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Home Depot review: water heater installation surprise charges 16

Author of the review
10:06 am EDT
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I needed a new water heater to replace the one that went bad.
While this is a job that I can do myself, in view of my busy schedule, I decided to go with Home Depot to get the unit installed.
I went with a 50 gal electric heater priced at $349.00 and the installation charge quoted was $285.00. I felt that this was reasonable, considering that I needed the heater the same day and I was unable to get out of my busy schedule.
I was also told that if there are any code related improvements then I will have to pay extra.

The installer was a great guy and I have nothing to complain except for some additional items he said I needed to get into city code compliance. He said I needed the following items and they are detailed below.
1. A stand to keep the heater above the ground level. It is a galvanized 21" x 21" X 16" high stand capable of supporting the weight of the heater and the water.
I was told that it will be $195.00 plus taxes.
2. I was told I need a pan under the heater for collecting any leaky water. It is an Aluminum pan that looks like a Pizza pan, made of .032" aluminum. I was told that it would cost $90.00 plus taxes.
3. The 3rd and the last item I needed was a ball valve for water shut off, and I was told that it will cost $95.00.

These 3 additional items along with taxes were $391.00. I asked the installer why is it these trivial items are so expensive and I was told thats how much they cost. I had no choice at that time to go myself to the store and buy the 3 items for under $65.oo, becaus ethey can't wait while I am shopping. Basically I was put on a spot and had no choice and had to go with the situation I amm stuck in.
Since I am dealing with Home Depot, I said I was going to take care of it with them rather than the installer. On calling Home Depot about the exhorbitant prices for 3 items ( more than the cost of the new heater), they said they have no control over what contractors charge.
My question is: I pick Home Depot based on the fact that they select contractors based on their work integrity, service ethics, and their honesty and reasonableness of cost of services. I go with them because I feel that I won't get ripped off. In this case it was a grand day light robbery. The gal at the other end at Home Depot couldn't help resolve the robbery.
Just around the time of completion a Home Depot service manager stopped by to see if every thing went OK. I brought the above subject on the over pricing, and his answer was that these are fixed by Home Depot... (contrary to what I heard from the gal earlier who wanted to get my credit card approval for extras). He was just a good old boy nodded head and told me to see the store manager.
I found the stand, and the pan at Lowes for $34.98 and $15.98 respectively. The ball valve is no more than $15.00. So here I am being shafted $391 for 3 items that cost $65.00, and don't require any installation work.
What a rip off. It is not over. I am trying to get all the information on price of the items with a proof, and confront the store manager to explain the rip off, and if he can not resolve I will take it to corporate, and the blogs, and may be to the local TV station to let every one know.
Moral of this Experience: Never trust any body, be it the Joe Blow repair man or the corporation like Home Depot. They are all Crooks. They are all in it and work together to rip you off.
By the way, this comment above does not mean that all repair men are bad. I am only referring to those that rip off people. I know and I have dealt with some very honest ones and have recommended them to many of my friends.

Update by TR
Jul 18, 2008 11:07 pm EDT

Response to KD by the original author of the complaint.

Please take a moment to read my original complaint one more time.

You are accusing me that I am hiding some facts in my post and that I am not being honest.
Home Depot quoted me $285.00 to install the water heater. It includes the pick up of the item from HD store, installation, ant extra piping necessary to install. If you go to HD website for install services it clearly outlines what all is included. Please take the time to read before you call me a liar or dishonest.
1. The subject of debate in my post are the 3 items for which I had to pay $391.00 where as the retail cost is around $65.00.
The three items are a steel stand, a drip pan and a shut off valve.
It does not cost anything to place a stand and the pan... what is the installation cost associated with these items. Lowes sells these two items for under $48.00.
2. The 3rd item that was overcharged was a ball shut off valve which retails for $15.00. The installation of a water heater mandates the shut off valve which you have to solder to the line any way and is a part of the $285 installation.
I fail to understand where you are coming from in saying that I am hiding some thing associated with the extra item installation charges.
Yes, i do most of these minor jobs on my own when time permits. If I had a busy schedule that could be any thing in my work or personal life that could not be put off, and so I chose to get it done by HD.
I may not be a licensed plumber, and nor many of the installers are licensed. In most cases there is a business which is a licensed plmber and they get into the HD list. All businesses they receive are sub contracted to mom and pop outfits that have no licence. This practice is very common.
I never complained about the $285 installation. It is only the mark up of parts @ 500% that I have a problem with.
When a water heater (50 gal/12 yr) costs $349 and you can have it delivered, it doesn't make sense to charge $391 for a simple stand, a large flimsy pizza pan and a valve.

