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Question DetailsAsked on 4/29/2016

Did I get ripped off paying 1, 550.00 for a t-pipe in wall behind bath vanity?

Our bath sink clogged up with black smelly stuff. We had a plumber come out and he said the cost is 1,500.00. We couldn't afford this price, and we couldn't go no longer without a bathroom sink any longer. I said "Ok" but I really felt uncomfy withel ripped off. He cut out the back of the bath vanity to get to the pipe, then he cut the t-pipe out (rusted out galvanized steel), because the back of the t-pipe was rusted out with a large hole. The he said to say us money he would go to Home Depot and get cheaper t-pipe or such. Then he put that in. Our pea trap was already PVC so that wasn't done. I asked him "didn't you put a new pipe in behind the wall?'' To which he informed me he cleaned that out and it wouldn't ever be a problem again. I don't get it...I thought that was what made the price so high. He said two times it was labor intense, but I don't know. Am I wrong? Does this type of problem really cost that much to fix? Thank you.

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Not knowing what he was into, I am hesitant to say you were ripped off - particularly if the wall he cut through to get the pipe piece changed out was concrete or brick as opposed to plaster or drywall over wood or metal studs. But, normally, for crawling in under a vanity to do this sort of repair I would expect something in the ballpark $300-600 range, not $1550.

Generally, this sort of thing takes 2-4 hours with normal access (going in through bathroom vanity) and using a pipe cutter or sawzall to cut the sewer pipe, and with metal pipe putting in two no-hub couplings (like big thick rubber sleeves with metal band clamps to tighten them down) on each end of a new - probably ABS (black plastic) Tee or Wye or whatever was needed - or putting in a new tee or wye with compression couplings on the end - take about same time and cost. Usually compression couplings would be used up to about 1-1/2 to 2 inch pipe, the rubber sleeve couplings for 3 or 4 inch sewer riser. (Actually 1 hour+ minimum time but I allowed for the run to Home Depot too - though I am surprised he did not have the parts in his truck.

Parts cost probably about $50-100 or less depending on whether he used clamps or band type couplings.

Labor wouldnormally run nfrom $75-100/hour in very low cost areas like the lower cost areas of the deep south or some midwest rural areas, to more like $100-150 in much of the urban and suburban parts of the country, to $150-300/hour in a few very high priced urban big city areas - you probably know who you are.

So - 2-4 hours work would normally be $150-400 in lower priced areas, $200-600 in most other areas, or up to $300-1200 in very high priced areas for the labor. If you have any idea of how much time he spent (including the run for parts) his invoice probably gives the labor charge as a line item - you can see for yourself if it adds up and matches (rounded off) the time he spent at your house start to finish.

For the $1550 to maybe $2500 or thereabouts I would have expected what you probably did - replacing that sewer pipe from at least top of wall (assuming it goes upstairs since a tee or wye rather than an elbow in the wall) to the basement or crawlspace - basically replacing most or all the sewer riser (vertical pipe run).

Not that that is what I would necessarily do in your case - if the galvanized pipe was not terribly corroded in general putting a single piece in to replace the rusted out one avoids a LOT of tearing into ceilings and walls to replace pipe, and a lot of coupling where other drains/toilets come into it, which makes more places to leak. So - unless committed to replacing pretty much all the sewer pipe including fittings to all basins, toilets, tubs and showers, etc, one would normally just piecemeal it like he did as parts leak - but not generally for anything that $ amount.

As for it never being a problem again - assuming he put in plastic at the bad spot, that shouldnot bother you for 20 yhears or so, when the rubber or compression couplings might tend to start leaking a bit from old age as the rubber sleeve or nylon gasket starts cracking. However, clogging or rust-through of the rest of the galvanized pipe is not unexpected in the future.

Note - you should be able to see/feel around under the vanity (with bright light) and see if he used a compression coupling (basically a sleeve and nut at each end of the new fitting over the existing pipe) or rubber sleeves with metal strap clamps (no-hub couplings). If you ever have the pipe snaked or routed out from above that bathroom or that sink tell the plumber about that replaced piece and which type couplings it has so he goes easy in that area and does not tear the couplings up by vigorous routing/snaking in that section.

Unfortunately, when you heard the first price you should have gotten a second and maybe third bid from other well-rated plumbers.

One other thing you may have been trapped by - a fair number of electricians, plumbears, and HVAC contractors are now going by flat-rate pricing - a flat rate (plus parts) for each type of job. If the job goes easy they make money and you pay more than needed, if it goes hard (and they are fair) they do it at a loss, making up the difference on the other jobs that go as expected. Basically the same as car repair places do - charge by a flat rate sheet for a particular known type of job (as opposed to usually by the hour for diagnosis) - sometimes the mechanic takes less time, sometimes more - but you get charged the same and the mechanic gets paid the same flat rate regardless. Almost a form of insurance, sort of - the good and difficult jobs geat averaged out across all the customers. Course, there are those who go flat rate, but then if it runs over charge you more, which is cheating the system.

Answered 4 years ago by LCD

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