Plumbers all have horror stories of things they have seen, but so do the people who hire them. A lot of people have horror stories about plumbing disasters that have occurred in their homes, and most of these stories have one thing in common: an inept plumbing service. Plumbing emergencies are never pleasant. Water damage is real and sewage is disgusting. Just because we are plumbers doesn’t mean we like it more than you, but the role of a plumbing service is to properly deal with the water and sewage quickly to turn a disaster into a resolvable situation.
If you choose the wrong plumbing service then what could have been a simple situation can turn into a plumbing disaster. Many people have found themselves in this spot. The problem with making this one very large mistake is that once it happens it cannot be undone. From this point on you will have to deal with the original plumbing issue, the new plumbing issues, and the eventual clean-up of whatever disaster has taken place in your home. With that in mind, now might be a good time to check your homeowner’s policy to see if you are covered if a plumber damages your home.
A Simple Clog Turns Into a Nightmare
Take the story of Bobby and Jamie. Bobby and Jamie are an old retired couple who live in a senior retirement community. They own a duplex in the neighborhood and enjoy relaxing most days, but on one sunny day in June relaxing was the very opposite of what they were doing. Bobby woke up and shuffled downstairs to get a cup of coffee before heading up to do his business. Everything was going fine until Bobby turned around to flush the toilet and he heard Jamie scream in disgust. It turned out that when he flushed the toilet the raw sewage was popping out of the bathroom drain.
At first, the situation was comical to Bobby, who rarely saw his wife get rattled, but quickly the couple revealed that they had a plumbing situation on their hands. They checked the guidebook and website of their community and realized that plumbing repairs fell on them since they owned half of the duplex. This was a bit shocking to Jamie who thought that a perk of living in a retirement community was not dealing with this type of thing, but Bobby went ahead and found a company online that offered no service fees to make a diagnostic call.
Bobby liked this idea because he didn’t want to pay more for services he didn’t need. Especially if it was just a toilet clog. He wasn’t about to pay one more dime than he had to when all he really thought he needed was a plunger with a bit more gumption. Jamie didn’t care who was called, so long as they got her bathtub empty again. The stench and the sight of the sewage were more than she could bear and she couldn’t entertain guests this way.
The two didn’t do too much to prepare outside of learning very quickly that they shouldn’t flush the toilet anymore if they could avoid it. Eventually, someone from the plumbing service showed up and asked what was going on. He didn’t wear a uniform and arrived in just a normal pickup truck, but he did seem to know what he was doing and honored the free diagnostic quote that they had talked about on the phone so Bobby let the other stuff go. This guy spoke easily about plumbing so he thought that he was just a working-class man just like himself. He liked that idea. Jamie’s only concern was fixing the problem and she assumed her husband had screened the plumbing service so she stepped aside and led him up to the bathroom.
The young plumber took a look at the toilet and then took a look at the bathtub and paused for a second. This might have been their first indication that he wasn’t quite prepared for this type of job, which would not have been surprising if Bobby had realized that he was unlicensed. Unfortunately, Bobby did very little research before calling the plumbing service. All he really wanted was someone to come quickly who worked within his budget. He didn’t realize what would come from making that one small mistake to start.
The inexperienced plumber took a few more minutes to poke around the bathroom peering under the sink and running water for a bit to check for clogs in other places. Satisfied that he didn’t see any other reasons to suspect a clog outside of the toilet, he said that he would just run an auger into the sewer line and that would clean out whatever clog was in there. The plumber assumed that this older couple had accidentally knocked something into the toilet or used flushable wipes or something. He discounted the fact that something larger might be brewing in the pipes, which was another mistake on his behalf.
It turned out that there was a tree foot in the sewage line below the toilet. Water flows from the top to the bottom within the main line. The root was blocking the sewage line and needed to be dealt with outside of the home by running a snake or hydro jetting the main sewage line. However, due to his inexperience, he didn’t think through the logical way water flows to account for why the sewage might be coming out of the bathtub. Instead, he attempted to solve the issue locally by addressing just the toilet clog. It’s hard to guess what he had in mind, but his next step was one that would destroy the bathroom and make Bobby regret his quick choice when finding a plumbing service.