Update by TR
Sep 03, 2008 10:24 am EDT

Here is an update to my original complaint.


I finally put together a formal complaint to Home depot pretty much detailing what is posted here in my original complaint along with some pictures of the installation and price chart and the mark ups.
I contact their Toll free number and also a written complaint through the site link below.

Initially, the CSR offerred to refund $150. I refused to take it and mentioned that unless I was refunded $300, which I felt as the over charge on the parts, I don't need the money and they can keep it.
After a couple of days, they agreed to refund $300 but only in the form of a gift card thus forcing you to spend the money at their store. I received the card last week along with a note that said "At Home Depot we take Customer satisfaction seriously and would like to continue for you to shop at HD etc...etc.
getting the refund was not easy... I had to spend considerable time to write a detailed letter and pursue it. Being a big corporation they did respond favorably.
The big question is whether they are going to take my recommendations and implement it. For every one like me there are probably another 100 that think of it as a bad experience and give up their claim. This is where they make their money.
We as consumers need to fight back and keep these kind of practices in check. No body is going to fight for you.
Finally a lesson learned from this is: Always have some one come look at the job site and give a quote free of charge with no obligations and if they won't some one else is waiting to do the same.
Thanks to all those who sympathized with my plight.

Update by TR
Oct 25, 2008 4:59 pm EDT

As regards the code compliance, every city has instituted a requirement for code compliance.
Basically these codes are to obviate problems specific to the items being installed and is also a source of revenue for the cities in the name of a code fee.
When I ordered the heater, they said I may need extra items for code compliance but when you ask the details they don't want to get into the detail for the fear of loosing the business because of the exorbitant mark ups they add. So they would make a general statement saying you may not even need it and it is a just to let you know... and won't be much... just so the order can be taken.
The idea is to hit you with the surprise charges when the plumber has arrived with the heater, when you will have a tough time to say no.
On every thing extra they will hit you with at least 500% mark up. Even for the city code permit fee which normally costs $25, they charged $70. All it takes is to go online and apply and in 2 mins you get a permit. If not call on the phone and they issue a permit.
Once the job is done the city inspector will make a visit and check it out. In my case the city inspector had no way of going near the water heater as there was car parked in front with the lawn mower in between. The inspector took a peak from 10 feet away probably looked for a stand and a pan and left. I bet the inspector made a 3 hour field trip out of this.

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, US
Jul 16, 2014 10:27 am EDT
Verified customer This comment was posted by a verified customer. Learn more

I was wondering if it is more cost effective to get a tankless water heater? And if it is more expensive to install? I have been looking at an EcoSmart 18kW at homedepot

Atlanta, US
May 08, 2013 10:37 am EDT
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Hi, Elvie. I'd like to look further into this if you could email me your contact info & remind me you posted on Complaints Board. Thank you very much for posting so we could assist.

- Nicki A.
Home Depot Customer Care
Social Media Resolution Expediter

Elvie Gadberry
Muskegon, US
May 01, 2013 7:25 pm EDT

I agree that the people that Home Depot hires for their installations are a rip off. Thank God I didn't have the money that they raised the amount up to, so I never bought it in the first place from them. Two weeks ago I got a quote from Home Depot for a 40 gallon mobile home gas water heater. The HD employee called their installer and I stood there while he talked to them. When Jeremy from HD got done talking to him, he told me that it would be $850 total install for the water heater, the permit and installation which includes everything up to code. I felt that this was quite high, but I was willing to pay it knowing that it would be a safe installation versus us trying to do it with no knowledge of what to do. So I went to Home Depot 2 days ago and was so ready to pay for the water heater and installation, etc. and they called the installer and had me talk to him. I was then told on the phone that just the installation alone was gonna cost me anywhere from $850 to $1100 just for the installation plus parts and cost of the water heater ... I was so shocked and told Home Depot that I was sorry that they lost my water heater business because I was totally misquoted. The person at the desk had such a blank stare and did not even act shocked at all that I was misquoted so badly. I learned my lesson from now on to always get a price quote in writing! Good Luck everyone else, but I certainly do not recommend getting a water heater installed by Home Depot's installation department.

