Welcome! Here are the website rules, as well as some tips for using this forum.
Need to contact us? Visit https://heatinghelp.com/contact-us/.
Click here to Find a Contractor in your area.

Is my plumbing company screwing me?

KristinaL
KristinaL Member Posts: 1
Hello all,

A plumbing company in the bay area recently told me they would pressure test my three small steam radiators at a rate of $195/hour. They said it would take maybe 1 - 2 hours.

On the day of the test, two guys showed up separately. The first guy said the second guy had just stopped by to help him get the radiators on the dolly and wasn't going to do any of the work. The second guy confirmed and said that's why he had parked blocking traffic - because he was leaving.

To do the tests, the guy used the hose downstairs at my building. Importantly, there is only one hose bib downstairs for him to use. It is the only water source down there.

It took an hour an five minutes total to do all three tests.

The bill I got is for $630. Yes. I am being billed for two guys for an hour and a half each, including travel time, plus taxes. They're telling me both guys were present the whole time (despite what the guys told me) and that both were working the whole time. They are also telling me that if only one guy had been sent, it would have taken a lot longer than an hour and five minutes.

This seems like a bunch of BS to me. If theres only one hose to hook up to a radiator, how could both guys have been testing the radiators at the same time?

Also, isn't twenty minutes per radiator about right?

Any help or thoughts you guys have about this would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

Comments

  • Gordy
    Gordy Member Posts: 9,546
    I'm sorry if this disagrees with your thoughts but if both employees were there then someone has to pay for their time. It would have taken longer with one person that is true. They did say 1-2 hours to do the job. When you say it took an 1 hour and 5 min. Was that timed from the time they showed up at your home , and until the time they left your home? 5 min in to the next 1/2 hour counts as 1/2 hour as far as paying his employees. They do not get paid in 1 minute intervals.

    Are you sure you have steam heat, and not hot water? Wondering why they didn't test using air. Which would not matter time wise, and would not hurt anything. Just less mess. You still have to pressurize the radiator, and wait a while to see if it holds pressure.
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 22,942
    As @Gordy says, the charges don't seem out of line for the time required.

    However, did you ask them to pressure test the radiators? Or did they suggest it? If it is steam, they should not have been pressure tested. Leak tested, at 2 psi, perhaps. But pressure tested? No.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • Gordy
    Gordy Member Posts: 9,546
    I will also note that we do not discuss pricing. That being said I have no idea if the rate you posted is customary rate for your region. So as far as the hourly charge in the Bay Area it may be right, but I'm not from there. Sounds about right though.

    You must consider what goes into an employees wage package, and the cost of the owner running a business.

    Insurance
    Training
    Workers comp
    Unemployment
    Etc.
  • STEVEusaPA
    STEVEusaPA Member Posts: 6,506
    Although I agree with the above, I think you have a right to be annoyed. I would ask for some money back.
    1. You should be charged for the second guy at a helpers rate.
    2. When they bid the job (hopefully in writing), they knew they needed a plumber and a helper, and should've told you that and reflected that in a bid. The plumber's rate and travel time aren't off the mark, but if the contractor's shop is nearby, there shouldn't be much of a charge. If he is far away, he should've factored that into the bid. Personally, I wouldn't charge travel time if I happened to be way out in the suburbs on my last job. I would only calculate travel time from my shop.
    3. I think the bill was padded to make up for a slow day.
    steve
    rick in Alaska
  • It's hard to find good steam experts here in the Bay Area. I'm sure you had to call around to find anyone that would do that kind of work.

    Curious as to why you wanted them pressure tested. Did you just buy the house and wanted to make sure none of them leaked?
    8.33 lbs./gal. x 60 min./hr. x 20°ΔT = 10,000 BTU's/hour

    Two btu per sq ft for degree difference for a slab
  • j a_2
    j a_2 Member Posts: 1,801
    Very very unusual to be called to pressure test a radiator....Curious as to why....Few more details and some pictures may answer the curisoity
  • Charlie from wmass
    Charlie from wmass Member Posts: 4,314
    I personally charge a minimum of 1 1/2 hours. I can not judge another rate as I am not in your area. I am curious why the test.
    Cost is what you spend , value is what you get.

