Why do plumbers get paid so well?

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knightrider
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Re: Why do plumbers get paid so well?

Post by knightrider » Fri May 17, 2019 7:31 pm

IngognitoUSA wrote:
Fri May 17, 2019 7:11 pm
High barriers to entry. You have to work under a licensed plumber for 5 years before you can be a licensed plumber. They only take their family and buddies for apprenticeship. Keeping it to themselves.
You need less training to write code for NASA.
Interesting but doesn't surprise me. So basically any kid just can't become a plumber.
Last edited by knightrider on Fri May 17, 2019 8:06 pm, edited 1 time in total.

cacophony
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Re: Why do plumbers get paid so well?

Post by cacophony » Fri May 17, 2019 7:33 pm

Thesaints wrote:
Fri May 17, 2019 2:25 pm
A google engineer makes close 200k at start. Why are they paid so well ?
It's actually closer to $120k for a new grad based on glassdoor data.

Storcher
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Re: Why do plumbers get paid so well?

Post by Storcher » Fri May 17, 2019 7:58 pm

Many of the trades here in NYC used to be father & son, back in the day. It still doesn't hurt if your Dad was in the trade, but most applicants, including myself, had nobody in the trade when we entered.

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market timer
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Re: Why do plumbers get paid so well?

Post by market timer » Fri May 17, 2019 8:03 pm

Far too many people are going to college instead of into trades. Not many parents want their kids to become plumbers.

randomguy
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Re: Why do plumbers get paid so well?

Post by randomguy » Fri May 17, 2019 8:06 pm

tc101 wrote:
Fri May 17, 2019 2:18 pm
I am thinking of recommending that a young friend become a plumber.

Where I live in the Atlanta suburbs I pay:

$15-$20/hr for unskilled yard work with no tools
$35/hr for a good handy man
$140 for the first hour and then $45/hr for an electrician
$160/hr for a plumber

My question - Why do plumbers make so much? I would think that just based on economic laws, more people would train to be plumbers and that would drive the rates down. I would think that it would require more training to be an electrician than a plumber, but
electricians make less. What are the economic forces that keep rates so high for plumbers?
And a quick google tells us the average Master plumber in Atlanta makes 56k/year. I wouldn't consider that a very high income. You are confusing billing and take home pay.

People seem to think trades are making big bucks. The numbers don't back it up. Now running a trade company where you can a dozen people working for you can be quite profitable just like owning any other business.

Teague
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Re: Why do plumbers get paid so well?

Post by Teague » Fri May 17, 2019 8:14 pm

Because their work is an essential service without which you could not live in a civilized manner. The work is hard, careers are limited by old age and injury, overhead/inventory/insurance and so on.

Fresh water will not enter the house - no showers, maybe no cooking, toilet won't function, and so on.
Fresh water entering the house relentlessly - expensive damage is accumulating quickly.
Waste will not exit the house - unpleasant, eventually a health issue, damage will occur to the dwelling at some point.
Need pipes for natural gas? - a significant hazard if done improperly.

So I do the toilet flappers, unclog some drains and such, but when I've really needed a plumber I sure was thankful when one would show up.
Semper Augustus

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Sandtrap
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Re: Why do plumbers get paid so well?

Post by Sandtrap » Fri May 17, 2019 8:19 pm

staythecourse wrote:
Fri May 17, 2019 3:03 pm
All I can say is if someone did not want to go to college I would have NO problem suggesting being a plumber. Be a plumber, do only after hour calls, and advertise a TON and there you go plenty of $$$$. Take some courses at CC in accounting then start hiring other plumbers and start a business.

As a physician if I take a phone call and go see a patient at 2AM at the hospital I don't make any more money. If you are a plumber you can charge WHATEVER you want ?2x a during hours call.

Good luck.
+1
DW's cousin owns and runs one of the largest plumbing companies in upstate New York.
He does "okay".

Young fella I indirectly knew went to trade school for welding. Few years later opened a muffler shop. When I last heard decades ago he had a chain of 8 of them.

Long time plumbing sub I knew worked solo. One man and a van. Made about 250k/year for many decades. Ambitious. Very hard working. Very Pro. Very sharp businessman.

