When 9 in 10 plumbers say “no”!

Be4 mum’s Picky Siti went back to the deepest of Lampung in Sumatra for one month’s leave starting Aug 13, I laid out a strategy to ensure I would have as stress-free as possible a time looking after my mother who at 87 going on 88 has something of a cognitive problem.

But as they say, the best laid plans of mice and men are bound to encounter hiccups!

Mine wasn’t so much a hiccup as a drip — drip-drip from a concealed pipe in a wall at the back of the flat outside the maid’s room.

Actually, the problem surfaced a few days be4 Picky left for home and I had intended to have it fixed be4 she left.

Again, intentions have a way of being thwarted so that they lead to a cul de sac.

In my case, I immediately called up a plumber-acquaintance whom I had recently introduced to KL to help him solve a similar problem at his Simsville investment prop: a leaking concealed pipe.

However, on getting my call, said plumber-acquaintance declared he wasn’t a plumber but a water-proofing specialist! 🙄 In short, he couldn’t help! When I persisted, he offered a pal whom he highly recommended as an experienced plumber.

Said recommended pal turned up, looked at my damp wall starting to go mouldy and declared it a very difficult job, which made me doubt his competence. When he quoted $1,700 for the job, it convinced me he wasn’t just incompetent but a rip-off. (After all, I had earlier this year had lourves put into my balcony for the same amount!) Worse, he declared he wasn’t “the plumber” but “contractor” and had to bring “my plumber” to confirm his quotation.

So I suspended my search thinking the small but persistent leak could wait till Picky’s return when I can put in max effort to source a reasonable plumber.

But no. On the morning of Aug 28, I found small puddles of water on the kitchen floor. Then the condo executive came a-calling and said the neighbour downstairs was complaining about her ceiling.

“It’s quite bad,” condo exec said.

I went downstairs and what I saw almost made me faint! Bad was a mild description unless such cases are usually even worse.

My search for plumbing help went into overdrive.

I texted half a dozen friends including one who had just rebuilt her home. Her contractor responded immediately and promised to come by to see the damage. But no show.

Another friend of friend’s contractor (who also just rebuilt friend of friend’s landed home) did turn up with his plumber in tow. But after much grumbling and tutt-tutting he told me he wasn’t sure how the leak could be repaired and even if he knew, he had to consult his brother on what to quote.

“I call you tomorrow,” he said, after inspecting my neighbour’s home as well. And was never heard of again.

My regular handy man — whom I thought is something of a plumber since he could change toilet bowls, taps etc besides doing electrical work — did turn up but after one look at the weeping wall declared the job beyond him and beat a hasty retreat.

The condo’s exec turned up with a contractor whom he said was one of the condo’s regular contractors. The latter returned with his plumber who looked too well dressed to be hands on. This plumber declared there was no way the leak could be repaired without all the pipes in the apartment being replaced, as the place and pipes were old.

“If I repair this, another will spring a leak somewhere…”

Oh, dire pronouncement and diagnosis I could do without.

I managed to speak on the phone to two plumbers recommended by friends; one declared, like my handy man, that he knew nothing about repairing concealed pipes; the other advised that he would charge an attendance fee whether or not he could resolve anything, which gave me no confidence at all.

I was reduced to calling a contractor whom my neighbour recommended and whom I’ve also used for small jobs on and off over. This one played hard to get and demurred coming by to inspect till much later in the day, or perhaps the following day, depending on his schedule. So, effectively nine down.

Then I hit pay dirt with R whom Z says is a gr8 plumber.

He answered my call promptly. Arrived within half an hour to view the damage. Gave me a quote within an hour after he left and after much persuasion, agreed to do “trace, repair and replace” job the very next morning.

He arrived promptly at 10.30am and did the trace, repair etc single-handed with little noise or fuss, cleaning up the mess created by the hacking work etc and was gone by noon.

Of cos, he still has to return to do the cement work to “hide” the pipe again as well as repaint the affected wall areas and my downstairs neighbour’s ceiling.

His charges are $1,100 which he hasn’t collected as he still hasn’t completed the second part of the job.

Everyone in the family who has seen the small area repaired expressed surprised at the price, although none have had exactly the same problem resolved at lower prices. Or even such damage to make good at their homes.

So, did R charge me beyond the ethical limts? I won’t know and I certainly won’t go to any body for plumbers similar to the Singapore Medical Council for doctors.

After all, I did have as a guideline verbal quote from the first contractor who turned up and that’s more than 50% higher than what R — the 10th plumber — is quoting me. Also, there’s the one who recommended changing all the concealed pipes in the flat!

I guess I could have gone on calling the long list of plumbers that various friends have supplied me with, but time was of the essence, very much like when a person has been hit by a catastrophic illness.

There just ain’t time to shop around for a better deal, let alone the best deal, especially when I’ve already had nine unsatisfactory replies.

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12 thoughts on “When 9 in 10 plumbers say “no”!

  1. I never like concealed pipes or electrical trunkings. Lots of prob if need to repair like what you encountered. It’s nice if you conceal them but difficult to maintain.

  2. Alas, Uncle G! It’s not that I “like” or “dislike” concealed pipes. In most, if not all buildings, pipes, electrical pipings etc are nowadays concealed by default. Perhaps it’s a conspiracy to ensure perpetual need for support by the buidling & construction industry? 😥

  3. Hahahaha. Only private condominiums and houses got concealed piping. This is for aesthetic appeal lah. No conspiracy. That’s why HDB rule – no concealed piping in flats. But then flat owners still conceal electrical casings and piping with cornices. Langgar. After 15 to 29 yrs when they need re-wiring and piping, the problem will surface. I always against concealed electricals and pipes due to likely problem as as yours! It’s nice now but will cause problem in future!

  4. The problem with contractors nowadays. They are very fussy and will not do jobs that are not cost effective for them. Ask them come and do a simple repair job on the spot – they will gladly do it and charge an arm and a leg. Beyond that, if the job involves more work but not at a substantial higher cost, they will not do it. I had the same problem getting somebody to replace my ceiling board in the bathrooom. The job was not straight forward enough and yet not complicated enough for anybody to do.

  5. Gintai: kudos to HDB in adopting open pipes systems. My home is very old and the condo peeps don’t even have the plans to what’s hidden in the walls and floors 😦

    Tekko:In some ways, I can understand the disappearing plumbers. With so many new developments, easier to be contractors or subs to supply the service and goods to them. It probably pays better and is mostly assembly line installation. No need to use too much brain power. Why, even my trust electrical supplier has shut her retail premises to concentrate on supplying to new builds!

  6. Hi ! Sorry for intruding… was searching for a plumber for concealed pipe leak and stumbled upon your blog. I would love to have his contact too 🙂 if you don’t mind.

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