Plumbing is one of the most important parts of your home — neither you nor most of your major appliances can function for very long without it. Luckily, it’s not one of the most expensive home remodeling projects to do.
The national average cost to install a plumbing system is $4,080, according to HomeGuide. Of course, the overall expense can vary greatly, depending on the parts you need and whether you’re replacing a current system or installing an entirely new one. Most plumbing projects run within a range of $2,280 to $5,120, though extensive jobs can even go up to $15,000.
If you don’t have the cash to cover a plumbing redo out-of-pocket, you may be able to finance the project. But first, it’s a good idea to understand the costs to plumb a house.
Calculating the cost to plumb a home
Plumbing job costs are often calculated on a per-foot basis. So, all you need is some simple math if you want a ballpark estimate.
The national average for installing new plumbing or major upgrades is $4.50 plumbing cost per square foot, according to HomeGuide. So, multiply your home’s square footage by $4.50 to get a sense of the overall cost. If you only need to replace current plumbing (“repiping a house,” in industry lingo), the cost drops significantly: $0.40 to $2.00 per linear foot.
The exact cost of repairs comes down to determining exactly how much plumbing you need to replace and how hard the section of plumbing is to access. Replacing a small section of piping while repairing a drain line, for example, will likely run between $225 and $1,169, according to HomeAdvisor.
What affects home plumbing costs?
Several factors will affect the cost of your plumbing project, including:
- Labor costs: The cost of labor will have a significant impact on what your plumbing project costs overall. The more hands needed on the project, the more the price tag will be. The cost will also be higher for more complex jobs that need more expert workers. Plumbers charge a rate of $45 to $200 per hour, according to HomeAdvisor.
- Size of the home or project: The size of the project will directly affect how much it will cost you. The cost to replumb an entire structure will be significantly more than smaller fixes, and the size of the house will also help determine the price. The more square footage that needs to be worked on, the more the project will cost you.
- New build vs. replumbing: The price of plumbing a new build will differ from what it costs to repipe a house. In general, it costs less to install the same length of the same plumbing material in a new build because there aren’t obstructions such as drywall and insulation in the way. When you have to repipe a house, you have to get through those obstacles to access the plumbing, which takes more time and work.
- Type of material: Pipes made of brass, copper and galvanized steel are known to have a longer life, but they will cost more upfront. These types of pipes are also rigid, so installing them is a time-consuming process. If you want to lower the cost of repiping your house, ask your plumber about cross-linked polyethylene tubing, or PEX, which is a flexible, plastic-based tubing that can fill in sections of plumbing. It’s cheaper on the front end and can be installed more quickly than other types of pipes because it’s easier to feed into your walls, which also helps keep labor costs down. That said, PEX has only been widely used for about a decade, so the jury is still out on how long it will last.
How to know it’s time to repair your plumbing
The best way to know your pipes need attention is to look at the exposed pipes in your attic, basement and utility spaces. If you see any signs of corrosion, including discoloration or dimpling, call a plumber to assess the situation.
You can also determine the health of your plumbing by watching for water leaks. Find your water meter and jot down what the meter is reading. Wait for two hours while making sure that no water is used at your house during that time before checking the meter again. If the reading is not the same, you probably have a leak somewhere.
If you notice any yellow or brown discoloration, call a plumber immediately. It could be a sign of rusty pipes. It will be worth the hassle. Left untended, problematic pipes can burst, and water damage isn’t cheap.
How to plan for plumbing installation
If the plumbing project is on a new build, the only thing you’ll need to worry about is the cost to plumb the house. If you’re replumbing a home you live in, there is more than just the cost of the plumbing job to consider. You will need to prepare for the work and the impact it will have on your daily life.
You are going to live in a construction zone for a while if work is being done on the whole house. Your plumber will work to minimize the invasiveness, but it’s almost impossible to avoid living with noise, holes in walls, dust and debris. You can prepare for the project by moving valuables and electronics and covering furniture.
The plumbing project will also likely need the water to be shut off for at least a couple of days. You may need to make alternate arrangements, such as checking into a hotel or staying with friends or relatives.
Tips to save on plumbing costs
Plumbing projects aren’t cheap, but there may be ways you can keep the cost down while replumbing your house:
- Be proactive. Don’t wait until you have a plumbing disaster on your hands. A plumber who is called to an emergency is going to be more expensive than a plumber on a scheduled job. Check your pipes regularly so you can stay ahead of significant issues.
- Set your plumber up for success. The material cost of plumbing a house is relatively fixed, but you can take steps to limit the number of labor hours to keep your overall costs down. Make sure furniture is cleared away from any areas your plumber will need to access, and check that the lighting is adequate in each area. Keep pets and kids out of the way, too.
- Consider your piping options. PEX piping is cheaper than metal piping options, both upfront and to install. If you’re concerned about the cost of your project, consider this alternative.
Cost estimates for plumbing projects
Plumbing projects encompass a variety of parts, and you’ll pay a different price to replace a water heater than to repair a sump pump. Here’s a brief overview of the average costs of some of the most common plumbing projects, based on the latest HomeAdvisor data. Bear in mind that the plumber or company you choose, as well as local labor costs, will impact the overall expense.
|Water heater install||$1,094|
|Water heater repair||$585|
|Septic tank cleaning||$411|
|Sump pump repair||$511|
|Water main install||$1,589|
|Drain line breakage repair||$696|
Financing options for plumbing costs
Extensive plumbing installations or replacements can cause financial stress. However, the expenses need not be paid out of pocket or your child’s college fund. The following are a few smart ways to finance a major plumbing repair.
Most banks and lenders offer personal loans for major renovations, also called home improvement loans, as long as you have decent credit and a source of income. Personal loans have a fixed interest rate and a repayment period between 12 and 60 months. The better your credit, the lower your interest rate. Since personal loans are also often approved in a short time, they can be ideal if your plumbing problems are urgent.
Home equity loan
If your plumbing project is a major expense, a home equity loan might be a better option. Most personal loans have a relatively short term, which means you’ll have to pay them off sooner with higher monthly payments. A home equity loan, on the other hand, offers a longer term and usually lower interest rates, because your house is serving as collateral for the debt. The interest may also be tax-deductible.
Home equity line of credit
A home equity line of credit (HELOC) is similar to a home equity loan, but instead of a fixed sum, you get a revolving line of credit. If you plan to complete your plumbing project in stages and want to pay for it as you go, you might want to consider a HELOC. You can use as much or as little as you need, and you can borrow from it as you go, making HELOCs an ideal option if you’re unsure what it will cost to repipe your house upfront.
The bottom line on installing or replacing plumbing
Ultimately, the cost to plumb a house depends on factors unique to the home itself and its existing plumbing. New plumbing can be costly, but it doesn’t have to be a punch to the financial gut if you’re smart about educating yourself and exploring your financing options.
Don’t cut corners on the plumbing if you’re building a new home. You’ll want it to last decades before any replacements or repairs are required.
And if you have to repipe your house? Even if the costs seem onerous, plumbing repairs or replacements are not something you should put off. If you do, you may find yourself in hot water — or rather, you won’t.