Long time electrician sub I knew worked solo. One man and a van. Made about 250k/year for many decades. Very sharp businessman. Now, son runs everything and he's semi retired. They do okay.

It's not just the "trade", it's the business.
:D

andypanda
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Re: Why do plumbers get paid so well?

Post by andypanda » Fri May 17, 2019 8:27 pm

It's 4 years of supervised work AND 240 hours of classroom training in Virginia and there are other ways to qualify.

www.usaplumbing.info/license/va/virgini ... quirements

But that's to qualify, not work. Once you do the 4 years and take the classes it only qualifies you to take the Journeyman TEST.

www.tests.com/practice/plumbing-practice-test

Then there's the Master test.
And then on to Contractor.

Barefoot
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Re: Why do plumbers get paid so well?

Post by Barefoot » Fri May 17, 2019 8:31 pm

Having recently spent 3 days laying on my back in a crawl space doing plumbing work, the real plumbers earn every penny they make.

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Watty
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Re: Why do plumbers get paid so well?

Post by Watty » Fri May 17, 2019 8:34 pm

The charges for a plumber may seem high but the actual wages may not be as high as you are thinking.

Here is the BLS info for plumbers.

https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes472152.htm#st

Good wages compared to many jobs that do not require a college degree but not high income.

If you work your way up an own a plumbing company with several people working for you that might be a lot different.

scottinmet
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Re: Why do plumbers get paid so well?

Post by scottinmet » Fri May 17, 2019 8:37 pm

According to the BLS, plumbers are not getting paid well:

2018 Median Pay $53,910 per year $25.92 per hour

You're also paying for the time that they aren't working on a project.

Steven in NC
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Re: Why do plumbers get paid so well?

Post by Steven in NC » Fri May 17, 2019 8:38 pm

Brick Laying is another good paying trade. My buddy is a GC and he said brick layers now get $1000/1000 ($1 a brick).

GCD
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Re: Why do plumbers get paid so well?

Post by GCD » Fri May 17, 2019 8:39 pm

Sandtrap wrote:
Fri May 17, 2019 8:19 pm
It's not just the "trade", it's the business.
:D
I hear that's the case for a great many professions.

dbr
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Re: Why do plumbers get paid so well?

Post by dbr » Fri May 17, 2019 9:02 pm

FWIW here is some data on plumber wages. I would not say this is shabby, but it is certainly not "so well" as you think. There is a big difference between what you pay a plumbing company for the work and what the plumber himself takes home. An independent owner of a plumbing company might do very well as a business.

https://www.ziprecruiter.com/Salaries/W ... y-by-State

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ClevrChico
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Re: Why do plumbers get paid so well?

Post by ClevrChico » Fri May 17, 2019 9:14 pm

scottinmet wrote:
Fri May 17, 2019 8:37 pm
According to the BLS, plumbers are not getting paid well:

2018 Median Pay $53,910 per year $25.92 per hour

You're also paying for the time that they aren't working on a project.
+1

And I would guess a hard working owner/operator would probably net $80k - $100k after expenses. The high hourly rates are usually plumbing companies. I've seen a huge variation in prices shopping around projects. There is a lot of price gouging out there!

The honest plumbers do earn their money. It takes years of training, licensing, tools, equipment, a van, and potentially hazardous work.

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Re: Why do plumbers get paid so well?

Post by jbranx » Fri May 17, 2019 9:29 pm

{I deleted a post containing profanity that is prohibited by Forum Rules.}

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wander
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Re: Why do plumbers get paid so well?

Post by wander » Fri May 17, 2019 9:47 pm

You need a plumber once maybe in every 10 years? It's not so much at all.

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Re: Why do plumbers get paid so well?

Post by oldcomputerguy » Fri May 17, 2019 9:51 pm

I've done plumbing before. I'm not using hyperbole when I say that I honestly would rather go to the dentist.
It’s taken me a lot of years, but I’ve come around to this: If you’re dumb, surround yourself with smart people. And if you’re smart, surround yourself with smart people who disagree with you.

criticalmass
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Re: Why do plumbers get paid so well?

Post by criticalmass » Fri May 17, 2019 10:22 pm

tc101 wrote:
Fri May 17, 2019 2:18 pm
I am thinking of recommending that a young friend become a plumber.

