Choosing a plumber for your home renovation

Decisions early on in the renovation project, such as which plumber you choose, can make a big difference to your end result. Columnist Duncan Stuart found out that making the wrong choice meant coming home to find his whole back yard excavated.

A plumber at work
COLUMN Duncan Stuart

For a while, when my eyes started flinching involuntarily, I looked like one of those bad guys in a Bond film – an all-powerful megalomaniac planning to take over the world, but meanwhile suffering an allergy triggered by cats.
What bought this on? I’d wake up and my left eye felt as if it had been snagged with a fish hook, and somebody very small, was landing the catch.
My nervous twitch, I now realise, flared up around the time we were renovating our villa. More specifically the flinching started whenever anyone mentioned the word plumber.
Plumbers make the world go round. Without plumbers our cities would be awash with human waste, and our gleaming taps would produce nothing unless we were hooked up to tank water, which is a prospect I’ve never relished since the childhood discovery of a fetid body of a drowned possum in one of the rainwater tanks that mum and dad used for watering the garden. We wondered why the plants were growing so well.
But with our renovation project we discovered that every barrel has a rotten possum. Meet our plumber, a friend of our builder.
Our project involved plumbing the bathroom and the kitchen, and hooking our house up to the water, waste water and sewage systems – which in our case ran a mere three metres from the wall of our house. We live on a corner site, so the road runs right past our bathroom and kitchen. The plumbing and drainage should have been a breeze.
The first mistake was to go with the builder’s recommendation, without first checking him out. The second mistake was to hand over our taps that we’d already purchased – $1,000 of gleaming faucets and shower fittings. “I may as well hang onto these for when I need them,” he helpfully explained.
The third mistake was to be off-site when the plumber made his decisions.
Here’s what he did. Instead of sending the waste pipes from the kitchen sink straight out from underneath the kitchen to the city wastewater pipe – three metres away – he decided the best approach was to take our grey water on a grand tour of the back garden.
I arrived home to find a digger had excavated a deep drain that went out the back of the house, straight through the roots of a big tree, 10 metres north of our house, then, veered left toward the road, performing a dog-leg turn past the proposed carport, before running back to where the drain would have been if he’d just gone out toward the road in the first place. Not only was the back garden destroyed, he handed over a $1,500 bill for the excavation work.
Now here’s where he had me. He had all my taps, and quite frankly he held them as ransom until I handed over $1,500. It was a neat scam really, and it left me feeling sick and powerless – and with a twitching eye.
After some rather unpleasant haggling, the wastewater took the direct route, the Panama Canal was refilled and our taps were fitted. However, the episode ruined our relationship with the builder (how could I trust him after inflicting his mate the plumber onto us?), and it left a nasty taste to our project, which, until then, had been a romantic journey full of little manageable surprises (ba daaa! – the joists are rotten!), and the normal budget overruns. We could live with those. We always had the power to make decisions and choices. But the plumber’s actions rendered us powerless; somewhat stressed and twitchy.
There’s a little punch line to this story. When we moved into the house again, and turned the taps, we found every single one had not been tightened. Water sprayed everywhere. Naturally we phoned for a plumber, but not the same guy. Never the same guy! 

You might be interested in reading: Marley Typhoon Spouting.

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This column featured in Issue 001 of Renovate Magazine. Renovate Magazine is an easy to use resource providing fresh inspiration and motivation at every turn of the page. 

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