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Revisit DIYers

> To quote a few from Matt Michel as he's posted <BR>
> "50 Observations on Service" at Contracting <BR>
> Business Mag:<BR>
> <BR>
> 3.Labor is your most <BR>
> perishable commodity. You can’t inventory it. <BR>
> Thus, labor should carry greater margins than <BR>
> material, which can be sold tomorrow. <BR>
> <BR>
> 9. <BR>
> People don’t understand the cost of service. They <BR>
> don’t comprehend what it costs to put a truck at <BR>
> their door. Thus, any hourly rate, no matter how <BR>
> low, seems like a lot to a consumer. <BR>
> <BR>
> 25. <BR>
> Companies that do not charge enough to cover <BR>
> their costs, fund future growth, and generate a <BR>
> return on the owner’s investment are subsidizing <BR>
> the customer. <BR>
> <BR>
> 44. People with less money <BR>
> can’t afford cheap solutions. They can’t afford <BR>
> to pay twice. <BR>
> <BR>
> 49. People buy for their own <BR>
> reasons, not the company’s. <BR>
> <BR>
> 50. People are <BR>
> interested in their needs and wants, not the <BR>
> company’s. <BR>
> <BR>
> <BR>
> <BR>
> _A <BR>
> HREF="http://www.heatinghelp.com/getListed.cfm?id= <BR>
> 104&Step=30"_To Learn More About This <BR>
> Professional, Click Here to Visit Their Ad in <BR>
> "Find A Professional"_/A_ <BR>


  • Why the system creates DIYers

    I read the thread about the HO buying the boiler and asking for the install seperately with great interest. Though I understand his situation is somewhat unique, the general question was raised. In fact, we're likely to take this one step further because we're fed up with the whole system.

    The story: My wife and I purchased an older house in a good locatation --for us-- but it needs work, including updating the heating system. After several different heating contractor visited then house we had a fistfull of offers that where either obviously bone-headed non-solutions or where too vague to realistically consider. In frustration, I gave up, went on-line and looked up the state plumbing test prep site and bought the recommended hydronic book --Modern Hydronic Heating ... by John Siegenthaler.

    It took some time, web site reading, calls to manufactures and calls to the local building officials, but I think I've worked the thing out. We need some re-piping, a new boiler and a new water heater. We should see a payback in about four or five years --yes that's how disfunctional the current system is.

    I'm just now getting to the component purchasing stage, so I hope that I can buy every thing I need --including the boiler-- rather than having to re-design the system, because I will not pay premium wages after I've done all the heavy lifting. I would be happy to pay a fair price for installing the boiler but am very sceptical that I can find someone. The only quote I have is way out of line.

    To be fair about our contractor situation-- We've recently been told by a local builder that all the good hydronic men in the area have left the residental market for the commercial --unless it's McMansion radiant flooring. Maybe we needed a woman!

    My core point is that we wanted competent help and were willing to pay a reasonable amount for it. Instead I am having to do it myself. And frankly when we do the addition I'll just do the radiant floor, which my wife wants, without even looking for a contracter.

    From a HO's viewpoint, my main critisms are: (1) The "professionals" seem to be demanding a premium price for what amounts to labor rather than providing expert skills and knowledge; (2) The whole system lacks transparency, i.e. when there's a bag over your head you assume you're getting screwed.

    I don't know a good solution, but it seems as if there aren't enough knowledgeable people out there. Perhaps the knowledgeable folks could focus on the critical parts and farm out the other work to others. Also, this would make the pricing more understandable. I'd pay $d for a design service or $e for a detailed estimate, but balk at buying a $3500 boiler for $3500+2*$d+5*$e. Don't give away your time and then expect me to pay for it. Also, don't expect me to pay premium wages for running for supplies and basic pipe sweating. Use a "go-for" and an apprentice, and then bill me accordingly.

    It seems as if a lot more could be done on the phone without appointments and "site visits." Quote me the boiler price, rough rate for other services, your credentals, and maybe a ball park total cost. If it sounds reasonable then we'll proceed further; if not I won't waste your time and you'll not waste mine.

    Sorry about the rant, I hope this constructive critisism repays all for some of the information I've glean from the site. Maybe I should take the hydronics pumbing test and go into business.


    Lastly, if anyone is so inclined to answer: Why aren't tankless water heaters used as heat sources? They seem to be less expensive than boiler but still have the BTU's to do the job. (Perhaps I sould post this seperately ...)
  • Perry_2
    Perry_2 Member Posts: 381
    The whack you just heard is

    the nail being hit cleanly on its head....

    I have just had several heating contractors through my house. What an interesting experience. Do some of those people actually expect me to hire them? What does a normal homeowner think. I question the compency of one of them - I don't think they even understand the system. But they sure are willing to slap in something.

    Finally my personal favorite made it (the one that was so busy he set the appointment 3 weeks out) - this guy had made 1 paid service call to my house about 5 years ago (first winter after I purchased it) and had showed me how to do the minor maintenance the boiler and pump needed as part of that visit. He remembered the discussion I had with him then about my future plans for the house. He took one look at the house construction; asked how many square feet - said he had to size for -15F and windy; and kicked out a number of about 52,000 Btu/Hr for boiler sizing(in less than 30 seconds of conversation and calculation). Then said he could spend a lot of time measuring the house and inputting it to a program - but that the numbers would come in about that range; and any issues would be covered by the fact that he would be sizing a slighly larger boiler just because of what was available.