Instead of looking into the tree root more, the plumber decided to remove the toilet with the hope of finding the clog under the toilet. However, common sense tells you the clog would be outside of the home if caused by a tree root since tree roots don’t often grow up. When the toilet was lifted from its seal on the ground raw sewage flowed out across the bathroom floor. Soon instead of sewage coming out in a controlled fashion from the bathtub, it was just spilling out of the open hole. To make matters worse, the water and sewage started seeping out into the hallway. Jamie was downstairs in the kitchen and soon started yelling because sewage was dripping from the ceiling. The exposed toilet hole made it easy for the water and sewage to find their way down.
The end result was now not only a destroyed bathroom, but there was sewage water in between the two floors sitting on the exposed wood and dripping down into the kitchen sink and onto the flooring. At this point not only did Bobbie and Jamie end up calling a more qualified plumbing service, but they were in an emergency situation and also had to call for mold remediation services. The amount of sewage that managed to get into the bathroom, hallway, and kitchen was so hefty that they ended up losing some of their personal property items as well. There were also a few things that could have been saved, like the bathroom rugs, but Jamie was so disgusted by the entire thing that they ended up tossing them.
Bobby and Jamie did learn two serious lessons, however, to be more discerning when it comes to choosing a plumbing service and the importance of maintaining their sewage drain. Homes with large trees outside often have issues dealing with roots, so it is a good idea to have a drain company come out to the home periodically to clear away tree limb growth to prevent this type of predicament from happening. Had the pair kept up with draining cleaning and hired a professional and licensed plumber, they would have saved thousands on cleanup bills.
Making the situation even worse was the fact that they still ended up paying a partial payment to the first plumber because he required a nonrefundable deposit after quoting them the price of the repair. Even though they received their quote for free, in order for the work to start they had to pay the deposit. They were extremely frustrated by the entire ordeal, as you probably would be as a homeowner with sewage abounding everywhere.
Compounding the fact were the costs of remediating the water and mold that resulted from the poor plumbing job. A fully licensed, professional plumber carries insurance and is bonded to protect the homeowner that he or she works with. In the case of a situation, like what happened to Bobby and Jamie, their insurance would cover the costs of the water damage and the mold remediation. However, since this particular plumber did not carry any type of insurance, Bobby and Jamie were forced to file a homeowner’s insurance claim to help cover their losses.
Lucky for them their homeowner’s insurance was able to help cover their losses, but they were penalized for filing a claim. When it came time to renew their homeowner’s insurance premium for the following year their rate jumped sharply, and comparing new policies didn’t help since their claim was public knowledge. Therefore, they ended up paying a lot more for years after their bad plumbing experience with an untrained plumbing service. It was a nightmare that they simply could not seem to shake.
A Simple Loose Handle Cost Hundreds for Joe
Joe was a single young professional who was working hard to make partners at his law firm. He didn’t have much time to deal with anything outside of the office, which is why when his toilet started to act up the first thing he did was find a plumbing service and schedule a visit to his home. However, as mentioned Joe didn’t have a lot of extra time to fool around, so he didn’t spend that much time investigating the plumbing company that he chose. In fact, he just grabbed a name off the internet and made the call so that he could check that task off his list before heading back to work.
He knew he wasn’t a plumber and that reading videos on DIY plumbing was out of the question. He didn’t even bother to look at any solutions for his problem because he figured just about any plumber should be able to fix a toilet issue. After all, aren’t toilets one of the main jobs of experienced plumbers? In Joe’s mind if a plumber worked for a company then they should be able to fix a simple toilet issue. Like Jamie and Bobby above, however, his lack of engagement was going to end up costing him.
One of the first things that Joe did not do was ask about pricing. He assumed the company would just say they can’t create an estimate until they come out. While that was partially true, it also meant that he ended up getting saddled with a bunch of other extra fees that he didn’t know about because he hadn’t discussed how billing would work with the plumbing service.
Joe was mostly concerned that water would flood out of his toilet because it wasn’t working right. At the moment it could take as much as five hours for the toilet tank to fill up. This led to other problems like not being able to flush stool down the toilet or urine that would sit in the tank for hours after Joe left for work. When he came home his bathroom would smell absolutely disgusting and he had enough of it. He was worried that the lack of water would lead to a clog, and then instead of dealing with an empty tank, he would be dealing with an overflowing tank.