    cell # 413-841-6726
    https://heatinghelp.com/find-a-contractor/detail/charles-garrity-plumbing-and-heating
  • gschallert
    gschallert Member Posts: 170
    So you were misled into approving the work by being given an estimate which they then failed to honor and on top of it you were lied to by the workers when you questioned why there were two of them. I would have sent them packing right away but now that you have the bill I'd "negotiate" with the company to get them to honor their estimate. If they needed to send two employees to do the job they should have told you up front it was going to be 2X the hourly rate. Unfortunately sending "extra" workers is a common practice to enable charging more and I've canceled more than one T&M job because of it.
    QingRomanGK_26986764589rick in Alaska
  • Gordy
    Gordy Member Posts: 9,546
    edited May 2017
    @gschallert I think you are making presumptions beyond what the op has stated in the original post. Until it is determined if there was a concrete estimate other than the 1-2 hours to perform testing, and the 195.00 per MH. I don't think bashing the contractor is warranted....yet. They performed the work in the estimated time frame, and as to whether it was told to the owner there would be 1or 2 people doing the work we just don't know, other than the employee saying what he said.

    Is it really any different if one person takes 3 hours, or 2 people take 11/2 hours. Maybe they wanted to be sure that the job was done in the estimated time frame.

    As for how long it took to test 3 radiators. Do we know the terrain of the job? We're they on the 3rd floor? Hard to remove, and replace?

    Did someone look at the job, and someone else perform the work?

    I'm not condemning, or supporting without more information.
  • KC_Jones
    KC_Jones Member Posts: 5,706


    However, did you ask them to pressure test the radiators? Or did they suggest it? If it is steam, they should not have been pressure tested. Leak tested, at 2 psi, perhaps. But pressure tested? No.

    This. What was the driver behind the pressure test? I can't imagine why (on steam) anyone would want to do it.

    If it was their idea to test I would suggest that would be the red flag for me as anyone that knows steam knows the pressure is extremely low in these systems and testing rads shouldn't be needed (IMHO). If it was your idea, no matter what amount of money it was wasted.

    I will reiterate we don't discuss pricing on this site. You could have mentioned how many hours they billed and left the dollars out.
    2014 Weil Mclain EG-40
    EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Boiler Control
    Boiler pictures updated 2/21/15
  • j a_2
    j a_2 Member Posts: 1,801
    KC_Jones said:


    However, did you ask them to pressure test the radiators? Or did they suggest it? If it is steam, they should not have been pressure tested. Leak tested, at 2 psi, perhaps. But pressure tested? No.

    This. What was the driver behind the pressure test? I can't imagine why (on steam) anyone would want to do it.

    If it was their idea to test I would suggest that would be the red flag for me as anyone that knows steam knows the pressure is extremely low in these systems and testing rads shouldn't be needed (IMHO). If it was your idea, no matter what amount of money it was wasted.

    I will reiterate we don't discuss pricing on this site. You could have mentioned how many hours they billed and left the dollars out.
    Still don't know the driver behind this...and I agree with Gordy...Reason for test may be they a converting to hot water and in that case it's a good idea to accomplish a hydrostatic test..at this point it's anybody's guess...Owner of site states no price talking, so I won't...Really need feed back from the op as well as the plumber involved...as to what was accomplished...Kinda don't think that will happen...There are proper channels to go thru if one and or the other has issues...Bitching about cost here should get you nowhere...jmo
  • gschallert
    gschallert Member Posts: 170
    Gordy said:

    @gschallert I think you are making presumptions beyond what the op has stated in the original post. Until it is determined if there was a concrete estimate other than the 1-2 hours to perform testing, and the 195.00 per MH. I don't think bashing the contractor is warranted....yet.

    @Gordy, no presumptions required, the OP stated the following:

    1) They were told the job would take 1-2 hours @ specified hourly rate. If the plumbing company knew it was going to take two employees 1-2 hours an ethical company would have informed the OP the job would require 3-4 labor hours @ specified hourly rate.

    2) When OP questioned both workers who showed up they said only the one would be staying and yet the OP was billed for both and told the opposite of what the workers said. Somebody was lying, doesn't really matter whether it was the workers who showed up or the company they work for, the OP was lied to.

    @KristinaL, see #8 on this list: https://www.moneytalksnews.com/10-sneaky-plumbers-tricks-the-trade/2/
    rick in AlaskaQing
  • Gordy
    Gordy Member Posts: 9,546
    I think with out additional information from the op you assume to much.

    Was this a verbal over the phone quote? Estimate in writing?

