With all the uncertainly during this ongoing COVID-19 crisis it is critical Gold Coast homeowners and businesses don’t fall into the trap of using so-called handymen or unlicensed plumbers. In reality, there is no such occupation as an unlicensed plumber. Every person classified as a plumber is licensed by the Queensland Building and Construction Commission or QBCC.
All individuals and companies must hold a QBCC licence for any building works that involve any work that is:
Your plumbing is not a simplistic plaything and worldwide is classified as critical public health infrastructure. All work undertaken on any aspect of your plumbing, drainage or gas infrastructure is legally required to be undertaken by appropriately licensed individuals and companies.
All plumbers frequently experience a DIY handyman who convinces homeowners 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.
Any plumbing, drainage and gasfitting work is essential to ensuring the health and safety of the entire community. This is critically important with the COVIC-19 health pandemic we are currently facing.
Every aspect of the plumbing, drainage and gas trades are administered by a strict licensing and legislative regime. This ensures every person in these trades holds the relative QBCC licences that are legally required. This, in turn, ensures the safety and protection of the entire community through the provision of clean safe drinking water, sanitary drains and sewers to dispose of wastewater, and gas pipes and appliances that are fit for purpose.
We all agree that using a licensed plumber or gas fitter can appear expensive but it is an investment that protects your families health. Using an unlicensed plumber can null and void your insurance coverage plus leave you with possible legal and financial implications.
Especially now demand to visually sight the QBCC licences. A QBCC occupational licence enables the person to physically carry out the work. A QBCC contractor licence allows the person to engage in contracting for the work.
What plumbing work can be undertaken by an unlicensed plumber or handyman?
Listed below is unregulated plumbing work that can be performed by an unlicensed plumber in accordance with the Plumbing and Drainage Act 2018 and Plumbing and Drainage Regulation 2019. All other plumbing and drainage work must be done by an appropriately licensed plumber:
Replacing a showerhead or shower rose
Replacing a domestic water filter cartridge
Replacing a jumper valve or washer in a tap
Repairing or replacing a drop valve washer, float valve washer or suction cup rubber in a toilet cistern
Replacing caps or covers to ground-level inspection openings on a sanitary drain
Cleaning or maintaining a ground-level grate for a trap on a sanitary drain
Installing or maintaining an irrigation or lawn watering system downstream from a tap, isolating valve or backflow prevention device on the supply pipe for the watering system
Repairing or maintaining an irrigation system for the disposal of effluent from a greywater use facility or on-site sewage facility
Fire protection work for testing plumbing carried out by a holder of a fire protection occupational licence or another QBCC licence
Incidental unskilled tasks such as excavating or backfilling a trench
Many of these tasks are much more complicated than they appear. Mixer taps, for example, can be extremely complicated just to dismantle and technically they have no washer so must always be worked on by a licensed plumber.
Checking a plumbers licence
Prior to letting anyone commence work on your plumbing, drainage or gas ask them for their licence as they are legally obliged to produce it for you if asked.
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:
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
builders actively forcing cost-cutting on sub-contractors and suppliers
constraints on plumbers to complete the job and be paid
reluctance of builders to inform clients that unforeseen issues have arisen
which will increase the cost of construction
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
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 South East Queensland there are no water restrictions applicable to residential or business. Contrary to some ill-informed social media content there have been no water restrictions since 1 January 2013.
As a result of the current prolonged dry conditions, the inflows into the dams are the lowest in ten years. Currently water grid capacity is under 60%. If there are no major inflows from the rain in the next six months it is likely water restrictions will be introduced in mid-2020.
As a result of water grid capacity continuing to drop Seqwater is encouraging everyone to become more aware of their water usage. Ensuring everyone makes an effort now to reduce their water use can make a big difference in the introduction of water restrictions.
Seqwater continually updates water consumption across the six local water service providers. These updates are interesting comparisons of average daily residential consumption. In the last year, residential consumption on the Gold Coast has increased from 177 litres per person per day to 234 litres.
Some of this increased consumption is attributed to increased watering of gardens and lawns. Having a water wise garden is always a positive way to manage your garden and ensure it flourishes year-round.
Maintaining Your Garden
Having a water wise garden reduces your water usage and allows your garden to stay healthy. Healthy plants are important through all climate conditions. During the current drought, you need to be aware that your plants do reduce stress levels and purify the air.
Your water wise garden is crucial to the environment as all plants contribute to stabilising the ecosystem. Healthy plants all contribute to not only releasing oxygen and absorbing carbon dioxide they also are a critical part of the water cycle. Your plants also provide birds, insects and small animals with habitats to assist their survival and give them shade.
Maintaining your water wise garden is not a burdensome chore. In fact, the suggestions below should be your normal management techniques to ensuring you have a flourishing water wise garden and lawn year round no matter what climatic conditions we are experiencing.
Water early in the day
Evaporation will occur all year round in South East Queensland so to give your plants a drink early to reduce the evaporation of the water you are giving them.