Since Joe often spent hours at the law office, if his toilet clogged while he was away, it could run for hours without anyone knowing, causing all types of issues. He knew that just jiggling the handle was certainly not doing the trick so it was time to talk to a plumber who might be able to help change the situation a bit. It turns out though that this process was more expensive than he could have imagined. While he had billed enough hours at the office to afford what was to come, there were certainly a lot better ways to spend his hard-earned money than on an ineffective plumbing service.
The first surprise was learning that the local plumber he chose required him to pay for his travel time. That meant that before the plumber even attempted to look at the toilet Joe had to pay for gas expenses and the time it took him to get there. That may have seemed reasonable if it didn’t mean that he was paying for his travel time from wherever he happened to be. That means that Joe wasn’t paying for the time it took the plumber to get from the business to his home, he was paying for the time it took the plumber to get from his last job to this one.
Unfortunately, the job the plumber was on before Joe’s house happened to be almost 40 miles away. That meant he had to pay for all of that travel time, even though Joe lived in the same town as the plumber. This struck him poorly, to begin with, but the nightmare costs were only going to get worse. While Joe should have known to read the fine print as a lawyer, he blindly thought that all plumbing experiences would be the same and rushed through the process. Like most things in life, forgetting to read the fine print will almost always get you.
At this point, Joe had already paid the plumbing service to get their plumber out to his home, so he was invested even if he didn’t like the plumber who showed up and he was angry about the extra fee. However, the extra fees kept coming as he now had to pay for the service. The service fee is the cost that many plumbers charge just to enter your home. It is also supposed to cover the time that the plumber is in your home and the commitment to be there. As Joe angrily learned, it didn’t actually cover any of the repairs that were necessary or the labor. It simply covered the fact that he was there to work on the job.
The plumbing service fee is one that almost all plumbers will charge, but you can call around to see who offers the lower fee. It is meant to protect the plumber so they aren’t spending their entire day running from house to house with no one actually agreeing to take payment for the repairs that are needed. However, Joe, when combined with the travel fees, was feeling a bit disgruntled. He was already paying a few hundred dollars and absolutely nothing had happened with his toilet.
At this point, Joe just wanted to get the visit over with and cut his losses. So he asked the plumber if it was a better idea to just replace the toilet versus attempting to fix it. After all, the toilet was probably almost ten years old, or at least it looked that way, so why not just replace it and be done with the situation? It may even help the energy efficiency of the home and would save Joe some trouble down the road. The plumber however felt this was a drastic approach. Joe didn’t realize how economical a new toilet could be yet, so he said well whatever the plumber wanted to do was fine.
The inexperienced plumber stated that he would just fix the toilet. Joe left the plumber in the bathroom and went back into his home office to work. He could hear some noise and an occasional clanging and left the plumber to it until he said that he was done. He then paid the plumber and went back to work. Later in the day he went in to use the toilet and noticed after he flushed that there was no water in the tank. After wasting a day at home and spending a few hundred dollars, the toilet still was not working right. At this point, Joe was quite frustrated.
He quickly called the plumbing service back to tell them that their plumber did not actually fix his problem. The sales associate apologized and stated that they could come back to fix it, but he would have to pay for the travel fee and the service fee again. They wouldn’t charge for labor this time, however. Joe knew better than to take this deal again, as he paid so much the last time and he actually had no proof that the plumber had traveled as far as he said he did anyhow when he paid the high travel fee. However, he was angry that he still didn’t have a toilet that worked.
In the end, Joe did a bit of research online and he found a local plumbing service with much better reviews that came out to his home to replace his toilet. This time around he was very insistent that the toilet simply be replaced instead of repaired, and he made sure that he chose a company that only charged a service fee. He was very upfront about his questions and he thoroughly asked about the costs of a toilet replacement before entering any verbal or written contracts. While he avoided having a backup in his toilet, the entire situation ended up costing him more than he ever could have imagined a toilet would have.
