The DIY installation of a bidet seat or a douche spray is illegal. The health risk of incorrectly installed bidet seats or douche sprays can be severe not only to you but to the community as a whole. In the last month, Google searches for the term bidets have increased tenfold, which is frightening as traditionally Australians have shunned the installation of bidets. The increase in Google searches has occurred due to multiple social media posts and newspaper articles on so-called alternative toileting devices and what is appallingly lousy advice on their installation.
The multitude of bidet seats and douche sprays that can now be found for sale online has set off alarm bells at all levels of government in Australia. It is evident when checking the scant information available online that very few of these online products have been tested and approved for use in Australia.
Hardware stores and specialist plumbing suppliers that stock douche spray kits are selling them out as fast as stock arrives to DIY enthusiasts who get installation advice from shop assistants. This just increases the health risks tenfold. There have been reports of staff in plumbing supply stores being abused for refusing to advise on how to install bidet seats or douche spray kits and suggesting that a licensed plumber must install these products.
As a result, here in Queensland the QBCC has issued a public warning on the sale and installation of ‘alternative toileting devices’ which in part states:
This is a warning issued by the Commissioner of the Queensland Building and Construction Commission (QBCC) to the public under section 20J(1)(i) of the Queensland Building and Construction Commission Act 1991 (QBCC Act).
The QBCC warns suppliers and the public about the sale and use of potentially non-conforming building products, namely Do It Yourself (DIY) bidets, douche sprays and similar hygiene devices, collectively known as ‘alternative toileting devices’.
The QBCC has recently become aware of the sale and DIY installation of alternative toileting devices in Queensland, particularly for household use. Unless these devices are manufactured to comply with Australian Standards and also are properly installed, these can lead to a risk of contaminating the household water supply with E. coli bacteria. An E. coli infection can lead to serious health and safety issues.
In Queensland, alternative toileting devices must be installed by a licensed plumber who has the skills and qualifications to ensure that a backflow prevention device is in place.
A bidet seat or a douche spray are classified as high hazard plumbing products. This is because there is a high risk of toilet sewage water mixing with your drinking water if they are not installed as per the requirements of section 12 of AS/NZS 3500.1-2018 Water Services. They must be legally certified with an Australian WaterMark approval which is evident on the packaging plus can be searched online at the WaterMark Product Database.
Despite looking easy to install, they are not. Both a bidet seat and a douche spray require a water connection. Generally, this can be at the water connection for the toilet cistern. However, this always requires a legally compliant backflow prevention device to be installed as well. This is not an optional extra it is the law to prevent your drinking water from becoming contaminated, which pose serious risks to your families health and safety.
If you have recently undertaken a DIY installation of a bidet seat or douche spray to your toilet, then we urge you to call us on (07) 5580 4311 to get us to check it is a compliant installation. This ensures you have not created a risk to your families health and safety plus ensures you have not null and voided your homes insurance policies.
You need to be aware of so-called unlicensed plumbers or handyman who cannot legally install a bidet seat or douche spray to your toilet. Beware of the handyman who tries to convince you that he can undertake plumbing works as long as it’s under $3300 of value. This is a complete lie by opportunistic unlicensed scammers who put your families health at risk. The benchmark value for undertaking plumbing, drainage or gas work is $0 and always has been. For extra assurance go the QBCC website To find out more about a licensee you can use their online licensee search, or search their occupational licence.
If you would like to investigate the installation of a bidet seat or douche spray to your toilet, then call us on (07) 5580 4311 to book an appointment. This ensures the installation is compliant with Queensland law as all products we install have appropriate and genuine Watermark certification.
I recently had a client comment that Gold Coast Plumbers bury their mistakes far more than doctors bury their mistakes. It is a comment I cannot disagree with in any way. Increasingly we see underground plumbing work that is so non-compliant it’s confirming Gold Coast Plumbers bury their mistakes, knowingly and deliberately.
Calling them mistakes is not being truthful because we all know it’s a deliberate act to cut costs. We all understand those plumbing companies that choose to undertake construction work are under enormous competitive pressure to reduce construction costs continually.
However, because of these plumbing companies buckling to pressure from project managers, builders and developers, they are in an ever downward spiral of negligently breaking the law. The reality is all of the parties involved in the lawbreaking know the chances of them getting caught are slim as the inspections by City of Gold Coast’s plumbing, and drainage inspectors are cursory at best.
