Hi. I very recently noticed some mold in the den under the master
bathroom. The mold was up by the ceiling where it meets the wall -
tthe tub is above that so I knew it wasn't good. The bathroom above
was remodeled about four years ago and all of the plumbing was
I opened up the ceiling and the sheetrock was wet and moldy, so I cut
it out, cleaned up the mold as best I could, located what was leaking
and called the plumber.
There was a copper T in the riser supplying the sink branch. The T
was leaking where the horizontal line came in. I don't know how long
the leak had been dripping, but for the amount of green crud on the
outside of the T it must have been for a while. You could see that
the solder at the T was rough and not smooth like it usually is when
the solder and fitting are hot enough.
The plumber came out and took a look and agreed that it was the T that
leaked and there was no other damage that caused the leak. When the
remodeling work was done I did not have a contract with the plumber,
it was a verbal agreement (I know that's not recommended!) and
everything went fine.
That's the background, now here's my question.
Is there an implied warranty of some sort that covers concealed work
and problems that don't immediately show up? I know new houses have
warranties, and that a standard contract usually has a one year
warranty covering the work, but this is an older house, and there
wasn't a contract. In any event I don't think an entirely new
bathroom plumbing system should leak from the supply lines in just a
So, who's responsible for the repair costs? I'm not particularly
concerned about the sheetrock, painting and the few tiles I had to
remove at the tub to access the plumbing. It's more of a question of
whether the plumber should take care of the plumbing repair on his
dime as it was his work that caused the problem.
It was due to an honest mistake - his mistake - and I know he is a
good plumber. I thought that he would take care of the repair since
his work caused the problem and I would not be billed. In return I
would not bill him for the damaged sheetrock, painting and tile that
had to be removed as I have a relative that does general construction
and handyman work for me. In mentioning the situation to some friends
they said that the plumber would probably hit me with a hefty bill for
the plumbing repair.
If he does send me a bill, what do I do? Do I just pay it without
question? Pay it and give him the bill for the other repair work
necessitated by the leak? I really have no idea what legal area this
would fall under and whether there is some standard procedure for a
concealed problem showing up a few years down the road.
I have no intention of taking this to a lawyer or small claims court,
and I live in NY if anyone knows the specifics in my state. I am just
curious what people's opinions are on this type of thing and if
someone could provide some guidance on how to approach the topic with
the plumber if he does in fact send me a bill.
Any and all replies will be greatly appreciated. Thanks.
You answered your own question.
No contract, and _usually_ there is a one year warranty. Now, 4 years later
you discover a leak.
Who is to say, you didn't have a heat failure, and the cold started to
burst the pipes there. Who is to say, someone didn't puncture the plumbers
work with a drywall screw.
Your thinking the plumber is some how responsible 4 years later, is utterly
Quit being an ass.
What would I do? I'd call the plumber and tell him I've got it all
opened up and have found a foulty solder joint. Would he like to come
and redo it for me ? I'd tell him I'm not holding him responsible for
the damage done but would appreciate if he'd make good on the actual
My guesss is if he's any kind of a man at all he'll agree and look
after it. .
Either that or I'd just fix it myself - since I'm capable and have all
the required tools.
If you didn't discuss it at the time (of the repair), you pay the bill
and go on.
Since it was his work, he may have realized he did have a cold solder
joint and not bill it but I'd not count on it after four years nor
would I expect him to negate the bill once sent if it wasn't discussed
at the time of the repair as noted.
As for the access work repair cost, I'd not expect him to bear any of
that cost at this time.
On Wed, 14 Jan 2009 14:28:34 -0800 (PST), Handplanes
(snip for brevity:)
I'm a renovations contractor in Alberta, Canada.
Our renovations are done under written contract with a warranty of one
year on work done and material provided. That's fairly standard
Obviously if a client has a problem, I'm not going to be a stickler
for the the one year limitation ... I'll use my best judgement, and
I will err on the customers" side. It's just good business ... I
tell my trades that when the contract is signed, I have made my
profit ... what we are working for is the repeat and the referral.
Most serious contractors do the same. It's the cheapest advertising
we can buy.
A verbal agreement is a contract ... you should have asked at the time
the work was done ...even had him scrawl a guarantee on the bill.
Similarly, when he did the repair, you should have asked whether he
was doing it at his own expense or whether he intended to bill you and
if so, how much.
