Plumbing Installations: Independent Contractor vs. Retailer or Utility Installer
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.
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.
LESLIE: (chuckling) Is that who you called in?
BARRY: I have the service contract.
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 …
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.
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.
BARRY: They gave me a price.
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)
LESLIE: You want the Cadillac, though. I mean the …
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 …
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.
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.
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.