Underground water pipes, house sewer drains and house stormwater drains are all buried underground. Unfortunately for property owners, it can take years before the problems become apparent and they investigate the issue. By this time the original construction job is out of warranty, and the QBCC will show little interest in any investigation of negligence.
Investigation and rectification of non-compliant installation of underground plumbing infrastructure fall onto the hapless property owner. Rectification bills can be enormous, and the likelihood is there is no insurance coverage or any desire by the council or state regulatory authorities to investigate.
I believe we have the best plumbing regulations and standards in the world. We used to have the best enforcement in the world to ensure our buildings met the high standards required. The enforcement of the Plumbing and Drainage Act of 2018 and the preceding laws have become so lax that most buildings constructed in the last twenty years have multiple underground plumbing defects. Disastrously for property owners, the majority of these defects are waiting to break down and cause havoc finally.
When these buried mistakes are covered by insurance and break down, causing water damage, every one of us bears a cost via ever-increasing property insurance premiums on all buildings. If enforcement had occurred at the construction stage, then this water damage would have never happened.
It is our experience as maintenance plumbers that builders and developers perceive they can reduce costs and increase profits by not complying with the Plumbing and Drainage act of 2018.
The legal obligations of complying with the Plumbing Code of Australia, which is Volume 3 of the National Construction Code, is not even a consideration.
I accept this lack of compliance has come about due to multiple factors and pressures. Nevertheless, this short-sighted attitude and systematic non-compliance with what is the law affects property owners with prodigious rectification costs. I believe that the project managers, builders, developers and plumbers involved in this ongoing fraud of property owners and insurance companies are well aware of what they are doing but blame it on:
Competitive pressures in the construction industry where the lowest price wins mentality rewards plumbers who take non-compliant short cuts to reduce costs to win jobs
All builders actively forcing cost-cutting on sub-contractors and suppliers
Time constraints on plumbers to complete the job and be paid
The reluctance of builders to inform clients that unforeseen issues have arisen which will increase the cost of construction
The failure of building certifiers and plumbing inspectors to defect non-compliant work and the turning of a blind eye to incorrectly graded trenches, lack of compaction and inappropriate backfilling of trenches
Continual lack of enforcement by the Queensland Government regulators
Every one of the above has in their view a justifiable excuse for what is occurring but all that is required is for the law to be obeyed. The Plumbing and Drainage Act of 2018 and the Plumbing and Drainage Regulation 2019 merely need to be enforced to stop Gold Coast Plumbers bury their mistakes attitude continuing.
By enforcing the law, everyone is a winner and will return us to the standards that previously existed where non-compliant work was defected without a second thought. Every plumber I discuss this with would be more than happy with this to occur as it would create a level playing field for the plumbing industry where efficiency was rewarded rather than non-compliant short cuts. It further protects property owners and the entire construction industry that is already under a cloud due to the cladding non-compliance in buildings throughout Australia.
As licensed plumbers, we are mindful that non-compliant plumbing is a public health risk. I reiterate most of the non-compliant work is knowingly and deliberate which is ultimately negligent behaviour. Sooner or later insurance companies and no-win no-pay lawyers will awaken to the fact that this non-compliance is negligence resulting in the plumbing industry as a whole is portrayed as cowboys with no integrity ripping off poor property owners.
This is a scenario where no one wins except the lawyers. As a critical industry plumbers cannot allow a perception that plumbers as a whole are unable to undertake legally compliant work. We certainly need no more regulation we just need the existing laws and regulations enforced to protect the community’s health as a whole.
In Queensland, if you see online website prices or are quoted over the phone a price for like for like hot water service replacement for an electric or gas storage tank¹system, don’t believe one word of it. The prices are a sham designed to scam you into calling them to book in the job.
The prices quoted above are about right for a like for like installation. The problem is probably only one person in a hundred would qualify for this pricing.
The pricing and terminology are deliberately deceptive and are a scam. I will categorically state the prices are absolutely bullshit and lies, for most installations.
Going back over ten years ago yes all plumbers undertook like for like hot water service replacement when replacing electric or gas storage hot water tanks. Simply this was legally compliant at the time and accepted industry practice.
What is like for like hot water service replacement?
