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Question DetailsAsked on 6/22/2017

While replacing a water heater the plumber is charging $750 just to bring it up to code. Am I being taken?

The 50 gallon gas Water heater and insulation are being covered by home warranty from a recent home purchase. The $750 out of pocket cost includes expansion tank, vent modification, gas regulator, flex line and insulation. Plumber said code changes every four years. Seems crazy to think anyone who replaces a water heater would incur such costs. I know these costs are inflated but assume they are building in their own labor costs. Just trying to figure out how reasonable/unreasonable this is. i.e. Expansion tank $175, Vent modification $195, Insulation $85
The warranty co will give me $1200 buyout. Should I take it and run, find another plumber?

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1 Answer


Sounds high to me - and if the warranty buyout (which in the fine print probably includes total buyout of the warranty too, not just this repair, so be careful about that scam) includes the water heater and its installation too you can bet they figure it will cost a bunch more than that - commonly about $1000-1500 WITHOUT any of the mods you are talking about.

Expansion tank sounds high by about 100%, vent (assuming this means a new direct vent flue for a high-efficiency water heater) probably in the range but highish, otherwise if gravity (through roof) vent modifications would normally be $25-50 to adapt to different height or such, insulation ? Gas regulator - unless for somereason you have unusually high gas pressure you do noto need that - the gas control vqalve on the water heater handles that. Modern water heater installs do not need any insulation other than what is built-in, unless he means just stuffing a bit of insulation around the flue pipe where it exists the wall. So yeah, sounds way high to me.

Unfortunately, many of the home warranty companies pay well below normal rates to their contractors, who then pad the bill by saying a lot of things are not covered and have to be be paid for directly to them. Sometimes with the concurrence of the warranty company, sometimes on the side without their knowledge - another reason why home wartranties are generally not worth the $ or the hassle.

Assuming you water heater went out/leaked, I would check the original warranty terms - unless it says things like code compliance upgrades or direct vents are not included, then their warranty to replace a shot water heater should include all those things as necessary to getting back to a legal, functional water heater - but takes a LOT of arguing with them and commonly at least threatening (if not actually doing it) filing a criminal fraud complaint with the local fraud unit.

Here are some previous similar questions about expansion tank and such FYI -

And if you do not have a pressure regulator or backflow preventer in your incoming water line, might check with code agency on the need for the expansion tank - generally only required if the household water sysstem is confined and cannot expand back out to the service lines as water heats. This is a common plumber upsell which may not even be needed.

Tough call, especially as you are cleasrly in a rush on this (out of hot water) but I would guess the $1200 would only at best cover a new water heater and standard install at best and maybe not even that, none of the other stuff, so I can't imagine you would come out ahead taking that - though another plumber might come down a few hundred on the other stuff, but probably not enough to assure that you will come in under the $1950 total tyehy are talking.

Note also, if you expect to keep the warranty for the long run, that if they do not do the replacement they may (if the buyout is not on the total policy) exclude the water heater from future coverage on the grounds it is not part of the equipment covered at the time the warranty was issued and was not installed by them (though some policies have a one-time replacement only limitation for any one item anyway).

My opinion about home warranties - no matter what you do you will end up losing - just a question of how much.

Answered 3 years ago by LCD

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