Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Plumbers' Salary Equivalent to Surgeons'.

Plumbers must be some of the most overpaid professionals. Doctors are so expensive because of the cost of education and the fact that your life is in their hands. When I got to work Monday, I called some plumbers. After explaining the problem, they all gave me estimates of $300! I found two different companies that offered free estimates. (All the others charge $50 just to tell me what I already knew.) I made appointments with these two companies, just to know if $300 was really the going rate. I was afraid that maybe I didn't explain the problem well enough and they thought it was a much bigger job than it really was. So, they both came. (And because of delayed schedules and traffic, they came at the same time. Ha, that was awkward.)

One gave me an estimate of $382 and the other was $350. Absurd! I told one of them that I could not possibly justify paying that much for something so easily fixed. I could have taken a plumber, with the part, no more than 5 minutes. Literally. One plumber was very helpful and told me that I could easily do it myself and actually encouraged me to do so. I told him that I was afraid that if I tried any harder to get the nut off that I might bend or break the pipes. He assured me that I could yank pull as much as I wanted and I would hurt the pipes, and if I did, then I wouldn't really be any worse off than I already was. So, I thanked him and he left. Then I called some plumber supply stores and they all closed or would have been closed by the time I got there. So, I kind of gave up for the night since I couldn't get another part until the morning anyway.

Shortly after, my roommate got home, and I told her the events of the day. She encouraged me to try now to get the part off, just to see if I could and so it would be that much easier in the morning. I took her advice. I twisted that thing as hard as I could. And the valve moved!...But not the nut, which is what I was going for. So, to get the valve lined back up again, I twisted in the opposite direction, and surprise, surprise, I got the nut loose. I had been twisting it in the wrong direction the whole time! You always hear, "Righty tighty, lefty loosey," but when you are screwing it upside down, it would in fact be the opposite. (Now, to credit my roommate, she mentioned that she heard This Old House that sometime it is backward. I did listen to her and tried in both directions, but that was back when I was afraid I'd break the pipes.) So, I got it off...pretty easily too! But I still didn't have the replacement, so I decided I'd go to FHE, and get the new part first thing in the morning.

At FHE, I happened to mention my plumbing chronicle to a guy. After telling him that Home Depot did not carry the part, he asked if I had tried Lowe's. I hadn't. Right away I made a phone call to the local Lowe's. And they had it. Why hadn't I thought of Lowe's before?! It's not like it was located very far away. So, I went right over. By this time it was 8:30 and they closed at 9:00. They had two different ones. The employee suggested one, and I went with it. I didn't even think to check the pressure range. So, by the time I got home, I realized that it was the wrong one. And it was too late to go back. Could this have been drawn out any longer?

Again, stuck without immediate recourse, I decided to wake up extra early and get it done before work. I slept in an hour (6:45), immediately called Lowe's to make sure the other one had the right range, and left. I set to work as soon as I got home. My roommate asked if I could have it done in 15 minutes so she could shower. I told her that I sure hoped so. I didn't time myself, but I would say that it probably took even less than 15 minutes. And most of that time was waiting for the water to drain. I turned the main back on and it worked! I'll admit, it was a lot of effort for a little fix, but it saved me so much money and I got experience in the process.

So, the actual time it took (once I all the parts and such) was 10 minutes. Screw off, screw on. That easy. So, if you calculate that, taking off the price of the part ($100, which, he told me, they mark up 20% (yeah, right, more like 50%), those plumbers make $1,500 an hour!
           $250/10 minutes x 6 = $1,500/hour
That is ludicrous! Or to use my friends word, asinine!

What would have cost me $350 (without education or sense of accomplishment), actually cost me
   $10 for the wrench (which I actually bought before but thought I would
         never use, so I returned it)
   $39 for the new pressure reducing valve
   $.97 for Teflon tape
   $54.19 including tax.

So, all in all, I save $300 and got plumbing experience and a feeling of fulfillment.

And to illustrate the simplicity of this whole process, here are pictured step by step instructions:

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