Where I live in the Atlanta suburbs I pay:

$15-$20/hr for unskilled yard work with no tools
$35/hr for a good handy man
$140 for the first hour and then $45/hr for an electrician
$160/hr for a plumber

My question - Why do plumbers make so much? I would think that just based on economic laws, more people would train to be plumbers and that would drive the rates down. I would think that it would require more training to be an electrician than a plumber, but
electricians make less. What are the economic forces that keep rates so high for plumbers?
Why do you think that a plumber requires less training than an electrician? Both requires years of training, apprenticeship, difficult exams , and high overhead.

And you should learn that when you pay $160/hr for a plumber, that does not equate the plumber is putting $160 in their pocket. Not even close! If the plumber is a journeyman, they are likely working for someone or a company. Plumbing requires a lot of expensive inventory and tools. It also requires regular training, insurance, workers compensation, facilities, trucks, school, in addition to regular taxes. All of that high overhead, plus employer profit comes out of the billable rate. If the plumber is good, you are also competing with commercial jobs, which usually pay much more, especially when union or prevailing wages are present. And the plumber may not be working a billable job continuously, in fact that is unlikely for residential work.

Think it’s easy? Become a plumber as fast as you can.

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Sandtrap
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Re: Why do plumbers get paid so well?

Post by Sandtrap » Fri May 17, 2019 10:58 pm

criticalmass wrote:
Fri May 17, 2019 10:22 pm
tc101 wrote:
Fri May 17, 2019 2:18 pm
I am thinking of recommending that a young friend become a plumber.

Where I live in the Atlanta suburbs I pay:

$15-$20/hr for unskilled yard work with no tools
$35/hr for a good handy man
$140 for the first hour and then $45/hr for an electrician
$160/hr for a plumber

My question - Why do plumbers make so much? I would think that just based on economic laws, more people would train to be plumbers and that would drive the rates down. I would think that it would require more training to be an electrician than a plumber, but
electricians make less. What are the economic forces that keep rates so high for plumbers?
Why do you think that a plumber requires less training than an electrician? Both requires years of training, apprenticeship, difficult exams , and high overhead.

And you should learn that when you pay $160/hr for a plumber, that does not equate the plumber is putting $160 in their pocket. Not even close! If the plumber is a journeyman, they are likely working for someone or a company. Plumbing requires a lot of expensive inventory and tools. It also requires regular training, insurance, workers compensation, facilities, trucks, school, in addition to regular taxes. All of that high overhead, plus employer profit comes out of the billable rate. If the plumber is good, you are also competing with commercial jobs, which usually pay much more, especially when union or prevailing wages are present. And the plumber may not be working a billable job continuously, in fact that is unlikely for residential work.

Think it’s easy? Become a plumber as fast as you can.
plus verifiable positive work history at various skill stages for "x" number of years if the state location has a good contractor licensing process and high standards. It takes "years", and sometimes sponsorship and verification letters as well.
The "normal" 2 routes are either through a union company and vocational school (1-2) years plus "x" years experience at various levels, or working for a plumbing company under various capacities for "x" (lots) years. Then, testing, licensing, etc.
That said, there are locations that all it takes is a dog and a pickup truck to be a General Contractor. . . . . . :oops:

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ClevrChico
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Re: Why do plumbers get paid so well?

Post by ClevrChico » Fri May 17, 2019 11:21 pm

You can hear it from the source:

https://youtu.be/MIVEeo8XRw0

Seasonal
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Re: Why do plumbers get paid so well?

Post by Seasonal » Sat May 18, 2019 2:35 am

finfire wrote:
Fri May 17, 2019 3:12 pm
have you tried living without water? Doesn't last long....
Yet water is incredibly inexpensive. You can buy large quantities of water for very little money. Compare the cost of, for example, a diamond, which is not necessary for survival. Perhaps importance is not the key to pricing.

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Re: Why do plumbers get paid so well?

Post by TheOscarGuy » Sat May 18, 2019 4:52 am

tc101 wrote:
Fri May 17, 2019 2:18 pm
I am thinking of recommending that a young friend become a plumber.

