A question for plumbers

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In one of our bathrooms, we have a sewer gas odor. It is coming from around the commode, not from the shower, sinks or tub. I am guessing it is probably a bad wax ring, but I am not able to tackle the job myself.
I called a plumber, and he told me they had to run a 'smoke test' to determine the problem. He said I had to notify the fire department they were going to run the smoke test, that is the law (????). I asked how much that cost. "$300"!!!!
Then I asked how much to change the wax ring without the smoke test. He said they won't do that unless they first run the smoke test.
I think it's a rip off. Surely, it wouldn't take more than an hour to replace the wax ring, and even at an inflated price, that should not be over $100.
Question: Is this a normal procedure, or a rip off?
Thanks for your advice.
Bob-tx
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On 2011-07-28, Bob-tx <No> wrote:

Sounds like a rip-off to me.
First, I'd call the city and ask if it is, in fact, "the law", and second, I'd ask if I could do my own smoke test. Can't be too hard. Just find your cleanout and insert smoke bomb. Also, you might try calling a couple more plumbers.
nb
--
vi ...the heart of evil

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If you do your own smoke test, suggesting you put it into a small can with a wire through holes in the sides. Otherwise, the bomb can melt a portion of a plastic pipe.
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"Bob-tx" <No Spam no contact> wrote in message

If you are willing to pay to pull the toilet and re-install with a new wax ring, why do you need a smoke test. The only use it could have is to identify a leak in the piping or the wax ring, but it would seem more logical to do the test AFTER replacing the ring, to ensure that the seal is good. Also, wouldn't the responsibility to call the fire department belong to the plumber not you. I would call the plumbing inspector to check if they have such a crazy law and the reason for it, it sounds rip-off to me.
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Bob-tx wrote:

I vote for rip-off. (Can I cast two votes?)
Just for grins, call the fire department and ask whether a so-called "smoke-test" is normal to test a toilet.
Just where in Texas are you?
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On 7/28/2011 10:05 AM, HeyBub wrote:

When we use a smoke bomb to check air conditioner duct work for air leaks, we notify the fire department as a mater of common sense.
TDD
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On Thu, 28 Jul 2011 22:32:06 -0500, The Daring Dufas wrote:

Now why would you do that? I could see tossing a smoker inside the heat exchanger of a furnace to check for cracks but not the duct work.
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On 7/28/2011 10:40 PM, A. Baum wrote:

There is actually a spray chemical we use for checking heat exchangers, it's sprayed into the return air and if the flames on the burners change color a leak is indicated. When I've checked out the duct work at a large building such as a grocery store with large exposed duct work, the smoke bombs work well to show where the air leaks are.
TDD
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The Daring Dufas wrote:

Couldn't you determine whether the sanitary sewer system was connected to the A/C ductwork by some other method?
Where I used to work, our facilities manager chunked a smoke bomb into the A/C return air handler. Immediately HUGE volumes of smoke shot up through the bottom of the three mainframes in the computer room. Smoke detectors went nuts. Operators pulled the emergency power-down handles. About a zillion fire trucks surrounded the building and demanded the release of the hostages. Confusing and contradictory instructions were bellowed out over the PA system. People screamed "Run for your life" and "We're all gonna die!". Some sat at their desk and wept.
All in all, a fun afternoon.
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On 7/29/2011 6:48 AM, HeyBub wrote:

I've never used a smoke bomb on a sanitary sewer system but I've used some really big long snakes and florescent dye. The dye changed the color of the hair clogging the drain, made me think there was a punk rocker stuck in there. ^_^
TDD
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On 7/29/2011 7:48 AM, HeyBub wrote:

Chortle. Some kind soul volunteered me as a Fire Warden (aka hall monitor) at the federal facility where I work, as a 'temporary' replacement for a fellow that fell off a ladder, working on his dad's house. (See the AHR connection?) Well, that poor guy ain't ever gonna walk right again, so it looks like I am stuck with it. Your lovely description pretty much fits all the mass evac exercises they do there- I have to be the last SOB off the floor to make sure everyone left, mark the doors accordingly, and then make my boss call in to their 'command center' so they can do a nose count. Said command center is in the basement, BTW. If the building takes heavy damage, it will be very dark down there, with no way out.
--
aem sends...

