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Our Plumbing Nightmare

Posted on January 21, 2009 by under Life.    

Here is our story. We had an issue with our plumbing, there was a mysterious noise coming from one of the fixtures that had a slow leak. My father and I took an hour one weekend and fixed the gaskets and seals in the fixture thinking this would stop the noise as well. Much to our disappointment, it did not. The leak had stopped but the sound continued. I looked all through the attic and could not find any traces of plumbing other than the hot water heater. I concluded that the plumbing was under the concrete slab of the home and that a leak had sprung under the foundation. I called a plumber to come out and give me an estimate. I learned real fast that there is no such thing as free estimates anymore. Plumbing companies charge for everything. This includes pipe whispering. The first plumber came out put his hand on the fixture, put his hand on the wall then put his ear to the wall and said rather profoundly, “You got a leak under your foundation!” No shit, Sherlock! Now tell me how to fix it and how much it’s going to cost me!

I received a quote of between $1K to $3K to dig a hole in the foundation and fix the leak. What they did not tell me (and I learned later from the second plumber) was that the $1K to $3K was for a simple 2 ft by 2 ft hole down to the pipe. This, however, may need to be expanded once they get in the hole. They could find that the leak is several feet away from where they thought it would be and they would have to drill again. This would be another $1K to $3K, and could potentially lead up to several thousand by the time they are done.

Plumber number 2 was called next. I liked their customer service and I had heard a few things in passing from some folks at work. They are relatively new in town and I figured that new people are wanting to make a name for themselves and gain a good reputation. I thought I would give them a try and see what they offered. I was very pleased with their phone service. It was always pleasant and very professional. They answered my questions to the best of their abilities over the phone then assigned someone to come out and take a look (again, for a fee). The person who came out was well groomed, clean-ish and very professional. He spent more time looking over the situation before making a diagnosis. He took a look behind the wall and really thought things through. He gave the same diagnosis and provided not one, but two different solutions. The first option involved the standard drill and search method, the second option was a total replacement of the plumbing in the house. This involved abandoning the old copper lines and installing new PEX plumbing throughout. After discussing this with him, it seemed the logical step. He pointed out that with the old copper system we may fix this leak but another may spring up in a few years or less. He also pointed out that the drilling may tear out entire sections of the house thus diminishing the structural integrity of the home.

The total cost for fixing the plumbing was going to be around $7K. This is most of our savings. This plumbing company has an upfront pricing policy and they have no hourly rates like other companies. They told me what was going to be done and set a date. I made arrangements to work from home on the two days that he was going to be there and made sure that all access points that he mentioned were clear of obstacles and ready to be serviced.

Day 1: Our plumber shows up late. Not by much — only a few minutes — but they have this policy about being prompt and on time. They have an “If you wait, we pay” motto on the side of their truck. I’m trying not to be a dick because I want quality work done so I don’t press the issue. He actually said that he was running late because he had to get an assistant and some parts. They came in and explained everything that they were going to do then got to work. After a few hours, they let me know that the assistant needed to go back to the office to answer phones. This was good because we actually needed to run a quick errand and get some lunch. After about 30 minutes the plumber returned alone and told me that it’s just going to be him for the rest of the day. This concerned me because this is a big job and I want it done correctly. However, I hold my tongue and let the man work. He did a really good job of getting several aspects of the work completed before leaving for the day. I would say overall he probably did about 30 to 50 percent of the work that needed to be done. Pretty good for only one guy (probably would have gotten more done if he had used our products, but more on that later).

Day 2: He showed up again around the same time and immediately got to work. Again he had his assistant and again after a few hours he had to take him back to the office to answer phones. I understand the need for assistants, especially on a job as large as this one, but you would think that they would be able to employ assistants who did not have a dual role and who did not have to leave the job site and be taken back to do another function. It messes up the flow of the job and hinders efficient performance. With a company that prides themselves on fast and efficient service, entirely too much time was spent hauling assistants back and forth and not enough time utilizing the assistants for the function that they should have been used for. Nevertheless he came back and again went to work. This time working diligently to ensure that I had water that night and that any and all leaks that might spring were fixed and stopped. His boss came out to assist and worked with him to get everything done in a reasonable amount of time. Finally around 8:30 we did the final walk through and inspected all of the lines in the house. He pointed out the things that still needed to be done and gave me information that I needed to do after the job was complete, like insulate the plumbing in the attic to keep it from freezing. He advised me that he will need to come back for a third visit and that this one will be to do some small clean up items like sealing the hose bibs at the front and back of the house, adding a few braces, and fixing the laundry room (it had a temp cap on it to avoid any water leaking). I asked when he would be by and he said sometime after lunch and that he would call me. I left it alone and tried to trust that he would follow through with his promise.