Where I live in the Atlanta suburbs I pay:

$15-$20/hr for unskilled yard work with no tools
$35/hr for a good handy man
$140 for the first hour and then $45/hr for an electrician
$160/hr for a plumber

My question - Why do plumbers make so much? I would think that just based on economic laws, more people would train to be plumbers and that would drive the rates down. I would think that it would require more training to be an electrician than a plumber, but
electricians make less. What are the economic forces that keep rates so high for plumbers?
I have wondered that myself.
Maybe they need to be trained for a long period, and need to recuperate some of the education/certification costs.
If market is paying them that much rate, it must be that its either a skill not everyone can have even with training, or cost to learn it is very high.

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JonnyDVM
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Re: Why do plumbers get paid so well?

Post by JonnyDVM » Sat May 18, 2019 6:17 am

It’s not all water they’re dealing with. I am cheap (obv since I’m on this forum) and tried to do plumbing myself once. Didn’t tighten a connection well and flooded my house a bit. Came back from the gym to a waterfall down my living room wall. I considered doing the $1200 drywall repair myself as well but for some reason wife insisted we hire someone. I don’t mind paying a plumber after that experience.
Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple. -Dr. Seuss

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Re: Why do plumbers get paid so well?

Post by beyou » Sat May 18, 2019 6:20 am

Thesaints wrote:
Fri May 17, 2019 2:25 pm
A google engineer makes close 200k at start. Why are they paid so well ?
I used to be a software engineer at a major financial service firm frequently mentioned on this site. My supervisor and top executive in the firm used to refer to IT projects as plumbing. He was a PhD in finance but had quant risk/research staff and IT reporting to him. I was a plumber, but didn’t have to get my hands dirty at least. Lots of middle of the night emergencies though !

warner25
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Re: Why do plumbers get paid so well?

Post by warner25 » Sat May 18, 2019 7:08 am

I can't believe how most people in this thread are just accepting the premise that plumbers are "paid so well." According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics:
The median annual wage for plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters was $53,910 in May 2018... The lowest 10 percent earned less than $32,100, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $93,700.


So even the top 10% are earning less than most Bogleheads, it seems. Clearly the $160/hour is going somewhere other than the plumber's pocket, or the plumber is only working a couple hours a day.

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Re: Why do plumbers get paid so well?

Post by fourwheelcycle » Sat May 18, 2019 7:18 am

Joke then Story

A surgeon in the DC area needed a plumber on a Sunday. When he saw the plumber's bill he said "Wow, I'm a surgeon and I don't charge that much per hour". The plumber said "Yeah, I know, I didn't charge that much either when I was a surgeon".

When our neighborhood had a water line break I heard a rushing sound in our basement and figured out it was coming from our main water pipe. I turned the water off and called the town. They said my house must have been built before the local building code required backflow preventers on every new house. They said I should call a plumber and have one installed, for about $250. Our very nice local plumber came over and did the job, then noted I had a regular faucet valve on our main water line instead of a ball valve - he said he could replace it with a modern ball valve for $75 - I said great. Then he noticed I had an expansion tank on our baseboard hot water heating line but not on our hot water tank. He said we really ought to have one - another $250. Then I told him I had an outdoor faucet I was not using anymore because I left a hose attached one winter and it froze and burst the drain section that extends back into our basement ceiling. He said he could replace it easily - another $125. I felt like I had a very good, but somewhat expensive, primary care plumbing check-up.

FI4LIFE
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Re: Why do plumbers get paid so well?

Post by FI4LIFE » Sat May 18, 2019 7:26 am

In my experience, a good plumber is worth every penny. Plumbing is a trade that homeowners can't just "figure out". It requires specialized knowledge and tools. Professional, prompt, and skilled plumbers make great money. Lousy ones can still earn enough to get by. Many are simply unable to continue working past 55 years of age due to wear and tear. This is why many of their children don't follow them into the trade. The plumbers bodies are so worn down that they tell their kids to find another way to make a living... not worth it.

Also, the "working in filth" thing is overstated. Sometimes they deal with sewage etc but a lot of the job is sweating and connecting pipes/fittings. It's not that dirty of a job most of the time with the exception of crawl space work.

