Time Thief

Thursday, April 13, 2006


(I'm in a bit of a whiney mood, so skip to the end if you just want to know what I need advice about.)

I have started redoing the first floor bath. There are tons of exciting pics to share, but work is kickin' my butt, so I'll have to post those later. Anyway, as I mentioned in my last post, it's just me these days. The one thing the ex brought to the table, home-improvement-wise, was plumbing skills. I was the sole electrician, painter, insulator, sander, etc. and contributed my fair share on all things siding and framing related. The one thing I really steered clear of was plumbing. I may have helped with a few PVC pipes here and there, but me and the solder were not on speaking terms. Like Gary, I hate plumbing. I'll take it further than that though. I fear plumbing. I have nightmares about it. I'm totally serious.

As a general rule, I am very much a "I can do it all by myself, I don't need any help from you" kind of person. That's probably worse than usual right now. So, I was insistent on re-doing the bath with no outside help other than drywall. (Because, really, it's just silly not to outsource that....Are you listening Nick?) To prove a point and to move forward with gutting the bathroom, I set out to install shutoffs in the basement.

My first attempt totally failed. The main shutoff doesn't exactly work, so the water never really stopped. I consulted the ex and found out all the fancy steps I had to do to get the water to stop flowing. (Hmmmm....maybe I should just get the main shutoff replaced, eh?) Anyway, overwhelming fear led me to the quite logical conclusion that I didn't have to go through all the effort to install shutoffs. I could just cut and cap the lines! Brilliant! This calmed me down a little. The first pipe seemed to go pretty well, even though I felt like I was having to torch the thing for waaaaaay too long. Second one went the same except my first attempt didn't achieve a solid seal all the way around. I cut it again and re-soldered in a spot where I had better access. Turned all the water back on....success!!! No leaks! But I did walk around the entire weekend worried that any minute the water pressure was going to send the caps shooting across the basement and water would flood the whole place. I almost turned the main off before I left to run some errands. I didn't let the fear win.

Ok, so there are no leaks, but I'm pretty sure my soldering job would not get a passing grade. That and all the stress this ordeal caused me (along with the fact that I have some nasty drains I don't want to deal with) led me to the conclusion that I should probably hire a plumber.

Got the name of a guy one of my clients used and she absolutely raved about him. She even mentioned, "He's not the cheapest, but he does really good work." Okay, "not the cheapest" is fine with me as long as he's also not the most expensive. Called him to come over for an estimate and he seemed like a decent guy. He called me later that day with an estimate that was about double what I expected in a worst-case scenario. WOW!

I thought I should get a second opinion just to make sure he wasn't trying to screw me. The second guy I found on Angie's List (I know, I know!!!). He has nothing but rave reviews. He also seemed like a decent guy. His workday lasted longer than expected, but he still made time to stop by around 6:30 last night to check things out. He dropped off a detailed written estimate this morning and it is less than HALF of the first guy's estimate.

There are a few minor differences in the work they said they would perform. The first guy's estimate included replacing the closet elbow and setting all the fixtures. The second guy pointed out that if there are no problems with the toilet, there's no reason to replace the elbow now because there is full access in the basement if it needed to be done in the future. He also noted that setting the fixtures would be an extra cost. Either way, I'm sure I could do that part myself.

Wah! What do I do? Which do I pick? I certainly like the price of the second guy better. Some things concern me about the first guy: He's not very busy right now and could start immediately. That's great, but why isn't he busy? Is it just bad marketing or is there some "real" reason? If he's hurting for work, did he bump up the estimate because he needs to put food on the table? Oy!

I'm afraid to pick someone I _don't_ have a personal recommendation for over someone that I _do_, but geez! One of the first things the second guy said to me was, "the outside looks real nice". That means a lot after all the time and effort spent on residing the place. And it means he notices the details. Or maybe he just knows how to woo a customer. ;)

I'd love to hear your opinions.


  • I'd go with number 2.

    By Blogger John, at 3:24 PM  

  • I love this, as we had the same issues when we picked someone to do the drywall...it all comes down to details. The first, and most expensive, wasn't available for a while, drove a brand new ford pickup, and cost $2k more than the others. The second was available in two weeks, and was middle of the road, but the cheapest was branching out for the first time, was the cheapest by far, and drove a beat up van. We chose the cheapest. It did take her a lot longer than planned, but it's still WAYYYY better than we would have been able to do. I'd go with number 2. Make him give you a warranty or something.

    By Anonymous Laurie, at 4:17 PM  

  • We had the same problem with water continuously draining out of the pipes...opening faucets on all levels helps alleviate this. We thought the valves weren't working properly either; just turned out that they take extra long to drain since we didn't perform the above step. Anyway...

    What exactly needs to be done? My husband and I recently took on our first plumbing job, however, no soldering involved. We had to cut two lengths of copper pipe and move them closer together in order to accommodate a pedestal sink. We were able to use valve "fittings" - they screwed right on to the existing copper pipe. We then used flexible extensions right up through the floor and attached to the faucet. Easiest project we ever did!

    Plumbers are just way too expensive! I'd research how to do it myself before hiring anybody for anything. I surprise myself a lot by what I can actually accomplish around here. And as far as drywall goes, I have done it myself, but I married into the business. I lucked out!

    Great luck to you!

    By Anonymous Maria, at 5:11 PM  

  • Sorry, I was in such a rush I didn't really explain what needs to be done, did I? All the supply lines in the wall need to be replaced with copper and tied into the copper lines in the basement. The drains from the lavatory and the tub need to be replaced and tied into the main stack. (ick!) Both of these are pretty rusted and I'm not even sure I have the strength to break them loose.

    Oh, and there really is a problem with the main shutoff. Getting water out of the bath lines involved opening several faucets and turning off multiple zoned shut-offs while balancing a plate on my head. Then I turned on a hose bibb just above the main (like 2-feet above) and water will continue to trickle out. At that point I can attach a hose and run it outside or to a clean-out in the basement. So, the main mostly works, just not completely.

    By Blogger SmilingJudy, at 5:41 PM  

  • There is GOOD advice and there is FREE advice. Which would you prefer?

    Here is some good free advice. Don't let me do your plumbing!

    By Blogger Gary, at 11:14 PM  

  • This is tough - you hope the person that is charging more will be doing a better (more complete) job. Then again, if the person that came out and visited the house came back with a detailed scope of work, and is cheaper, why not choose them. If you can set the fixtures on your own, then you obviously have more than the average person's knowledge of plumbing and can see what's going on with the bids – trust your instincts. From the outside, I would have to agree with John and go with #2. Are you deciding by poll? –joke. Either way, I’m sure we’d all like to hear how it goes. Hope it goes well.

    By Blogger Tiny Oak Park Bungalow, at 9:42 PM  

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