Do plumbers sabotage pipes?

amyohJune 6, 2011

I do not wish to offend honest plumbers out there but Im having a hard time with finding a decent plumber I can trust. Ive gone thru a bunch of plumbers over the years and I thought I finally found one I trust but now Im questioning.

First plumber was the expensive outfit in the area...did good work but so expensive...when I called them out to fix my hot water heater they said I needed a new one. They told me the price and I tried negotiating with them...asking them if that was the best price they can do ($860)...they looked at me like I was nuts and said they would have to ask the office. Then they stood there looking at me and when I asked them what they needed from me - they were like do you really want us to call the office? And I was like they did and came back with the office allowing them to give us the senior citizen discount (Im not a senior) to the tune of $60 off. My husband just wanted this done so I said okay and they installed my new hot water heater. They were working in my basement a long time and within about 1 week later this hard plastic pipe coming in from my well suddenly split and I had to make an emergency call to them. This is coincidence #1. I believe this was a newer pipe. my mind gets visions of these guys pissed off that I tried to negotiate and so they maybe somehow slash the pipe just a bit and then eventually would the pressure do the rest of the work? Anyway I called this outfit one more time simply to change the hose to my toilet because my husband was being lazy and water was dripping out of it and I was unable to tighten it myself...when they had the nerve to charge me $130 for that I knew I had to change.

Next plumber was a creepy guy - who just walked right into your house on the first appointment and then he'd yell out "hello"...I could see walking in when your in the middle of a job but when you first come over to consult? He did a few jobs for us over time and then our boiler broke. But my husband did some reading up on it before the plumber came over and had an idea what the problem was. We watched the plumber working down there...he was trying stupid things to see if the problem was electrical...first he went out to use his small electrical tester...then he went back to use his better electrical tester...I mean why not use the better one to begin with? He looked like he was making crap up to try...he was totally avoiding the area that my husband thought was the problem...then he said the fix would be expensive cause they dont make these parts etc...and that it might make sense to get a new boiler instead of throwing good money after bad...we thought about that a minute then my husband pointed to the area he was avoiding and asked if that could be the problem? The plumber got a look on his face like wow he never thought of checking that but he starts to fiddle with that and comes to the conclusion that that is the problem and makes a few phone calls to see if he can get the part and it cost us just over $100. LOL! So I know he was trying to scam us because theres no way he couldnt have thought of even looking at that part. But because Ive already gone thru one plumbing operation and I didnt know anyone better to call I continued to use creepy guy on our bathroom remodel which my shower has air in the pipes and makes loud clicking noises eveytime you shut it off for like 2 days. And then he flaked out when he was supposed to install our toilet and thats when I stopped using him. He was supposed to show up and said his van broke didnt know when it would be fixed...acted like there was a chance he would be over that day, never showed and never called to resched....In my head I imagine he was prob in jail or court over walking into peoples houses without waiting for them to answer the door.

Next plumber is my roto rooter guy. I feel like they've charged me fair prices when it comes to my septic work and drain clogs. I was feeling good about them...they deal with crap all day and didnt charge as much as I imagined they would when my pipe under my toilet got a little leak I called them. Really nice guy showed up and since the pipe was in a difficult place, he thought he might have to remove the toilet to get to it, he gave me suggestions for doing temporary fix myself...hydrolic cement,I tipped him $20 for giving me free advice and thank you and I told him Id think about what we were going to do. My husband being lazy, I called him back to do the work as well as change the pipes under my sink because there was some sporadic leak there that I had no idea when/why it leaked and I was sick of it. So he worked in the basement on my pipe connected to the toilet (didnt have to remove toilet) and then he changed a pipe under the sink. Under $200 seemed fair. One week after he was working in my basement there is another leak in a copper drain pipe. There is a pretty clear small rectangular hole right next to a connection. I cant help but imagine him down there looking for a week spot to stab something sharp into. And Im upset about this cause I thought I finally found a plumber I could trust. Am I overreacting? I was looking at some of my other pipes (drain pipes from the bathroom) and there seems to be a sticky substance under them. Not wet stick but like something was put on thick under them and dried mostly but remains a little tacky. I dont remember seeing this before but maybe I never noticed? These are copper pipes that are soddered at the joints so its not like you would use the glue for pvc. Is there a substance that an unethical plumber could paint on copper pipes to make them errode faster? Am I being paranoid? Im thinking I should really set up hidden cameras - it would be worth the cost just so that i dont have to have this paranoid feeling everytime I have someone work in the basement? My house is old (1960)...but it just seems crazy that new things pop up a week after someones worked in my basement. Sorry I just typed a novel. Thanks for any comments/ advice you can give me!

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Plumbers do not sabotage pipes.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2011 at 8:09AM
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How likely is it that EVERY single workman you hire is out to get you?

"Am I being paranoid? Im thinking I should really set up hidden cameras......"

Yup, you are. This is nutty thinking. Print out your post and take it to your doctor. Tell us what his/her opinion is.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2011 at 9:12AM
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Plumbers do not sabotage pipes. You have had a string of bad luck, and made a few bad choices. Customer loyalty might help you. It sounds as though the first plumber was the best. Stick with him. Always call him. He will get to know you and the plumbing in your house, and you will establish a good relationship that will benefit both of you.

