Why are plumbers so expensive?

Given their diverse skill set, wide range of services and troubleshooting ability - plus the fact that they help protect you and your home's health, hiring a plumber might be a better value than you realize, De Silva says. (Photo courtesy of Angie's List member Richard B. of San Diego)

Given their diverse skill set, wide range of services and troubleshooting ability - plus the fact that they help protect you and your home's health, hiring a plumber might be a better value than you realize, De Silva says. (Photo courtesy of Angie's List member Richard B. of San Diego)

You may have heard or even stated this yourself, "Plumbers must make as much money as my doctor for God's sake!" While this may be a common perception, it's far from the truth.

In fact, most plumbers go through as an intense if not more intense training period, only to make nearly half of what most doctors make. Why you might ask? Why would a plumber need such training? And if so, why would his or her income not be comparable to that of a doctors?

Plumbers bring skills and experience to your door

Consider this: Your plumber is making a house call, right? Your plumber shows up to your home, in uniform, in a fully stocked truck with all the tools to handle nearly anything your home may throw at him orher. He or she is fully insured from the truck to your door step and also within your home (your most valuable asset). He or she is treating your home's health while ensuring yours at the same time. If your water heater is emitting carbon monoxide, he’ll correct that; if sewer gas is entering the home or a gas line is leaking, he’ll fix that too.

Remember, a plumber can do many things such as repair a faucet, diagnose flow or pressure issues, install, repair or replace any of your gas lines, sewer or indoor and outdoor water systems - the list goes on. The plumber’s skill set must be deeply diverse considering most of your home is made up of plumbing systems and the possible scenarios can be daunting, as no house is built or plumbed the same.

The average home is made up of many plumbing systems: You have waste and vent systems in the walls, below your home and penetrating the roof; gas lines in the attic, walls and at each appliance; water lines snaking through the home and out the street and irrigation; as well as toilets, faucets, water heaters, tubes, valves and pumps. But, because you can't see these systems on a daily basis, out of sight, out of mind is exactly where most of your plumbing falls.

Plumbers offer more than just experience

The plumbing company a plumber is working with must provide a warehouse of parts both on his truck and at the shop location to replenish the truck or for specialty parts. They maintain a detailed data base much like your doctor would. Like your medical record, the company should maintain documentation of each part used, time spent and a detailed description of what was found and done at your home.

The company also most likely provides a 24-hour service ensuring a plumber can be dispatched at a moment’s notice when you need one. When you are sick, will you be going to the doctor or does he come to you? When your car breaks down, does the mechanic show up to your home and get to work?

All in all, I think it's important to remember that the plumber comes to you, saving you the inconvenience of having to drop your home off for a repair. A plumber isn't respected as a doctor due to society’s perception of their trades, therefore the services they render are sometimes under appreciated or undervalued.

If you’ve ever attempted a plumbing repair yourself, you may have a new appreciation for what your plumber does. Most people will admit that they will never try to tackle that plumbing project again! Hiring the right plumber will ensure you only need him or her every 4-6 years saving you in the long run much like a good doctor. He provides prevention and educates you on how to keep your plumbing system healthy and what symptoms to look out for.

About this Angie's List Expert: Michael De Silva is the owner of Plumbing Plus, a four-time Angie’s List Super Service Award winner. The company, headquartered in Poway, Calif., has been proudly providing plumbing services in the greater San Diego area since 1984. There motto is "Finding a great plumber Doesn't have to be a draining experience."

As of July 10, 2013, this service provider was highly rated on Angie's List. Ratings are subject to change based on consumer feedback, so check Angie's List for the most up-to-date reviews. The views expressed by this author do not necessarily reflect those of Angie's List.

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Boston plumber explains why licenses matter


Be sure your plumber is licensed before hiring. (Photo courtesy of James Mitchell)
Be sure your plumber is licensed before hiring. (Photo courtesy of James Mitchell)

The owner of highly rated  Boston Standard Plumbing and Heating explains the benefits of a licensed plumber.


Whatever your plumbing issue, small or large, it requires expertise to fix. A quality plumbing company will take all of these costs into account. If you want qualified plumbing contractors to do the job, then you may end up paying a slightly higher hourly wage. A newer company may charge you less money, however they may lack the expertise require to complete a specific job, and if you hire an incompetent plumber to fix your problems, you may regret it in the future.

We plumbers do require a lot of experience and vast knowledge of plumbing, but we also have to be licensed in any city we work in that drives us crazy with all the fees and permits required plus insurance costs also on the rise.

In what universe do plumbers go "through as an intense if not more intense training" as doctors? It takes minimum of 11-13 years to acquire just the bare minimum set of skills to practice medicine. Add a specialty and we are talking 14-15 years! The medical training is orders of magnitude more complex than plumbing. You just have no idea. Plumbing service calls are expensive because people are taken advantage of when in need. Then there is the unions...

Sorry Dr Hollywood I have to make my point. I have visited quacks with several complaints for several years and not one problem has been resolved. Yet the quack still gets paid his or her £250000 a year. I on the other hand get performance related pay. I do the job if the customer is happy I get paid. If there is an issue later I go back and put it right no questions asked. For the record I don't get sick pay, I don't get holiday pay. I took one week off last year. Last years profits were £25000 for an average working week of around 60 hours. I don't think they are the sort of earnings of someone who takes advantage of people do you? I on occasion drive to people houses do a couple of minutes work and do not charge them. Therefore that job costs me money. Please don't label all plumbers people who extort money from customers when they are in a trying situation.

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