Tree Roots in Sewer Drains

Tree Roots in Sewer Drains

Tree roots in sewer drains have legal rights

Tree roots in sewer drains are an issue we are confronted with on a weekly basis. They can be confronting for plumbers as we are frequently faced with situations where clients want us to give quasi-legal rulings on issues of non-compliance of tree roots in sewer drains where there is, in reality, no black or white answer. The reality is there are multiple opinions in multiple shades of grey.

perennial issue for all plumbers as long as I can remember is the issues created by trees and tree roots. Trees can do considerable damage to plumbing infrastructure especially to underground water pipes and drains. Often the damage has been slowly occurring over many years before you are affected.

A common issue we are confronted with, numerous times every month, is tree roots in sewer drains and stormwater drains.

A fact that some people fail to grasp is that tree roots don’t respect or understand property boundaries. Trees they just grow and their tree roots search for water and nutrients from the soil. Regrettably, your sewer drains are a great source of both water and nutrients for tree roots.

The photo on the left is a perfect example of how far tree roots will infiltrate a drain.

These tree roots we removed from a stormwater drain had infiltrated 12 meters down the drain and were causing flooding to the property every time there was a rainfall event.

These tree roots came from multiple trees situated in multiple surrounding properties. The roots infiltrated the drain in three different locations where the pipe was cracked and broken. Broken pipes are how tree roots infiltrate a drain. Tree roots by themselves cannot break a pipe open.

Large trees are a source of neighbourhood disputes

The Gold Coast has in recent times allowed urban blocks to become smaller and smaller.  Over the years as the trees in landscaped urban blocks mature, problems begin to occur. Any large tree can become a real source of angst and stress. This results in trees becoming a source of disagreements between otherwise friendly neighbours with the most common disputes being:

  • Branches overhanging the boundary fence and pushing over dividing fences
  • Branches, fruit and leaf litter dropping into the neighbouring property
  • Roots causing damage to underground drains, water mains, electrical conduits and telecommunications conduits
  • Roots damaging fences, house foundations and concrete paths and driveways
  • Branches blocking sunlight for solar PV panels, solar hot water panels, windows, Foxtel microwave dishes and TV aerials

Issues with branches are clearly visible to everyone so they are generally much easier to resolve. In most instants, an amicable discussion with your neighbour can resolve most branch issues as there is a common interest.

Roots in sewer drains or stormwater drains are vastly different. These underground root infiltrations are neither visible nor easily traceable to their source. 

Tree roots in sewer drains & stormwater drains

When we find your drain blocked with tree roots there are often multiple types of roots inside the drain causing the blockage. Without an extensive horticultural investigation to determine the type of tree that the roots are from no one can ascertain which tree’s roots have infiltrated your drain and where the tree roots originate from.

As you can see in the photo above where we have undertaken vacuum excavation of a drain the roots are everywhere around the sewer pipe. It is clearly visible there are multiple roots of varying sizes and tree types.

Contrary to multiple urban myths tree roots do not break drains whether the drain is installed in PVC pipe or earthenware pipe.

Yes, in old earthenware drains tree roots over time will infiltrate the drain around the rubber ring joints, but that is because of movement in the ground that enable the roots to very slowly infiltrate over a number of years.

With PVC drains it is impossible for tree roots to break open pipe or fittings. In every instant, I have ever seen the drain was broken usually on a bend or junction that allowed the roots to infiltrate the drain. In just about every instant we come across of broken PVC drains it is our opinion the drain was damaged during the initial installation of the drain at the time of construction.

It is almost impossible to prevent tree roots from entering a broken drain without repairing the drain. This is where we commonly see the problems originating with neighbour disputes. It is not unusual to have clients misinterpret what we inform them and attempt to put words in our mouth as to whom is responsible for firstly clearing the blocked drain and secondly repairing the damaged drain.

The law concerning tree roots in sewer drains

If you have no trees on your property and your neighbour has a fully landscaped garden full of trees, then yes it’s likely the neighbour is responsible.

Having been drawn into these arguments between neighbours on a number of occasions over the years I highly recommend that you to try to resolve the issue tactfully with your neighbour before things get out of hand. I can assure you this is always quicker, cheaper and a lot less stressful than taking legal action which will ultimately end up in mediation after spending a small fortune with a solicitor.

From the legal perspective, the Neighbourhood Disputes (Dividing Fences and Trees) Act 2011 is the legislation relating to trees. The legislation requires that you determine who has the responsibility for the tree. However, if the tree is on the boundary, then both parties will have responsibility equivalent to the amount of tree on each property.