I always use the same tradespeople over and over. As a result, I get priority for my calls and I get a discount. Just as I give priority and discounts to my loyal customers.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2011 at 3:05PM
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Paranoid with a lazy know it all for a husband is a really bad combo. No wonder some of your trades disappear and don't come back.

If your husband is too lazy to do work around the house, there's no reason you can't do some of the jobs yourself. There are plenty of books and online video tutorials for just about every project under the sun. YouTube is your friend. Two adults calling a plumber to take care of a loose toilet fill line is absolutely ridiculous.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2011 at 5:25PM
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Guess I'm a bit more sympathetic with the OP than most of you. Amyoh, I do think you may be over reacting, but I understand why you may be wondering what's going on with all of these problems. IMHO, it's unlikely that these plumbers did any deliberate damage to your home. I suggest that you spend a little more time researching plumbers in your area (BBB, angie's list, forum for your area, and neighborhood or local newspaper message boards.) Once you find someone who comes highly recommended, be prepared to pay for their trip charge/minimum fee even when you think the job is a small one. I can't promise that you'll always get a winner (I just had a bad experience this week with someone who suggested several things that are against code & who didn't want to bother with the required permit), but on the whole I've been pleased.

Do plumbers, or any other trades, ever "sabotage" a home? Someone sure did in one of our previous homes, and it was a good plumber who found the problem (although it took a few visits.) While that house was under construction, someone stuck a foot long piece of copper pipe inside a waste pipe. You can guess how we found out. Once that was removed, and the problem recurred, we next found that someone had poured grout/mortar into a waste pipe filling it about 2/3 full. It was fortunate that we had an unfinished basement and the plumber could cut away the portion of pipe that was blocked with solidified material. If you read the Building a Home forum, you'll find stories of subs putting food trash (& worse) between wall studs before the drywall was installed. So, yes, stuff like that happens, although I believe it's rare.

If it makes you feel better to install a security camera in your basement, by all means go ahead. You may need to inform workers about it, depending on local law. We have exterior security cameras, and our landscape contractor was glad because one of his new guys lied to him about work he claimed to have done here. All the owner of the company had to do was tell the guy about the cameras and he admitted not just that lie but also some others.

As for not doing the repairs yourself, you don't deserve the nasty attitude in the previous post. For all we know, you may have physical impairments that prevent you from doing the job, or maybe you just prefer not to add amateur plumber to your list of accomplishments. I have what's known as a "hidden disability" and I don't share details with everyone. One of the posters here was kind enough to write out detailed instructions on how to troubleshoot our dishwasher, but I had to wait until I could ask a family member to do it for me since I can't access the area below the sink. If I didn't have someone available to do that chore for me, I would have had to pay for a service call.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   June 7, 2011 at 10:07AM
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Thanks Rockmanor - I appreciate your thoughtful non-nasty approach. I have to laugh at some of the other posts; boy the claws come out (I think some of them may be actual plumbers who do sabotage pipes - lol). Anyway I realize that I am probably being paranoid...and putting cameras in my basement would at least allay my paranoid mind when something breaks a week after someone is down there working. And not for nothing, but I have seen 20/20 or one of those shows do a hidden camera expose on air conditioning guys in some town and 20/20 rigged a house so that the air conditioner which was completely fine appeared to be broken with a very simple problem that any air conditioning guy could diagnose simply...which would cost under $100 to was like 9 out of 10 (or 5 out of 6, dont know the exact number of guys they called in) either tried to tell them it was something that cost alot more, or tried to sell them a new air conditioning system. One guy even sat on one of the vents while he was up in the attic causing a big dent in it - lol. AND did you hear about the plumber in england who peed in a vase and dumped it into the hot water tank?? So this stuff does happen. I guess I was looking to see if maybe someone knew what the sticky substance that seems to be painted on the bottom of my copper pipes around the joints but further than the liberally painted. I guess I wondered if some one knew of a substance that you could paint on copper to make it deteriorate faster? But yeah I am prob being paranoid...its prob all coincidence. Oh and ramona - thanks I liked your response too - I planned on being a loyal customer to this last guy(and I still plan to use him for now unless another coincidence happens).

    Bookmark   June 7, 2011 at 10:38AM
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Your house is 50 years old. So are your pipes. You have had a good long service life out of them. Once you start to see leaks in one area, you will likely continue to see leaks in other areas - the most stressed areas just show up first. No one is sabotaging your pipes - they are just old. New leaks probably show up shortly after a plumber has worked on them because the pipe close to the repair gets disturbed during the repair, making it more likely to be the next leak location. That's just the way things fail once they start failing. You may need to prepare yourself for replumbing the house.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2011 at 12:25PM
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Thanks aliceinwonderland, you're prob right.
Here is an interesting expose' done by chris hansen of dateline...its more recent than the one I had was talking about. This is a link to part 1 - you can get to the other parts from there.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2011 at 9:15AM
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