The basics for estimating plumbing costs: Plumbing estimates example
Whether you’re still learning as an apprentice or you’re an experienced master plumber, pricing plumbing jobs is difficult to grasp.
That’s why it’s a good idea for every plumber to base their prices off of an established framework. Referencing a plumbing estimates example or pricing guide:
- Ensures profitability on every job.
- Keeps your estimates as accurate as possible.
Luckily, this framework is what you’ll get from this article! Keep reading for everything you need to know about estimating plumbing costs.
Why are estimates so important?
Your plumbing estimates example could be the deciding factor in getting you that plumbing gig you’re after. Professional and detailed estimates give your customers confidence in your knowledge of the trade.
Your plumbing estimates also need to be as accurate as possible so you can avoid disputes, earn a good reputation, and win more jobs.
Setting your plumbing rates
Before sending out any plumbing quotes, it’s imperative to first establish your rates.
Like all construction professionals, you must include your overhead and markup for profit in every plumbing estimates example. But first, you need to calculate the exact dollar amount of all your operating expenses.
Overhead costs include:
- Office expenses, including your rent or lease payments.
- Employee wages, benefits, payroll taxes, etc.
- Machinery, tools, and equipment.
- Any necessary licenses and insurance.
On top of this, you need to leave a buffer for extraordinary expenses, like emergency repairs to your work truck for example. Offering emergency plumbing services for an additional fee is standard practice to make up for these costs.
Once you’ve totaled your overhead costs, you have a breakeven number to reach in order to stay afloat. To make a profit, you need to earn more in revenue than that figure.
According to the Mechanical Contractors Association of America (MCAA), the ideal profit, and therefore markup, for plumbers is 35%.
Before setting your plumbing rates, look at a plumbing estimates example in your area to make sure you’re not priced too high or too low relative to your locality. Identifying the location and extent of the plumbing issues is crucial to each and every job you take.
According to HomeGuide.com, these are the national averages for plumbing prices in the United States.
- Hourly rates for plumbers range from $50–$150/hr.
- Minimum standard service fees are anywhere from $50–$100.
- Smaller jobs like installing a kitchen faucet are between $125–$350.
- The range for larger projects, like moving existing plumbing to a new location, is $500–$800.
These prices are based on actual plumbing estimates examples given to customers on the HomeGuide site, and you can use them as reference for your own rates.
Next, let’s look at some of the most prevalent types of plumbing estimates examples, so you can find one that aligns the best with your services.
Plumbing cost estimator types
To better serve your clients, it’s important to grasp the different popular methods of estimating plumbing costs.
This section unpacks a few of the most prevalent types of plumbing estimates examples — hourly, flat-rate, and square foot estimates.
Understanding and implementing these plumbing cost estimator strategies enhances your operations and customer satisfaction. Whether you’re doing simple repairs or complex installations, these plumbing estimates examples give you the knowledge you need to price your work effectively.
Hourly rate estimate
To figure out your hourly rate, divide your total monthly operating expenses by the number of hours you spend doing actual plumbing work each month.
Remember that to accurately calculate your billable hours, you have to subtract:
- Travel time to jobs.
- The time it takes to get permits.
- Time spent giving plumbing estimates.
So, for example, if your monthly overhead is $7,000 and you spend 35 hours a week doing plumbing work, your minimum hourly plumbing rate has to be:
$7,000 / 4 weeks = costs of $1,750/week
$1,750/week / 35 hours = $50/hr.
When you add the recommended 35% markup, your hourly rate becomes:
$50/hr. + 35% = $65/hr.
The more complicated a plumbing job and the more experience you have, the more you should charge. The same is true for flat-rate plumbing fees.
Estimating the time needed to complete the plumbing work is still a factor when you price the work by the job. However, you calculate how long you anticipate a job will take and base your flat rate on that number of hours.
The advantages to using a flat-fee labor charge on your plumbing estimates examples are numerous. For one, customers prefer knowing upfront how much they will pay. Not to mention that it’s easier for you to budget when you accurately forecast your revenue from a job ahead of time.
