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Cost guide: plumbers

Plumbing problem? Avoid unnecessary cost and take preventative action to avoid spending a fortune on common plumbing and boiler issues.

Boiler has no hot water

Type of job

Based on a hot water direct (electric) unvented cylinder.

What adds expense?

“If this problem is caused by a faulty immersion heater which must be replaced, the cylinder needs to be drained, refilled and vented,” says plumber Danny Morris from MJC Plumbing.

If paying by the hour, you should allow 1-3 hours for this work to be undertaken. The larger the cylinder, the longer it will take.

How can I make it cheaper?

“You can reduce the likelihood of the immersion heater failing due to a build-up of scale by fitting a limescale preventer,” suggests Danny. “This is especially recommended in hard water areas.”

 

Ask to have a new drain cock fitted when the cylinder is drained. It's common for drain cocks to scale up which increases the time needed and therefore the cost to drain it in the event of a problem.

Clear a blocked sink

Type of job

Clear a blocked kitchen sink where the cause of the blockage is unknown.

What adds expense?

Most plumbers will charge by the hour for a job like a sink which fails to drain, so a blockage that’s hard to clear will cost more.

“Large blockages are often caused by disposing of cooking fat down the sink,” says Danny. “This causes food particles to stick together, creating a blockage in the pipes which can be difficult to clear.”

How can I make it cheaper?

“Ask your plumber to install a ‘rodding eye’. This allows easy access to clean the waste pipe in future,” says Danny. “It’s an unpleasant job, but you could also do this yourself to save money.”

 

Avoid bad sink blockages by never pouring cooking fats down the sink. Instead, allow the fat to cool and then scrape it into the bin.

House has no heating or hot water

Type of job

Investigate and fix a lack of central heating and hot water. Based on a standard combi boiler in a small home.

What adds expense?

A costly boiler engineer call-out charge could be avoided by investigating the cause of the lack of heating and hot water yourself.

“Check all the simple things first,” says Danny. “Is the boiler turned on? Check the gauge – is there enough pressure? If there’s an error message on the boiler display, check the fault code in your boiler’s manual or look online. Sometimes the problem can be fixed without having to call out an engineer.”

How can I make it cheaper?

“You could vent the radiators to restore the system to the correct pressure yourself – look for tutorials for this online. “But, if you’re not sure what to do,” says Danny, “it’s best to call a Gas Safe-registered boiler engineer.”

Most gas fitters will charge by the hour for this type of work. Avoid paying more than you need to by clearing the area around the boiler and radiators before the engineer arrives.

Retrieving small items from waste pipes

Type of job

Recovering an engagement ring that's been dropped down the bathroom basin.

What adds expense?

Danny says: “Never run taps or flush a toilet should you lose a small item, such as a ring, down the drain. The jewellery could be washed into the main drain which will cause the job to take longer, cost more and dramatically reduce the chances of retrieving the item.”

How can I make it cheaper?

“Give the plumber good access by clearing all areas underneath and around the sink,” says Danny. “This will prevent time being wasted and costs mounting up once the plumber has arrived.”

 

Grates can be fitted to the waste pipe to prevent items being lost down the sink. Ask your plumber for details.

Leak through ceiling

Type of job

A leak coming from an upstairs bathroom and passing through the ceiling to the room below.

What adds expense?

“Time spent looking for the cause of the leak will add time to the job,” says Danny. “If you have a suspicion about the cause or have noticed any damp patches, tell your plumber at the outset to avoid wasting time.”

How can I make it cheaper?

“Prevent a small problem from turning into a big one,” says Danny. “Run your hand around all accessible pipe joints in the bathroom every six months, or so. It’s often leaks caused by a small drip that's been left a long time that cause damage.”

His final tip is "Keep an eye on the seals around the bath where there’s a shower above. In my experience, most bathroom leaks originate there."

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