One of the items that most frustrate seniors (and others!) who want to stay in their homes is the confusion over some basic plumbing needs and wants, as well as the cost of doing these things. In a recent job a client asked around to various plumbers what the cost would be of switching out her bathroom taps and she was quoted $500-$850. Another client was quoted $500-$1,000 for fixing her toilet which was running on. Both of these seem like far too much and perhaps were a case of price gouging, but some explanation is needed.
In this simple set of bathroom taps which I recently swapped out for a client, it only took me two hours because the underneath was reachable, the supply lines (where the water comes from) were in good shape and nothing broke! However, quite possible that while doing it the counter would have been incorrect for the taps, the supply lines or the shut offs could have broken and would require replacing, nuts would have been rusted on, etc. In short, a two hour job could have turned into five or six hours easily, which is why plumbers give you a high, rough quote, if you ask. They don’t know and are often called in only when the job is a dirty one :-).
Another scenario is for toilets. Many customers get gouged by contractors when they come in and “fix” a running toilet. To many people the parts in a toilet are complicated and require a lot of work. However, that’s not the case. Often the cause of a running toilet is the fill valve (the blue part on the left) or the flapper (the white flat plug in the bottom which stops the water from running out of the tank). Normally, either of these parts is around $25 and can be switched out in an hour or less. The handyman may have to go get the exact part but in general this is a 1-2 hour fix with parts. To understand what is broken, simply take off the back tank and watch/listen and then flush. All will be explained :-).
In summary, some fixes are easy and some are a lot more complicated than one would think. Not all handyman/contractors are trying to rip you off when things get expensive; while in some cases they are. Ask questions and above all, find yourself an honest person!