In summer when the sun rises early we recommend you irrigate your garden and lawn before 6 am. In winter this can be wound back to 8 am.
If you cannot water early then the second choice is to water late. The heat of the day has diminished by 4 pm and can be a relaxing way to end the day by watering your gardens and lawn with a hose.
Be efficient in your watering technique
Whether your watering with a hose or a watering can you need to be efficient and effective. This means you need to water plants deeply and directly on to the root zone area which is at the stem of the plant.
This targeting deep watering technique increases the plant’s water uptake and trains the plant to expect less frequent watering.
Don’t water the foliage
Watering the foliage may make you feel good in seeing water dripping off the leaves but it achieves very little and is a waste of water. The only water needed for a healthy plant is in the root zone.
Watering foliage increases evaporation and assists pests feeding on the foliage. The incidence of plant diseases also increases with constant watering of foliage.
Maintain water levels in your soil
Water crystals or water beads or hydrogel are all water crystals and are a perfect additive to your garden once you have moist soil around your plants.
The water crystals will maintain moisture levels in the root zone around your plants which is where the water is needed. The crystals are small granules made from a water-absorbent polymer. Using them as a soil additive assists your plants to withstand drought conditions as they can expand to six hundred times their size after they come into contact with water. Once expanded they create a water-holding gel that slowly releases water to the plant’s roots.
Choose drought-tolerant plants for your garden
Your water wise garden will thrive when you use plants that are native to your locality. Plants such as most succulent varieties are a good starting point as is philodendron. To get the best advice on the best drought-tolerant plants for your garden we recommend you visit your local specialist nursery who are usually horticultural experts.
Adding a seaweed solution
The perfect health tonic for your plants is the addition of a seaweed solution to your periodic watering schedule. There are many seaweed solutions available which assist your plants to retain water which increases their hydration levels.
Lay mulch in your garden
It’s widely accepted mulching is essential for every garden. Mulching, especially in summer, is vital to reducing evaporation and ensuring your soil remains moist and cool.
Mulch combined with water crystals in the soil increases the soil’s water holding capacity. This combination ensures your water wise garden gets the most out of every drop of water.
Mulch correctly laid and maintained is also the visual finishing touch to your garden.
Install an irrigation system
If you are time-poor installing a drip irrigation system is a perfect solution to maintaining a water wise garden. Drip irrigation is literally what it says in that it allows water to drip slowly into the root zone of plants.
A drip irrigation system can be installed by you if you feel competent in doing so. There are many systems available many of which promote the DIY installation. But remember you always get the quality you pay for so choose carefully.
Drip irrigation systems must be legally connected to your water supply which is where many DIY installations fail with consequences that can be damaging to your family’s health.
If you need expert advice on installing a legally compliant water connection with a timer tap for your garden’s irrigation system then contact us anytime on (07) 5580 4311
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 tank¹ system, 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 pricing and terminology are deliberately deceptive and are a scam. I will categorically state the prices are absolutely bullshit and lies.
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 the Plumbing 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.
The photo on the right is a Dux 50 litre electric hot water service that 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-old Siddons heat pump unit in the photo on the right 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.
No professional, reputable plumber will 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 the QBCC 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) 5551 5193 and 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 in 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 are frequently asked by clients why we are charging them for a Form 4. The simple answer is because it’s the law.
The reality is the Form 4 system for plumbing and drainage work has existed for over 20 years.
Originally licenced plumbers were required to submit a Form 4 to the local authority plumbing inspectors. On the Gold Coast that meant we submitted them to City of Gold Coast’s Plumbing and Drainage section when undertaking replacement of part of the sewer house drain or water main or replacing a hot water service.
In 2012 legislative changes required that we lodge them with the Department of Housing and Public Works through the Plumbing Industry Council, (PIC) and for the first time we had to pay a fee for lodging a Form 4 of $25.90. In 2014 the QBCC took over the Form 4 process as part of their assuming responsibility for plumbing occupational licensing.
Once a Form 4 is lodged, then it is subject to a random compliance auditing process to ensure the work is compliant with the Plumbing and Drainage Act 2018 and the Plumbing and Drainage Regulation 2019. This is undertaken to ensure the work is being conducted to the highest standards to protect everyone’s wellbeing, health and safety.
Whywait Plumbing has always supported the Form 4 process as it ensures that all work on your property is compliant and is registered with both QBCC and City of Gold Coast. If you have a significant insurance claim involving a plumbing failure, an accessor can quickly backtrack to ensure that the work was undertaken legally and compliantly.
Ultimately a Form 4 is there for the homeowner’s protection.
What is plumbing & drainage work notifiable work?
The definitions of notifiable work changed on 1 July 2019. These changes were to ensure clarity and usability, coupled with cost-effective plumbing laws and regulations for plumbers and property owners.