Kailua Kona, US
Jun 27, 2011 10:44 pm EDT

I am a plumbing contractor in Hawaii. If your water heater needed a stand and did not have one previously, the water connections probably had to be moved. Soldering on a new $15.00 valve requires a water shut down. A new pan requires a drain to the out side. All of this includes labor in excess of the $65.00 for parts. I'm glad you didn't call me. I don't need your kind of business. We get 4 to 5 of your type every year. Thank goodness we get several hundred good customers a year too, that know the value of good knowledgeable service. Please don't move to Hawaii!

New York, US
Apr 02, 2011 9:48 pm EDT

From the most recent post, the non-working car / shelving in the area should have triggered a "restricted work area" fee.

The reality is that HD puts a below market price out there for installations (i.e. lower than what the average professional contractor would charge if you called them directly). While most contractors would include the bare essentials (e.g. water inlet shut-off, etc.) they are all extra for an HD job.

Now of the amount you paid, keep in mind the contractor (the guy paying for his license, van, gas, insurance, etc.) only gets a percentage...and that he only gets after corporate in Atlanta gets a chance to process the mountain of paper the contractor must submit to get paid. The same is true of any additional items...if you pay $100 for an extra, likely the contractor is only getting $80 of that at most ($20 goes to HD)...and HD doesn't suppy that item to the contractor. So if the item costs $65 the contractor is making $15 and HD makes $20.

The store associates are typically not very knowledgeable about local code requirements (the call center is even worse). The result is "surprise" additional charges when the contractor gets to you house.

The point of my story? HD is putting the screws to both you and their installing contractor. Call a local professional (not a franchise like RotoRooter, Mr. Plumber, One-Hour, etc., but a true locally owned and operated firm). Find them on AngiesList, the BBB listings, aske a neighbor, etc. The local pro will know the codes, what is required, and give a REAL price. It may be higher than the low teaser rate that HD is charging...but likely your total cost will be lower at the end of the project. Oh, and you are likely to receive a better quality product as well (the stuff sold at Depot is mostly re-branded with known names (e.g. GE) but manufactured in China.

Happy Hunting!

Hoosier Daddy
Scottsdale, US
Dec 14, 2010 12:12 am EST

Maybe things have changed or maybe it depends on the location since HD contracts out the installation. I needed a 50 gal gas water heater today. This thread told me what to watch for. I called HD they gave me the phone number of their contractor. I asked about possible hidden costs such as were mentioned above. The price was a few bucks cheaper than the OP paid and I was told that was the full price regardless of what was needed. So they took my order for the water heater and installation and scheduled the installation (just 2 hours after my call). I assume if there were any major extra costs, they may have said they couldn't do it (or tried to charge extra) but if they triad to charge more they would have left with the heater. Anyway, the installation was not as easy as some because of a non-running car and shelving surrounding the heater. But other than a frown, they had the new heater in very quickly and were on their way. Maybe HD learned from complaints and chaged the rules for their contractors.

Houston, US
Oct 06, 2010 1:26 pm EDT

I was going to get a water heater installed by Home Depot until I saw your post. As far as I'm concnerned, the cost of the extra items, which they say are required by code, should have been told to you upfront.

, US
Aug 04, 2010 1:18 pm EDT

I see an unanswered problem. The individual who made the first post stated he was replacing an ELECTRIC WATER HEATER.

Master plumber or not, the stand to keep the unit off the ground is only required for GAS WATER HEATERS (per literature and) the National Fuel Gas Code and Uniform Plumbing Code.

For electric tanks in unheated spaces, local code may require the tank be placed on an incompressible, insulated board or surface. This is to help prevent heat loss out of the bottom of an electric tank.

Master Plumber STL
Barnhart, US
Mar 04, 2010 10:11 pm EST
Verified customer This comment was posted by a verified customer. Learn more

Everyone is quick to blame the repair man or the plumber for making money, It takes money to run a business people BIG money, licensing renewed annually, 1 million dollars worth of insurance, bonding, business vehicles, commercial level vehicle insurance, office or workshop space for the business, business phone lines, office personell to answer them phones, commercial insurance on the building or office, cost of keeping the truck stocked so the "immeadieate gratification" generation of customers we deal with have thier parts right now, cost of fuel to get to your house, GPS system to find your house, a cell phone to be on call or reached by the vendor such as home depot, or the office to know you need service, maintenance of these vehicles, shall i go on?

