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Very nice people - but overpriced & hard-sell oriented - Review by AJ S | Gene Johnson Plumbing & Heating Inc

Gene Johnson Plumbing & Heating Inc


Very nice people - but overpriced & hard-sell oriented 5/17/2007

We have 2 rental houses in the Seattle area. We typically do most of the maintenance work ourselves since we are very experienced at remodeling houses. We live in Oregon, 6 hours away. We took a recent trip to Seattle to repair a punch list including a leaky hose bib. Thinking it would be a simple matter of tightening the nut or reseating the valve, we left that task to the end. When we discovered the bib was a frost-free type and was attached inside the house. We also couldn't readily find a replacement one at the home improvement store. So, we decided to head for home and call a plumber to repair the bib. The gal at Gene Johnson was very polite and indicated they had a estimate fee of $29.00, which would be applied to the repair should we use them. Thinking a hose bib repair would be pretty simple, I was not worried about the fee. The plumber got to the house promptly (within a few days). However, when he called with an estimate, he started out by giving me a list of other things he found that he recommended we replace or repair (we had not requested this walk through and REALLY hope he did not say anything to the tenant who will now think thing are in disrepair and expect us to provide other upgrades). I again asked how much the hose bib repair would be. Instead of giving me the price a second time, he pitched their "preferred client" program to us, which involves a charge of 6.95 per month and comes with a bunch of "discounts" on emergency fees and etc. --Because we are quite handy and do most repairs ourselves, I declined and for a third time, asked how much the hose bib would be to repair. He said he felt the hose bib was installed too close to the wall, and asked if we had had plumbing done recently. I said we had not, and bought the house 6 years ago in 2001 -- but the woman who owned it did have it completely replumbed at some point with all new copper pipe (the house was built in 1910). Because I am somewhat familiar with frost-free bibs and how they attach, I asked what he meant by "too close to the wall" and he seemed unable to explain it very well, other than to say he would need to replumb the area because the "cold had gotten to it since it was too close to the wall". At this point, I was unsure he was very familiar with frost-free bibs, since they extend into the wall and the valve is located inside the house where it's they extend as far as the bib is long. Plus, as the house is in Seattle where it barely freezes colder than about 25 degrees, and the basement is heated, I am not entirely sure the cold can "get to it". The only way it would be able to freeze in these conditions is is if a hose is left attached over the winter (which is what I suspect the tenant did this year since we have never had trouble with it before). After all this, he FINALLY offered up a price of $725 to replumb the inside configuration and replace the hose bib. Now I am no expert, but this hose bib is threaded on. I know the frost free bibs cost around $50. So, with a trip to the store to buy the parts, and a few hours for removal, thread tape, reinstall and some leak remediation if required, we are looking at MAX a 4 hour job. I am not convinced the piping needs to be completely re-routed... it appears whoever plumbed it originally did a very nice job (good solders, nice copper pipes, over-the-top frost-free bib when not really necessary in Seattle). I don't know what rates plumbers charge per hour, but I am thinking I can do this MUCH cheaper myself (we charge $100 per hour at our professional services business, so for 4 hours my time is only $400) It is a bit inconvenient to travel up to Seattle to do it, but we have friends up there to visit so we can get some R& R too. We have installed a hose nozzle on the hose to keep it from running until we can plan a trip time that is convenient. I wouldn't say you should or should not use this plumber, but be aware that they appear to be instructed to upsell, and might be a better match for people who really aren't capable of fixing things themselves. I am sure they do a very good and thorough job (For $725, they better!). I am somewhat disappointed we spent the $30 estimate fee as I would have hired a plumber in an instant to fix this problem had the price been a little more reasonable (say $300 or so). But I guess we did get a punch list of other "issues" we can consider fixing later on (he recommended a new water heater, re-plumbing the tub, etc.), so as an "inspection fee" I guess it's fine. more
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