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On 7/28/2011 11:32 PM, The Daring Dufas wrote:

Especially in recent times when so many places use emergency services as a revenue stream.
In at least 3 municipalities in my area if someone were to drive by and notice smoke and pick up their phone they would send police cars, fire trucks, paramedics, an ambulance and a large bill.
In those towns you don't even have a choice if say your radiator hose blows off and you safely park the car because the police are trained to aggressively take charge of "the situation" and they will call for the firetrucks and paramedics and you will be sent a bill.
My niece worked for a collection agency for a while and she said many of the bills they were trying collect payment for were from municipalities who had billed as I described.
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On 7/29/2011 8:40 AM, George wrote:

That's why I would recommend recording your phone conversations with government agencies. You properly notify them that you're recording with an explanation that it's for your records and get them to verify their name, time/date and if they are the correct person to be talking to about your situation.
TDD
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The Daring Dufas wrote:

Many states do not requie two-party consent to record. I don't think there's a federal law on point.
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On 7/29/2011 3:29 PM, HeyBub wrote:

My thought is to record them with their full knowledge so there is no chance for an accusation of underhandedness or any violation of law. I know prosecutors like to make up laws as they go about their daily business or more correctly try to fit an imagined offense to an existing law.
TDD
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The Daring Dufas wrote:

Good point, but if they know they're being recorded, they'll be more circumspect. I prefer them to say "I should take two steps back and put ten bullets in your f***ing chest!"
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On 7/30/2011 7:44 AM, HeyBub wrote:

Just my luck, the government criminal terrorist with a badge would do it. I'm sure a firearm I never knew I owned would be found in my lifeless hand and there would be no sign of my recording device and the government owned recording device would have a mysterious malfunction rendering it useless. My luck always seems to run like that.
TDD
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Not just emergency services. Anything that can be turned into a revenue source for the municipalities WILL be turned into one. The next big "default" is expected to come as a result of the many pension and health care promises made to city/county employees that are unfunded or underfunded. Just like retiring GM workers (and hundreds of thousands of others) found out, your retirement bennies can be negotiated away in the blink of an eye. To at least try to meet the payments due retirees, local governments are going to charge for everything they can and have already steeply hiked various fees and fines. Talk about anti-business environments. The funny thing about recessions is how they tend to avalanche.
-- Bobby G.
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A few weeks ago, I would have answered as several have that most people could easily do this themselves (especially if you take an extra 2 minutes to separate the tank from the bowl).
That was until I (reasonably young, fit and mechanical) spent 2 days dealing with the aftermath of pulling up a toilet to snake a drain. Brass bolts pulled through the rotted iron flange when reinstalling, flange broke when bolts were moved, was too close to the concrete slab for a steel repair ring, too high for a slip in pvc flange. Finally put anchors in the slab. 40 year old soldered shutoff valve leaked when reopened and had to be replaced (too damaged to just replace innards). 5 other minor things that I'm forgetting...
No, this still shouldn't have taken me two days, but I wasn't in a position to drop everything else to do this all at once, and was expecting a 2 hour job when I started. Luckily, we have two bathrooms...
So, just keep in mind that the potential for "surprises" is there...
My reading of what the OP wrote is that the plumber meant that it was their policy to do the smoke test, and that when doing a smoke test they are required by law to inform the FD, not that they are required to do the test. The second part sounds fairly reasonable. The first sounds like he didn't want the job. But then maybe he's done this before and had to deal with customers claiming he didn't fix the problem when it was actually somewhere else...
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Larry Fishel wrote:

My first reply to the OP was that he should simply ask another plumbing company how much they would charge to replace a toilet floor seal.
In other words - don't mention anything about a sewer gas odor. That should alleviate any tendency for the plumbers to raise the issue of a smoke test.
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