Seeking advice about problem with a contractor

zevi_bAugust 30, 2011


(I don't know if this is the right forum -- please advise if I need to post this elsewhere.)

I would really appreciate getting your advice on this matter. I have an issue with a contractor, and I would like to ask for your suggestion/opinion.

I selected a provider to install a new basement toilet. Being located "below-grade", the unit is an "up-flush" unit, and it includes a pump which needs to grind and pump the output upwards. In addition to the toilet unit itself, the installation involved plumbing and electric work.

Unfortunately, after the installation was complete, when I came home from work and tested it -- the unit was found to be not functioning properly (it seized on the smallest amount of toilet paper and stopped working).

When I contacted the contractor, I was told that I need to call a plumber to fix the problem. I called a plumber and upon further work and calls to the manufacturer, it was verified that the pump was defective.The manufacturer accepted responsibility and sent a new replacement pump. Again, I had to contact the plumber to install the replacement pump. Needless to say, I had to pay the plumber a full price for his work out of my own pocket.

Currently, there is still an outstanding balance of $500 that I owe the original contractor. However, the plumber bill was about $600. I feel that not only should I not pay the remaining $500, I should get at least part of the extra $100.

On one hand, one can argue that the contractor installed the toilet, and it's not his fault that the unit was defective. On the other hand it was not my fault either! It is not like as if I provided the toilet for him to install -- he ordered and brought the unit from his wholesaler warehouse.

If, as a contractor you are asked to install a new faucet, you go and get a faucet, and after you install it -- it leaks: do you just take the payment and walk away saying "I am not responsible for the faucet?"

I would really appreciate hearing what you think I should do.

Thanks in advance,


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Licensed and insured contractors do generally charge enough to be able to offer an installation warranty of the products that they purchase, but a "handyman" type of worker often only provides a service with no type of warranty. A lot will depend on the written contract you had with this individual as well. If the contract was for installation services only and did not mention that the work was guaranteed for a specified period of time, then no warranty on the work exists and the plumber's bill is yours.

I'm confused though as to why a licensed plumber was not involved in the first place. A general Contractor is perfectly fine for constructing the wall around the bathroom and finishing it off, but he should have subcontracted to a plumber for the plumbing portion, and most especially for a complex installation like a macerating toilet. Are you sure this contractor is actually licensed and insured?

    Bookmark   August 30, 2011 at 2:15AM
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Christopher Nelson Wallcovering and Painting

"I'm confused though as to why a licensed plumber was not involved in the first place. A general Contractor is perfectly fine for constructing the wall around the bathroom and finishing it off, but he should have subcontracted to a plumber for the plumbing portion, and most especially for a complex installation like a macerating toilet. Are you sure this contractor is actually licensed and insured?"

Good questions that need to be addressed.

    Bookmark   August 30, 2011 at 5:14AM
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Thank you for the responses!

The work did not involve wall-building: the bathroom was in the basement to begin with -- but it had no toilet. To avoid the $$$ of floor breaking and such, I opted to go with installing an up-flush unit (link below).

What the contractor had to do was: get the unit and install it, pipe it to the outgoing sewage line (at the ceiling of the basement), hook up to provide water to the unit, install a ground-fault outlet next to the toilet and run electricity to it.

As far as warranty, he wrote: "Our work is warranted for one year". It is not a handyman operation. It's a remodeling contractor with the acronyms CGR, CAPS (whatever that means...) since 1985. Form their website: "In 1988, XXX was named one of "America's Top 50 Remodelors" by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB)."

I don't know if the young guy who installed the piping during the work was actually a licensed plumber or not (I doubt it...), but as I was watching his work, I have to say that I was less than impressed with it...

What do you think?

Thanks again!

Here is a link that might be useful: The toilet unit that was selected to install

    Bookmark   August 31, 2011 at 10:54AM
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Apparently the installer wasn't a plumber or he would have noticed the problem and let you know. Personally, I'd call the installer and ask if the person that installed the toilet was a licensed plumber and why he didn't test the unit and catch the problem after install. Then I'd ask if the same person did the electrical.

Was there a contract? I would hang on to the $500 until you have more info.

    Bookmark   August 31, 2011 at 1:03PM
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It's a hard lesson, but what should have happened is that when they told you to call a plumber, you should have reminded them of their one year guarantee and that they should get their butts out ther pronto to fulfill that guarantee. If they refused, then that's the point you start the complaint process and escalate. By engaging the plumber yourself, you are obligated to pay for his services yourself. You can not compel the original contractor to pay for the plumber's services. They didn't engage their services.

If the work was guaranteed for one year, then you need to be contacting the principal of the company for a heart to heart talk here. They should have had a licensed plumber doing the work from the beginning, not as a bandaid to find out what was wrong with the install. And they should not have had you call a plumber, they should have come back out to figure out what the issue was---with their own plumber.

Unfortunately, you cannot just not pay the original contractor for the work that they have completed, even if it was sub standard. That puts you in the wrong legally. You need to speak with the company owners to register your gripes and to come to some sort of resolution about the quality of the work and the money owed. The solution needs to be in writing with all parties signing it. Otherwise, you may end up in court as a defendent because of a mechanic's lien. If you are unable to come to a resolution to the issue, then your only legal remedy is to take them to small claims court. Or perhaps a local contractor's board has some type of complaint resolution service that you can utilize. Were the correct permits pulled for this job and did it complete the city's final inspection? A call to your municipal codes office would be a good place to find that out if you don't know the information. That's a pressure point to press if they failed to pull permits. If you paid with a credit card, that's another resoloution path if you can't work it out in person.

    Bookmark   August 31, 2011 at 3:48PM
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I'll throw out one other thing:

Who provided the toilet? You? The contractor? The plumber/installer, or...

In my world, whoever provided the toilet is responsible for the toilet not working, it's up to them to work it out with the manufacturer.

If the homeowner bought the toilet and the plumber installed it, and then the toilet was found to be defective (and not broken by the installer during installation), it's up to the homeowner to work out any monetary issues with the manufacturer. But the plumber would get paid for the initial he'd get paid again for the the removal and installation of the second toilet.

If the contractor supplied the toilet and handed it off to a plumber that he subcontracted the work to, then it's up to the contractor to make things right at no cost to you. If the plumber wants more money to install the second one, fine, but he battles that out with the contractor. Not you.

If the contractor bought the toilet and handed it off to a plumber that YOU hired, the plumber is due money for the second installation, and legally the money comes from you since you hired him. It's then up to you to get that money from the contractor, as it was the contractor who bought the toilet.

If the plumber supplied the toilet himself, then the plumber installs the second toilet at no cost to you or to the contractor. Again, that replacement is transparent to you. The removal and installation of the second toilet should be invisible to the homeowner, there should be no additional cost to the homeowner.

As far as a one-year warranty, that's usually a worksmanship warranty. That wouldn't typically apply to warranting broken fixtures.

    Bookmark   September 9, 2011 at 3:41PM
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