RobLyons
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Re: Why do plumbers get paid so well?

Post by RobLyons » Sat May 18, 2019 7:32 am

knightrider wrote:
Fri May 17, 2019 2:55 pm
adamthesmythe wrote:
Fri May 17, 2019 2:23 pm
Because it can be dirty, disgusting work?
By this reasoning, ordinary cleaning staff would also get paid high salaries..

Must add to this "Because it can be dirty, disgusting work that requires specialty skill, and tools that requires years of training and out of pocket expenses that not just anyone can do"

or something like that..
A close friend was a plumbing apprentice with dreams of making a lot of money but couldn't finish for one reason of another. but this is a prime example of why trades should be encouraged more in middle/high schools.
"Great parenting sets the foundation for a better world"

RobLyons
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Re: Why do plumbers get paid so well?

Post by RobLyons » Sat May 18, 2019 7:34 am

Jags4186 wrote:
Fri May 17, 2019 2:42 pm
A close family friend is a retired plumber. He loved to tell this story about when he would go to his kids career day in middle school he would tell the class that he’s just a plumber, never went to college, and all he has is 2 Cadillacs, a Corvette, and 3 houses. Had he went to college maybe he would have had 3 Cadillacs and 4 houses.
Average plumber salary in Mass is $63k so I'm assuming the small business owners are the ones making all the money?
A coworker's husband is a plumber, own company, and they are living much better than myself, but I'm assuming he puts in a lot more hours and it's harder work than my career.
"Great parenting sets the foundation for a better world"

michaeljc70
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Re: Why do plumbers get paid so well?

Post by michaeljc70 » Sat May 18, 2019 8:56 am

As said above, they handle a lot of emergencies and in an emergency people tend not to shop around. If you don't have an emergency, you are paying more because they could be working on an expensive emergency if they weren't at your house. I think planned plumbing, like on a new construction house, can be done for less money as it is less work (no walls in) and less messy and the builder can shop around and promise future work.

As also said above, travel, tools and insurance all have to be taken into rates too.

Like the OP, I think it is a good trade. I don't doubt that there are messy aspects, but you could probably avoid a lot of that by specializing. A lot of the work is clogged pipes, installing new faucets/toilets/showerheads, installing water heaters, etc. My SIL works for a big national plumbing chain and says they print money.

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Re: Why do plumbers get paid so well?

Post by carolinaman » Sat May 18, 2019 9:23 am

adamthesmythe wrote:
Fri May 17, 2019 2:23 pm
Because it can be dirty, disgusting work?

Also...there's often a certain urgency to plumbing work that isn't associated with electrical work.

Next time you have somebody in to replace the main trap...maybe shadow them for a day...think about whether this would be an attractive career move.
Nobody quibbles over price when they have a plumbing emergency.

spectec
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Re: Why do plumbers get paid so well?

Post by spectec » Sat May 18, 2019 9:28 am

Within the past 6 months I've had two different plumbers doing work at my home. The first one charged $125 for 45 minutes of work hooking up a new sink and faucet set. I could have easily done it myself, but this was part of a kitchen remodel project and the granite company wanted to limit their warranty if I did any of the work myself. So I paid an effective rate of about $160/hr.

The other one charged me just under $10K to perform a unique repair on a major break in a sewer line running under my slab. I have a rough idea of how the materials vs labor broke out, and I'm reasonably sure the "hourly" rate exceeded $160/hr. But watching what those guys had to do to solve my problem, I can assure you I wouldn't have done that work even if I knew what I was doing and even if you offered me $1,600 per hour.
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Re: Why do plumbers get paid so well?

Post by TBillT » Sat May 18, 2019 9:40 am

I recently asked a diswasher repair guy why it costs $300 to take 5-minutes to replace a $15 water valve?
He said his firm has enormous insurance bills on water and elec projects as they are liable for any water damage or personal injury in those cases if they are found liable in court of making a mistake in the repair.

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Re: Why do plumbers get paid so well?

Post by Misenplace » Sat May 18, 2019 11:40 am

This thread has run its course and is locked. General comment threads are off topic in the forums with "Personal" in the title. See: A reminder that non-investing general comment threads are OT

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