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Plumbers – How much?

This modern day ‘knight’ of the urban realm can be hero or cowboy depending on the one you get. As winter approaches a landlords potential need for plumbing work is likely to increase. Boilers need servicing and replacing. Leaks can occur during the cold weather and there are the year round maintenance and refurbishment work. The secret with employing a plumber as with any other trademan, is to be clear what they are doing and what the cost is for each bit. You also need to be aware of a landlords water responsibilities.

Two ways of paying for plumbing work

Now there are two ways generally of employing plumbers as there are with any trades people. The day rate or the cost of the job. A day rate or hourly rate clearly reflects the time factor and in theory allows you to only pay what it costs in terms of the work involved. Materials and parts will then be charged on top of labour costs. A lot of plumbers in my experience will charge an initial call out fee for the first say hour and then charge you for every additional hour. This covers there time in getting to a job. The downside for you is that if it’s a 5 minute job it may cost proportionately a lot. However, if the plumber is getting paid they may be less ‘tempted’ to invent a more serious plumbing problem to be fixed. When employing a plumber trust is always a big thing.

Generally for larger jobs say the installation of a kitchen, bathroom or boiler a plumber might give you an overall price for the job. Increasingly, plumbers are happy for you to supply large bits of kits like boilers. This is because they generally don’t make much of a mark up on their price of purchase (about 10-15%) and for all that they will have to do all the running around to buy the appliance and if there is a problem with it then they may be left with it to sort out. The other thing is for many landlords the internet gives them the opportunity to shop around and get not only the cheapest big ticket item but often the best or most reliable (important when you are talking about a boiler for instance).

Consumer watchdog’s tips on employing a plumber

The consumer watchdog Which gives some useful tips on what to look out for. They warn about the practice of marking up on materials. Whilst less common than it used to be, many plumbers still add on 10-20% onto material costs they have bought at a discount from a merchant. This is fine if they can get the goods at a price less than you, particularly in the respect that it also saves you the time and effort of having to purchase the goods yourself. However, on big ‘ticket’ items such as boilers or shower units, you could save up to 10-20% yourself by shopping around or sourcing them from the internet. In these cases it would be worth buying separately and then paying the plumber just to fit it. However, be careful. Unless you know what you are doing it is very easy to end up with the wrong ‘spec’ or not all the parts that the plumber needs. In this situation they are not going to be impressed to then find they have to go round the merchant to get a few parts because of a mistake on your part or that they have an inferior and difficult bit of ‘kit’ to fit because of your bargain hunting! These additional charges could all find there way onto your bill, particularly if you only asked for an estimate rather than a written quote.

Watch out for the call out charge, especially if it’s evening or weekend. Frequently a plumber might appear to have a reasonable hourly rate, only to reveal at the end a hefty call out charge which effectively doubles the cost for the job if it is only a small one. Some plumbers dont charge a call out rate but will charge more for the first hour which effectively acts a call out fee. The internet also allows a landlord the opportunity to search out the bargains and the best options when it comes to things like boilers as a posed to be presented with the often limited choice give by many small plumbers.

Rates for employing plumbers

Rates that plumbers charge can vary enormously not only nationally but within the same town. Therefore trying to identify accurately a standard rate for a service is very difficult. In my home town of Nottingham I can pay £35 for a gas safety check on a gas hob and boiler or £75 for exactly the same job. The motto is shop around. Also, be aware that you sometimes pay for what you get. Not always the case though. You may be lucky and find a ‘Cyril’ type character who has been in the plumbing game for decades. He still believes in customer care and he loves his job so he wont charge you a fortune for a quality job. Sometimes, beware of the wizzy young kid with a flashy van which you will be paying for. Again, not always the case. I’ve had young inexperienced plumbers that are trying to establish themselves and wont charge the earth. Remember, plumbers are areas sensitive. What do I mean by that. Well, the rule of thumb goes if you live or have a property in a ‘posh area’ and you need a plumber in Mayfair for example the plumber is going to charge you more than if your rental property is in the back streets of Bradford. Also, when you are looking at employing a plumber. Check out their home address. If they live in a big house in a nice area the chances are that they no what they are work and are charging themselves out at the top end of plumbing wage rates. Conversely, a plumber living in a less saluberous part of town in a moderate terrace house might just be a bit more affordable. It’s all common sense but landlords need to be aware of it in their selection strategy.