Dishwasher Installation Gone Terribly Wrong
Lisa knew that her old dishwasher wasn’t functioning very well. Oftentimes she would put plates into the dishwasher and they would come out smelly or still have food chunks on them. She tried to shift the way she arranged the dishes in the dishwasher, but it didn’t seem to matter. No matter how she put things in they would still come out dirty and she would have to wash them by hand again. Lisa was also concerned that her dishwasher was starting to waste water. It seemed to run longer than ever and her water bills were slowly rising. At this point, she decided the smart move was to purchase a new dishwasher and improve her home energy efficiency as well as the actual dishwashing function.
It would be nice after all to have a dishwasher that actually did the job so that she didn’t have to. Christmas was coming soon and she knew that she would have a lot of guests over throughout the season. She didn’t relish washing half of the dishes by hand because the dishwasher would ruin them. She also could not serve her guests’ food on plates that stunk like old water. With that in mind, she headed to Home Depot and she purchased a new dishwasher. She was quite happy with her choice and thought that the process should be easy since she hired the Home Depot service to install the dishwasher for her.
However, what Lisa did not recognize was that Home Depot did not really screen the plumbers or the plumbing service that would come out to her home to install her dishwasher. In fact, they didn’t handle any part of the installation. They would simply contract that out to whoever happened to be available when her bid came up. Therefore, she had to wait a few weeks before anyone was actually available to install her dishwasher- a fact they did not tell her about when she purchased her dishwasher and scheduled delivery and installation. While this greatly annoyed her, there were still two weeks before Christmas when she finally got her installation date so she thought it was going to be okay.
Eventually, the day came and the dishwasher arrived at her home along with some people who were supposed to know how to connect it and install it within her home. Lisa wasn’t sure if these were actual plumbers or not and was a little nervous about a hidden leaky connection, but she figured that if Home Depot had sent them out to her house then they had to be properly screened. Besides, having the dishwasher delivered and then scheduling an installation with a plumbing service would have required her to take another step and with the holidays just around the corner, this seemed like the easiest approach.
Everything seemed to be fine and Lisa thanked the team when they left with her old dishwasher. She was quite happy with the new stainless steel appliance that seemed to brighten her kitchen up nicely. However, it wasn’t too long before she soon hated it. The first time she used the dishwasher she opened it to discover a pool of water at the bottom of the dishwasher. It was as if nothing had drained throughout the process and water quickly spilled out of the sides and onto her floor. She was certain something must be wrong with the dishwasher so she was on the phone with Home Depot and had a new one delivered.
This time because of the holidays it took a few weeks, and she had to deal with washing all of her dishes by hand, which was the exact thing that she was trying to avoid. While she was irritated, she was happy that they were going to replace it with a newer model and an upgrade so she assumed everything would be fine. They said they didn’t need to change the hoses or anything since they were new from the last install, so the only thing that would need to be done was the actual unit would be exchanged. This did make Lisa feel a little better since changing the unit wouldn’t take too long. It was the hose connection that seemed to cause a bit more trouble since she had an older home and limited space between her disposal and the dishwasher.
Finally, the day arrived for the new dishwasher installation and Lisa was very relieved. If she had to wash one more dish by hand she was going to stop eating altogether. In fact, she had floated the idea of purchasing plastic silverware and dishes for Christmas just to avoid the ordeal of washing everything, but in the end, she went with her good china and dealt with it. It took under an hour for the installation to be completed by the plumbing service and everything appeared to be fine. The hose was reconnected and the team left.
Lisa went to run the dishwasher again without worry, but in the middle of the cycle, she noticed that water was coming out from the cabinet in her kitchen sink. She couldn’t believe it, what had this team done. When she opened the dishwasher she discovered that the water was not draining at all. At this point, she was beside herself as she set to clean up all of the water off her kitchen floor again. She also had to move everything back out of her sink cabinet because most of it was soaked. Instead of calling the company again, she called a plumbing service. She figured whatever was going on had to do with a plumbing issue in her pipes. After all, what were the chances that there was another defective dishwasher?
Lisa spent a little time looking around for a plumber to come help. She didn’t want to just pay for anyone to come. She wanted to hire a plumber that would come in and fix the problem once and for all. She had just about enough of cleaning water off the floor of her kitchen and cleaning all of her dishes by hand. At this point, she was regretting ever upgrading her dishwasher in the first place. The only person who seemed to enjoy anything about her mess was the dog, who enjoyed rolling in the sudsy water when it overflowed.
