Plumber call out charges explained

Where is all this water coming from? No, not just the question Edward Smith, Captain of the ill-fated Titanic, must have asked himself but something all of us property owners, unfortunately, must ask from time to time. Perhaps your second question is – how much will a plumber charge to fix this? Read on to learn more about plumber call out charges.

In this article we’ll review the most common reasons for calling out a plumber and how much you’ll expect to pay for:

  • Maintenance (of the boiler, drains, etc.)
  • Leaks (on taps, pipes, or those tell-tale water stains on your ceilings)
  • Showers (not draining or showerhead is blocked up)
  • Toilets (blocked, bad flush or will not stop filling)
  • No hot water (your water heater is not doing its job)
  • Sinks (blocked up)
  • Sewer system backed up
  • Smell of gas (from your gas-fired boiler or your gas cooker)
  • No heating (might be leaky radiators or low system pressure)
  • Remodeling (you want a new bathroom or kitchen)

Plumber call out charges explained

Whatever the reason, there are some jobs where calling out a plumber is the only course of action and if it is one of the above leaky reasons, you need help quickly. How do you know you are not being ripped off? In this article, we will try to give you a guide to call out and fix charges as well as explain what the job will entail so you know what you are getting for your money.

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Plumber call out charges for the services listed above

Maintenance. For a typical service for your boiler, a plumber call out charge will be in the region of £65 to £150 depending on what the engineer finds and the type of boiler. Lots of firms offer a service contract where you can pay monthly or annually.

Leaks. Expect a leaky tap to cost between £50 and £110 for a plumber to fix – again depending on what he or she must do to fix the issue.

Leaky Pipe. Much depends on where the pipe is and how much work the engineer must do to fix the issue, but on average, expect to pay anywhere between £150 to £300.

Shower not draining. If this can be remedied by a simple unclogging then expect to pay a plumber call out charge of somewhere between £40 and £80.

Blocked toilet. Most likely remedied by a call out and then unclogging the toilet and/or the drain it flushes into – expect to pay £50 for a simple unclogging and on up to £150 if you need the drain unblocked as well.

Running toilet. You are looking at somewhere between £60 and £100 in plumber call out charges, perhaps more if he or she needs to replace part or all the cistern but perhaps less if they just need to make a simple adjustment.

No hot water. This really depends on the cause; worst case if your boiler has broken and needs replacement then this could cost anywhere between £600 to £2,000 depending on the model and size needed. If it can be repaired for anywhere between £100 and £400 depending on what needs fixing.

Blocked sink. If it is a simple unclogging then expect to pay somewhere between £50 to £80 for your plumber to fix a blocked sink..

Sewer system backed up. If the drain is easily accessible and can be addressed using rods to remove any obstruction then the cost will likely be £80 to £100. If it is a bit more involved and needs several attempts and possibly jetting with water then cost could rise to £175.

Smell gas? This is one where you need a certified professional to address the issue and should not attempt any DIY fix. Depending where the leak is and if it is simply a matter of fixing or changing a valve, for example, then the repair could be as low as £100, however if it is more involved and requires more time then that cost could easily rise. Either way, you need a certified professional to investigate potential gas leaks.

No heating. Like no hot water, much depends on the cause of the issue. If your boiler needs repair then it could be £150 for a replacement fan but that could rise to £400 if the repair is more serious and the faulty part more expensive.

Remodelling. If you search the web for costs to fit a bathroom, then the average cost for a new bathroom is said to be £4,500 but that really depends on how big the job is – if you just want a new pedestal basin and taps then £150 to £250. Toilet replacement? £120 to £180. New bath? Approximately £200. Tiling? Expect to pay £60 to £80 per square metre. New shower? Somewhere between £300 and £400. New kitchen sink? A simple mid-range stainless steel sink installation will set you back approximately £400.

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So, what exactly do you get for your money with a plumber call out charge?

Regular Maintenance

One of the best arguments for regular maintenance is obviously to avoid a more expensive remedy should your boiler pack up completely. Maintenance checks can spot the early warning signs and prevent any serious problems down the line. A gas boiler service will involve an engineer inspecting your boiler to ensure its controls are working as they should. They will check for any signs of corrosion and leaks. Ensure the gas pressure is as it should be and test the flue to make sure it is not emitting any dangerous fumes. They may well remove, inspect, and clean the main components including the burner, heat exchanger and ignition. Signs you need to consider servicing your boiler include: it has been more than a year since the last service, irregular flame, yellow flame, pilot light often goes out, there are new stains or smoke marks on the boiler or nearby.

Fixed Leaks

The first thing the plumber will want to know is where the water supply comes in so that they can turn it off. You will be able to tell it is off if you turn on your tap and the water stops flowing. The next thing is to identify where the leak is coming from. If you have a water stained ceiling, your plumber will be looking for water using appliances or pipes directly above the stain. If it is underneath a shower for example, the engineer will investigate how that water is finding its way onto the ceiling. If it seems to be coming from a pipe they will look for loose joints, cracks, and splits. If you have a leaking tap, the plumber will again want to switch off the water and then remove the tap heads, remove the stem, and then inspect for damage. If there is damage then it will need replacing but often it may be just a loosened or damaged washer and O-rings, which can be easily replaced with new ones. Fixing a leak could also include external taps, take a look at our page on outside tap fitting costs for more information.

