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Question: No baloney, please. Just tell me where I can find a decent plumber who doesn't charge an arm and a leg.
Reply: The same place you find the goose that lays golden eggs - in a fairy tale.
Some household repairs - fixing a leak under your sink, clearing a clogged drain, etc., are simple enough that many home owners choose to save money by doing it themselves. This is always an option.
However, when you call a professional plumber for a simple household repair, he does not charge on the basis of how complicated the job might be, but based on his time and overhead expenses. So there is a certain minimum he must charge on every call, no matter how simple the job might be.
This usually amounts to somewhere between $50-100. People tend to get upset paying $50 or more for a job that may take merely 10 - 15 minutes to complete. What they fail to factor is what it costs the company to bring a plumber to your door. They must pay for the dispatcher, truck, fuel, tools, insurance coverage, office equipment, etc.
How do you define a "decent" plumber? The least most people would expect is that he'd be able to identify and fix the problem and guarantee it for at least a year - or return at no extra charge if it breaks down before that. The work should abide by safety standards and codes. It's also reasonable to expect the firm to be licensed, insured and not on the public prosecutor's most wanted list. This inevitably means adding that "arm and leg" in overhead costs.
So much for simple repairs. The true skill of a mechanic, just as with a doctor, has less to do with turning a wrench than diagnosing a problem. If you have no hot water, or no heat from your boiler, or foul gunk flows from a faucet, it's no time to look for someone who works cheap. Imagine asking: "How can I find a decent brain surgeon who doesn't charge an arm and a leg...a decent defense lawyer...a decent airplane pilot..."
Oh, but how could anyone compare one of those skilled professionals to a lowly plumber! The fact of the matter is that plumbers also deal in life and death matters. The fuel lines and flues to your heating equipment carry the potential for death and destruction. And how would you like someone to cross-connect a waste line with your potable water supply? A well-trained plumber has been through a four or five year apprenticeship that is every bit as challenging as a college education. Their work is priced accordingly.
Some plumbing companies have taken to charging a flat rate for certain types of repairs, whether it takes one, two or more hours to do the job. People who don't like surprises may find this more appealing than paying by the hour.
If you do find a very cheap plumber, beware. As with everything else, you get what you pay for. That's no baloney.