When It's Time To Repipe
Updated: Nov 14, 2020
The plumbing industry, as a whole, typically does a poor job of educating customers on when and why to repipe. I'm going to try and clear up some issues for both customers and plumbers in this blog, so stay with me here.
When I've got a customer who is staring down the tunnel of $10,000+ of water damage, 1-2 weeks of dry down, 3-6 months of construction and dealing with insurance and common hassles associated with the loss of use of parts of their home, they want and deserve HONEST answers. Should I repipe my house?
As a plumber I want to make that customer MY customer. I want them to do what is right, but make some money, and ensure their needs are taken care of. It's a hard place to be in for a couple of reasons.
1. I can offer a repipe, but it will cost 2x more than a repipe company. Say I take the chance, the homeowner says yes, but gets other bids from a repipe company before I start the work. Now
I look like a scam artist.
2. I don't make a dime if I simply send a customer on their way to make their own phone calls. Plumbers have expenses, and it cost money to get you to call that company. Think of Yelp, Google, lead services, the phone bill, gas, insurance, etc...
So what's the Answer?
Well, first I look at frequency: how many leaks and how often? Then I ask about cost: how much have you spent out of pocket on those leaks? Next I ask about inconvenience: have you, as a customer, had horrible problems with water damage people, loud machines, construction issues, etc..? This is a real thing and it's normal to want some peace of mind in your own home.
What do I do with these answers?
I educate! My cut off is three leaks in three years, more than that and the plumbing system has deteriorated to the point of no return, structurally or financially. Most slab leaks are fixed between $1500-$2500, take the average of those numbers ($2000) and multiply it by three, that's $6000! One more leak and you could definitely be in repipe territory, which would mean new valves, water heater, supply lines, a long warranty for peace of mind - you can see where I'm headed.
Right now, plumbers are shouting at the screen. That's because most plumbing companies start repipes at around $10k, and honestly, most plumbing companies price their repipes pretty well. My fellow brethren are wondering then, why the $2k cut in profit? Well the answer is simple, you hire a plumber to do a repipe and his boss pays him a fixed rate to do what he's capable of, usually over $30 per hr. He's got to know how to fix toilets, leaks, drain snaking, drain repair, water heaters, carry a pricey truck stock and tools, and it all adds up. But your not paying for that with a repipe company: these companies only put new pipes in, they don't work on anything else and they aren't plumbers. As a result their usually paid about half of what a plumber makes. That translates into savings for homeowners.
Where's the middle ground?
Some plumbers use referrals to cover the cost of of the trip, others like me usually negotiate with a local repipe company so they can do the job, and we both make a little money, and I get to keep my customer. Other times, I fix the leak, charge my customer, refer them out for a repipe and turn the job over professionally. Either way, it's rare for me to do repipes and most plumbing companies would agree, they don't make piles of cash by doing them in the first place, so why not hand them over to a niche business? Homeowners, you do have an option where a plumber will do just as good a job with a repipe, and maybe the relationship you have with them is really good. Some customers aren't necessarily price shoppers and want to be on that first name basis (Bless those of you who are, trust me you are taken care of well!). Also, some customers may prefer the convenience of working directly with a plumber that has been called out, who is already onsite, and understands the work needed to be done. It's your choice and your home, treat it well.