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Question DetailsAsked on 1/11/2013

$350 labor only for: a ball valve & PRV at water meter & a new expansion tank on the water heater. Seems expensive. Get 2nd opinion?

Home warranty is covering parts for a new pressure reducing valve at my meter because the valve is going out. The plumber says he needs to install a new ball cutoff vavle and pipe also so "it doesn't appear to look like someone did a cheap job." In addition, apparently new city code requires an expansion tank on the water heater anytime a PRV is installed. Home warranty is paying for expansion tank also. Ball valve & pipe not covered. The price seems steep just for labor. I looked at the ball valve and pipes, they seem ok. Should I get a second opinion?

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4 Answers

Voted Best Answer

Do you know the age of the existing valve? Are you sure the existing valve is a ball valve and not a gate valve? Gate valves notoriously fail after prolonged periods of being either open or shut. The rubber washer breaks down or gets mineral build up on it and then it won't shut off. Whether the valve is bad or not it's a lot cheaper to replace it while he's got the area dug up and working on those connections than having him return to dig it up and pull it all back apart again due to a leaking valve. The valve will run around $20 and the pipe isn't much either (price depends on the type of pipe). Labor is an few minutes so he likely isn't charging you any more in labor costs to put the new valve in than he would to do the rest of the work anyway.

Like Vern said, he has a minimum amount he has to charge to cover his costs and still make money. Being a contractor of any sort is not cheap with all of the government regulation, higher fuel costs, tool costs, etc. It probably costs him at least $200 a day just to be in business if he's a self employed independent. More for someone with a shop and answering service, etc. Most plumbers around here are going to charge at least $100/hour with a minimum charge. It'll probably take him 2-3 hours to install everything so he's really not out of line. You might be able to find someone a little cheaper but check their reputations.

Todd Shell
Todd's Home Services
San Antonio, TX

Answered 7 years ago by Todd's Home Services


You should always get a second and maybe third opinion. You can find several great contractors on Angie's List at That being said $350 doesn't sound out-of-line. You have to remember that your cost doesn't just pay for labor. It pays the contractor's expenses (fuel, insurance, licensing, bonding, phones, utilities, etc...) Additionally, you pay for part of his vehicles, tools, and repairs on those items so he can stay in business and be available to work on your valves and water heater.

Answered 7 years ago by Vern


I have heard of plumbers charging much more then that. I think that cost is very resonable for what you are getting done. And yes those items are needed and most likely required.

Answered 7 years ago by leakdetective


From an engineers standpoint -

Installing a shutoff valve at the mete is standard - if you did not have one, you should have - otherwise you do not have a way to shut off all water in your house in the event of a leak on a pipe or appliance that does not have individual shutoff valve. Also, this provides a shutoff inthe event o future need to change out meter, PRV, or other plumbing. Short new pipe sections connecting this to the line and the valve would be standard - NEVER reuse old pipe when you are replacing an outdoor or meter valve - just not worth the future risk of failure, particularly because when a new valve or meter is put in, ALL corrosion is now going to occur in the old pipe immediately adjacent to it rather than being shared between the two, so reused pipe commonly goes out shortly thereafter at the threads or solder joint between new and old pipe. Many cities require new nipples and couplers/universals on both sides of new outdoor meters and valves for this reason.

If a pressure reducing valve is being installed on your service line this can act as a backflow preventer as well, so any over-pressure in your house system due to heating of boiler or hot water heater will not have anyplace to relieve the pressure, so could either burst pipes or (if things work as they should) blow off the excessive presure at your boiler or hot water heater overtemp/overpressure valve. The boiler (if you have one) should already by code have an expansion tank and backflow preventer, becdause this is considered non-potable water. The hot water heater, when the water heats up and expands in the tank, previously just pushed the cold water a little way back down the cold water pipe toward your meter. It will not be able to do this with the new pressure reducing valve, so your household piping would pressure up instead. Therefore, you HAVE to install an expansion tank to absorb the expansion of the water as it heats up - this is standard nationwide plumbing code requirement, not just something your city requires.

Ball valve and pipe materials probably only about $25-40 - not a big issue, in my mind. The $350 total labor seems perfectly reasonable to me - be sure he breaks out how much of that is for the warranty-covered work, then a second portion for the additional ball valve and pipe installation. This second portion I would guess will only be $50-100 of the total, since he is cutting into the system to install the PRV anyway - just a few more joints to make up.

Answered 7 years ago by LCD


I can explain the requirement of the expansion tank with the Pressure Reducing Valve. It is a very serious safety feature. Without the PRV the water in the hot water heater can expand back into the system without damaging the unit. However, when this valve is added it blocks this expansion back into the system. This can lead to the water heater overpressurizing and possibly exploding, if the pressure relief valve on the water heater malfunctions. The expansion tank allows for the water to safely expand and not overpressurize the water heater. If your curious about an exploding water heater, mythbusters did a pretty good demonstration. Hope this helps.

Answered 5 years ago by JCody

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