Trees have legal rights

At all times you must be aware that you cannot take the law into your own hands where trees are concerned. You cannot remove a tree outside your property that you believe is damaging your property. Legally all you can do is remove overhanging branches up to the boundary.

If you back onto a City of Gold Coast public park or reserve then you must contact the council about the problems as many trees in public parks are protected.

Prior to planting any large trees in your property, you should consider the height they will grow to when they are mature and where their roots can possibly spread. Similarly assessing neighbouring trees with your neighbour now may prevent property damage and large bills in the future.

Ultimately your house is your major asset and it is in your interests to protect your asset but remember trees have rights to, and just cannot be chopped down for no reason if they are not on your property.

Plumbing is Critical Public Health so Avoid Scams by Unlicensed Plumbers Due to COVID-19

Plumbing is Critical Public Health so Avoid Scams by Unlicensed Plumbers Due to COVID-19

Who can work on your plumbing?

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 categorised as unlicensed plumbers. Every person classified as a plumber is licensed by the Queensland Building and Construction Commission or QBCC.

QBCC licensed plumber Whywait Plumbing Services does not employ unlicensed plumbers
  • All individuals and companies must hold a QBCC licence for any building works that involve any work that is:
  • Plumbing
  • Drainage
  • Gas Fitting

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 fixing up after a handyman who makes out that unlicensed plumbers exist and 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 sight the QBCC licences visually. A QBCC occupational licence enables the person to carry out the work physically. A QBCC contractor licence allows the person to engage in contracting for the work.

Can plumbing work be undertaken by unlicensed plumbers or handymen?

Daniel Mays checking for unlicensed plumbers at Whywait PlumbingListed 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. An appropriately licensed plumber must do all other plumbing and drainage work:

  • 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.

Despite social media saying yes you can we can guarantee it is entirely illegal for anyone other than a licensed plumber to install a bidet seat or a douche spray to a toilet.

Checking a plumbers licence

Prior to letting anyone commence work on your plumbing, drainage or gas ask them for their plumbers’ licence as they are legally obliged to produce it for you if requested.

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.

Just remember there is no such occupational listing called unlicensed plumbers in Australia in any state or territory.

What is a Form 4

What is a Form 4

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:

  1. Extending water supply pipes – this is any work on water reticulation pipes other than a fire service on an existing building
  2. 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
  3. Existing sanitary plumbing – this any work on an existing building where sanitary plumbing is removed, replaced, altered or extended
  4. 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
  5. 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
  6. 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
  7. 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
  8. 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
  9. 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
  10. 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
  11. Sanitary drains – this is any work undertaken to seal a sanitary drain after the connection point to the council sewer or a treatment plant
  12. 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:

Form 4 notifiable work compliance

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.

Emergency Plumber Mermaid Beach

Emergency Plumber Mermaid Beach

Repeat clients account for over 70% of the jobs Whywait Plumbing undertake.

Last weekend being the Queens Birthday long weekend coupled with the NRL Grand Final meant one of our loyal clients Kristian was looking forward to a great weekend. The last thing Kristian was anticipating was needing an emergency plumber Mermaid Beach as he drove home from work. Kristian arrived home on Saturday night to gurgling sounds coming from his bathroom. Upon investigation, he found the only toilet in his unit was blocked.

whywait Plumbing is your Emergency Plumber Mermaid Beach

Nathan Parrish of Whywait Plumbing

Even though it was 7.45 pm on a Saturday night, Kristian immediately contacted Whywait Plumbing Gold Coast as he knew the phones would be answered. Kristian was concerned his unit had blocked drains. Kristian confirmed all the details with Whywait Plumbing’s Operations Manager, who was answering the phones.

The Plumbing Technician on call was Nathan, with him being dispatched immediately as Whywait Plumbing offer a 1-hour emergency response.

Arriving at 8.45 pm, Nathan again found the toilet blocked and a high water level in the shower floor waste. As Kristian’s unit has no accessible inspection openings into the sewer drains, it was a possibility that the toilet pan would need removing. Nathan set about testing all the drains in the unit to ascertain the extent of the blockage. Kristian’s home is a small unit in what was once a motel that has been converted into individual home units.

Although the bathroom fixtures had been upgraded, the underlying drainage was the original sewer drainage system. To Kristian’s relief, Nathan found that the blockage was confined to the toilet as the rest of the fixtures were draining correctly.

Using his Rothenberg toilet auger, Nathan was able to guide the auger through the toilet pan without removing it. After patiently operating the auger, Nathan was able to clear the blockage. Flushing the toilet several times to test it indicated that the blockage was cleared.