Day 3: I went to work and asked my boss if I could leave early and explained what was going on. Since I work for a plumbing company I got asked repeatedly why I just did not buy the supplies from us and hire one of the many master plumbers to do the job over the weekend. I explained about the warranty and the worries of my wife. Everyone was understanding, but I still felt like a traitor because I have one of our competitor’s plumbing running throughout my house. I was pretty calm until about 1:30 pm, at this point I was tired of waiting and I called the plumbing company. I was advised by the ever so pleasant and always professional customer service lady (I have always gotten the same one) that my plumber was scheduled to come out between 5:00 pm and 6:00 pm. I advised that this was not going to work because I had other arrangements after work (first, I had my dad coming over to help with the insulation and second, my wife was taking her car to the shop because of a check engine light) she advised me that they had an opening between 2:00 pm and 4:00 pm. I said that this was perfect and she said I would get a call. By the time 3:00 pm rolled around, I started getting impatient again. At about 3:50 pm, I called the plumbing company. Much to my disappointment the phone was answered by another person (I recognized his voice — it was the assistant). I explained who I was and advised him of what the previous customer service person told me. He said that he was going to look into this and call me back. About 15 minutes later he called back and actually asked me if I can have the plumber come out in a couple of days. At this point I have had enough. I was frustrated from waiting, I felt lied to and then this. I kind of tore into him and informed him that I could not wait a couple of days and that I was told that he would be out at a specific time. I continued to tear into him until he understood that I would settle for nothing but the immediate dispatch of the plumber to finish the job. He put me on hold then advised that the plumber would be there shortly and that I should start heading home. I called the wife and left work.

Once I got home I changed in preparation for working on the insulation in the attic. I waited for over an hour for the plumber to show up. Finally, at around 5:30 pm, he showed up. He told me about why he was unable to come sooner. I explained to him that I was not mad at him but mad at his company. They knew that this job was still on the books, yet they kept issuing him other jobs to do. I went on a little tirade with him explaining my frustration and pointed out the blatant violation of their own company policy that is printed in very large letters on the side of their truck. He stated that he was going to speak with his boss and see if there is anything that he could do. Personally, I’m not holding my breath. He came in and finished all of the items that were still left to be done. While he did that, I insulated the attic areas that had the PEX pipe exposed to the cold to ensure that they stayed warm and in compliance with the warranty. There is R30 insulation over the entire run of pipe, as well as a heater vent that pushes the same warm air that is pumped into the house in the attic. On top of that I have about 20 feet of heat tape that I plan on running down the main line to keep it from freezing. All of this should keep me compliant with their warranty guidelines and keep the pipes from freezing. After about an hour and a half of work, the plumber was done. I had to stop my work and come do a final walk through to make sure that everything was on the up and up. After about 10 minutes of inspection, I signed off on the plumbing and finished the insulation.

I am rather disappointed with the whole experience because I believed that I was going to receive stellar service. That is the initial impression I got from the inspection and phone call. I assumed that, with the attention to detail that they were presenting, the same attention would carry over to the plumbing. I was disappointed to find out that they used a product called Shark Bite on over 50% of the fittings. I told them in the beginning that I did not like this product and they used it throughout the house anyway. I advised them in the beginning who I worked for and this made no difference in their choice of product. I was informed on the second day (after all of the tubing was run and most of the fittings were installed) that I could have purchased the product from my company and that they would have worked with me on the cost of installation. I was rather upset that I was not informed of this to begin with. If I would have known this I would have looked into this offer and could have possibly saved some money in the long term.

I am glad that the whole thing is over. However, looking back, if I had it to do over I would have purchased the product myself and hired some of the master plumbers from work. I think that the overall job would have been done better and I know that the materials would have been of better quality. Unfortunately, at this point all I can do is hurry to finish the house and then sell it. With any luck, I wont have any issues for several years. I will post pictures of the ordeal later. Stay tuned for followups to this horrific event.

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  • Replies to "Our Plumbing Nightmare"


    Ching  on January 22, 2009

    You don’t blog very often, but when you do you sure are wordy!


    plumbers in utah  on January 23, 2009

    Valuable information.Could you tell me some tips for select good plumber?


    tpg  on January 23, 2009

    Hey, what happened to my comment? :sadface:


    Jennifer  on January 28, 2009

    That’s awful. I was actually afriad to leave a comment because. . .I thought I’d jinx us and the plumbing bad luck would come our way.


    utah plumber  on April 13, 2009

    Hi,I hope that everyone will be able to understand my problem because I am a female and my husband is an OTR driver and I am trying to fix our plumbing problems,but I am pretty much clueless.Recently the main water pipe started gushing out water,so I turned the water off at the street and called my brother,he came over and crawled under our house and came back out with a piece which he called compression joint connection? that had come off and said that we needed a new one because the rubber piece in it was in bad shape,I got a new one and he put it on and we had water again,but the hot water in the kitchen sink didn’t have a good water flow anymore.


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