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.
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.
Unlicensed DIY plumbing work has never been legal in Queensland. Unfortunately, too many people think because they can buy plumbing products at Bunnings, then they can carry out the installation or repairs as well. In reality, the ability to undertake unlicensed plumbing work is extremely restricted in Queensland.
Technically DIY plumbing is classified as “Unregulated work” in Schedule 3 of the Plumbing and Drainage Regulation 2019 which was called into law on 1 July 2019.
So the “Unregulated work” that an unlicensed person can undertake in respect to plumbing work is not a great deal and for a good reason, as outlined below. Specifically, in Schedule 3, Unregulated work generally is defined as the following work for premises necessary for the following:
replacing a shower head or 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 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
And those seven tasks listed above are the only legal DIY plumbing jobs that you may undertake without a plumbing licence. The only other exception to this is what is referred to as incidental unskilled tasks such as excavating or backfilling a trench
In Queensland, all plumbing work is legally required to be carried out under the Plumbing and Drainage Act 2018, Plumbing and Drainage Regulation 2019, Standard Plumbing and Drainage Regulation 2003 and Queensland Plumbing and Waste Water Code 2019. These acts and regulations are comprehensive in their requirements and outcomes concerning individual plumbing licences and training.
In addition, the Plumbing and Drainage Act 2018 calls into law The Plumbing Code of Australia. This is defined as the document in force from time to time called “National Construction Code volume 3 – Plumbing Code of Australia published by the Australian Building Codes Board. The Plumbing Code of Australia covers every aspect of plumbing and drainage setting out the minimum requirements for the construction, installation, replacement, repair and maintenance of all plumbing systems, specifically:
Sanitary plumbing and drainage systems
To be a plumbing contractor in Queensland, a company or individual must also hold appropriate contractors licences by the QBCC under the Queensland Building and Construction Commission Act 1991.
This is in addition to a plumbers occupational licence that allows us at Whywait Plumbing to lawfully carry out particular plumbing or drainage work. This licence ensures that all plumbing contractors have the correct technical qualifications and occupational license. No one other than a licensed plumbing contractor can undertake plumbing work no matter what the value of the work is. The threshold amount of $3000 does not apply to plumbing, drainage or gasfitting that applies to several other trades with QBCC licenses.
It is not worth the risk to undertake unlicensed DIY plumbing. It is illegal, plus it potentially voids your insurance coverage.
Plumbing laws nationwide safeguard the health of the nation. Plumbing is public health, now, and in the future.
A burst flexi hose is a job we attend to almost every day. In all likelihood, you will have multiple flexi hoses in your home. They will exist commonly in both residential and commercial buildings under the kitchen sink, under the bathroom vanity basins, under the toilet cistern and under the laundry tub. Invariably when we attend to a burst flexi hose it has been damaged during installation causing kinking and has further experienced corrosion. Almost always the burst flexi hose was a time bomb waiting to happen. The braided stainless steel “simple to install” flexi hose has over the last 10 years replaced copper pipe connections to taps and toilet cisterns. Unfortunately, the braided stainless steel flexi hose has not lived up to expectations and delivered on the rust protection anticipated. In our experience, a burst flexi hose is caused by:
incorrect installation with multiple kinks in the braided stainless steel
stretching of the flexi hose to make the connection fit
chemical attack from household cleaners
All of the above can create the perfect storm scenario in causing the braided stainless steel to corrode and rust. It then is just a matter of time until the stainless steel braiding fails which allows for the inner liner to burst. Here at Whywait Plumbing, we are now installing a polyamide hi class water hooker from Abey Australia which is the most technologically advanced flexi hose we have seen come onto the market. The Abey polyamide hi class water hooker cannot rust or corrode as it uses polyamide braiding that is similar to the Kevlar used in bulletproof vests. The connectors are manufactured from brass alloy so the entire flexihose will never rust even if its continually in contact with chemicals such as chlorine.