Shower not draining

You will almost certainly know your shower is not draining properly when you find yourself ankle deep in soapy water each time you use it. If that standing water does not drain away quickly then you almost certainly have a problem. Blockages are most often caused by the build up of soap scum, dirt, and hair. Soap and long hair in particularly, combine to stick to the drain walls and over time build up into a clog. The obstructed drainage then manifests itself as that standing water left over after your shower. Your plumber will initially clean out any build-up either by hand or using a hook or special tool which removes any clogging material. They may back that up with unclogging chemicals as needed and possibly inspect your drain if removing the initial clog does not remedy the issue.

Blocked toilet and sewage backup

Most of the time a blocked toilet can be remedied by removing anything obvious yourself but occasionally this does not work and you need to call in the plumber. They will inspect the toilet and the drain it flows into. 9 times out of 10 there is something obstructing the flow of waste between the toilet and the drain which becomes backed up over time. Using rods, they can generally hook or dislodge the obstruction and then the flow will resume its normal function. Similarly, for sewerage problems, the engineer will use rods or possibly water jets to dislodge any blockage via the drains outside your property.

Running toilet

You can usually tell you have a running toilet by the continuous filling noise long after you last flushed it. You may also notice that your water bill is more than you expect. The plumber will look inside the cistern first. At the bottom, there is usually a rubber gate called a flapper. If the flapper is stopped from forming a seal correctly then it will result in continual filling. They may also inspect the float and refill valve to identify if they are loose or not operating correctly. Fortunately, replacement parts for these are generally inexpensive.

No hot water or no heating

There can be few things worse than stepping into an unexpectedly cold shower or the shower running cold just as you have lathered up. Similarly, as the days get colder, you want your property to be warm. In most homes, the water supply comes in from outside the property and when inside is directed to the boiler to be heated for hot water. Some of the heated water goes into your radiators around your house and cycles through the home, creating your heating system.

The rest of the heated water enters your hot water cylinder and stays there until you use it. From this cylinder, it goes to the hot water taps or showers in your home. Smaller properties may have a combination (combi) boiler which electrically heats your water on demand, so you will not have a hot water cylinder.

First thing your plumber will look at is probably the boiler to see if it is on and if (for gas and oil) there is a steady pilot light. If it is off or the light is out, they will attempt to switch it back on and relight it. They will inspect the pressure too as most modern boilers have an automatic cut-off as a safety measure should the pressure in your system exceed a certain threshold. Your radiators might need bleeding, which is the process for removing air from your central heating system. They will inspect the hot water timer to ensure it is firing at the right time and move onto the pipes which supply the water and distribute the heated result. The most common causes of pipe problems are they are frozen, blocked or leaking. Sometimes the engineer might recommend a larger hot water cylinder as a home full of people can often result in all the water being used.

Smell of gas

You can generally smell gas because it is mixed with a pungent sulphur compound before being distributed to homes. This is not something to investigate yourself. Gas is dangerous and you need a qualified engineer to handle any potential leaks. It is important to follow a few safety guidelines if you smell gas in your property: do not operate any light switches, do not smoke, or have any type of open flame near a potential gas leak. Do not start a vehicle in the vicinity of a leak. When the engineer arrives – and they should be called immediately – they will likely shut down gas supply to the property and then start testing to find the cause of the leak, which could include pressurising the system with air, soaping up exposed fittings and likely areas to pinpoint a leak in much the same way as if you were trying to find a tyre puncture. They may need to access lines in the walls or even underground if nothing obvious can be found in the home. Once they have found the leak, you will get a price for the repair and a timeframe to conduct the work.


People do not usually have an emergency need for a bathroom remodelling – so no call-out needed! We suggest visiting some showrooms to see what kind of bathroom suite or new sink and taps you require and then getting a quote from at least three different plumbers to get the best price for your requirements.

Generally, we would advise that you pay when you are satisfied with the work completed. Do make sure you understand the call-out charges and whether the first hour is included in the charge before you agree to have the engineer come out to you.

Plumber Call Out Frequently Asked Questions

Do I need to pay the call out charge upfront?

Generally, we would advise that you pay when you are satisfied with the work completed. Do make sure you understand the call-out charges and whether the first hour is included in the charge before you agree to have the engineer come out to you.

How long will the plumber take to arrive?

Obviously, this depends on how close they are to you and what they have on at that point. Most plumbers who offer a call-out service will provide some service level which tells you in what timeframe you arrive. Again, when you make the call, ask when they can get to you.

How do I know I have not been ripped off?

Firstly, it is important to remember most plumbers are honest, decent folk whose businesses depend on the good opinion and referral of their customers. Increasingly, positive social media reviews are an important mechanism for plumbers to advertise their quality and reliability – so it is not in their interest to rip anyone off.

We hope this article has put some of your fears of high emergency plumbing costs to bed. The majority of issues can actually be fixed for between £50 and £150 so fear not. If you’re in need of a more accurate plumber call out charge, fill out the form below and we’ll get someone to you as quickly as possible.

Rich Crossley
Having spent 30 years working all over the world for top-tier investment banks, I’ve owned and developed houses all over the world – Europe, the US and Asia. I’m now based back in the UK and involved in the property industry – oh, and I’m a keen DIY enthusiast!
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