    To easy to drop small important wording details in a relayed question.


    j a_2
  • newagedawn
    newagedawn Member Posts: 586
    Curious as to why you wanted them pressure tested. Did you just buy the house and wanted to make sure none of them leaked?
    "The bitter taste of a poor install lasts far longer than the JOY of the lowest price"
  • gerry gill
    gerry gill Member Posts: 3,078
    i used to live in California some 20+ years ago. Cost of living was stupid then...i can only imagine what it is to run a business there today..i think our workers comp was 20% back then..crazy numbers..i cant believe they stay in business out there at 195 an hour..
    gwgillplumbingandheating.com
    Serving Cleveland's eastern suburbs from Cleveland Heights down to Cuyahoga Falls.

    j a_2Robert O'Connor_12
  • j a_2
    j a_2 Member Posts: 1,801

    i used to live in California some 20+ years ago. Cost of living was stupid then...i can only imagine what it is to run a business there today..i think our workers comp was 20% back then..crazy numbers..i cant believe they stay in business out there at 195 an hour..

    Got to say I totally agree...with your thinking....there are always two sides to every story....Give the company a chance to speak...prior to forming an opinion...He may not know he has been spoken about here on this site...
  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 15,491
    edited May 2017
    Anyone notice the OP hasn't been back?

    Single pipe quasi-vapor system. Typical operating pressure 0.14 - 0.43 oz. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment
  • MilanD
    MilanD Member Posts: 1,160
    edited May 2017
    Honest question. If the company said one thing and done the other, or charged for a tech that wasn't there, don't pay. I once had 3 electricians work about 6 hours on the building I manage. I knew hourly rate, so no problem. Bill comes, they listed 8 hours each. Granted, they could have dragged it out, but 18 manhours was fair for the amount of work, and they clearly didn't rush the job. I called and complained, gave times they showed up and when they left, nicely and politely. They took the 6 manhours off the bill and apologized.

    Bigger issue is that more and more the middle class is being squeezed, that living standards are falling (doing more with less), and that the wealth is concentrating at the top. That leaves a whole lot of people who pay their weekly (or more) of after tax wages for one day of tech in the house. But, that's politics, right?

    Now, how anyone affords to live in the big metropolitan areas is still an enigma to me. West coast? Get outta here....
    BobC
  • j a_2
    j a_2 Member Posts: 1,801
    ChrisJ said:

    Anyone notice the OP hasn't been back?

    I did, and it's not unusual....
    RomanGK_26986764589
  • I think Kristina just needed to vent. This site serves many purposes.
    8.33 lbs./gal. x 60 min./hr. x 20°ΔT = 10,000 BTU's/hour

    Two btu per sq ft for degree difference for a slab
    Gordyj a_2Charlie from wmassRomanGK_26986764589
  • Charlie from wmass
    Charlie from wmass Member Posts: 4,314
    edited May 2017
    The first few responses did not try to burn the plumber at the stake. Therefore I believe the original poster had no incentive to come back.
    Cost is what you spend , value is what you get.

    cell # 413-841-6726
    https://heatinghelp.com/find-a-contractor/detail/charles-garrity-plumbing-and-heating
    Gordy
  • j a_2
    j a_2 Member Posts: 1,801

    The first few responses did not try to burn the plumber at the stake. Therefore I believe the original poster had no incentive to come back.

    I do believe you are exactly right...I believe the trap was being set...jmo
  • Danny Scully
    Danny Scully Member Posts: 1,415
    edited May 2017
    Yet another benefit of flat rate pricing, no surprises.
  • j a_2
    j a_2 Member Posts: 1,801
    Oh gee honey I think it's time to get our radiators pressure tested...yes Alice your correct...They are reaching 100 years old...Lets skip our next planned vacation, and get them done...I have long suspected they have issues...
  • Gordy
    Gordy Member Posts: 9,546
    As far as I was concerned there was not enough information to burn anyone at the stake. However some have telepathic powers to know both sides of the transaction. Innocent until proven guilty.
    j a_2CanuckerRomanGK_26986764589
  • Charlie from wmass
    Charlie from wmass Member Posts: 4,314
    I deal with many people who are disappointed that I do not ask for capital punishment when I see a bad installation. That is experience not clairvoyance
    Cost is what you spend , value is what you get.

    cell # 413-841-6726
    https://heatinghelp.com/find-a-contractor/detail/charles-garrity-plumbing-and-heating
    GordyCanuckerRomanGK_26986764589
  • Zman
    Zman Member Posts: 7,549
    I am always blown away by how much energy is spent on these " one post wonders"
    This person has one post and one login.
    They forgot about heating help 10 seconds after they posted...
    "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough"
    Albert Einstein
    ChrisJRomanGK_26986764589
  • RomanGK_26986764589
    RomanGK_26986764589 Member Posts: 229
    I wonder how many accounts are there on HeatingHelp with just 1 post. Do they eventually get deleted?
  • Zman
    Zman Member Posts: 7,549
    @KristinaL
    How did this work out?
    "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough"
    Albert Einstein