    So then we talked about Option A - his primary way of doing things - installing a 85% efficient non-condensing boiler and new system controls and cirulating pump (the series 100 would be replaced); and then about Option B - installing a modulationg condensing boiler on the other side of the basement (he knew I had been looking into it and wanted to bid that option).

    I gave him a copy of the brochure that I had printed from the web; explained the advantages of the Vitodens 200 multiple setback curve and control, how they also had a low loss header with temperature control at the header outlet available (he liked that feature). His comment was that I wasn't looking at just the Cadilac of boilers - I was looking at the Mercedes and he would have no problems installing such a boiler; and that only a few of his customers could probably appreciate what this boiler and control system could do; that most just wanted the cheapest install possible. He did mention his concern with the relatively short life (10 - 15 years) of these type of boilers; but conceeded when I indicated that the efficiency gain pays for that.

    He also pointed out the issue with the city and the need to get a variance to run the vent pipe (no one else told me that it may be a fight to get the varience).

    He really appreciated that I had figured out that I would need to run the vent upstairs through a closet and then out the wall to ensure adequate clearance above snow (although he mentioned that he has run things up the side of a house for that).

    Then he asked me if I was going to buy the boiler and have him install and service it - or if I wanted him to both buy and install it. I told him that I wanted him to buy it, and I understood that he would make some money on that. He said OK; he'd do it either way because he's in the business of providing service and did not mind working with a knowlegable homeowner.

    However since I had been researching this brand and what would be needed could I provide a list of the major components he would need so that he could price it, and provide a bid without wasting a lot of his time researching the details of a new product line that he was not familiar with (and that he'd know if I missed a needed item).

    We chatted a bit about things; I asked him a question on my frozen radiator throttle valves - and he was on his way. In a lot less time than any of the others.

    I would say that both his knowledge level and attitude / approach were much different. No wonder he is so busy.

    The key is that he indicated that his focus was providing the level of service the homeowner needed.

    Oh, he also indicated that he is never the low bid on a job - but that what you get is something that works and last as he focuses on a qualtiy job; and that saving money on some things up front only cost you money down the road - typically a lot more money. Also, such problems arn't good for his reputation. He indicated that he would turn down such projects - he was busy enough anyway.

    Now I know their are cheapskates out there; but I think most homeowners are willing to spend a bit more to get a quality job where the person has a good reputation for quality work and good response(and he does) - and are willing to work with them at their level of needs.

  • Robert O'Brien
    Robert O'Brien Member Posts: 3,537

    somebody says"It's not about the money" It's all about the money!Bottom line,you want to find someone to install materials you bought.Good luck in your search,you might get lucky!
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  • Jim_47
    Jim_47 Member Posts: 244

    Just a comment
    Did you ask for a complete heat loss calc? Did you ask for a detailed estimate?
    Recently I have scheduled 5 estimates for people that called me on the phone. Of those 5 homes/families that I had scheduled my time for, 2 were not home and one said that the Hubby had to run out so could I come back at another time. 3 out of 5 appointments for nothing. 3 -6 hours (including transportation) and no income to show for it. Ball park over the phone? Let me say that it will be between $3000 and $13000, depending. Yup, depending. I have stopped all estimates unless the Homeowner is willing to pay $100 cash for the time. What do you get, You get the written estimate. A heat loss calc has been done and you will receive that AFTER the job is fully paid for. I used the heat loss calc for the sizing of equipment. Oh and by the way, local building inspectors now require it when pulling the permit. I have even gone as far now as to have the homeowner pay for permit fees upfront and in cash. After I had gone to the building dept 2 times in 2006 on diffrent jobs only to find that another contractor had pulled a permit on the same job. After calling the original contractor found out after the permit was pulled the job the homeowner had canceled the job for one reason or another.
    Estimates are exactly what you are willing to pay for them. You want 3 estimates for comparison, be willing to pay for three estimates or you will have what you paid for, 3 business cards with prices scribbled on the back.
  • Constantin
    Constantin Member Posts: 3,796
    I guess it depends on the situation...

    ... I spent a lot of time and money repairing a boat where multiple sub-systems had been installed marginally, or worse. For example, re-wiring the whole thing took a long time but it had the tangible benefit of making the boat a lot safer, the equipment in it a lot happier, etc. Never mind the joys I found in the rigging, plumbing, etc. I felt reasonably competent doing that work due to my background and the company I was working at, with all sorts of subject matter experts to consult.

    Depending on your background, installing a heating system may or may not be a challenge. I have installed but one heating system (a diesel furnace) and that was mainly a changeout, not a new install. I guess with enough training, time, and trials + tribulations, I could install a hydronic system also, but I opted to have a pro install ours. Why go up on a training curve if you don't have to?

    Never mind the local laws, permit regulations, etc. that may or may not allow you to install such systems w/o a license. How about adjusting the unit for optimum combustion efficiency and safey? Do you own a electronic combustion analyzer? Have you taken the training to know how to tune whatever boiler you want to install so that the draft, CO2, etc. are set up right? Or do you expect to go the same route as with the install and try to low-ball that also by installing the unit and then having someone cheap come in to do this for you?

    Like you, I did a lot of the calculations, equipment review, etc. when the time came to install our system. I butted heads a couple of times with our installer and I am glad I did so. For example, our AC system would have been ridiculously oversized if I had let him install the tonnage he desired. My monitoring system has borne out that the extant system is more than adequate.

    However, I would not pretend that this design/review work is somehow more glamorous, important, or mission-critical than the actual installation work. Yes, having a good plan is very important, but so is installation quality. Until you have installed such a system, I would refrain from "a plumber is a plumber" type comparison to justify paying the installers a wage which perhaps only you could construe to be reasonable. Running a business is expensive!