And since experienced plumbers can get a job done faster than most, you can make more than you would have at an hourly rate and take on more jobs.
For flat-fee pricing to work for you, though, you have to predict job timelines accurately and include a disclaimer in your estimate in case of unforeseen circumstances.
Square foot estimate
This type of plumbing estimates example is suitable when the plumbing system’s layout is closely tied to the structure’s overall size. Calculating estimates based on square footage lets you provide clients with an upfront cost, which is useful in the early stages of planning a construction project.
The cost per square foot varies depending on factors, including:
- The complexity of the plumbing system.
- The type of materials used.
- Local labor rates.
- The overall construction market conditions.
For a rough estimate, a new plumbing system in a residential building costs about $10 per square foot, and adding plumbing for fixtures, toilets, sinks, faucets, etc. adds about $3 to $4 per square foot.
For more complex systems, including features such as multiple water heaters and specialty fixtures, the cost per square foot can be higher.
Cost consideration for plumbing estimates
Take a look at the following costs and include all that apply to your estimate. Then add the below fees to the ones you calculated above to guarantee your plumbing business’ profitability and long-term success.
Materials and supplies
Materials and supplies used in plumbing projects include fixtures like faucets, showerheads, and toilets. This also refers to accessories like:
- Different kinds of piping.
- Adapters, couplings, and crosses.
- Sleeves, nipples, and barbs.
- Elbows, wyes, and valves.
Any plumbing estimates example will include a section for the special equipment needed for a job and its cost. Special equipment is any equipment that you wouldn’t find in your toolbox.
Say, for example, you don’t own a high-pressure hose, but decide it’s best to hydro jet a clogged sewer line. You can easily rent one, but you’d have to include the cost in your plumbing estimate. Providing a detailed breakdown of costs for labor and materials is crucial for accurate estimates.
Additional labor costs
Besides your basic labor pay (hourly or flat rate), you can incur additional labor costs, which should reflect in your estimate.
A common question regarding estimating is: “Do plumbers charge for travel time?” When calculating your additional labor costs, this is something to consider, as your team could spend a significant part of the day commuting from site to site.
Some plumbing jobs may also require you to subcontract work for other trades to do.
As a plumber, you might find yourself working as a licensed contractor looking for HVAC professionals to repair damaged ducts or certified electricians for specific plumbing equipment. So, as a plumber, it’s vital to have a reliable network of tradespeople and know their rates.
For smaller jobs like replacing plumbing fixtures, permits are not an issue. You do however usually need permits for larger, more complicated plumbing work, ensuring compliance with local plumbing codes and regulations.
Although permit requirements vary by state and even by county, you can typically expect to need a permit for:
- Replacing drain lines.
- Plumbing work involving sewage.
- Upgrading or replacing a hot water heater.
- Installing new domestic water piping.
- Commercial and public plumbing projects.
It’s crucial to know exactly when a permit is required in your area to protect yourself from lawsuits, comply with all building codes, and keep your license. Most county websites will list permit requirements for all types of construction work from roofing to plumbing.
Getting permits takes time, knowledge, and legwork. In other words, there are costs involved with getting them that will add to the total project cost.
There are additional costs to factor into plumbing estimates examples, including:
- Debris removal.
- Fixing existing code violations you notice.
- Protecting areas that you’re not working on.
Now that you know what to include, let’s look at some plumbing estimates example pricing!
What to include in your plumbing estimate
Plumbing estimates are one of your best tools in landing a plumbing gig. Giving detailed, professionally-made estimates shows customers that you take this trade seriously and make them more likely to trust you.
A key preparation step before creating a plumbing estimates example is to set your rates first.
Our findings show that American plumbers charge between $50 and $150 per hour, but you should check plumbing rates in your area to ensure you don’t overcharge or undercharge.
Once you have an hourly fee to reference, your estimate should also factor in:
- Overhead costs, like tools, taxes, advertising fees, office rent, and other operational expenses.
- All materials and supplies needed, including special equipment rentals.
- Cost of additional labor, like subcontractors.
