumber repairing a kitchen sink’s pipes
Photo: Dimensions / E+ / Getty Images

Your home’s plumbing system is extraordinarily complex, with water lines running throughout the home and to the street, waste and vent systems in the walls, gas lines in the attic, and toilets, sinks, bathtubs, and other plumbing fixtures. In other words, your home includes not just one plumbing system but multiple systems running concurrently. 

This makes diagnosing and repairing issues an exacting and detail-oriented process. If you’ve ever attempted a plumbing repair yourself, you get where this is going. Most people take an “out of sight, out of mind” approach to the inner workings of their plumbing system, but it is precisely in these “out of sight” areas where problems arise. 

If there is a leak somewhere behind your walls, every second counts. On average, bathroom leak repairs cost $150 to $350.

Reason 4: Importance of Running Water 

Water is life, as freshwater is necessary for every living organism on this planet. Your plumbing system delivers fresh drinking water for survival and provides water for cooking, bathing, cleaning, and dozens of other daily tasks. Running water also carries waste away from your home, keeping you and your family free from waste-borne disease. 

Your plumbing system is, basically, the circulatory system of your home, so your plumber is its cardiologist, internist, and gastro-specialist all-in-one. Therefore, calling a licensed plumber for issues with water pressure, hot water heaters, and drain cleaning, for example, is essential for keeping everything in working order. 

Also, plumbing leaks are a one-way ticket to mold city, water damage, and structural instability, making your home dangerous and massively depreciating its resale value.

Reason 5: Insurance, Tools, and Overhead

By law, plumbers must purchase and maintain liability insurance. On top of that, they come across toxic chemicals like bacteria and sewage daily. The expenses don’t stop there. 

Plumbers renew professional licenses regularly, purchase expensive and specialized tools, stay stocked with commonly needed parts, and keep their work truck gassed up and in proper working order. A master plumber could also have several apprentices under their purview and other staff members. 

Reason 6: They Make House Calls at Odd Hours

We can’t control when a plumbing emergency brings chaos into our homes. It could happen during normal weekday business hours or at three in the morning on the weekend. Local plumbers who specialize in emergency services are essentially on-demand workers and are available for house calls whenever you need them. Additionally, they need the homeowner to be present and available, which rules out regular business hours even for general maintenance tasks.

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