    I would also refrain from telling professionals how to run their business. Using a "gofer + apprentice" to sweat your system may result in a mess, i.e. mistakes that have to be remedied at much higher cost later on. A mis-sweated slip coupling almost cost us our basement, for example, and it was an apprentice that used that for convenience instead of a regular coupling. The master plumber was furious and I would not have wanted my name on that job ticket.

    The hydronic industry would be helped a great deal if every contractor adopted a pricing structure that included fees for just showing up and consulting the homeowner. Under those circumstances, the time pressure would largely disappear, the disincentive to further education would also be removed, and the tire kickers, low-ballers, etc. would be punished for wasting several contractors' time. In the end, fees for consulting, system design, etc. ought to result in more systems that meet the needs of customers.

    Lastly, I do wonder a bit at the wisdom of basically insulting a lot of the contractors here and then asking for advice, for free. Perhaps you should have asked for info about tankless water heaters in hydronic heating applications before venting your rant.
  • Dan Foley
    Dan Foley Member Posts: 1,258
    Well Said

    Well said, Constantin - and in words more diplomatic than I was thinking as I read the above post. I will post some photos of some DIY jobs that went awry because the homeowner didn't think much of my rates or the skills of my technicians. That being said, I have also seen some nice DIY jobs done by homeowners that I would gladly claim as my own. I will post those photos as well. -DF

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  • Mark Hunt
    Mark Hunt Member Posts: 4,909
    Excellent post

    I have a question for the reluctant DIY'er.

    How much money per hour would you say is "reasonable" for a contractor to charge?

    What is a "fair" price?

    I ask this because we see this type of thread every so often where folks complain of bids being way off base.

    So if you would, please tell us what you feel we should charge per hour for what we do.

    Mark H

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  • hr
    hr Member Posts: 6,106
    I'll second Mark's question

    perhaps the estimae for labor was fair. Maybe even low :)

    If homeowners are reluctant to name an hourly wage for a licensed, competent hydronic installer, just give us a yearly wage that is acceptable and we can do the math to get hourly numbers.

    Based on the 2000 plus hours we spend at our buisness every year :)

    hot rod

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  • Constantin
    Constantin Member Posts: 3,796
    But that's the kicker, isn't it?

    The quality of an install is not a function of pro or amateur, it's a question of ability, training, meticulousness, time pressure, etc. Pro and amateur alike can shine or crater with every project that is put in front of them.

    However, I would like to think that for most installs the pros ought to beat the amateurs... as not all safety issues are obvious, not all installation rules are spelt out (OTJ "training"), permitting and other bureaucracy can cost a lot of time and money.

    Never mind the vast skills that each heating system installer/maintainer has to pick up, across multiple categories (electrical, thermal, combustion, piping, installation, flow, etc.). It's probably one of the more challenging trades because so many different kinds of systems and aspects have to be dealt with.

    I tied a lot of rebar in the basement of this house because I could work on the weekends when the pros could not show up. Even something as simple as rebar can take some time to learn, and I must have reworked &frac13; of the work I did.
  • Robert O'Brien
    Robert O'Brien Member Posts: 3,537

    right. Some DIY are incredible,unfortunately it's a tiny % most are more like this.If you look closely you can see a picture of a T&P valve on the energyguide sticker. The HO told me the last guy drew it to illustrate what was missing.BTW the HO refused my offer to install T&P right now. I snapped pic and left

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  • ALH_4
    ALH_4 Member Posts: 1,790

    "You guys make more than I do." - I've heard that a few times. Some never understand (or refuse to admit they understand) why the rate is what it is no matter how much explanation you give them. I guess they will eventually find someone willing to go broke to get a job.

  • Weezbo
    Weezbo Member Posts: 6,232
    that is not a plesant place to be comming from...

    many people discover similar difficulties

    in most areas of our society . apathy is the main malfunction.
  • I'm with Dan

    I too refrained from responding - for the same reasons. We dropped Mike off at college this week. He worked with us over the summer & had a blast. His mechanical abilities are outstanding & he fell right into step with our seasoned mechanics. Not at their level, mind you, but good enough to overcome the stigma of being the son of the boss & rapidly recognized as one hell of a hard worker.

    He has the ability to become a great technician, I'm just not sure he should give the trades any consideration. The attitudes expressed here by the HO side tend to reinforce my gut feelings that he'll be better off pursuing something else.

    If anyone thinks it's as simple as reading a book, taking a test and hanging out a shingle, they'll never be willing to shell out the hourly rate for a professional. 37 years and still learning.

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  • Paul Pollets
    Paul Pollets Member Posts: 3,656

    > I too refrained from responding - for the same

    > reasons. We dropped Mike off at college this

    > week. He worked with us over the summer & had a

    > blast. His mechanical abilities are outstanding &

    > he fell right into step with our seasoned

    > mechanics. Not at their level, mind you, but good

    > enough to overcome the stigma of being the son of

    > the boss & rapidly recognized as one hell of a

    > hard worker.


    > He has the ability to become a

    > great technician, I'm just not sure he should

    > give the trades any consideration. The attitudes

    > expressed here by the HO side tend to reinforce

    > my gut feelings that he'll be better off pursuing

    > something else.


    > If anyone thinks it's as

    > simple as reading a book, taking a test and

    > hanging out a shingle, they'll never be willing

    > to shell out the hourly rate for a professional.

    > 37 years and still learning.