- Travel expenses.
- Permit fees, especially for complex jobs that involve sewage or domestic water piping.
- Additional costs, such as fixing plumbing code violations or debris removal.
- Your profit margin.
Once you’ve come up with the numbers, make sure your plumbing estimate looks professional by including:
- Your company’s name, logo, and contact information.
- The estimate number for easier reference.
- An explanation of the work you’ll do.
- The estimate’s validity period.
Providing a warranty or guarantee on the work performed is an additional touch that reassures customers about your service.
Types of plumbing projects
Plumbing installations are a part of any new construction or remodeling project. They involve setting up a new plumbing system, from installing pipes and fixtures to connecting the system to a water source and drainage.
This type of project requires a plumbing cost estimator to account for the costs of:
- Potential permits.
It’s important to remember that each installation is unique with different levels of complexity. As a result, plumbing estimates examples for installations cover a broad cost range.
Plumbing repairs address issues within an existing plumbing system, such as leaks and drain blockages.
Repair projects often require a fast response since unresolved plumbing problems can lead to detrimental water damage.
When estimating plumbing costs for repair work, it’s important to include the expenses for:
- Diagnostic work.
You can even include an emergency service fee for customers requiring immediate repairs.
Replacements involve removing old or damaged plumbing components to substitute them with new ones.
This ranges from changing a faucet or showerhead to replacing an entire section of piping.
Since replacements vary in size and complexity, creating an accurate plumbing cost estimator can be challenging.
Things to consider when estimating plumbing costs for replacements include:
- Cost of new parts.
- Disposal of old components.
- Any additional changes required for the new system.
Offering multiple options for repair or replacement, with corresponding pricing ensures higher satisfaction from your customers.
Plumbing repair cost guide by job type
Below are the standard plumbing cost estimates examples for common plumbing jobs. After collecting data from websites that consult licensed plumbers and aggregate costs from plumbing estimates examples, we have found that the below prices reflect the national average cost of plumbing jobs.
1. Fixing leaky pipes
The cost to repair or replace a leaking pipe will depend on:
- How long it takes to find the damaged line.
- Accessibility, meaning how difficult it is to service the pipe.
- The length of piping that needs to be replaced.
That said, the average cost to repair a leaking pipe is around $250, but the price can be anywhere between $150–$850.With leaking pipes, there’s bound to be drywall damage as well. Whether it’s from the holes you cut to find and service the line or from water damage, the costs to restore drywall can add another $250–$750 to your plumbing estimate.
2. Replacing a burst pipe
The main reasons for a burst pipe are:
- Water freezing inside of it.
- Tree roots cracking a buried pipe.
- Corrosion due to age.
- A construction accident.
- A clog in the pipe increasing water pressure past its capacity.
The cost to repair a burst pipe is between $400–$1,500. Factor in water damage cleanup, drywall repair, repainting walls, etc., and the price on your plumbing estimate can increase by another $1,000–$4,000.
3. Slab leak repair cost
Our research indicates that the average slab leak repair cost is $2,280, with easily accessible leaks priced at around $630. Major slab leaks have a median cost of $4,400 to fix.
Below are the plumbing estimates example national averages for some of the tasks involved in repairing leaks that seep through a foundation:
- Finding the leak — prices range from $150–$400 with an average cost of $280.
- Rerouting pipes — the median cost is $1,500 for longer lines and $200–$500 for shorter ones.
- Pipe repair — for pipes that can be repaired, the price to fix them is $150–$350.
- Fixing a water main — costs anywhere from $150–$3,000 with the average customer paying $850.
- Slab/foundation repair — when the foundation only needs to be filled where plumbers broke through the concrete, customers pay $1,900–$6,700.
- Replacing a concrete slab — pouring a new slab costs anywhere from $600–$7,200 or $6 per square foot.
4. Water heater repair cost
For a standard tank flush to remove mineral deposits from a water heater, the national average plumbing cost is $450.
