Real-time plumbing question
November 10, 2013 2:18 PM   Subscribe

There is a handyman in my home right now who is in his 3rd hour of installing a new kitchen sink and faucet. Part of that time was devoted to running out to the hardware store to get the right parts to replace the water shut off valve, which apparently was stripped. That took about a half hour (which was reasonable given the distance). He told me originally that he thought the sink replacement would take about an hour, so minus the hardware store run, it's taken 2 and a half times longer than he estimated. Is the amount of time he's spent so far excessive?

My plan was to have him also fix a leaky shower, but now I'm not sure whether to have him do so or to send him on his way after the sink is done. He did not scope out the shower before doing the hardware store run, so I'm thinking perhaps he'll need parts for that too. I've never used him before. He was recommended by someone I do not know well. Quick answers would be appreciated.
posted by Wordwoman to Home & Garden (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
he will most likely need parts for the shower.
posted by lester's sock puppet at 2:21 PM on November 10, 2013 [3 favorites]

Took me a half hour to do my last kitchen faucet swap, though it was straightforward with no extra parts needed (I had plumber's putty and a faucet wrench). Showers are way trickier, due to their recessed nature and special sockets, so while he might be doing a top-notch but slow job, you may want to send him off if time is your only concern.
posted by kcm at 2:27 PM on November 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

I've never had anyone in my apartment for plumbing stuff that took nearly that long. The guy who replaced my mom's water heater was also gone before three hours were up. Has he offered any kind of an explanation?
posted by SMPA at 2:27 PM on November 10, 2013

Did he explain why it's taken so much longer? Did you tell him before he went to the hardware store that you wanted him to look at your shower too? If you didn't tell him about the shower, it isn't his fault he has to make 2 hardware store runs. If you did tell him, then you should not be paying for the second trip.

That said, this sounds really, really long for a sink installation.
posted by jeather at 2:29 PM on November 10, 2013

Best answer: It probably took *time* to realize it was stripped, then get the parts (only half an hour?) and then fix the extra. God only knows what other mishaps haven't required extra trips.

When I was estimating plumbing, we gave 2.5-3 hours to finish a fixture, i.e. install the bits on the outside of the wall. We also gave time to demo the old stuff in a remodel. One hour sounds overly optimistic, frankly, even assuming a perfect job, which is a foolish assumption.
posted by notsnot at 2:52 PM on November 10, 2013 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Just a data point: my landlord had the faucet in our apartment replaced recently and it took, literally, hours. Like, most of a work day. A large chunk of that time was spent determining that the faucet was actually rusted and trash and needed to be replaced, and then time prying the whole thing out, and then getting the new faucet and installing it. I don't know what the final charge was, and it's a plumber my landlord has known for decades and trusts, but these things can take time.
posted by The Michael The at 3:06 PM on November 10, 2013 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks all. There was yet another rotted out part under the sink -- this is very old plumbing -- and so the guy is on another hardware run. I had him look at the shower first and he assured me it will be a quick repair. I'm going to go for it rather than start anew with someone else. Note to self: get a plumber next time instead of thinking I'd save money by paying a handyman's lower rate. I suspect it's costing me more this way.
posted by Wordwoman at 3:07 PM on November 10, 2013 [3 favorites]

The words "very old" are probably the key bit here in terms of cost, both because more stuff can be wrong and also because any given worker's experience may be primarily with recently common practices/installations/etc., and he probably hasn't seen the kind of crazy nonsense that random people chose to do with, e.g., 1960s household objects.

This also holds true for electric work, etc.. I didn't know this until I found out that some idiot had wired the bedrooms and bathroom in my mom's first Ohio house by sometimes using the old gas lines (which were for gas lighting.) Among other things, this meant that every electrical outlet on the second floor of the house was roughly at eye level - but mice were eating through the wires that he'd drilled holes in everything to get where he decided it should go. My stepdad zapped himself at least three times trying to figure out how to fix things - and no, he didn't know what he was doing, either.