The only legal maxim I'm aware of that you can rely on is that you
have a right to a "reasonable expectation the work and materials are
suitable for the use intended".
You should know that soldered joints will occasionally let go. There
could have been the tiniest, tiniest pinhole crack weakening the
soldered joint that four years of pressure finally worked through.
No way he could have known or caught it when it happened.
Four years is a long time .... I'd say it's a "goodwill issue". If
you're a good customer or if he's a good guy, you'll be treated
fairly. Your description sounds like a couple of hours maximum.
In future, nail down the cost and the warranty in advance.
On Jan 14, 10:41 pm, email@example.com wrote:
Agree with all of the above, including that there was in fact a
contract for the original work. It was a verbal one, though, which of
course presents many problems.
If it had failed in a couple months, I think the situation would be
different. But after 4 years, I doubt you could prevail from a legal
standpoint. Also, as someone pointed out, it could have been a
defect in the materials. The plumber provided them, but is he then
responsible 4 years later for a possible manufacturing defect?
Ok Nick, let me run this by you. Lets pretend I'm the plumber.
Here is what I say:
1) Sorry Nick, I never did any work here. Prove it.
2) Sorry Nick, You didn't want a contract
3) Sorry Nick, My work is warranted for only 1 yr.
Oh, and here is my favorite.........
4) Sorry Nick, I know that in the evening while your wife is at work,
I've heard you have been having intimate encounters with a 400lb woman
that likes to take long hot showers with you. With the weight of the
tub, water, you and her, the movement has caused the piping to stress
and move. Sorry bout cher luck.
Did you discuss it with him? If not then you should get a bill.
Why would he fix it it for free if you don't even ask?
A rational person would have a conversation about these things before
the work is done. That conversation should be with the plumber not a
bunch of people on usenet.
On Sat, 17 Jan 2009 07:31:53 -0800 (PST), firstname.lastname@example.org
The plumber came.
He fixed it
He did not leave a bill.
Chances are excellent he's a "good guy" and stood behind his work -
If the OP had not been a "good guy" and had bitched and complained and
threatened, the plumber may have done otherwise.
Hi. Thanks for all of the replies. I really appreciate the input -
even the one where somebody called me an ass!
To address some of the replies to my original post.
I understand that you should always have a contract, but I also
understand that the contract is only as good as the people who stand
behind it. The people that stand behind there work don't do it
because of a piece of a paper - they do it out of pride and a sense of
There was no GC. When I redid the bathroom I hired the plumber and
the electrician - that's it. I've never used another electrician in
over twenty years, and the plumber has more or less been used
exclusively for a similar amount of time. I will be redoing my
kitchen and adding a bathroom on the first floor this year, and
redoing the laundry room within the next month or so. The following
year I will do the third floor bathroom. I pointed all of this out to
the new bosses when they first came to inspect the leak.
I fully understand that four years is a long time to expect warranty
coverage. I did not ask for warranty coverage and I am willing to
compromise. All of the demo, protection, drywall, redone insulation
and tile work would certainly cost more than the plumbing repair, and
I am not at this time expecting reimbursement for that work.
The leak had to get repaired regardless, and I would like to use the
"known quantities" again, so I guess in a way this has turned into a
test of whether the new bosses will stand behind their work. I think
that Ken from Alberta pretty much summed up my feelings on how I would
like a contractor to view their work. That attitude is what keeps
people coming back for more.
So here's a bit more information and an update.
I have used this plumber on a bunch of projects over the years. The
guy who does the actual work, I'll call him Ted, is a known quantity -
he's a character. He's definitely a paranoid, semi-delusional guy of
67. He works alone most of the time, and he does good work and is
easy to get along with, so I really don't care about his other
issues. In the time since I first worked with him 23 years ago, his
boss retired and sold the company, and the next boss retired and his
nephew-in-law and a buddy took over the company. This is what has
presented some issues. Ted is not the issue, it's the new bosses and
what I should expect from them.
When I wrote the original post the plumber had not completed the
repair. The new bosses came over to take a look at the problem after
I had opened it up, and we were all in agreement that the leak was due
to a faulty soldered joint at the T off of the hot water riser. The
pipes never froze, no wayward screw or nail hit the pipe, and I
certainly don't have fat women in the tub! The new bosses sent Ted
over first thing in the morning to take a crack at the repair. He
looked at it, didn't think there was enough access and he was afraid
of setting the insulation on fire, so he begged out and called the
bosses to come do it. That was the last I saw of Ted on this repair.
