The Remodeling Plumber

For nonemergency projects—a remodel or remedial work on your plumbing—you need a pro who understands residential-system design and knows the code in your area. He also has to be able to work in a finished environment. That means putting down a piece of scrap carpeting to protect floors and cutting precise, easy-to-repair holes in walls, and, then, only when necessary.

The best source for this type of plumber is a general contractor. The contractor sees the plumber's work before it's covered up; you don't get that opportunity. In addition, your contractor knows the telltale signs of quality work that you might miss, like clean solder joints, crisp 90-degree angles at joints and clean, properly sized holes in joists, studs, and floors. Finally, a quality contractor will not risk working with a shoddy plumber. A simple error — a joint left unsoldered or a leaky PVC line—can easily devastate $10,000 worth of walls or hardwood floors and complicate the job with insurance claims, lost time, and lawsuits. With so much riding on the plumber, contractors tend to stick with only the best.

As with hiring a plumber for simple repairs, you or your contractor should ask for proof of a license and license number. Also verify that workers' compensation and liability insurance policies are active.

What You'll Pay

Remodeling plumbers typically charge at least $45 to $65 per hour for one man and a truck. Again, this doesn't include the cost of parts. But more and more plumbers are charging "by the fixture," and their bids are based on the rough-in for drain and supply lines ($300 to $400 in my area) and installation of the fixtures themselves (about $200). Plumbing parts and fixtures for a powder room with a sink and toilet run $1,000 to $1,200, though you can easily spend much more. With this approach, you know the turnkey price going into the job, and any surprises are the plumber's responsibility, not yours.
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