| 6 min read ·

How To Write A Thorough Plumbing Estimate

Author: Route Nation

This article will walk you through some of the most important cost considerations to include on your next plumbing estimate. We will discuss pricing strategies, how to assess market competition, how to bill for supplies, and how to assess labor so that your final proposal is a winning one.

How To Write A Thorough Plumbing Estimate

Plumbing is an industry where every second counts. Not only will people pay more for expedient service, they will also want the ability to contact you immediately as soon as something goes wrong.

Having a good idea of what a plumbing service call is going to cost is extremely important to gaining new business and keeping happy customers. The quicker you are to respond with an estimate, the happier your client will be.

This article will walk you through some of the most important cost considerations to include on your next plumbing estimate. We will discuss pricing strategies, how to assess market competition, how to bill for supplies, and how to assess labor so that your final proposal is a winning one.

Let’s get started by reviewing some basic price models and average market figures.

Pricing Your Services

Plumbing  is a broad category that includes anything to do with the system of pipes, tanks and fittings required for the water and gas supplied to a building or home.

A plumber can work in any room on a variety of different projects that range in price.

Plumbers charge by the hour and often utilize a base fee which can be anywhere from $100-$350. If a project is extremely complex or large, the fee will run higher. It is also common practice to offer a lower hourly rate than your base fee.

Whether commercial or residential, plumbing services conducted by a licensed master plumber run around $80-$200/hour. It should also be noted that not all jobs require a master plumber, and typically start with a walkthrough of the space in need of service. Smaller tasks, such as fixing clogged drains, leaky faucets, or malfunctioning toilets, can often be done by an apprentice or journeyman.

Bigger tasks will require a master plumber, although the plumber can enlist the help of the journeymen and apprentices. These jobs include things like sewer main installation, which can cost up to $3000 or more, or shower and bath installation.

A shower installation can cost anywhere from $1,200-$1,550 and a new bathtub can run anywhere from $1,000-$5,000.

If you are working with trainees, you can account for the different salaries on your team with a full labor breakdown.

Most tools, from spreadsheets to software, provide this feature. With Route’s Estimator, breaking out labor costs in this manner can be done by clicking the box marked “advanced” under the “labor” tab. This allows you to break down your team by composition and pay grade. The price per hour for an apprentice or journeyman is much lower, often around $16-$50/hour.

Additional Fees

Plumbing jobs incur a lot of expenses, most of which can be billed to your client.

In addition to a base fee, many plumbers charge a travel fee. This number is hard to pinpoint because there is no way to know how much travel an individual is going to have to do, but you can opt to create a flat travel fee for all your clients, or you can calculate your gas and mileage and bill your client that way instead.

For plumbers who are part of a union, union fees make up about 25% of their wages.

This includes things like union dues, pensions, and insurance. However, you do not need to call this out on your estimate, as these numbers should be factored into your hourly or base rate.

Emergency or special hours are not included in your base rate or hourly price. This includes weekends, holidays, or after-hours work. This type of work is fairly common, so think about what you want to charge for hours outside the business week in advance. Prices for normal services can double or even triple in price if you’re working at midnight or on Christmas Eve.

Like most other estimating tools, if you are creating your plumbing estimate with Route’s Estimator you can either adjust your hourly rate per the special conditions, or you can add a percentage markup to your regular rate.

Supplies And Materials

Often times, plumbing jobs come with expensive supplies. These should be accounted for on your estimate.

The largest of these expenses will be the fixtures you are installing. Most fixtures cost between $100 and $600.

For example, maybe you’re installing a new toilet. The price for the toilet will be $350 or less.

On the lower end, a new faucet might run around $125-$175.

There will also be supplies you need to install the fixtures, like caulking, nuts and bolts, hand tools, and plumber’s tape.

These are all one-time costs that can be accounted for as you build your estimate.

When using Route, you can opt to automatically add a supply markup. Route’s markup defaults at 8%, but you can change this number to whatever you think is fair. Many other tools offer a similar option.

To find out what a good markup is, look online for message boards between other plumbers and ask them what they’re charging. This will give you a good idea of what your competition is doing to hit their profit margins.

It will also help you determine if your supply prices are too low or too high. As strange as it sounds, you don’t want to be the lowest compared to your competition. People may wonder why your prices are so cheap and question your professionalism.


Labor is extremely important to account for on your estimate, especially because you likely have employees at different levels in the profession.

One of the first things you’ll want to do to assess your labor is to find your _production rate, _or simply put, the average time it takes you to do different jobs.

To find your production rate, all you need to do is time yourself across a variety of different jobs several times and calculate the average time it takes you to do each one.

There are production rate charts online that you can use to compare your averages to national figures. This is extremely useful in assessing how much labor you will need for individual jobs.

For example, replacing a sink on average takes 4-5 hours of time.

This is a job that a journeyman or apprentice can help you with, so it may take less time, but remember you have to account for their hours in addition to yours.

For more figures, look online for data in your area about the amount of time plumbers spend on the jobsite or call plumbing companies and ask for the information yourself.


Plumbing is an in-demand profession with a wide margin of prices. As a plumber, you will be doing everything from simple drain clogs to full bathroom installations. Some of these jobs can be done by a journeyman or apprentice, while others will need a certified master plumber to complete.

Start by assessing what your base fee is going to be for any job. This is often anywhere from $100-$350. A master plumber’s hourly rate is between $80-$200/hour depending on a variety of factors.

How big the project is, how difficult the problem is to solve, the supplies needed, the skill level required, and travel time will all affect your base rate and hourly price.

There are often additional fees associated with plumbing. Union fees can make up to 25% of a plumber’s wages and emergency or holiday hours are common. If you are working hours outside of the business week, your hourly rate could double or triple depending on the conditions.

Supplies and equipment are a huge part of a plumber’s job. The biggest supply cost is the fixtures you are installing. This could be a new piece of pipe or something as large as a bathtub. Obviously, the cost of the fixtures should be factored into your estimate.

To figure out how much labor you’ll need on a job, find your production rate first. You can do this by timing yourself on several different jobs several times. Doing this helps you make proper use of your staff and your hours alike.

Plumbing is a complex business with many financial components, but by following the guidelines in this article, you’ll find yourself writing better estimates and landing more bids with every job you complete.

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