Nathan cleaned up the bathroom and departed at 9.20 pm leaving behind a relieved Kristian.

Sadly Kristian’s problems were not over. On Sunday night Kristian gathered with a few of his mates at home to watch the NRL Grand Final between the Sydney Roosters and Canberra Raiders. At 5.30 pm Kristian heard the dreaded gurgling sound originating from his bathroom again. Immediately he was on the phone to Whywait Plumbing, and for the second night in a row, Nathan was dispatched to deal with a blocked drain.

Nathan Parrish of Whywait Plumbing the emergency plumber Mermaid Beach

Nathan Parrish inspecting the blocked toilet for Kristian

Arriving at 6.05 pm, Nathan again found the toilet again blocked and a high water level in the shower floor waste. As Kristian’s unit has no accessible inspection openings into the sewer drains, it was a possibility that the toilet pan would need removing this time.

Using an extended auger unit, Nathan set about patiently negotiating it through the toilet pan S bend and down the sewer drain. Kristian watched while Nathan set about dispatching the auger down the drain without damaging the toilet pan. Finally, after 15 minutes of slow progress, Nathan hit the blockage and managed to clear it.

Nathan cleaned up the bathroom again and departed at 6.55 pm leaving behind a relieved Kristian and his mates as they were now able to watch the NRL Grand Final and know they had working drains and best of all a flushing toilet.

Kristian was so impressed with the service from Whywait Plumbing that he gave us a 5-star review on Google and contacted Gary Mays the owner of Whywait Plumbing to commend Nathan’s skills and recommend he be given a pay rise.

If you too are experiencing blocked drains like Kristian and need an emergency plumber Mermaid Beach to attend promptly don’t hesitate to pick up your phone and give us a call on (07) 5580 4311.

Plumbing Rip Offs

Plumbing Rip Offs

Plumbing rip offs, in my opinion, are frequently emotive exaggerations bereft of facts from people whose only motive is not to pay their plumbers bills.

Sadly most plumbing rip offs are perpetuated not on the customer but on the plumber by other plumbers who stupidly aid and abet con artists using them without any payment to condemn work another plumber has undertaken.

Every week we get multiple phone calls virtually demanding that we condemn over the phone other plumbers work or for us tell them that they have been overcharged. Of course, they never wish to pay for this advice and never want it adequately investigated.

Unfortunately, far too many plumbers are completely gullible and get sucked into agreeing with unsubstantiated, exaggerated statements over the phone from someone they have never met. For some bizarre reason, they think by agreeing with baseless opinions from an unqualified person that they will get work from it and even more bizarrely get paid for it!

Despite what some non-plumbers think plumbing is complex in its entirety requiring in-depth knowledge and precision. With the dominance of Google, it is effortless for someone to create a cheap website and make a raft of promises usually based on how cheap they are.

“No call out fee! Free quotes! No service charge! Free plumbing audit! Free gas inspection! $0 call out fee! $40 off today! $99 drain special! Free plumbing quotes!” And so the list goes on when you Google the term “plumber Gold Coast”. All of these “promises” create the perception that you are getting something for free or at a considerable discount.

The often-quoted “There is no such thing as a free lunch” is applicable in this situation. Obviously, it means nothing is ever truly free because the fact is someone has to pay for the plumber to come to your house or business. All of those above claims are designed with the sole purpose of getting you to ring that plumbing company and nothing else. I guarantee you will be paying for them to come out one way or another.

You should know it costs money for a fully equipped and staffed plumbing truck to arrive at your home or business. Some companies will charge a call-out fee which allows for no work. Some companies such as Whywait Plumbing will charge a diagnostic fee which provides for a preliminary investigation of the plumbing problem. Some companies will charge a minimum one hour fee no matter how long they are on site. Some companies offer a free call out, but it will be built into all their costs so beware of all free call out offers as generally, all their other prices are higher.

You are ripping me off because Joe Bumcrack Plumbing Service is half your price

In the last 42 years, I’ve heard multiple variations of this excuse for not paying an account countless times.

Buyers regret is a constant issue for all businesses. I remain bewildered by people who turn to the bottom feeders of our industry and turn them into experts. These hobby businesses are frequently referred to as Joe Bumcrack plumbers for obvious reasons. Of course, Joe Bumcrack’s phone wasn’t answered, and he wasn’t available at 10 pm on a Saturday night to clear the blocked drain. But of course, his word counts because he told the customer what he wants to hear concerning what price should have been charged and plumbing rip offs.

The reality is half the price of what? We have never been interested in being the cheapest Gold Coast plumber. We are not interested in what other plumbers charge because every business differs regarding cost structures, overhead costs and productivity levels that are utilised to set a selling price for a businesses services.

