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Clipper City, I have been working in the Baltimore area for over 20 years. I would never do hourly. Every job I get or estimate is a set price. Example to set a toilet I charge 175 plus parts and it's extra if there are any issues with valve, or flange. All parts r marked up 20 to 30 percent. Electric water heater 300 labor plus parts. If I get heater I mark up 20 to 30 % and give a one year warranty. If they want to buy junk from home depot no warranty for anything except my pipe installation. Power vents and gas heaters r more. I just started charging for estimates because of fuel costs, 45 dollars. Len the Plumber I think charges 49.90 . If I get the job then no charge for estimate but I will not leave without money unless it's a regular customer. Like Rick said, most of my customers want me to do the job and are referrals and my regulars. U can weed out the price players with the estimate. I tell people right off the bat, I am not the cheapest nor the most expensive but the job is done correctly and with pride. They just about always call me back and refer me to others. I never ever do hourly , it's always a set price. Hope this helps.
Thanks Fred ! About 5 months ago I bought a " price calculator " It's basically like a multiplication table but it has material cost that goes from top to bottom and man hours along the top . The rate is based on $105 an hour and each sell price when you connect the two on the table takes your labor X man hours plus materials and marks the total up 20% . This works pretty steady with $100 an hour material marked up by 1.65 and a $50 service call charge . I have been getting work from home improvement Contractors lately and you know they all want a price first so I have been using the table I also have an investor customer and have been doing the same and no problems to speak of so far . However about a month after this thread was started I downloaded a free sample flat rate price guide and the guide seem to compound things then after getting the table same job was much less so I think it really comes down to HOW you do this because no matter how you charge it all comes down to your total ! I have been contemplating going out for free only after giving them a phone guesstimate and over a 30 mile radius charging $25 . So are you full time for Baltimore City? And are you a one man show ?
Sounds like you are getting a system that is working. I have never seen a calculator like that, learn something new everyday. I have been with the city for 24 years . I started plumbing when I was 18 and got into Fire Department when I was 23 . I feel in love with plumbing right away. My dad was a firefighter and talked me into taking the civil service exam and I made it. I continued to work part time for a few companies while in department becAuse we work 2 days and 2 nights then off for 4 which allows for part time work, but in my case 2 full time jobs because I have so many customers. I wonder if I made the right choice as I have had a many of Helpers that have gone on in the plumbing Carrer and have done well. I am not sure where they are at now , things have changed. My good friend owns Apollow Plumbing on Falls rd, he is in the fire department as well. I went to high school with Len Bush who is Len the Plumber , we graduated together. I get firefighters to help me a lot. If u ever need any help they are eager to work and we have a good network if u r ever in need. They r all good guys and work hard. Yes, basically myself and firefighters. If u ever want to do lunch or talk let me know. I advertised one time on crags list and that was a mistake, I only did it because I bought 3 sewer machines and wanted to get my name out there. That was a mistake, craigslist people want free estimates and everything for nothing so I stopped that fast, u always get spammed to death. It's great talking to you and look forward to talking again. R u alone or have a few guys? My friends who r plumbers tell me I am lucky to have that job which pays well because I am a chief but it's a lot of work doing both. 2 kids in college at 75,000 a year does not leave much of a choice. Talk soon. What's your name ? Thanks