    > _A

    > HREF="http://www.heatinghelp.com/getListed.cfm?id=

    > 98&Step=30"_To Learn More About This

    > Professional, Click Here to Visit Their Ad in

    > "Find A Professional"_/A_

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  • Paul Pollets
    Paul Pollets Member Posts: 3,656
    My 2 Cents...& Matt Michel's

    To quote a few from Matt Michel as he's posted "50 Observations on Service" at Contracting Business Mag:

    3.Labor is your most perishable commodity. You can’t inventory it. Thus, labor should carry greater margins than material, which can be sold tomorrow.

    9. People don’t understand the cost of service. They don’t comprehend what it costs to put a truck at their door. Thus, any hourly rate, no matter how low, seems like a lot to a consumer.

    25. Companies that do not charge enough to cover their costs, fund future growth, and generate a return on the owner’s investment are subsidizing the customer.

    44. People with less money can’t afford cheap solutions. They can’t afford to pay twice.

    49. People buy for their own reasons, not the company’s.

    50. People are interested in their needs and wants, not the company’s.

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  • Brendan_2
    Brendan_2 Member Posts: 14
    DIY Boiler Installer

    Mr. Frustrated.

    Just a few words of advice- without diluteing your cause of frustrating.

    As a home owner myself but with many years of mechanical experience I assure you you do not be come a boiler installer after a few sessions in ciber space.

    I for one would not wish to reside within the property ajacent to or anywhere in the same block after your install is completed.

    No disrespect intended you are dealing with human life here and the consequenses could be disasterous,Take my advice and at least work under the supervision of a competant mechanic.You"ll be glad you did

    Good luck Brendan
  • Dave_4
    Dave_4 Member Posts: 1,405
    10-15 years service life for a vitodens 200?

    ...That can't be right. ?
  • Robert O'Brien
    Robert O'Brien Member Posts: 3,537

    DIY pics.The boiler is 18 months old in first pic.In the second pic that is this guys idea of a boiler relief valve.They finished basement and relief valve was leaking and hard to access.His solution? Put a plug in it,remove the boiler drain being used for purging and install a domestic relief valve there.I didn't ask how he purged it

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  • joel_19
    joel_19 Member Posts: 931

    Dear sir,
    Please visit our web site or those of some other contractors here and take a look at the quality of the piping work "that any apprentice can do". I'm sure just like us they have hundreds of pictures of jobs they can't even fit on the site.

    Yes you could save money doing it yourself , so? You can save money doing practically anything yourself. Today I paid 3.18 for a bagel and coffe I could have made at home.
    I chose not to make it at home , I did not however insult the kids schlepping the coffe or my nieghbor who owns said coffe shop as being overpaid for something that i could have made for 37c cents tops. Even though i could never afford the coffe kings house , car collection, or trophy wife.

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  • Perry_2
    Perry_2 Member Posts: 381
    Do you have better information

    While it can be hopped that it last longer; I have not been able to find any really good information (if any at all) that it will last longer.

    If you have better information - let me know.

    Regardless, my point stands. Even if I have to change the boiler ever 10 years - it is cost effective to do so compared to putting in a normal 85% efficient conventionally fired boiler. Any more life is a bonus.

  • Perry_2
    Perry_2 Member Posts: 381
    You have a point - but...

    I already have two heat loss studies on the house (one of which I paid for as part of an energy study); and heat load estimates from this forum based on my heating system. He essentially nailed the heat loss estimate. If I wanted a detailed analysis from him - he would have provided.

    A detailed estimate will be forthcomming on both Options A and Option B. One of my first post on this forum was concerning if the more costly modulating condensing boiler was worth it (i.e. had a reasonable payback). Now I will get the numbers and see.

    He called ahead and made sure I was home (actually - he called to see if I was available as he had some free time and our appointment wasn't until saturday; but I had told him to call early and see if he had a break).

    I have no problem with the concept of doing a paid estimate for those who know what they are doing. Only problem is how do I find out until you show up and we go over the situation. Not even lawyers charge for the first visit.

    The advantage of multiple estimates from multiple companies is that it gives everyone a chance to put their best foot forward and convince the homeowner that you are whom they wish to work with. The topic of this thread is about homeowners who want to do some of the work themselves and are looking for a heating contractor to help them for the most complicated, skilled, and perhaps the part that regulations require the contractor to perform (natural gas line work, etc).

    I am aware there are homeowners who are real klutzes, and who make things worse almost beyond comprehension. However, there are also a number of sharp homeowners who may already be crackerjack technicians in some field. While there are not many who could probably do everthing that the heating contractor can do (if they had all the tools) - there are a few of those out there.

    You are right as well that there are homeowners who jerk people arround. There are also contractors who do the same. There are homeowners and contractors who won't jerk you arround. Most people get what they expect. I've worked both sides of this fence for both home items and industrial plant field service contractors. I'm no longer interested in being a road hog going all over 1/2 the nation (a few years was enough of that) and now am back in a plant - and hire and supervise contractors for those tpes of services (amoung my various duties).

    So my take on estimates: Estimates are worth what you put into them. But, perhaps you are putting the wrong effort into them. What are you selling? What am I buying? It has to match; and estimating is how both homeowners and contractors find the match.

  • Bill Nye_2
    Bill Nye_2 Member Posts: 538
    Good points

    Valid points made by all. I am a contractor and a home owner . I DIY a lot of things. I have a lot of skills. I also have a automobile hobby. I DIY that too. What I don't know I learn.

    I have seen work done by homeowners that would put most tradesmen to shame. I have also seen diy work that was unsafe, unsightly, and inoperable.