“Like for like” installation is frequently seen as the basis of pricing on websites as a starting point for pricing for replacing your hot water system. They usually use confusing terminology stating that the pricing is starting from what is a low price for a like for like installation. They then vaguely define like for like as being for replacing the hot water system where it is:
the same type of hot water system as the old hot water system
that the hot water system is being installed in precisely the same location as the old hot water system
that the new hot water system is the same size as the old hot water system
that the new hot water system has the same electrical requirements as the old hot water system
Of course, it’s not explained clearly like I have using sixty-seven words. Instead, they tell all of that in one compressed vague sentence of thirty-four words.
And naturally, there will be getting out of gaol clauses that are again vague and confusing. These clauses will state that other costs may be incurred because:
you have individual site installation requirements to ensure your like for like hot water service replacement is compliant with all regulations
if you require any additional valves installed that were not in the like for like scope of works
if you request removal and disposal of the old hot water service
if you require a new concrete slab or support base
if you need any additional piping to be installed
if you require any additional electrical wiring or any electrical work other than disconnecting and reconnecting
any work what so ever that is required to the existing plumbing, electrical or gas infrastructure to ensure your like for like hot water service replacement is compliant with the council, state or commonwealth regulations
any additional labour or equipment required due to site access conditions
All of the above are standard requirements on any hot water system replacement to meet the legal requirements of the Plumbing and Drainage Act 2018 and thePlumbing and Drainage Regulation 2019.
The whole reason all of the above and many more possibilities are excluded from a like for like hot water service replacement offer is to fool you.
Ultimately every existing hot water service installation has individual requirements when installing a replacement hot water service. That is why a website price or a quote over the phone is meaningless.
You can only ever get a correct price for replacing your old, leaking hot water service after a comprehensive site inspection. In the small print on all websites that quote like for like replacements, they almost always state somewhere that pricing may change once their plumber undertakes a site inspection
Why Is A Like for Like Hot Water Service Replacement Non-Compliant?
The photo below is a Dux 50litre electric hot water servicethat has been replaced like for like.Except it is utterly non-compliant because:
the hot water pipes are not insulated
the relief valve is not insulated
there is no pressure reduction valve
there is no cold-water expansion valve
there is no tempering valve
as it is an internal installation, there is no hot water tray to contain water leaking from the tank, pipes or valves
there is no automatic shutoff valve to cut off the water should there be a leak
there was no QBCC form 4 given to the property owner
There is no such thing as a like for like installation. There is definitely no such thing as an exemption for a QBCC Form 4 compliance certificate if you are only undertaking a like for like installation.
What is required to replace a leaking hot water service?
If your hot water service is leaking and requires a replacement then in all likelihood it will be at least eight years old and probably much more. I can guarantee the infrastructure regarding valves and overflow drains will not be compliant with the legal requirements that we must now adhere to.
We recently replaced the nine-year-oldSiddons heat pumpunit in the photo below that was no longer functioning with a CO2 Smart Heat Pump hot water unit. Even though it was only installed nine years ago, it was utterly non-compliant with the current requirements.
This standard, along with several other standards, is called into law via the Plumbing and Drainage Act 2018 and the Plumbing and Drainage Regulation 2019.
The installation of a new or replacement hot water service must comply absolutely with the standard and in particular Section 5 Installation of Water Heaters – General Requirements. The scope of this section states explicitly:This Section sets out general requirements for the installation of water heaters, their location, support, cold water service valves, the vent or drain lines, and the first 2 m of heated water supply piping.
This section sets out exactly how all hot water service installations must be undertaken. Nowhere does it refer to a like for like hot water service replacement.
Noprofessional, reputable plumberwill quote you on a like for like installation as they know it does not exist. Companies who market on this basis are engaging in deceptive and misleading marketing to get their foot in your door, so they can then upsell you.
Any plumber who starts telling you that you can get a lower price with a like for like replacement is simply a liar.
Every hot water service replacement must have a Form 4 compliance certificate lodged with the QBCC and the appropriate fee paid. Ultimately this is for your protection as compliantly installed plumbing, and drainage installation is about protecting your health.
Replacing a hot water service does not involve guesswork it’s about merely obeying the law and being compliant with the Plumbing and Drainage Act 2018. If you have had your hot water service replaced as a like for like replacement you need to report it now to theQBCC as an offence complaint. The plumber who undertook the installation will be required to return and complete the installation in compliance with the Plumbing and Drainage Act 2018 at his cost.
