Toilet Blockage

A reader wrote me recently, requesting advice on his vexing problem. As his problem is often encountered by readers, I have decided to post my response - in the hope it will provide some ideas to readers who may face similar circumstances.

[QUOTE]

7-Jan-2011

Greencoal,

Thank you for your reply. I would like to resolve the problem. Cost is not the problem. What I am afraid is getting conned by plumber who may not do a good job.

Fortunately, I live alone and I don't do my business in the master room toilet except for bathing and peeing.

Rdgs
H
[UNQUOTE]

==

dear H:

Yes, I know what you mean.. and I know you hv tried already to get a plumber who like all plumbers tried to protect his ar.. even before going to the customer's flat to take a look.. Sigh.

You've got to persist, until you get a plumber who is reasonable and upright.. that means you've got to listen to how he explains himself... sometimes I'm surprised, they've got time to argue or talk on the phone with prospective customers but no time to be punctual, arriving late usually for appts.. makes me think they actually got free time but pretend to be very busy.  And purposely arrive late for appts as a tactic to justify higher charges to their customer when it is time to pay..

You've got to understd negotiation tactics, once u uderstd more u won't feel too intimidated or worried and will know beforehand how to talk and negotiate with them on the phone, before you decide to get his service.

All the best to you, pl let us know how your situation turns out, ok?

Take care,

Greencoal

==
[QUOTE]

Dear Greencoal,

I read about your bad experience with the toilet bowl installation.

I am faced with the same problem after about a year of installing a new toilet bowl. The smell is unbearable and water as well as waste leaked from the back of the toilet bowl when I flush the toilet.  I have lived with it for about 2 years already and I dare not do my business in the toilet except peeing. I use a hose to flush the back of the toilet and now and then, some small 'worms' flow out. The smell comes from dunno where even if the toilet is not used.

Please advise what I should do as a plumber quoted me $30 just to see what can be done and I am afraid I have to pay him for "nothing can be done" or pay extra for changing the toilet bowl which might cause leak to my neighbour in the lower floor.

Cheers.
H

[/QUOTE]

Dear H,

I can really connect with you on this problem you're facing. But your situation is more serious than mine because you've lived with it for 2 long years. 

I am not a plumber, so I will not pretend I know what causes the blockage. But I will try to suggest what I will do if I were in your situation.

First, I will ask the neighbors - the floor above and the floor below - whether their toilet is functioning properly. This is to rule out any blockage in the external large pipe that runs and connects to all the flats vertically in yr stack.

I think external pipe blockage is highly unlikely given the diameter of the large external pipe and the more than 1-yr blockage period you have gone through. If the ext pipe is blocked, yr neighbors' plumbers would have visited yr home to check but since no one called you can assume the ext pipe is not blocked. But ask anyway since there is no harm asking, plus if you haven't already, you can make new friends out of them!

Next, I could try to clear the blockage myself, using chemicals and / or flushing pumps produced for that purpose. Ask for the products at Fairprice supermarket or any hardware store. Problem is, you may incur costs without solving the blockage problem because sometimes they work and in some situations they don't. If the products work, cool!  The cost will then be less than the plumber's charges.

The smell and worms are due to the blockage, so these problems will disappear once your blockage is solved.  But make sure the plumber agrees and accepts he has to reinstall without charge if the smell remains after his repair work.  Most plumbers give a 3-month warranty period.  You just make sure it includes foul smell.

Finally, assuming you decide to call a plumber, and I don't see how you can avoid that, get a few quotes first. Try HDB, CDC, NTUC http://www.income.com.sg/homeservices/index.asp

and other sources listed on the internet.

It is always a problem getting good competent plumbers. Some are dishonest. Some are not qualified. And most turn up late for the appointment. Check with your friends or the forums for recommendations.  Be careful because some forumers' recommendations are false, especially if you don't know them.

Most plumbers do not charge for transport.  They will say they will "come see and check first" - then quote you their repair cost which obviously includes transport costs.

You can avoid the uncertainty by telling them - "My toilet bowl cannot flush away the waste. I simply want you to clear the waste, why do you need to check first to see where is the blockage? Because anywhere or anyhow it is blocked I still need the blockage cleared."

"Don't worry. If after your check you find the blockage is external you can give me a letter to give to CDC or HDB to support my complaint to them. In that case I will agree to pay you for yr time."

You may have to call many plumbers to find one whom you think you can trust. Listen to their explanation, what they say and how they say it.  Often you can tell whether the guy is likely to be reliable from the way he talks and how he explains his work or service.  If you are not satisfied with his explanation simply call another plumber.

Now, re-installation of the toilet bowl will not cause any flooding to the flat below because your toilet bowl is simply sitting on the toilet floor. Unlike toilets installed a decade, today toilets are installed and sit on the floor sealed with silicone or white cement that can be scraped away. Cement is not used, no floor hacking is involved, so the waterproofing membrane is not affected.  Mine was first installed in March 2008. However, the toilet bowl was poorly installed, and the toilet had a foul smell after installation. I had to wait several weeks before the ID finally succeeded to get another plumber to re-install the toilet bowl. And there was no hacking of the toilet floor.

So now you know - if the plumber tells you that to re-install the toilet bowl requires floor hacking, he may not be honest. Listen to how he explains the issue. If you find his explanation limp, don't trust such a guy, simply call another plumber.

If you know your existing toilet bowl was indeed installed using a sand and cement mix, which I was told is rarely done now, you may have to get a new replacement, as removal of it may damage the bowl base that it cannot be re-installed. But the floor will still be intact as the floor is not hacked, unless your plumber is careless.

As I said, I am not a plumber, so I could be wrong. Whatever info I pass on here is based on my actual experience, and what the second plumber told me.

Also, the plumber will say the toilet bowl may be damaged during removal and un-installation as a tactical move to justify his intended charge. Just tell him the toilet bowl is sitting on the floor with a sealant, and can be easily removed. Sure, there may be some chipping or slight cracks around the base but that should not affect the functioning of the bowl. He will tell you anything to impress you so he can later justify his target charges. You need to wise up to the tactics these guys employ in your negotiation with them.

Know however plumbers seem to be in shortage all the time and you may have to call many before you find a plumber you think you can depend on, and within your expected budget. If you ask me, I don't think you should agree to pay higher than $80-100 for the repair/clearance work.  Don't be surprised, however. Some unscrupulous plumbers will quote $600, some $300 - it is ridiculous but I got that just last year when my bathroom was blocked. That will be the subject of another post.

Well, I hope your problem will be resolved soon and I look forward to that,

Take care,

Greencoal

p.s.  Again I was asked by readers who've had problem with their toilet if I can start a list or registry of competent plumbers who provide services for a reasonable charge. I know it is tough getting good plumbers.  If any reader has any plumber to recommend pl shout, ok?

As for the plumbers' listing, that has to wait because of my backlog of work.  Hope for understanding from everyone!

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Hi, thanks for your comments. While I will strive to answer all your queries please be patient as I am overwhelmed at work.

Thanks for your understanding,

GreenCoal

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