    So......... I have not returned calls, I have not shown up, I have completely forgotten appointments. That doesn't make me an unskilled craftsmen, just a lousy businessman. I got sick and tired of being sick and tired so now I am no longer a contractor. Now I am a skilled craftsman who works for a company. I start the day after Labor day.

    This labor you talk about, that anyone can do, it takes a while to learn how to do it. That is worth something.

    In the plumbing and heating trade in CT. you are required to attend a vocational school or attend apprentice school and serve a 4 yr apprenticeship. This is a fulltime job at least 40 hrs a week. To become a licensed contractor, after you serve apprenticeship, you must work 2 yrs for a master plumber or heating contractor.

    Like my Dad used to say, "If you're so da#$@d smart, do it yourself.

    When my boss and myself replace a boiler in one day I think a great deal of skill and experience is required. We show up , on time, with all of the equipment needed, and leave at the end of the day with the work area cleaner and neater than we found it.

    Any tradesman in any trade should be better equipped to perform their task than a novice, beginner, or first timer. Many mechanics have 10's of thousands of dollars worth of tools. Are you gonna cough that kinda money up to do a one time project?

    Yeah , you might get it in and it might work ok. I could be
  • Perry_2
    Perry_2 Member Posts: 381
    While I'm not the original poster

    I'll take a crack at this.

    I have no problem paying a skilled installer who showes up in there truck with all the equipment tools, parts, and normal contingency itmes for the job (or at least the day) in the range of $100 per hour. A skilled assistent, $50 per hour (perhaps more if it is specialized work).

    What bothers me is when you call the heating contractor because your pilot light is out on an old boiler. Guy shows up 2 hours after he said he'd get there. Opps, need a new thermocouple (30"); and doesn't have one on the truck that would work because "he's been so busy that he hasn't had time to order them..." Runs to the hardware store and gets a 36" thermocouple. Pulls the burner assembly from the boiler to check it out; and finds it needs cleaning. He needs a wire brush; but doesn't have one of those either and told me he'd have to go buy one at the hardware store. I stopped him and dug out my wire brush. Then he finds a loose fitting in the burner assembly; but doesn't have the right size wrench (3/8" or 7/16") and heads for the door again saying he'll get one at the local hardware store. I again stop him and dig up my wrenches.

    Finally he gets done; but it is obvious that he is taking his time...

    All billable time.... because it was "afterall - my service call."

    True story from years ago.

    Should I be paying for service like this.

    Do you job well; be a professional, and I won't quibble about the rates. I know what you need to make to support a busines and earn a living.

    On the other hand; I once kicked a contractor offsite at work midstream and never paid them a penny. I had to hire another to do the job.

    Know something; I get paid a very good wage and when I was working as a contractor; if I or my coworkers made a mistake - or things went wrong on the job where we had - or should have had - some degree of control; the invoice reflected that (and there was even a job once where we did not bill at all; we appologized for the delays and the mid stream problems and left them with a qualtiy job in the end - for free. They were really surprised and gave us a second chance on the next project).

    What is reasonable to pay depends on what is delivered.

    Any ideas on how to know upfront who is really going to deliver?
  • Mark Hunt
    Mark Hunt Member Posts: 4,909
    Thanks Perry

    you answered the question.

    Perry says $100/hr is acceptable but the service should match the fee. Regardless of $/hr I agree that customers have a right expect good service for their money.

    So does anyone else have a $/hr fee in mind? What do you all think we should charge?

    Mark H

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  • Gordy
    Gordy Member Posts: 9,546
    exceptable hourly rates

    I will take a stab. Alot of the numbers depend on area of the country. I will say 185.00 an hour. I'm a tradesman "carpenter". Gotta think about the WHOLE package per man hour homeowners that are viewing. This is not what the tradesman or the owner of the company gets in thier pocket. Its the cost of doing business.

  • Gordy
    Gordy Member Posts: 9,546

    Do they have pigeons in the boiler room?
  • Ray Landry_2
    Ray Landry_2 Member Posts: 114

    To the original poster: Where are you located? Have you checked your local codes to see if an UNLISCENCED person can pull the required permits for this install? Also, I just can't see the validity in a few of your points. You mention not being willing to pay a standard service charge for 'grunt' work like pipe sweating and parts running. Is this a joke? When you get your car repaired at the auto shop do you expect to have the time withdrawn that the skilled mechanic spent doing things that an untrained person could have done like loosen nuts and bolts and lift things. NO WAY! My old man always had the saying 'if it where easy, everyone would do it.' What we do may sometimes appear easy, but that is do to years of experience. I would really love to know what the quote that you thought was too high was, and what you think is a fair hourly rate for contractors.
  • johnnyd
    johnnyd Member Posts: 51

    In the upper midwest, I think a licensed hydronic tech with ability to design, install, and service should get between $20 & $40 per hour for his labor....then add business liability, health, and disability insurance; vehicle and building costs and depreciation; tool cost and depreciation; certifications; and other miscellaneous costs and divide those costs by 2000 hours, and you'll come up with a fair and reasonable hourly rate.

    I'm just a DIY'r that did a stem to stern radiant floor heat system in my own house.
  • Tim_33
    Tim_33 Member Posts: 83
    You assume

    that hack job was done DIY. I have seen so many poor jobs done by supposed professionals, as I am sure most of you have, that those pic's mean very little. 50/50 chance it was DIY, not knowing specific details.

    Attention to detail, high quality workmanship, knowledge and experience to do it right the first time, etc., are not qualities of all, or of only, paid service providers. Being able to do a job right and in a timely/profitable manner, being able to stand behind and guarantee the work and having some of the specialty tools to do so differentiate a professional from an amatuer.