If you are uncertain about your hot water service replacement or need assistance contact us on(07) 5580 4311and we will give you our opinion on how to proceed.
¹ :Replacing an instantaneous gas hot water unit is frequently like for like as it is a straight disconnection and reconnection to the gas connection and to the water pipes. In most instantaneous units, there is no need to install or replace valves as all management of temperature is undertaken inside the unit.
² :The only time I have seen a compliant like for like replacement is when a faulty hot water service has had to be replaced within the first 12 months after installation and was already fully compliant. This is a genuine like for like replacement under the manufacturers guarantee where the client pays nothing and where everything concerning the plumbing and electrical infrastructure was already compliant.
We often receive questions from clients regarding why we charge them for Form 4. The straightforward answer is that it is required by law.
The Form 4 system for plumbing and drainage work has existed for over two decades.
Initially, licensed plumbers had to submit Form 4 to local authority plumbing inspectors. For those on the Gold Coast, this meant submitting the form to the City of Gold Coast’s Plumbing and Drainage section when replacing part of the sewer house drain, water main, or hot water service.
Once Form 4 is submitted, it may be subject to a random compliance audit to ensure the work adheres to the Plumbing and Drainage Act 2018 and the Plumbing and Drainage Regulation 2019. This process guarantees that work is carried out to the highest standards, safeguarding everyone’s well-being, health, and safety.
Whywait Plumbing has always been a proponent of the Form 4 process, as it ensures that all work on your property is compliant and registered with both the QBCC and the City of Gold Coast. In the event of a significant insurance claim involving plumbing failure, an accessor can easily trace the work to confirm that it was performed legally and in compliance with regulations.
In essence, Form 4 serves to protect homeowners.
Which areas of plumbing & drainage work are classified as notifiable work?
The definitions of notifiable work were updated on 1 July 2019 to ensure clarity and usability and establish cost-effective plumbing laws and regulations for both plumbers and property owners.
Twelve primary categories of notifiable plumbing and drainage work necessitate a Form 4:
Extending water supply pipes – involves work on water reticulation pipes other than fire services in existing buildings.
Extending or removing a fire service – applies to class 2-9 buildings with development approval as per schedule 2 of the Building Act 1975.
Existing sanitary plumbing – pertains to work in existing buildings where sanitary plumbing is removed, replaced, altered, or extended.
Existing sanitary drainage – concerns work on existing class 1 to class 10 buildings involving extension, replacement, alteration, or removal of any part of the sanitary drain system (excluding a combined sanitary drain). This also applies to extensions or alterations to a class 1 building.
Temperature control devices – includes work with thermostatic mixing valves (TMVs) or tempering valves in existing buildings that require installing, replacing, or removing a valve. This also applies to extensions or alterations to a class 1 building.
Water heaters – involves work in existing buildings requiring installing, replacing, or removing a hot water heater. This also applies to extensions or alterations to a class 1 building.
Backflow prevention devices – work with testable backflow devices or dual check valves in existing buildings that require installing, replacing, or removing a valve. This also applies to extensions or alterations to a class 1 building.
Greywater treatment plants – pertains to work involving installing a greywater use system that includes a greywater treatment plant installed in a sewered area where the plant generates less than 3kL of greywater daily or for replacing a greywater plant.
Fixtures in class 1 or class 10 buildings – include work required for installing a new fixture or relocating an existing fixture in class 1 or class 10 buildings. This also applies to extensions or alterations to a class 1 building.
Fixtures for class 2 to 9 buildings of 1 or 2 storeys – applies to all work other than sanitary drainage required for installing or relocating a fixture, provided the work is for an existing class 2 to 9 building up to two storeys above ground.
Sanitary drains – involves sealing a sanitary drain after the connection point to the council sewer or a treatment plant.
Sealing supply pipes – includes work to seal a water supply pipe after the council water meter, provided the work is for an existing class 2 to class 9 building.
The QBCC provides easy-to-understand guides on notifiable work and the definitions of building classes as outlined in the Building Code of Australia, which can be downloaded below:
Every reputable professional plumber I know wholeheartedly supports the notifiable work system. This support ensures that homeowners and property owners can trust that all work carried out on their property adheres to the required standards.