The two bosses showed up, tried resoldering the joint, that didn't
work, cut out the T, sweated some barbed PEX fittings onto the copper
pipe and used crimp rings to join the PEX. When we turned on the
water, it leaked, so they cut the PEX, installed a barbed coupling and
redid the crimp rings. It leaked again.
At this point the two bosses had been there for near on 6 hours. The
access was restricted so the time is a bit misleading. One boss was
definitely working, the other guy was just standing around as there
was nothing he could do. The working boss was getting frustrated and
I could see that he would either damage something or hurt himself if
the frustration level increased much. His crimp ring tool's handle
was hitting the tub and he couldn't have the handle perpendicular to
the PEX so the crimp rings were moving around a bit and the PEX wasn't
fully seated on the sweated barbed fitting.
At this point he starts telling me that more tile has to be removed.
Some wall tile above the tub and more tile off to the side. All of
the joints were under the tub, and I was much less than thrilled to
hear that he wanted to do more damage - in my opinion, very
unnecessary damage. As it was near the end of the day, I told him
that we should knock off and pick it up tomorrow and that I would
think about opening up the tile. At the end of the day, the water was
off in the bathroom.
I did a little research on the net and saw there were some
alternatives - side-crimp tools and PEX hose-clamp-type rings that are
tightened by hand. I also felt that we could probably do the crimp
rings with the access as it was, and I would not be removing anymore
tile. When I called the plumber the next day, they were already on
another job, so I asked if I they'd mind if I cut off the bad crimp
rings to get us a head start for when he showed up, and he said that
was fine. I love my Dremel.
The plumber still hadn't shown up by noon, so I beeped him and he got
back to me an hour later. I was the frustrated one now, and I asked
if I could borrow his crimp ring tool and some rings and a foot and a
half of PEX as I felt I could work with the access as it was and I
wanted the bathroom back online - no problem, and he dropped them off.
An hour and a half later it was done. I redid almost all of the PEX,
except for one piece, and used some tricks I've picked up over the
years. I used a hair dryer to heat up the PEX, bent it by hand, then
cooled it off with cold water so it would stay bent, and attached the
most difficult access crimp ring first (I'd mentioned that to the
working boss while he was working and he ignored the advice, which I
understand as he does not really know me from a hole in the wall).
I've finished patching and taping the drywall ceiling below and will
start on making the removed tile into a hidden access panel in case I
ever have to get in there again.
And my final questions on the subject.
Now, that's the whole situation. If you were in my situation, would
you expect to get billed for the time even though you finished the
work yourself? Would you just pay the bill, negotiate, or refuse to
That's a very false generalization. Consider this. After a job
that was supposed to cost $500, you're presented with a bill for
$1500. Or the plumber's helper falls off a ladder and winds up in the
hospital. Would you rather have a signed contract in your hand that
says the job is going to cost $500 and that the contractor carries
insurance? Or would you rather have nothing? With the contract, you
send him a check for $500 and if he doesn't like it, he can take you
to small claims. With a written contract, you're in an excellent
position to defent yourself, if necessary.
Also, having it in writting protects both parties. It's not unusual
for two parties to have different recollections of exactly what the
scope of the work was, what was included, what was not, etc. Three
months later, when the bill comes, who's to say what each party said,
who understood what, etc. You want it in writing not because you
don't trust the other party, but to eliminate routine
I'd refuse to pay. And I wouldn't have these clowns back in the
house again, regardless of whether you pay or not. And I'd say you
made a mistake by not discussing what they would charge, if anything,
BEFORE you let them do 6 hours of work. After they inspected it and
determined it was a bad solder joint, I would have said "Since it's a
bad solder joint, will you repair it for no charge?" And if they said
no, then I would have done it myself. Or if it was something I dind't
think I could do and wanted to use them for this job, I would
definitely have gotten a fixed price up front, not let them go to work
not knowing how many hours it would take or if I was going to pay.
Butch up dude!
I know a couple of contractors that would just get on with life and accept
responsibility for their past error. In this case if they do bill, I'd
negotiate something as they did cause the problem and were not able to
implement the fix. They may be just happy to be out of there.
In the past year we moved our manufacturing operation to a different
building. Total outside contracting was over $2 million. Some worked to a
quote with purchase order, others were time and materials. I can think of
only two that had written contracts. None screwed us out of a penny or did
not finish their job. When you have a good tradesman, hold on to him.
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