    I get paid for my time and my expertise. Some jobs are done by the hour, some are fixed fees. I quote a price for me to do the job right. If that's too much, then good luck, good day and thanks for your time. I don't take it personally, because I know. I know that my services are valued and are valuable.
  • Tom K_3
    Tom K_3 Member Posts: 4

  • David Woycio
    David Woycio Member Posts: 107
    Work quality

    Been following post(s) and just had to ad 2c.

    Sounds to me that the frustrated homeowners have not found the right contractor. Most of our work (as I am sure other competent contractors) comes from referrals.

    We send our trucks to be service from the same company that has serviced our trucks for the last 24 years. Why... because I know that the work will be performed professionally, honestly, and completely. If they're too busy, we'll wait to set an appointment. Could I do the work myself.. probably but not as well as they're trained mechanics. It's usually the little things when performing a job that sets a good install or work from a great one.

    I am sure if you let someone on this site let you know where you are located then a competent contractor(s) could be referred to you.

    Easy to find someone who is marginal in they're field. Sometimes a little more difficult to find the one that excels. Ask for referrals, years in business, and familiarity with the equipment you are installing.

    One last comment. This site is like no other. Where else can you receive FREE consultation from a pool of professionals that have 20, 30, 40, years of experience in the heating field.

  • amhwrite_2
    amhwrite_2 Member Posts: 4
    What can be said?

    There is a little bit more to our trade than putting pipe together with leak proof joints! I’m not even going to try to explain! On this particular occasion the DIY may or may not have done a good job, that remains to be seen! I hope it is done right though! I once sat in an emergency room and watched my Dad get about twelve stitches in his hand. I was too young at the time to see the bill though! Why couldn’t we go to the local pharmacy and by a suture kit and let me stitch his hand? It was pretty cut and dry, I mean all they did was clean his hand and stitch it, any person with reasonable intelligence should have been able to do it! Why did a Doctor have to do it, and charge a large fee to boot? Are they are just trying to lock up all of the medical work for themselves and hide behind all their education & experience? I think not!
  • Dave_4
    Dave_4 Member Posts: 1,405
    Why I'm a DIYer

    I'm in the midst of DIYing what probably would have been an upwards of $40k mechanical overhaul in my home had I paid someone else to do it. I replaced a 10 year old Burnham/Amtrol combo with Vitodens/Vitocell, changing from baseboard on the first and second floor to radiant in the (to be finished) basement and staple up on the first floor, and maybe european radiators in the bedrooms if I need them.

    For my interim heating system, I designed and installed a tekmar outdoor reset based injection system off the Burnham for hydronic FHA through my Unico.

    At the outset, I got a couple of quotes for the boiler replacement and first floor radiant. One of the quotes I got, for only the boiler and first floor radiant was in the neighborhood of 25K. This was from a very competent contractor specializing in these kinds of installations. A *lot* of that was labor, as I remember.

    The decision to go DIY is many faceted. It would be fair to say that part of the reason I went the DIY route was because of the money. Another part, as another poster mentioned, was the lack of transparency. Perhaps more important than either of those two, maybe *most* important, is I just really enjoy the process. One problem with getting a contractor to do the work is that (if you're lucky) it happens so fast that you don't have time to consider alternatives - for boiler placement, things like that. Sometimes you just don't know what you're getting. Did they grind off all those staples before they put the plates up? Is that really the best routing of the pipes to avoid framing conflicts? etc. On the other hand, I'm coming up on the beginning of my third year since beginning the renovation. But I can't say I'm unhappy or frustrated about it.

    I got the Vitodens/Vitocell and associated parts at a good discount from a mail order place in NY.

    I worked with NRT to put together plans for the mechanical system.

    I have permits for all the work that's being done, and I worked with a licensed plumber to install the gas for the Vitodens, and approve my sweating. I actually had a problem with the Vitodens for which I had to call in an experienced contractor, recommended by the local Vitodens rep, to help me fix it. I was fully prepared to pay what I needed to (would have been about $700), but thankfully it was all covered under warranty. These are the folks who I plan to use for maintenance.

    I will use contractors when I need or want the expertise, and/or I need a part of the work to be approved by a local inspector. In general I don't have a problem doing that. However, it is hard to find contractors willing to work with a DIYer. I have been lucky to find some very good ones willing to do so.
  • Bill Nye_2
    Bill Nye_2 Member Posts: 538

    Howie, you sir are an exception. You investigated your project thoroughly and proceeded with a plan.

    Many others do not spend the time researching like you did and get in way over their heads. The results are second best.

    The material costs the same amount if it is applied properly or "not so " properly. The end result is what matters.

    Not all contractors are equal, it is sad but true fact. Time and money are always a factor in any project. Some of the pictures on the wall here of truly amazing installs must have something to do with an open checkbook.
  • The Boiler Dr.
    The Boiler Dr. Member Posts: 163
    the value of quality

    Interesting dialogue here. Each one of us works hard for our money, irrespective of our chosen field of expertise. Each and every one of us is looking for the same thing. VALUE
    Sometimes this value is not visibly recognized as it is intrinsic in the finished product.
    Some of us are so very skilled at what we do, we make it look easy to others.
    Thus the logic of the lay person: "that was so simple, it can't cost that much!"
    Many years of training, learning by "mistakes", blood, sweat and yes tears helped us aquire the knowlege to "make it look easy".
    THAT is the VALUE we as trades people bring to the project.
    That is where the consumer has the opportunity to realize the VALUE for their dollars. AS my father always told me: " If you can't take the time to do it right, how are you ever going to find the time to do it over to make it right!!!"
    Just my snipit of input

    To Learn More About This Professional, Click Here to Visit Their Ad in "Find A Professional"
  • so true....

