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Was I overcharged for bathtub drain replacement?

Hello Everyone! Please bear with me as I'm not the greatest at using technical terms, etc. However, I'd like to know if I was overcharged for the work described below, which came to around $600 -- and was the original quote. (I actually got nauseated when I was quoted that price.)

Recently, the water wouldn't drain out of my bathtub, and the lever that keeps the water in or lets it out didn't tighten or loosen when I moved it from open to close and back. (I've had a slow drain for some time, and had a hunch that the lever wasn't working as it should. Now that it stopped working I knew it was time to call a plumber.)

My regular plumber wasn't available, and since this is the only bathtub in our house, I couldn't wait and had to find a new plumber.

The new plumber checked out the drain and lever, and came to the conclusion that something was indeed broken. I watched him as he took everything apart -- and everything was in sorry shape. He had to replace a pipe behind the access panel behind the bathtub, the lever that keeps the water in or lets it out, the drain, which was getting rusted, a rod that goes from the drain to a mini cylinder under the tub. The mini cylinder was rusted all the way through.

He removed the standing water then went down into the basement.
There, he discovered a slow leak from a pipe that goes from the tub into the basement. He said he was going to try and save me money by just replacing that part of the pipe. However, as he removed the copper pipe/elbow and other connections below the leaky pipe -- the copper pipe fell apart right in his hands. You could see how rusty and corroded it was. It would have been just a matter of time before I would have had a major mess in the basement below the tub.

He then said he would try and save me more money by saving another piece of pipe, which the other ones that he replaced flowed into, but he had to replace that one too because it was getting corroded and soft inside. (He showed me.)

After installing the new pipes, he snaked out any remaining hair and blockage, which he said he didn't charge me for.

Now everything works like a charm. The water drains beautifully and you can hear the water flowing through the pipes, which had occurred in a long time.

So again, my question...was $600 too much to pay. If so, by how much? I live in Michigan and my house was built in 1957.

Thanks for any help you can give me.

Re: Was I overcharged for bathtub drain replacement?

It sounds like you got what you paid for. Unless the plumber uses a tentacle camera (extra charge) there's really no way to know what he will find. Even in relatively new homes pipes can be rusted. Recently in one of my rentals the kitchen sink stopped up - some times. Most of the time it worked well. A new tenant moved in and the drain stayed plugged so we had them run a tentacle camera. Under the cement slab almost directly under the center of the house a wooden stake had been driven through the main drain line. The concrete finishers cut it off and the house was finished. Since 1985 that stake had blocked half the flow from the front side of the house. We had to jackhammer the floor, replace the pipe then repair the damage to the floors. Total cost: 4 thousand dollars. I think your job was a sweet straightforward one. You may considering keeping this new plumber.

Re: Was I overcharged for bathtub drain replacement?

Thanks Dwarfwytch and Chief! I feel a little better! :)

Sorry to hear about your costly repair and replacement work, Chief.

To answer your questions:

1. The pipe that was soft and worn in the center extends from the pipes that exit the bathtub and curve into the basement and leads into the "J" shaped pipe that leads outside through the basement wall.

2. I'm not sure what the replacement pipes are made of, some look like white plastic PCV (I guess that's what they call it), but they feel hard and make a slight tinging noise when tapped. (They certainly aren't the cheap junky looking and feeling replacement pipes installed under my kitchen sink years ago.)The pipe that extends directly from the left of the major "J" pipe, and to which the other replacement pipes feed, is replaced with a black hard pipe/elbow, which is almost the same color and has the same feel to it as the original pipe. (Sorry, I couldn't give exact names and types. At least I know that those pipes needed to be replaced.)

3. The original estimate included going behind the access panel and replacing the pipe that starts at the opposite end of the lever and extends under the tub. In addition to replacing the lever, drain, parts under the tub and a portion of the pipe that extends from within the tub down into the basement. The price did not include snaking (which was performed by an electric "bladder" type snake), and the two major basement pipes and elbows.

4. The final bill made mention of "replacement trap and overflow valve" as well as "tested, no leaks")It did not specifically refer to the snaking, and two basement pipes. It also did not differentiate between labor and part costs. However, when I asked him, he said that labor is usually about half of the cost. Later I called the company, who said that labor is ususally figured in to most jobs.(Which reminds me -- he did have to use two different plumber's tools to remove the drain rim, as it was almost rusted to the bathtub -- and he was able to remove it without cracking anything.)

5. Yes, the estimate and the charge of the final bill were exactly the same, $600, despite the extra work.

6. I'm not sure if the plumbing company considered it an emergency charge or not. However, it didn't take long for a plumber to get here.

7. And lastly, water draining where it hand't before is "almost" priceless! I don't know if it's a coicidence, but I also noticed that the water in the kitchen sink, which is along the same wall, but, of course, in a different room that the bathtub, seems to drain quicker, since the plumber worked on the tub.

Re: Was I overcharged for bathtub drain replacement?

It sounds like a smart plummer that padded his estimate to cover contingencies. It's a lot better to quote $600 and bill $300 because it was easier than he thought it would be than to quote $300 and end up with a $600 bill. The drain was probably a common drain for the shower and sink. One of the problems with working on old plumbing is that as you disconnect one piece the next has a tendency to break.

A. Spruce
Re: Was I overcharged for bathtub drain replacement?

Sounds fairly reasonable to me. The last work I had my plumber do was a couple years ago and he was charging $100 an hour and said that many of the other companies in town were at $150 to $200 per hour. Toss in $100 for parts and supplies and you can see just how quickly a job can add up.

As you said, having "water draining where it hand't before is "almost" priceless!" Even if you paid a little more than what your normal plumber may have charged, from the description it was merely a matter of time before this $600 bill became several thousand because of a major leak and subsequent water damage.

Re: Was I overcharged for bathtub drain replacement?

A. Spruce and JLMcDaniel. I think that you're both right. And if I would have had the luxury of a second bathroom/shower, I would have been able to shop around for different price ranges -- or plumbers. By the way, I meant to ask everyone, if another plumbing problem should arise and my regular plumber isn't available, is there as service or website where I can check out plumbers?

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