Which has highlighted a range of reasonable rates for plumbers across the country. The range is calculated by ignoring the 25% most expensive and 25% cheapest quotes.

PLUMBING RATES Typical & reasonable rates
Region First hour Typical costs
East Anglia 35-51 25-50
Midlands 25-50 25-35
North-East & Yorkshire 25-48 20-30
North-West 30-50 18-25
Scotland 28-43 22-35
South-East & London 35-55 35-50
South-West 29-45 20-35
Wales 30-40 25-35
Nationally 30-50 25-40

Which also asked a leading DIY expert set out the average time taken to do a standard range of plumbing tasks.
These are listed below.

INSTALLATION
Description Time
Outside tap 2 hours
Bedroom washbasin in vanity unit 5-6 hours
Gas hob 2 hours
REPLACING
Dishwasher 1 hour
Two taps on pedestal washbasin 2-3 hours
A toilet 3-4 hours
A standard kitchen sink 2-3 hours
Radiator 2 hours
Thermocouple on a boiler 1 hour

Plumbing cost for residential development works

As well as the very basic plumbing repairs many landlords, particularly ones that are refurbishing property require more substantial work such as carrying out a replacement to the central heating system or a new boiler. In which case, developer landlords should have a look at the latest publication from the Building Cost Information Service BCIS. This sets out a whole range of costs associated with domestic properties. The book entitled the Property Makeover Price Guide contains a whole range of prices from changing a tap to building a small extension. It is available from BCIS for £17.99 is well worth the investment for any budding investor / developer.

An example of some of the costs contained within the book are given below:

Replace heating system (excluding pipework) – £3620 – £5720
Wall mounted boiler, single and double panel radiators, wall thermostat and programmer (clockwork programmer)

Replace heating system (including pipework) -£5250 – £8610
Wall mounted boiler, single and double panel radiators, wall thermostat and programmer (clockwork programmer)

Replace boiler, radiators & general
Replace wall mounted boiler, including draining down system & connecting flue and pipework – £1410
Replace single panel 600*1800mm radiator including reconnection & balancing – £295
Replace double panel 600*1600mm radiator including reconnection and balancing – £435
Replace thermostatic radiator valve – £100
Replace wall thermostat – £80
Replace programmer (clockwork) – £185
Clean system with powerflush – £355
Overhaul storage heaters, inc inspecting fusible link, replace thermostat, resetting thermal cutout and checking cable and testing – £125

Which has provided some top tips for finding a good plumber:

  • Ask friends or family for someone they can recommend.
  • Get at least 3 quotes. Ask for a quote on the whole job.
  • It’s best to use a member of a trade association, but don’t take the plumbers word they are a member. Double check with the association.
  • Get at least three quotes. Ask for a quote for the whole job as well as the hourly rate including the first hour or call-out charge.
  • Ask how long the job will take. If one person tells you ten minutes while another indicates it could be hours, you’ll know something is wrong.
  • Check the prices include VAT.
  • If a plumber wants to inspect the work before giving a price, make sure they don’t charge for this.
  • Before hiring a plumber, get a written quote with a fixed price.

Trade associations offer more protection
The main trade association for plumbers with 12,000 members, is the Institute of Plumbers and Heating Engineers (IPHE). Other bodies include the Association of Plumbing and Heating Contractors (APHC) in England & Wales and the Scottish and Northern Ireland Plumbing Employers’ Federation (SNIPEF) can give lists of members near you.

The benefits
Unlike an ombudsman scheme, these associations don’t offer a fully inclusive investigation if things go wrong. But they do offer a complaints system. If you make a complaint against a IPHE member, for example, it will, if required, send an inspector round to inspect the quality of the job done.

APHC and SNIPEF both offer a warranty for work carried out. If the work isn’t satisfactory the warranty means they’ll cover the costs to rectify faulty work.

A final tip from the Property Hawk team, ever thought of learning Polish?

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