It is important to understand that a plumber does not work on fixed pricing for any type of water main installation. It is often that a customer will call in and request a price over the phone which is not a good practice. The primary reason we require an on-site visit is to understand all of the pricing variables that may assist in establishing the cost.
The goal is to offer one price and avoid any additional cost due to unknown circumstances. When issuing a price over the phone the property owner is more susceptible to an error which will lead to additional and unexpected cost.
What are the pricing variables?
Material makeup – There are two common materials that are used for the standard water main installation in NYC. The first is copper which is more cost-effective and in many cases is installed in a shorter time span. The other is ductile iron pipe which can be more than triple the cost of copper and requires more time to complete the install.
The licensed plumber is required to follow the NYC DEP code which will determine which type of pipe is required to be installed based on the type (fire sprinkler or domestic) and size of the pipe.
Linear footage- How many feet of pipe is being installed? This will have a major impact on the overall price, if you are installing 150′ of pipe it will cost a considerable amount more than if you were installing 25′ of new pipe. The best way to get an idea of how many feet are required to be installed has to do with the location of the city water main. The location is usually determined by the side of the street that the fire hydrants are located on. In most cases, the city water main is located 2-4′ off the curb on the side of the street that the fire hydrants are located on.
If you are lucky enough to have the fire hydrant on your side of the street you will save a considerable amount in material, labor and restoration. If your neighbor across the street is required to replace the water main at the very same time it will cost an additional 25%-50% in most cases.
Size of pipe- The initial facts to consider is the overall pricing increase as the size of the pipe increases. When dealing with small copper water mains the overall cost may not go up much if we are talking about a size increase of 1/4″. The cost may jump thousands of dollars for larger size pipes so it is important to understand what your building actually requires before making a final decision.
Arborist fees- If there is a tree on your street it is important for the licensed plumber to consult with a certified arborist to determine if he is required on-site and if a parks department permits is required. It is important for the plumber to notify the arborist when required or it may result in a multi-thousand dollar violation by the NYC Parks Department.
When hiring an arborist the goal is to have a professional on site to avoid the tree from being damaged. If the plumber has no choice but to cut a root it must be completed under professional guidance to protect the tree.
Protected street status- If the roadway fronting your property has been resurfaced by the NYC DOT over the previous five years your water main installation will result in additional cost. Any roadway resurfaced within a five year period will remain on a DOT list until expired and as a result, is more costly for the plumber to work on. The additional cost is for the permit, way in which the roadway has to be restored and a soil compaction test which is to be completed by a licensed testing lab.
Tap connection- This is the valve that controls the water from the city main. If you are required to repair or replace a water main you must close this valve to stop the water before the repairs can be made.
In some cases DEP will require the tap to be replaced if it is not larger enough, unfortunately the plumber may not be aware of the undersized tap until he opens the roadway.
The more costly aspect of replacing the tap is the requirement for a visual DEP inspection. Currently the DEP is only required to inspect a domestic copper water main if the tap valve is being replaced. In many cases this will result in additional day(s) on site to complete the installation. The property owner is responsible for the additional mobilization/labor fees in this case.
The plumber is also required to utilize steel roadway plates overnight to protect the street openings.
Obstructions or utilities- When working below ground there is no way to determine if there is any interference of utilities or any other obstructions. A plumber may have an idea if he has worked on the same street, knows the area well or if he is made aware of any obstructions that may delay a project.
In some cases the interference will require the plumber to dig by hand or work very slow and cautious. Depending on the severity of the obstructions, the project may be delayed by hours or days. It is hopeful that the plumber is aware and includes these details in the initial estimate however, there are cases where an obstruction will result in a change order.
Location- There are areas of NYC that are known to be more favorable working conditions than others. For example, a water main replacement in Far Rockaway Queens usually includes sand like soil below street level. It is much easier for the plumber to install a pipe in these conditions.
If you are located in the Bronx it is almost a guarantee to find rock and boulders below street level. In this case the job will take longer, may require a backhoe, require dumping of the old dirt and carting in of clean soil. All of this additional cost is included in the plumbers’ initial estimate.
Working on a major thoroughfare will also add cost to your water main installation. There are several safety precautions that the plumber is required to follow. From flagmen to keeping multiple traffic lanes open at a time. These factors may also delay the work as the plumber is now required to work in sections as opposed to trenching the entire roadway at once.
What is the price range?
Assuming your property is on a narrow side street and the plumber is installing a 1″ copper water main from the existing tap, the installation may range from $4,500-9,500. Keep in mind that this range is for a standard job and does not include any variables. In many cases the installation may stay within that range with the additional variables but it is most important to schedule an on site visit to determine these facts.
There is a major cost difference when working on ductile iron water mains as many of the unknown variables now become a factor. The range for a ductile iron water main on a small side street is $15,500-$35,000.
If you are in need of a water main replacement please take the time to understand all of the variables and why they are required for your installation. It is also very important to meet with a reputable company at the location so both you and the plumber have an understanding of what is required to properly install the water main.