    So true of we are saying, what are we doing for those lowest bidders, so called handymans jobs that "customers" come running to us pros to help them out for "free" ? Like the other posts; questions about the recent steamer install ( main take off between the boiler supply) and other with undersided header? Yes, I'll give my inputs but to some of the posts ( guy "yelling" KEEP IT SIMPLE STUPID ) is not gonna get much help from me...
  • Perry_2
    Perry_2 Member Posts: 381
    Why homeowners created the system

    I thought this morning I'd approach this from the other angle.

    A little background: The reason I'm replacing the boiler is not because it dosn't work. It does. It's not because I'm upset about the amazingly low energy efficiency and the winter fuel bills; which are a modest inconvience.

    Its becasues on a few days in the winter - when the wind blows just right... exhaust gases get blown back into the basement. I have asthma and I'm extreemly sensitive to that (a health issue), and need to avoid the basement on those days. When I first noticed this I called my heating contractor and he sent his brother over with a meter to ensure that their was not a Carbon Monoxide problem (that would have warranted a quick boiler replacement back in February). Since I try to avoid credit when I can - that I could survive till summer by avodind the basement on when the wind blew like that - and I wanted to research options - I felt that I could delay the project untill the summer when I had more time to research and should have the cash.

    However; one item to note about the visit in very late January. I asked about how much was I looking at: The simple answer came back; not sure as my brother does all the specific quoting and boiler sizing, but worst case figure $3000 for the boiler of this capacity, $1000 for a power vent/air supply system out the side of the house, $1000 for installation and remoaval of existing boiler and hot water heater.

    Concerning the Labor: I figured in my head that it would take a 2 person crew about a day (or at least one person all day, with a helper for half the day) - and thought $1000 would be fairly reasonable (I live in the midwest and you can buy a reasonable mid 50's - early 60's 1200 - 1500 Sq ft house with a large yard for $100,000+: i.e.; cost of living is low compared to many areas in the US).

    So I rang up $6000 in my head; and said OK - that's about what it cost; I knew when I bought the house that the boiler was old and that I was going to have to replace it someday.

    What I suspect is that some homeowners have several reactions; OH MY GOD - $6000: $1000 for labor; what the ....? $1000 for a power vent out the side of the building: I don't need that (and truth be told; I don't need that either - but had requested that. I just want to be able to tear out the chimney in the future and use the space that it occupies to run air conditioning duct work to the upstairs of the house - and to run additional wiring upstairs as well).

    Then there are people who go: I wonder how much a boiler cost; read the nametag on the boiler (135,000 Btu/hr output): and go price a boiler on the internet. The find that they can buy a 130,000 btu/hr natural draft boiler for about $2200, including free shipping. If they have any smarts they discover with a little effort that they only need a 60,000 Btu/hr boiler and can buy a very high efficiency condensing boiler for the same or less, or a conventional boiler for less. Amazingly all these sites claim that these replacement boilers are "easy to install."

    Now why should I let the contractor get $800 profit on a boiler.... It should be a lot less; like 10%, or maybee 20% max of their cost.

    The other thing they don't know is that th e "Easy to install" claims in the Mfr's literature is aimed at the contractors who are experienced at installing boilers.

    Easy to install; huh; well I should be able to do that... What they don't know is that you probably cannot directly connect the high efficiency modulating condensing boiler to their application; and that indirectly connections may not be easy.

    So they are running in their head; you know, even if I have to hire a contractor to hook up the natural gas - I could save thousands by doing it myself. Besides, some of the web sites post "success stories" of people who have done it - how hard can it be. The forget that there are always a few percent of the people who can do things by natural inclination, training, or with the right freinds. The other thing they usually don't realize is that they are not likely to be in that group.

    Now if I could save thousands... That must mean that the contractor is ripping me off... So the homeowner then talks to the contractors with the belief and attitude that the contractors are ripping them off; and no contractor is going to help them one bit because the homeowners attitude is clear.

    What is the solution from a contractors perspective:

    You need to explain up front that:

    1) You will be sizing a boiler to meet the current house needs and not old rules of thumb that are not valid.

    2) You that as your first option that you will be selecting a boiler that can be retrofit into your existing system with the least amount of system work (lowest installation cost).

    3) You will, if applicable, also offer a boiler with a much better efficiency; but that it will cost more to install becasue of changes that need to be made to the system in order for it to properely operate with your existing system.

    4) You will be making a "gross" profit on the supplied boiler because that money, in part, offsets the cost of your tools, trucks, insurance, and other business expenses.

    5) If the homeowner wishes to buy an appropriate quality boiler on their own you would be willing to install that boiler under the following terms and conditions (...). Feel free to emphasize that you would not be willing to install a low quality boiler due to the long term affects on your reputation when it has trouble in the future.

    6) Your labor rates pay not only wages but offsets the cost of your tools, trucks, insurance, your building, and other business expenses. If you are installing a customer purchased boiler and removing the old ones; you charge appropriate to offset the business cost of the tools and equipment needed to change the boiler.

    7) Installation of a boiler, and doing all the piping and wiring takes a lot of skill in order to do a quality job relaively quickly with minimal impact on your home and personal life. Our lead technitions have skills and tooling that most other people do not, which allows them complete the work in a reasonable short amount of time.
    Doing it wrong could have significant consequenses if their is a gas leak or improper operation of the boiler. Major property damage, injury, or even death could occur with an improperly installed boiler.

