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Plumbing Installations: Independent Contractor vs. Retailer or Utility Installer

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  • Transcript

    LESLIE: Barry in New York has a question about heating. What can we do for you today?

    BARRY: Hi, thank you for taking my call.

    LESLIE: You’re so welcome.

    BARRY: I listen to you quite often on the weekends but this is a first-time caller.

    I have a home here in Brooklyn. I’ve been here 36 years.

    TOM: OK.

    BARRY: We have the original gas hot water heating unit. I have baseboard heating. The pilot went out and I called – can I say the names or …

    LESLIE: Let me guess. KeySpan.

    BARRY: KeySpan?

    LESLIE: (chuckling) Is that who you called in?

    BARRY: I have the service contract.

    LESLIE: Yeah.

    BARRY: They came. Was some moisture on the floor – not puddles – and they said what’s happening is as the flame goes on, whatever, or goes off, it’s actually putting out the pilot. Agreed. No argument. So after 36 years I really can’t complain too much. I need a new unit. Obviously I had …

    TOM: OK. Yeah, that water heater did quite well for you, by the way; at 36 years old.

    BARRY: Oh, yes. It’s a – the unit was a hydrotherm …

    TOM: Yeah.

    BARRY: … 125,000 BTU, to give you an idea.

    TOM: OK, you’re talking about a boiler; not a water heater now.

    BARRY: Right. To heat the home.

    TOM: OK. Go ahead.

    BARRY: I have three-zone heating.

    TOM: OK.

    BARRY: OK. Now I call them; they gave me a price. I also went to Sears, because I know they do that with Carrier and so on and so forth.

    TOM: Uh-huh.

    BARRY: They gave me a price.

    TOM: Right.

    BARRY: One price, if I may say it, was about $9,000; one price was $6,000; and then Sears told me, “Well, we have a unit …” – excuse me, “We have a unit that’s more like $5,000.” It’s not quite as good. It’s not the Cadillac, shall we say, but it’ll do the job.

    TOM: (overlapping voices) Yeah.

    LESLIE: (overlapping voices) Yeah, but you want the Cadillac. (Tom clears throat)

    BARRY: Huh?

    LESLIE: You want the Cadillac, though. I mean the …

    BARRY: Right.

    LESLIE: … lifespan of a boiler is – what? – 30 years; 25 to 30 years?

    TOM: Thirty to forty years.

    BARRY: Right. Then when I called my independent plumber

    TOM: Right.

    BARRY: … just to see what he said – he’ll come down and so on and all that – he said, “Well, we’re talking about $4,000.”

    TOM: And that’s the right price. I’ve got to tell you that sometimes when you use the really big companies there’s a really big markup associated with it and the labor is not necessarily any different. I bet you that each organization still has to use a licensed plumber to do the install.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm.

    BARRY: Oh, yes. They give me all the literature and everything …

    TOM: Yeah. If you have a good – I would always prefer to go with a good independent contractor than to go with either the utility company or, you know, one of the big retailers.

    BARRY: Got you.

    TOM: I would go with a good, local, independent guy; buy a boiler; have it installed; make sure you get a permit; make sure you get it inspected and you will be good to go, hopefully, Barry, for another 35 years.

    BARRY: OK, well the inspection – it’s in the basement and so on, you know. The inspection and all that stuff is done by them, isn’t it, when I call them to install it?

    TOM: No, get a permit and have your local plumbing inspector inspect the guy’s work.

    BARRY: Oh, oh, oh, oh. OK. I see.

    TOM: OK?

    LESLIE: Got to do it right.

    BARRY: OK. And then after he says everything’s OK then I have myself a furnace …

    TOM: You got it.

    BARRY: … that’s working. I thank you very much. You’re always very informative. You’ve helped me a lot with my home and I appreciate your help very much.

    TOM: You’re welcome, Barry. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT. 

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