Notwithstanding the urban myth that there is a “going rate” or “recommended rate”  for plumbers, it is illegal under the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 for business to collude in setting prices or for there to be any set or recommended rates by master plumbers associations.

Here at Whywait Plumbing, we take pride in our industry best practice service levels. We endeavour without exception to deliver quality workmanship with expertise and long-lasting permanent solutions to complex plumbing problems that are fully compliant with the legal requirements in the Plumbing and Drainage Act 2018.

A recent e-mail I received with the following quote from Benjamin Franklin, “The Bitterness of Poor Quality Remains Long After the Sweetness of Low Price is Forgotten” always applies, and that is the lowest price is not still the best. With plumbing problems, they are frequently reactive, and the practice of going back after the job is completed to Joe Bumcrack Plumbing Services for his expert opinion on what work should have been undertaken is counterproductive as you are not comparing apples with apples.

Plumbing is like everything else with a plethora of solutions, methods and opinions to solve problems. This, in turn, creates multiple pricing solutions if you do not specify exactly what products you want installing with the result is that you require. We accept that our customers are often in a situation where they are choosing between the price we must charge versus the quality of the service.

More and more, we are seeing where a customer has researched what he should budget for a job via Google and on websites such as Bunnings. The reality is they don’t have the expertise or knowledge to undertake the research, so end up with a superficial answer. This research then becomes the driving force in determining the price they think they should pay for our service.

It is our experience over 42 years that many clients fool themselves or their employer in choosing the lowest price service to fit within a budget that was flawed from the start. Typically this results in budget blowouts in the short term as the lowers quality service, and products have to be replaced long before they should have been.

Equally, the highest price does not always mean the highest quality service. Frequently the highest price and the lowest price for service are due to inefficiencies in the service delivery combined with there not being a specifically tailored specification.

When you are assessing a company to provide service delivery, please ignore Joe Bumcrack Plumbing Services and their constant cry that all their competitors are involved in plumbing rip offs. The ability of companies such as Whywait Plumbing or Oceanside Plumbing or Waterfox Plumbing to meet your service and business requirements should be paramount in decisions. Equally successful past performance is just as critical to ensuring quality service and installation take precedent over the enticement of a low priced service delivery.

What’s your hourly rate?

No legitimate business works on hourly rates. The reality is most businesses charge a set price for a set service task. Even in the construction industry businesses such as tilers and plasterers charge per m² or brickies per 100 or 1000 bricks laid.

The exception to this is far too many plumbers and electricians who won’t invest in quantity surveying software and the time to create task based pricing. As a result, we have many Joe Bumcrack plumbers who work on hourly rates that do not cover the cost of wages and accuse all their competitors of engaging in plumbing rip offs. Even for a solo operator plumber or electrician, their break-even points will be between $100 – $150 per hour depending on their overhead costs. So if you engage a plumber who is telling you their hourly rate is $80, then you can guarantee they will be doubling up somewhere or charging for services that are not delivered.

Hourly rates are a meaningless component in the overall service cost being utterly subjective to the point of being meaningless.

I’m well aware many people think an hourly rate for a plumber in excess of $100 is a plumbing rip off and extortinate. This is why hourly rates are meaningless because within that price countless expenses have to be covered such as wages, superannuation, workcover, fuel, insurance, vehicle repairs, equipment repairs and replacement, travel time and so the list goes on and on.

I can only repeat that labour is only one component of the cost when working through a task cost in quanity surveying software. The other components are overheads, materials and equipment.

Plumbers who charge using hourly rates frequently engage in charging base to base travel time or charging for apprentices who are really goffas or for making multiple trips to the merchants for materials

Just give me a ballpark price over the phone

I repeat incessantly that no professional plumber can give you an estimate over the phone. Solving plumbing problems over the phone with any degree of certainty is an absolute impossibility. Every plumbing problem is entirely variable and can change rapidly once you start working on it.

The most common price we are asked for over the phone is for replacing a hot water service. Sadly many plumbers will indulge people and give costs for replacing a hot water service over the phone based on “Like for Like” installation. This is utterly deceptive as there is no such thing as a like for like installation. Every replacement installation must be done in accordance with ASNZS 3500.4:2018, which requires substantial upgrades on the original installation which is frequently over ten years old. Of course, once they get on-site, they discover you need all sorts of extras such as valves, insulation and drain installation.

Always require that the plumber comes to the site and gives you pricing after a thorough site inspection. Even then that can change as often once you start on the job, you can get a myriad of faults to show up that cannot be detected by a visual inspection.

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