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What Does a Plumbing Estimator Do?

Wanda Marie Thibodeaux
Wanda Marie Thibodeaux

A plumbing estimator gathers information about a plumbing project and vendor or service provider costs to show clients how expensive the project will be. Much of the work is research-based, but because the estimator has to submit the estimate in writing and keep track of all the data used to construct it, excellent organization, writing and presentation skills are essential. The goal of the estimator is always to provide a competitive estimate that will secure a work contract for his employer.

As the job title implies, the most important duty a plumbing estimator has is calculating how much a plumbing project is going to cost to complete, including both labor and materials. Good estimators know the field well enough to sense what a rough price ballpark should be, but a truly accurate estimate of expense is not possible without project-specific research.

Pipe fittings.
Pipe fittings.

The research has at least four parts. First, the plumbing estimator reviews the scope of the project, reading through proposals and other documentation and attending pre-bid meetings. This data reveals the exact amount and type of plumbing materials that are acceptable. It also shows when the project has to be done, which might impact labor costs if the project is under severe time constraints.

A plumbing estimator provides an estimated cost for needed repairs.
A plumbing estimator provides an estimated cost for needed repairs.

After learning the basic needs of the project, the estimator goes to the project site if necessary, conducting a physical audit of the work area. The on-site investigation helps the estimator visualize how the work needs to proceed and identify any potential problems or special considerations that might necessitate additional or different materials. It also can show the plumbing estimator what routes to the work area might be most efficient, which ties into completion time and safe transport of the project materials.

Armed with information about the project and project site, the plumbing estimator contacts specific vendors and contractors who provide goods or services. He might do this initially by phone, but eventually, he usually asks the vendors and contractors for written quotes as evidence for the final estimate he calculates. Depending on the types of materials needed and how involved the plumbing is, sorting through providers can be extremely time consuming, but often, estimators establish networks and partnerships with good companies that speed up the data collection process.

Once the estimator has current quotes, he tries to find out how much similar projects cost. The goal is to see if the lowest price he can offer is competitive given the current market. If the estimate is not very competitive, he goes back to the project documentation and brainstorms ways to reduce costs.

Using all the information gathered during the research phase, the project estimator drafts a formal, detailed written estimate for the client. He submits the estimate according to the client's deadline, filing a copy in his own records for reference. If the client has any questions about the estimate, the estimator is responsible for answering the client's inquiries.

If the client accepts the estimator's figures, the estimator serves as a liaison between the client and the vendors and contractors previously contacted. He reviews the formal scope presented by the vendors and contractors, ensuring that everyone is on the same page and that the scopes comply with the project contract. It also is the estimator's responsibility to prepare an overall work schedule and manpower charts.

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    • Pipe fittings.
      Pipe fittings.
    • A plumbing estimator provides an estimated cost for needed repairs.
      A plumbing estimator provides an estimated cost for needed repairs.