Grow up and pay the bill, shop around if you want but in the end YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR. when you find it dirt cheap ask why. If it seems too good to be true something is wrong

Master Plumber and owner of a plumbing business in ST LOUIS CITY ST LOUIS COUNTY ST CHARLES COUNTY MO

Lee Clarke, Salisbury, MD
Salisbury, US
Sep 25, 2009 11:32 pm EDT

I recently bought a 50 gallon electric water heater replacement at Home Depot.
I was quoted $299 for installation.
When no one arrived, on the scheduled day, I had to call twice before Home Depot finally contacted and sent an installer.
I bought a spill pan and outlet pipe myself and I already had a hole drilled in the floor for the outlet pipe.
I was charged $75, per the Home Depot price sheet, to "install" the spill pan, which consisted of putting the pan under the heater, cutting and gluing a PVC pipe.
I paid the extra $75, by check payable to Home Depot, so I don't believe the installer dreamed it up himself. Rather, I believe Home Depot has an inflated price schedule, so it makes a hefty profit, even after it pays the installer his cut.
I'll never use Home Depot installation again. I'll find a reasonably priced installer myself and avoid Home Depot's exorbitant markup.

mark l.
Oct 16, 2008 9:00 pm EDT

I wonder if they say that they needed those things to meet code. Did they call for an inspection and or apply for the proper permits?

Aug 18, 2008 11:26 am EDT

I just had a water heater installed by Home Depot also. The exact think happened to I know you are telling the truth. I paid 1, 140.00 for a 75 gal gas water heater and installation. They said if I needed anything to meet codes they would add on at the installation, which I understood. I needed 3 parts which cost less than 35.00 and they charged me 224.00, which I would have just paid had I not had Sears out the day before to install and they said it would cost 112.00 for the same parts. (which is much more reasonable) So I called Home Depot to ask about the difference in price between Sears and Home Depot. I had the sears quote for the part numbers and prices in writing so I decided to take it to Home Depot before agreeing to pay for it. I also found out that Home Depot charged me 70.00 for a Grapevine permit...our permit is only 37.00, so I wanted someone to explain that to me. I took all the paperwork up to Home Depot...they eventually adjusted the parts price of 224.00 down to 112.oo to match sears parts price and also adjusted the wrong permit charge. After closely looking at our work order, they even adusted it down another 30.00...I think they say something else that wasn't right on the order. I know I did get my money back, but think of all the others who are cheated everyday. Needless to say, we will never go there again...they have lost our trust. And yes, I was also charged 95.00 for 1 ball valve...and I think we had the same husband/wife team you did. I don't think they have anything to do about setting prices...that is already done for them by Home Depot.

Jul 26, 2008 11:01 pm EDT

I feel sorry for your situation. Corporate America has gotten greedy. I am shocked to note that you ended up paying almost $750 in labor for a 2 hour job. That is $375.00 per hour.
I wonder if even specialist doctors like cardiologists, and even a lawyer get to make this kind of money.
This is America... society of free enterprise to loot and cheat and its OK.

Jul 21, 2008 2:32 pm EDT

Response to your comment... "Retail Cost does not include labor".

For a $30 retail stand, does it cost $140 in labor to put it on a concrete floor for a total of $170.00?
For a $20.00 pan does it cost $75.00 in labor to set it on a stand.
I can not believe that you don't see the exhorbitant mark up. Judging by your responses so far, you are very much for these charges and I guess you are probably an installation service person that justifies the charges for your brothers in the industry.

Wichita, US
Jul 20, 2008 5:56 am EDT
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RETAIL COST does not include any type of labor. And labor is subject to the company who is doing the work.

Wichita, US
Jul 18, 2008 11:16 am EDT
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I do not believe that what you have written is completely honest. I am sure that there are other factors here which you are leaving out intentionally. While the parts are inexpensive, labor is most likely included in that pricing. Look at it this way. While you say you could have done it yourself, chances are you are not licensed to do so. If you did choose to do it, the chances that something could go wrong are inflated. Someone trained to do such work can charge whatever is customary and reasonable. If you take your car to a mechanic, do you take the parts pre-purchased? Do you go buy them after what you have been told is wrong? Chances are that you don't. If you just think you can do it, would you still and run the risk of destroying a vehicle? I doubt that very much.

If you really could have done it, you would have found a way to get out of your "busy" schedule, or you would have waited to do it yourself.