We are confident you will never experience a burst flexi hose once we install the Abey polyamide hi class water hooker as they literally cannot rust and cannot kink but best of all they come with a 15-year rust resistant warranty. Kinking is often the cause of a burst flexi hose but cannot occur with the Abey polyamide hi class water hooker. Kinking is simply poor installation as a result of over tightening the connector which twists the stainless steel braided hose. This over tightening creates pressure and tension in the braiding which frequently results in the inner liner bursting through the braiding and rupturing. The Abey polyamide hi class water hooker has a simple design to ensure that it is anti-kink. When we install the Abey polyamide hi class water hooker we are able to use two spanners to counteract any twisting that results in kinking.
Most of the flexi hoses currently used have an inner lining manufactured from EPDM which has the potential to absorb and release harmful chemicals such as chlorine into your drinking water. This ability to absorb chemicals also results in a potential burst flexi hose. With the Abey polyamide hi class water hooker the inner lining is manufactured from Softpex Core. The Softpex Core inner liner gives a superior mechanical performance to EPDM guaranteeing a longer life due to its higher tensile strength, higher abrasion resistance, higher working water pressure and non-corrosiveness. The extensive age/stress testing undertaken resulted in an amazing 0% failure rate.
We strongly recommend that you get us to check your flexi hoses every year for rust and/or corrosion and that they are replaced every five years. This will give you the peace of mind in knowing that the flexi hose in your home or business is not rusting and about to explode releasing water at 25 litres every minute that it flows. Rust is the #1 enemy of a braided stainless flexi hose.
When we replace your existing stainless steel flexi hoses with the Abey polyamide hi class water hooker we guarantee you will get:
superior strength and corrosion resistance
tested and WaterMark approved for use in Australia
superior tensile strength
superior working water pressure
a superior mechanical performance with the Softpex core inner liner
a 15-year rust resistant warranty from the manufacturer
As always we must caution you that installing or replacing a flexi hose is not a legally compliant DIY installation and under Queensland law must be done by a licensed plumber. You need to be aware that undertaking a DIY installation has the likelihood of making your insurance coverage null and void and the manufacturer’s warranty null and void if the flexi hose bursts and causes damage. Don’t wait for the ticking time bomb of your existing stainless steel braided flexi hoses to strike! Call us now to get us to upgrade you to the Abey polyamide hi class water hooker.
Gold Coast council water rates are about to increase again. For both homeowners and business owners, this could be a double whammy when you couple this with the increases in power bills in recent years.
The Increases are likely to continue in coming years even though the City of Gold Coast has not increased its portion of your water bill at all for three years. Bulk water charges for the City of Gold Coast are recommended to increase by the Queensland Competition Authority a further $12 a year for the next two years.
The City of Gold Coast has now finalised the 2018-19 budget. Your Gold Coast council water rates charges will not increase on the retail and distribution component of the water and sewerage charges from the last financial year.
However, the significant portion of your water cost which is Queensland Government’s bulk water price will increase in line with the recommendations by the Queensland Competition Authority. The bulk water price will increase by 2.5% from $2.74 per kilolitre to $2.91 per kilolitre.
Contrary to some urban myths City of Gold Coast no longer owns Hinze Dam and the desalination plant. Gold Coast Water buys the water that you use through your meter from Seqwater owned by the Queensland Government. The price paid for the bulk water is itemised in your water bill.
Essentially the bulk water charges levied by the Queensland Government makes up the bulk of your water bill.
These charges are still reflecting the poor planning from 20 years ago that resulted in the multi-billion dollar water grid construction in 2007-08 which resulted in supply pipes connecting all of South-East Queensland being built. To a large extent, the pipe grid was constructed without dams being built and to lesser extent dams constructed without pipes which also resulted in the construction of the seldom-used Tugun desalination plant.