    8) Manufactures literature that states a boiler is "easy to install" was talking about how it would be "easy to install" for an experienced boiler installer. The Mfr's did not design their literature and tech manuals for inexperienced people. Also explain that the fact that this boiler is "easy to install" actually ruduces our installation charge from if we were to install a boiler like this (and point to the old one).

    9) (If applicable): You may be able to assist with certain parts of the work if you would like to hold labor rates down. Once we have designed the system and roughed in supply and return piping you could for example install the underfloor radient heat tubing. This will require that you meet a schedule and follow instructions on how to install the tubing. We reserve the right to perform the installation ourselves if you cannot keep the needed schedule or have problems doing the work.

    Overall; I think that would help most homeowners understand a few things; and reduce the number of people who try to become DIY's.

    Also, if you do run into one of those rare Homowners who are crackerjack technitions and have the skills and temperment to do most of the work - and do a high quality job in the process. Please work with them. It won't hurt your reputaion to be known as someone who will work with an appropriately skilled homeowner - and it may gain you some great business in the future. These people can respect the skills and cost involved in a contractor providing the same level of work. Word of mouth between like minded people and you could get someone like me who feels that my time is more valuable spent doing other things than modifying my system and installing a different new system.


  • First of all concerning the price of equipment, I can buy a boiler cheaper than a homeowner. No supply house that I deal with is going to give a homeowner my cost. When I mark up the boiler, it usually is cheaper than what the H.O. would've paid from a supply house. The H.O. doesn't realize that they are paying retail and I buy wholesale. The benefit to the homeowner buying the equipment from me is that I handle any warranty issues. Let's say I install the boiler and it leaks. I'll get another one that day and fix the problem. If you bought it online, how are you going to get heat or hot water that night? I have a good relationship with my supply house. They'll open up on a Sunday for me if it's an emergency. That kind of service is similiar to what I provide. If your heat is out on a Sunday, I'll come out and fix it for you. I'm not a big fan of buying important stuff from the internet. Just me.
  • Plumdog_2
    Plumdog_2 Member Posts: 873
    So Perry

    Do you figure (you seem good at figuring) that with your asthma condition and the occasional exhaust gas coming into the basement you can avoid the basement and all will be well? I guess if you can't smell it then it won't hurt you. Good luck old pal.
  • Perry_2
    Perry_2 Member Posts: 381
    Risk / Benifits


    Given the fact that this "blowback" only occured on rare days, and the vast majority of the time there is a very solid natural draft up the draft box; and the other things going on in my life at the time I chose to take the risk. Figuring that I could indeed avoid the basement on those days for the rest of the heating season (this occurs on a swirly & pulsating type windy day). Please also note that I am taking care of the situation this summer.

    If the problem had been more pronounced, or there was Carbon Monoxide issues - I would have replaced the boiler sooner (and perhaps within the week of when I noticed it).

    I am sure this occasional condition has always existed - and perhaps why I was so ill at times in the past (and perhaps I only noticed it because I had gotten several health issues well under control).

    What are the advantages of waiting in my specific situation:

    1) The quickest fix would have been a conventional boiler piped to the existing chimney (with a forced draft fan); using indoor air for combustion. Upon further investigation it is unlikly that a boiler inlet/exhaust vent can be successfully routed out the back of the house. Routing out the side is going to take a varience from the city (and there is only one place that you can successfully route out the side anyway; a long way from where the old boiler sat).

    I clearly would not have been given the option for a condensing boiler by my heating contractor either.

    So a rush replacement would have been a conventional plain jane boiler that I don't want installed using the existing chimney that I wish to tear out in the future.

    2) I would have had to borrow the money in February. Not saying I can't do that if I must; but that's not a good situation either. Today, I can pay cash.

    3) I now know about condensing boilers with setback curves; and what can be done with them - and how to install them to make them work on a system like mine. It has taken considerable time on my part to do the research on this issue and the different brand options out there.

    Ahh you say; a Heating Professional could have told you all about that: Not a single person who has come through from several heating contractors has convinced me that they know how to do what I am proposing. One talked about condensing boilers - but then was wondering how to adapt it to my system (monoflow T) because he couldn't pump the system water directly through the boiler. One never even submitted a bid on the job. The guy who is probably getting the work does not normally work with condensing boilers for reasons of his own (and after talking with him several times I understand his reasons). However, he is willing to work with me and willing to buy and install a Vitodens 200 for me (with low loss header, etc); in part because I have done the research - can tell him how the controls work and the advantage - and because he recognizes the Viessmann brand as a high quality boiler. Personally, I'm hoping that once he sees how it can be done - and done right - that he will start offering more Vitodens 200's in the area (I will be the lead installation in my area).

    4) Replacing a boiler in the middle of the coldest time of the year - with pipes running up the outdoor walls - has another set of risk. A "minor" delay in the job and I've got a very cold house and perhaps frozen piping and radiators (or a real mess from emergency draining of the radiators onto my wood flooring).

    In summary I see the following key advantages to not doing a panic install the first week in February: A modulating condensing boiler that will probably be 20% more efficient over the heating system than a conventional plain jane boiler. I will also have abandonoed the existing chimney which allows the future upgrade of the house with central air and some modern wiring. No major credit needs.

    The loss was the fact that I had to avoid the basement for sevaral days (total) in February - the April timeframe.

    Another thing: At least I was able to recognize the situation and knew what I had to do.

    That may not satisfy you; but, we all make decissions on risk of a course of action. I really wanted to look at boiler options; and did not have the time in the middle of the winter without upsetting other things. Tnis summer I have had the time, and also have the money for the job.

This discussion has been closed.