Here are some common water heater repairs and their prices:
|Corroded dip tube||$100–$300|
|Pressure relief valve||$50–$300|
|Gas control valve||$150–$600|
5. Garbage disposal installation cost
Running pipes to install a garbage disposal in a kitchen not already equipped for one usually costs $100–$450. Other costs can include:
- Price for a garbage disposal unit plus installation — $225–$1,400.
- Installing vents and hook-ups for a utility sink — $500–$1,300.
- Purchasing and installing a utility sink — $50–$900.
6. Sump pump repair cost
Our research indicates that the average sump pump repair costs $500 with a range between $300–$750.
However, straightforward fixes on a pedestal-style pump can be as low as $130. More complicated work, like on a submersible unit, costs customers around $1,200.
7. Main water line leak fix cost
Plumbing estimates examples show that main water line issues range between $450–$2,500 to repair.
Plumbers typically charge the following prices for these standard water main services:
- Repairing a shut-off valve — $150–$300.
- Finding and fixing a leak — $300–$3,000.
- Rebuilding or replacing a broken section — $400–$2,000.
- Copper pipe soldering — $500–$2,000.
8. Clogged drain and main sewage line clearing cost
Most customers will try to unclog a sink, bathtub, or shower themselves. When they call a plumber for simple obstructions, the cost is between $50–$450.
If the drains are clear but water isn’t draining properly, you’ll need to snake the main sewage line. Using a cable and cutting head to clear tree roots or other blockages, the average plumber charges between $100–$800. The final cost then depends on the distance snaked.
Other common issues with the main sewage line and their average prices are:
- Sewage coming out — $1,000–$5,000.
- Belly/dip in the piping — $1,500–$3,000.
- Broken sewer line — $1,500–$3,000.
If you need to replace the sewage line and drain altogether, your customer is looking at a price between $1,000–$6,000.
9. Septic system repairs, maintenance, and installation costs
Our research indicates that on average, these are the prices plumbers charge customers for cleaning a septic tank:
|Tank size (in gallons)||Cleaning cost|
Our investigation demonstrated that other average costs associated with septic tanks include:
- Pumping — $400.
- Repairs — $1,500.
- Installing a new system — $5,500.
10. Toilet repair cost
For smaller jobs like replacing a toilet seat, a customer may decide to do it themselves or hire a local handyman.
Based on our observations, these are the average prices customers pay for toilet repairs that need a plumber:
- Rebuild a closet tank — $275.
- Replace the toilet wax ring & seal — $225.
- Fix the siphon — $135.
- Replace the tank — $300; the bowl — $175.
Plumber cost to replace p-trap
P-traps, also known as sink traps, are required by building code, since they stop sewer gas from entering your house. Replacing a damaged p-trap typically costs between $200 and $325.
However, this cost may vary depending on where you live. Expect to charge higher prices if you’re replacing a p-trap in areas with higher living costs.
How to estimate plumbing job costs for new construction homes
Plumbing costs for a new home vary wildly depending on several factors. Some factors that come into play when estimating plumbing costs for a new home are:
- Construction size: Larger homes naturally have more expensive plumbing costs. The national average for plumbing in new homes is $4.50 per square foot.
- Water fixtures: Fixtures include sinks, bathtubs, showers, and anything else that needs a steady supply of water. Customers can expect to pay anywhere between $3,000 and $10,000 per water fixture.
- Piping choice: Piping costs may vary depending on the pipe’s material. PEX pipes cost between $5,000 and $21,000, while more durable copper pipes cost up to $5,000 more than PEX.
- Excavation: Connecting a home to local water and sewer lines can be unpredictable. Homes in zoned districts are easier to connect, while rural homes may require additional excavating to join the main water and sewer lines.
Estimating commercial plumbing costs per square foot
Over time, we found that plumbing for commercial properties is more expensive, costing up to $6 per square foot.
Drawing from our experience, commercial properties typically have different plumbing requirements because of their larger scale than residential properties. There’s a lot more work to be done when it comes to plumbing for commercial properties.
For instance, a residential property may only need two toilets, while a commercial building like a supermarket may need dozens of toilets, so make sure you’re assessing the plumbing needs of the property well.