If you have had plumbing or drainage work done and have not been provided with a Form 4, as shown above, and the work falls under the listed categories, you should report it to the QBCC immediately or call them at 139333. High-quality plumbing and drainage work is essential for protecting your health.
If you are uncertain or need assistance, don’t hesitate to contact us at (07) 5580 4311; we will offer our opinion. Ultimately, all plumbing work is not about guesswork but compliance with the law, specifically the Plumbing and Drainage Act 2018.
A phone call I received last week from a cleaner asking me are cleaners able to legally undertake plumbing work alerted me to the pressures many cleaning contractors face from unscrupulous building owners and property managers. Increasingly there is a tendency by commercial building owners and their property managers to require their cleaning contractors to undertake work tasks that are legally plumbing. Cleaners undertaking plumbing tasks are quite merely breaking several laws as are their employers and supervisors.
The most common plumbing tasks that cleaners who are untrained, unskilled and unlicensed appear to be being required to undertake as part of their cleaning duties are:
unblocking of drains
unblocking of toilets
disconnecting and clearing of traps
servicing of urinals
What plumbing work can a cleaner perform
The only plumbing-related tasks a cleaner or any other person can legally undertake are:
cleaning or maintaining ground level grates to traps on sanitary drains
replacing caps to ground level inspection openings on sanitary drains
maintaining an above or below ground irrigation system for the disposal of effluent from an on-site sewerage facility
installing or maintaining an irrigation or lawn watering system downstream from an isolating valve, tap or backflow prevention device on the supply pipe for the irrigation or lawn watering system
replacing a jumper valve or washer in a tap
changing a showerhead
replacing, in a water closet (WC) cistern, a drop valve washer, float valve washer or suction cup rubber.
All other work must be undertaken by a licensed plumber and drainer – no ifs, no buts, no exceptions.
Laws that apply to who can do plumbing
Cleaners who are required and frequently forced by their supervisors and employers to undertake plumbing tasks usually at the behest of building owners and property managers are all breaking the following laws and regulations:
Building Services Authority Act 1991
Work Health and Safety Act 2011
Queensland Plumbing and Wastewater Code
Plumbing and Drainage Act 2002
Plumbing and Drainage Regulation 2003
Standard Plumbing and Drainage Regulation 2003
Plumbers and drainers, unlike cleaners, are trained to undertake tasks such as clearing of drains or working on toilets or urinals. All of these tasks require specialised training, diagnostic skills and an awareness of health and safety issues. Above all plumbers are licensed to undertake the work by the Queensland Government plumbing regulator, the Plumbing Industry Council. The latter are legally required to protect public health and safety through Queensland’s plumbing and drainage licensing system.
Standard Plumbing & Drainage Regulation 2003 requirements
Tasks such as unblocking of drains, unblocking of toilets, disconnecting and clearing of traps or servicing of urinals are covered explicitly by schedule 2 of Standard Plumbing & Drainage Regulation 2003 as detailed below:
work necessary for maintaining, repairing or replacing a fitting or fixture
work necessary for maintaining or repairing an apparatus other than a backflow prevention device or thermostatic mixing valve
work necessary for replacing apparatus other than a backflow prevention device, thermostatic mixing valve, tempering valve, water heater, cistern, pump or water meter
work necessary for maintaining, repairing or replacing fire hydrants or fire hose reels
unblocking a pipe that is sanitary plumbing or sanitary drainage
work necessary for maintaining or repairing a solar or heat pump hot water system in a building classified under BCA as a class 1, 2, 3 or 4 building
Work undertaken under schedule 2 does not require the lodgement of form 4 with the local government plumbing & drainage inspectors. Still, all work must be conducted by a licensed plumber or drainer.
A cleaner despite what they are told cannot undertake any of the above tasks. They and those that instruct them to do the work are breaking the law, and all are liable for fines plus leave themselves exposed to common law claims under the due diligence provisions of the new WHS Act 2011.
It is straightforward if there is general cleaning of a plumbing fixture then there is no issue its a cleaning task. Where a component part is replaced or disconnected from the plumbing or drainage system, fixture or fitting for maintenance or servicing it can only be legally undertaken by a licensed plumber.
I reiterate the answer to the question are cleaners able to legally undertake plumbing work is a resounding NO and if you are unsure call Whywait Plumbing any time of (07) 5580 4311 to get assistance.