The one nice thing about an actual plumber is that they're more likely to have run into crazy nonsense plumbing, specifically. In the future, ask people if they've worked on older homes in your area (like, neighborhood.) Chances are most of the homes in your immediate vicinity have similarly crazy nonsense within them.

Also, the nice thing about older is that it can be more reliable for a very long period of time. This is actually the reason that once it fails, you're a little bit screwed - my friend with the Studebaker has to pay a lot more when it breaks because he has to find a guy who knows anything about keeping them running.

I am not entirely certain what kind of old car it is. I'm scared to admit that to him so let's just go with Studebaker. I know it hasn't been manufactured in several decades. Some drunk idiot damaged the back end a few weeks ago and it's going to cost over $12,000 and take many months to repair the damage.
posted by SMPA at 3:42 PM on November 10, 2013

It's kind of a pain either way. Plumber I used to call would not do anything non-plumbing, so sometimes I had to have handy man repair a counter, then plumber do plumbing. Best of all worlds - really good handyperson who can do basic plumbing.
posted by theora55 at 4:13 PM on November 10, 2013

Best answer: It takes a while to do stuff.

You know what else takes a while? Getting all the tools to do stuff and learning how to use them. Correctly.

I do my own work, within limits. I stop at the water pressure reducing valve coming into the house, and the power fuse panel on electrical. I find that in terms of problem-to-completion, doing things myself is faster, usually. Unless I need specialized tools. Where I live, plumbers and electricians are scarce. Invitation only, almost.

A pipe wrench is $25. A tubing cutter is $10. A saws-all is $150. Work lamps $20. A torch $30 and $5 a can for propane. Next-day chiropractor visit for standing on your head upside down for a few hours costs, too, sometimes. Working in dirt, nasty and not too nice smelling parts of a house? Fun! Or in poop? Even more fun! With nice sharp shards of plating, stainless steel, copper poking holes in your knuckles.

Fittings are equipped with different tapers, threads, mating methods. Materials include copper, steel, cast iron, PVC, PEX, brass. There are different schedules for materials based on pressures they encounter. Glues are used for some fittings, teflon tape for others. There are code issues related to hot water and scalding.

You have to look at a handy-person (mostly men) as a kit of smarts and tools. It helps to contrast how long YOU would require to learn all that stuff, how many times you'd have to do it over, run back to the hardware store again, work around the hardware store inventory (like when they have one and you need two, or when they have everything but the popular or unpopular part you need or when you can stack adapters to meet a need.)

So yeah, in isolation under perfect circumstances, he'd fix your problem in an hour. He's doing it today, though. Can you do it today? It's painful to have to pay for expertise, and your alternative is to develop it yourself.

The general rule is that everyone wants everything now for free. It's the same in engineering and software as in plumbing.
posted by FauxScot at 4:17 PM on November 10, 2013 [12 favorites]

Best answer: Yeah, doing a job on old, as-found equipment is going to take longer. There are going to be obstacles like rusted stuck fittings, non-standard parts, etc.

Even as a "nuclear plumber", on a submarine, where everything had a drawing and I could pre-plan exactly what parts I needed to bring, what tools to stage, and step-by-step exactly what I was going to do, the smallest time increment I would estimate for any job is half a day. Non-nuke jobs were worse.

I like to use a union plumber at home, but it IS more expensive. I also find that even with an experienced union plumber, about the best time I get for any repair is... half a day.
posted by ctmf at 7:34 PM on November 10, 2013 [2 favorites]

If you're hiring someone for electrical, plumbing,roofing or HVAC, hire a guy who is certified for that. Handymen are great for drywall, hanging blinds and all the stuff on your "honey do" list. But for house systems, you want pros.

If something is done jankity, it could have severe impacts down the road for other stuff.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:24 AM on November 11, 2013

Response by poster: Update: the pipes under the kitchen sink started leaking within a week of installation. The handyman was happy to come back to fix things up without charge, but the leaking continued. The real plumber just left, having replaced the jumble of parts the handyman used. Expensive lesson learned.
posted by Wordwoman at 1:02 PM on February 13, 2014

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