Plumbing permits and building codes may also vary between residential and commercial properties — keep this in mind so you don’t get into legal trouble.
Free plumbing estimate worksheet
This estimate template makes it easier and faster to create plumbing estimates. This tool helps you:
- Win new and repeat business.
- Accurately estimate plumbing jobs.
- Work more efficiently.
- Simplify estimating for plumbers.
If you don’t see the download form, download template here.
Top plumbing estimate FAQs
Click the links for the answers to these popular plumbing estimate questions:
- How do I estimate plumbing a house?
- Do plumbers offer free plumbing estimates?
- How to bid on plumbing jobs
- What is the plumbing cost for a 1000 sq ft house?
- How much do plumbers markup materials?
How do I estimate plumbing a house?
The cost of plumbing a house depends on the work being done. Typically, your plumbing estimate will be based on:
- The amount of time it takes you to complete the job.
- Your minimum hourly rate — even if you charge a flat fee per job.
- Materials, supplies, and equipment costs for the job.
Do plumbers offer free plumbing estimates?
Many plumbers advertise free estimates, but giving estimates costs time and money — especially if a thorough inspection is needed. So, those costs could very well end up as part of the final bill a customer gets.
That said, you can give free estimates for more straightforward jobs that don’t require a site visit, as long as you make it clear that you’re giving a ballpark figure.
How to bid on plumbing jobs
You can bid on plumbing jobs if the potential client sends you a request to bid. Whether your clients are homeowners or property managers, they’ll typically invite you to perform an on-site inspection of their homes or buildings first to see what kind of work you’ll be doing.
Once the inspection is finished, you can then send an estimate, which the prospective client will compare with bids from other plumbers. If your estimate is chosen, congratulations! You’ve landed the job.
But while most customers come to you for plumbing services, you can be proactive when it comes to new construction. Recommending upgrades or improvements to plumbing systems is beneficial to both you and your client. Try bidding on new commercial buildings or houses to win a plumbing installation contract.
A major benefit of winning this initial bid is that your company will likely be the first people they call for future repairs or projects.
Another great source for plumbing jobs is government contracts. However, these contracts require more work because the bid package needs to include a detailed scope of work, in-depth price information, and other relevant details.
Generally, there are two channels through which you can land government plumbing contracts:
- Invitation to bid (ITB): An invitation to bid calls upon local plumbing companies to do a certain job that’s already outlined in the ITB.
- Request for proposal (RFP): An RFP slightly differs from ITBs because the government expects plumbing contractors to submit a proposal of their plans to accomplish the job outlined in the request.
What is the plumbing cost for a 1000 sq ft house?
On average, rough-in plumbing for a 1000-square-foot house can cost up to $8,000. However, plumbing estimates examples will vary depending on what the client’s plumbing needs are. Naturally, more water fixtures and appliances mean more expensive plumbing fees.
When broken down, a 1000-square foot home’s plumbing expenses could look like this:
- $4.50 per square foot for new plumbing construction.
- $0.50 per linear foot to repipe the home with PEX pipes.
- $3 to $8 per linear foot to repipe the home with copper pipes.
- $32 to $53 per linear foot to replace an existing water main.
- $50 to $150 per linear foot to install a water main.
- $1,000 to $5,000 to remove existing pipes in an old home.
- $400 to $1,800 per water fixture, depending on the appliance installed.
How much do plumbers markup materials?
Plumbers generally apply a 10-35% markup on their materials. The exact percentage will depend on the job’s value and how much they expect to profit from the job.
Generally, smaller jobs will have a larger markup because the plumber needs to justify the time and material spent and meet the expected profit margin.
However, you shouldn’t take the above markup values as a hard and fast rule. Depending on the area, markups can be higher or lower due to material costs and other factors.
Setting your prices too low will impact your profitability, while setting your prices too high may turn customers away. A good rule of thumb is to offer competitive pricing based on market rates without driving prices too low.
Ready to take the guesswork out of your estimates?
Get your free plumbing estimate template today.
Image credit: Rawpixel.com via AdobeStock