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How expensive is TOO expensive for a plumbing job? Average prices, DIY jobs, and the most expensive plumbing job in history

Summary: Some of the priciest plumbing jobs in plumbing history (and what a typical plumbing job in California looks like from your wallet’s perspective).

If you just paid for an expensive plumbing job that you didn’t feel was worth the money, you might have the idea that all plumbing jobs are costly. Now you’re wondering what’s the most money you’ll spend on a plumbing job again!

The reality is that not all plumbing jobs are created equal. Some are surprisingly inexpensive and others are, well, not so much. That’s why we’re talking money and plumbing in this article:

  • The average prices of typical plumbing jobs

  • 3 common plumbing repairs you could DIY

  • The most expensive plumbing job (not DIY-friendly)

Remember that when it comes to saving and spending, there’s nothing wrong with considering different options and comparing what others have done. This applies to plumbing jobs, too.

The average prices of typical plumbing jobs

Per hour, plumbers cost anywhere between $45 to $150. Plumber hourly rates average $75 before trip fees and materials and the rates depend on the plumber’s experience, union dues, overhead, parts, tools, insurance, and job type. A handyman or apprentice charges about half at $25 to $45 per hour.

Pricing depends on a lot of other factors, too, including:

  • Difficulty of installation or location

  • Type and size of job

  • Type of plumbing tools and material used

  • Travel distance

  • Time of day (weekends are more expensive)

One plumber said: “If we’re super busy, prices go up a little bit. If we’re slow, prices come down. We do allow pricing to fluctuate so we can stay busy and be on top of it.”

One website says that the cost of a plumber ranges from $175 to $450 for a typical job with the average cost per hour ranging from $45 to $200. This can include jobs like repairing faucets, toilets, sinks or bathtubs. Depending on the job, some plumbers charge a flat rate, or service fee of $300 on average.

Another website says that small plumbing repairs like unclogging a sink or drain cleaning costs $75 to $250, while larger jobs like fixing a water heater or sump pump cost $500 to $800. 

If you decide to hire a Master plumber, those rates are $75 to $125 per hour because of the education and experience required, and to cover overhead costs. A master plumber can own his own business and is qualified to supervise journeyman plumbers and teach apprentice plumbers. They are also eligible for bonuses, profit sharing, and commissions. The price matches the experience and, essentially, the success of the job.

In general, repairs tend to be cheaper than installations — but we’ll get into all the expensive jobs later.

Related article(s): How Much Does A Plumber Cost?

3 common plumbing repairs you could DIY

Everyone wants to save money (even the rich), so knowing when you can DIY a plumbing issues or hire a plumber could make or break your wallet! Here are simple plumbing repairs that you can do yourself to save money. These fixes are completely DIY with basic tools and skills.

1. Finding and Fixing a Leak (Leaks in Joints, Kitchen Faucet)

The best time to fix a plumbing leak is before it happens, by properly connecting water supply and waste line fittings. There are also simple ways to find and stop common water leaks before they cause rot and other expensive damage. You’ll find most of them around bathtubs and showers, drains, sinks and toilets.

With this information, you can fix almost any drippy single-lever kitchen faucet in about an hour. The repair is a lot easier than you might think, even for a plumbing novice. So stop putting up with the annoying drip and let’s fix that thing.

Related article(s): Stop Leaks in Plumbing Joints and How to Fix a Leaky Faucet

2. Stop a Running Toilet

Learn the simple four-step strategy that solves 95 percent of toilet flush problems. Stop water from constantly running, give a wimpy flush a boost, and solve other common problems quickly and easily.

All you need are:

  • Cutting pliers

  • Regular pliers

  • Rubber gloves

  • Replacement fill valve

  • Toilet flapper


  1. Check the Fill Tube

  2. Adjust the Fill Height by Checking the Float

  3. Adjust the Flush Handle/Flapper Chain

  4. Replace the Flapper

Related article(s): How to Stop a Running Toilet

Repair a Water Softener

You can often fix water softeners by checking the brine tank for salt problems or simply cleaning the resin bed or several other key parts. All are easy to do and you might avoid the expensive service call. Your materials? 4-in-1 screwdriver and a bucket… that’s it!

  1. Look for salt problems

  2. Remove salt mush

  3. Clean the resin bed

  4. Remove the assembly parts

  5. Clean the parts then reassemble

Be sure to check out the related articles for additional DIY plumbing repairs that are easy to do and inexpensive!

Related article(s): Fix a Water Softener and Top 10 Plumbing Fixes You Can Do Yourself

The most expensive plumbing job (not DIY-friendly)

The most expensive plumbing services typically are related to installation of large apparatuses including remodeling bathrooms and kitchens, tankless water heater repairs, installing hydronic heating, water treatment or testing, and repiping a household. 

Main sewer installation costs about $3,000), shower install services range from $1,200 to $5,500, and bathtub replacement typically ranges between $1,000 and $5,000. Yet, there’s a plumbing job that’s been more expensive than these.

Military Divers Become Plumbers in Arctic (Canada)

The world’s most expensive plumbing job goes to military divers who become “plumbers” while diving in the Arctic.

In 2014, broken water pumps at CFS Alert triggered an 11,000-kilometer house call that winter by an elite squad of navy divers from Halifax.

CFS Alert, near the North Pole, draws its drinking water from nearby Upper Dumbell Lake to a water-treatment plant serving the station’s 75 soldiers and workers. The military facility has three water pumps, including two backups, and was left vulnerable when both backups failed. The pumps also provide water for firefighting.

The 10-day job in the frozen, permanent darkness of an Arctic winter required arduous drilling through ice more than a meter thick, and then a robot submarine to survey the damage.

Military spokesman Maj. James Simiana says the nine-member dive team was paid temporary duty costs of $6,900 for the Feb. 12-22 mission, in addition to their regular pay.

With everything — including round trips on scheduled Hercules flights between Halifax — the job cost the military a whopping $85,000. We’d say this plumbing job in Canada’s high Arctic is one for the record books… but that might be an understatement! 

Related article(s): World’s most expensive plumbing job? Military divers become plumbers in Arctic

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