For 2018-19 your Gold Coast council water rates will increase on 1 July for your water and sewerage which will comprise of the following charges:
Queensland Government bulk water charge $2.91 per k/L
City of Gold Coast distribution $1.09 per k/L
Total water consumption charge $4.00 per k/L
The water and sewerage access charges will remain the same as in previous years being:
water access charge of $212.08 per year
sewerage access charge of $724.12 per year.
Currently, water charges are relatively stable, but significant problems are looming. Long term planning is required to address the issues of aging infrastructure and their maintenance costs which will impact Gold Coast council water rates.
Infrastructure Australia in a major report has predicted water bills will go the way of power bills increasing by at least $50 every year. They predict today’s average annual water bill of $1200 will increase to $2500 within 20 years.
The report correctly says we need to start planning now as our dams are relatively full which gives us the rare opportunity of “….clear thinking and long-term planning to meet our future needs.”
As we all know from the water management supply crisis of 2007-09 South East Queensland can be adversely effected quickly with a combination of natural disasters, poor planning and below average rainfall.
Very simply if we don’t start long-term planning now for planning our future water needs the drastic increases in water bills will cripple family and business budgets in the same way power bills are now.
Sadly employing an apprentice plumber has become an expensive luxury for many small plumbing companies throughout Australia. This is due to the complexities of the Fair Work Act, to their high wages and the length of time away from work on holidays and at TAFE training.
This has been further exasperated by the explosion in sub-contracting with 65% of all plumbing businesses being a one-person operation who employ no staff at all.
As an industry, if we don’t train for the future, then we have no future. This is why we at Whywait Plumbing have always made it a policy to employ and train at least three apprentices at any given time. Even throughout the GFC in 2008-10, we maintained employment and training for four apprentices.
If you go to university, you don’t get paid and incur a hex debt that you eventually payback for your study. However, if you become an apprentice plumber, your employer pays you for the entire four years of your training, every week, with annual increases.
Currently, the archaic document that purports to be a ‘Modern Award’, the Plumbers and Fire Sprinklers Award 2010 requires a first-year apprentice plumber who has completed year 12 to be paid $13.18 per hour. If the apprentice plumber is aged over 20, he starts on $19.07 an hour. Compare this with how much you will get paid to attend university in the first and subsequent years.
Apprenticeship numbers have been declining for the last 20 years. Much of the reason for this is due to decisions 20 years ago to focus everyone at high school on obtaining a university education. This has lead to many young people graduating with degrees and then being unable to gain employment in their chosen field of study.
The importance of well-trained plumbers to society as a whole cannot be underestimated. Plumbing as a trade will continue to exist and ensures young people taking up apprenticeships will always have a good job and a good future.
Interestingly apprenticeship completions at 64% is almost on par with university graduations of 67%. In plumbing, 80% of those who never finish their apprenticeship drop out in the first two years.
This decline in numbers of plumbers as a whole available to be employed has been brought home to us in recent months. We have been advertising for two licensed plumbers at that time, and these are fulltime jobs, not casual or sub-contract. It’s been alarming at how few plumbers applied for the job. Interviewing potential employees has been an intriguing and challenging exercise.
Dillon Lowes installing new sewer pipes at Niecon Plaza
We have employed two new employees in the last month as an apprentice plumber and welcome to Whywait Plumbing, Scott Moir and Dillon Lowes.
Unlike many of our competitors, we don’t employ sub-contractors, so everyone who works at Whywait Plumbing is a full-time employee. That means everyone working here is paid for six weeks of annual and personal leave plus two weeks of statutory holidays. Sub-contractors don’t receive those benefits plus they have to pay their own superannuation and work cover.
The combination of a reduction in plumbing businesses employing an apprentice plumber and the numbers of plumbers retiring means there is a shortfall of 13% between the number of plumbers available and the demand for plumbers.
All of these issues are increasing the cost of employing plumbers. This, in turn, increases the cost for plumbing businesses to undertake work across the board in both construction and maintenance. Ultimately it’s always a balancing act between supply and demand.