It took a few days for the plumbing service to have a time slot available, but when they did it took them only ten minutes to figure out what had gone wrong. The installation crew, who often are not professional plumbers and therefore don’t know how each component works, had never taken the plug off the disposal when they attached the hose. So the water was running up the hose toward the disposal, but then it was unable to drain because the disposal still had the plug in it. As a result, it ran back down toward the dishwasher forcing it to overflow. There was also a small leak near the disposal and the dishwasher hose hookup because the plug didn’t allow it fully close. This explained the water that was leaking into the cabinet.
It turned out that the entire time one forgotten plug was the only reason that the dishwashers were not emptying. It took the experienced plumber who found the issue about 15 minutes to knock out the plug and then reinstall the hose correctly. He also stayed to do one more thing that neither installation crew did – start a cycle and see if it worked correctly. When the dishwasher started draining into the sink immediately after a wash cycle Lisa was incredibly relieved. She also knew from now on if she ever needed to have an appliance installed that involved changes to the home plumbing system she would use a plumber.
In the end, the situation ended up working out for Lisa because she had a few more plumbing issues that she was able to talk to the plumber about to get resolved. While she may not have been able to use her dishwasher all through Christmas, she at least knew that she would be able to use it for the Easter holidays.
How Often Do Plumbing Mistakes Happen?
A lot of people think that plumbing mistakes are isolated to DIY failures, but the truth is that inexperienced plumbers can cause just as much damage as fully trained plumbers. Anyone who is dealing with a home plumbing system that is not properly trained can make mistakes that end up costing homeowners more than they bargained for.
The trouble is that anyone can create a website, create ads, or call themselves a handyman who can work on the plumbing. The only protection you have as a homeowner is to look for a company that hires licensed plumbers who are state certified. In addition, you want to make sure you choose a plumber that is insured so that you don’t end up paying for all of the damage caused by the plumber out of your own pocket like Jamie and Bobby did. Ideally, any plumber you invite into your home will be licensed, insured, and bonded. These three things are extremely important.
Bobby and Jamie, Joe, and Lisa all struggled with plumbing issues because they failed to research the plumber they invited into their home. They wanted a situation fixed quickly and cheaply and so they didn’t take any extra time to think about whether or not their decision was the right one.
Most homeowners don’t have a lot of experience choosing their own plumbers, because with any luck your home plumbing system won’t have too many problems. It only takes one bad experience to haunt you for life, however, as Bobby and Jamie learned. It’s not just homeowners who have issues with bad plumbing decisions as well.
Many people are shocked to learn that there are plumbing mistakes in their newly constructed homes! Everyone attempts to cut corners and get work done quickly these days, but that can also lead to costly mistakes that end up costing you down the road. Many people who purchase a newly built home assume they can sell it safely in a few years, only to find that they get hit by inspection violations during the process. Something as small as flat venting or an inadequate drain slope is all it takes to get dinged on a repair visit. This leads to unexpected repair costs for a fairly new home that should still be in pretty decent shape.
So what should you do to protect yourself? First and foremost, take a minute to learn a bit about the plumbing service you are hiring to come out to your home. Read about the company and take a minute to read their reviews. You want a company that has established itself in the community and is generally well thought of. It pays to spend ten minutes reading reviews so you don’t end up in the same situation as Joe who needed two plumbers for one simple toilet replacement.
Second, look for a company that offers you a free estimate. No plumber can offer you a quote without seeing the problem, but they should be willing to offer you a flat rate visit fee and a free estimate. Benjamin Franklin Plumbing of Fort Worth takes its responsibility to clients even further. We offer to pay our customers if we are late for an appointment by $5.00 per minute. We are serious about offering a great customer experience and a fairly priced exchange. Just think how much Joe could have saved if he went with us over the plumber who charged for travel time.
Third, choose a locally owned and operated plumbing service. When you work with a company that is owned by someone in your community you know that reputation matters. They will work harder because they think of you as their neighbor. They also depend on word-of-mouth recommendations, which will help you avoid situations like what happened to Lisa and Bobby, and Jamie.
Benjamin Franklin Plumbing of Fort Worth is all three of these things. If you want to avoid the plumbing disasters of Lisa, Bobby/Jamie, and Joe, then call us today to book your plumbing repair or installation.
See our previous blog on this topic here.
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