There are essentially twelve categories of notifiable plumbing and drainage work that require a Form 4 which are:
Extending water supply pipes – this is any work on water reticulation pipes other than a fire service on an existing building
Extending or removing a fire service – this applies to any class 2-9 building with a development approval as per schedule 2 of the Building Act 1975
Existing sanitary plumbing – this any work on an existing building where sanitary plumbing is removed, replaced, altered or extended
Existing sanitary drainage – this any work on an existing class 1 to class 10 building involving extending, replacing, altering or removing any part of the sanitary drain system apart from a combined sanitary drain plus it also applies to extensions or alterations to a class 1 building
Temperature control devices – this is any work with a TMV or tempering valves in any existing building requiring installing, replacing or removing a valve plus it also applies to extensions or alterations to a class 1 building
Water heaters – this is any work undertaken in any existing building requiring installing, replacing or removing a hot water heater plus it also applies to extensions or alterations to a class 1 building
Backflow prevention devices – this is any work with a testable backflow device or dual check valve in any existing building requiring installing, replacing or removing a valve plus it also applies to extensions or alterations to a class 1 building
Greywater treatment plants – this any work involving the installation of 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 building – this is any work required for installing a new fixture or relocating an existing fixture in an existing class 1 or class 10 building plus it also applies to extensions or alterations to a class 1 building
Fixtures for class 2 to 9 buildings of 1 or 2 storeys – this is for 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 – this is any work undertaken to seal a sanitary drain after the connection point to the council sewer or a treatment plant
Sealing supply pipes – this is any work undertaken 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 publish simple guides to what is notifiable work and the definitions of building classes as defined in the Building Code of Australia which you can download below:
Every reputable professional plumber, I know 100% supports the notifiable work system. It ensures for homeowners and property owners that all work undertaken on their property is performed to the standards required.
If you have had plumbing or drainage work undertaken that you have not been supplied with a Form 4 as per the form shown above and is covered in the categories listed then, you need to report it to the QBCC now or call them on 139333. Ultimately high-quality plumbing and drainage protects your health.
If you are uncertain or need assistance contact us on (07) 5580 4311 and we will give you our considered opinion. Ultimately all plumbing work is not about guesswork; it is about compliance with the law, and the law is the Plumbing and Drainage Act 2018.
Whywait Plumbing has, since 2004, been the service agent for ZeroFlush waterless urinals throughout Australia. Before that, we had, and continue to have extensive experience with installing and maintaining both the Falcon waterless urinal and the Uridan waterless urinal. As a consequence of our long and extensive experience, Whywait Plumbing is acknowledged as an expert on the installation, servicing, and maintenance of waterless urinals.
In 2006, as water shortages and drought gripped many Australian cities, so-called water sustainability companies sprung up everywhere. As always, this was to take advantage of government subsidies and offer simplistic answers to what were in reality, complex problems with water requiring expert plumbing knowledge.
One of these companies was Desert Eco who claimed they could give you a pill called the Desert urinal cube to throw into your water flushing urinal, turn off the water supply and turn it into a waterless urinal.
This, of course, was illegal then and remains unlawful now. In fact, in 2010 amendments to AS/NZS 3500.2-2003 had to be introduced to combat the damage that was occurring in urinals everywhere. These amendments clarified the requirements for the use of waterless urinals and effectively banned the practice of converting water flushing urinals to waterless urinals.
In recent years Desert Eco have renamed themselves as Desert, but they are still the same company. They continue making extravagant claims that the Desert urinal cube with a small amount of water dispersed over it every day will activate the cube releasing slowly dissolving beneficial microbes over several weeks that will break down organic matter in the drain and remove unpleasant odours. The worrying thing about this claim is that there is no organic matter in a urinal drain as urine is composed of water and salts.
Whywait Plumbing continues to see the damage that Desert Eco create with their outright lies that they have reduced high maintenance costs with their new EcoAdapt Advanced package and it can be applied to any existing or new waterless urinal. They even illegally claim that their unique Desert EcoAdapt urinal cartridge is reusable and fits nearly all waterless urinal brands.
The installation of the Desert EcoAdapt urinal cartridge in a ZeroFlush waterless urinal has once again caused problems with foul odours being emitted from the urinal and the urinal being slow to drain.
Using the Desert EcoAdapt urinal cartridge for waterless urinal servicing is entirely illegal and non-compliant on every waterless urinal and water flushing urinal in Australia.
The only urinal in Australia that can legally use the Desert EcoAdapt urinal cartridge is their own waterless Desert No Flush urinal which does have a compliant WaterMark certificate to ATS 5200.459:2004 Technical Specification for plumbing and drainage products Part 459: Waterless urinals—Wall-hung.
The use of the Desert EcoAdapt urinal cartridge in a ZeroFlush waterless urinal is illegal and non-compliant as it is in all waterless urinals. Using the Desert EcoAdapt Advanced package will leave you open to possible legal action from plumbing authorities, manufacturers and most of all from the general public for a breach of workplace, health and safety regulations.