Quote from Plumber Dispute

Hi All

We had a storm water pipe that was blocked, and got a quote to get the pipe replaced.

Quote says " … carry out excavation of the storm-water line and install new storm-water line …"

Once they started to dig, the existing storm-water pipe veered off to the right, and was not needed to be excavated: The worker had to remove the existing pipe only for 1/2 of the length and the other 1/2 to only dig a trench for the new pipe.

Is it reasonable to request a reduction on the final bill?

The bill did not show working hours or material, is it reasonable to have a more detailed bill ? ( Hours worked / rate and material ) ?

Update: Received "Itemized" invoice where Labor xxxx, material xxxx and they "discounted" an excavator they never used. Invoice reduced by about 10%


  • "…excavation" = "started to dig…dig a trench…"
    "…install…" = "…remove the existing pipe…dig a trench for the new pipe…"

    Seems reasonably aligned to me, on the assumption that the work they undertook resolved the issue.

    • "excavation of the storm-water line"

      But they only excavated 1/2 of the pipe. The other 1/2 is still in the ground.

      • +4

        What if the required digging ended up being much longer, or deeper than expected. would you be happy if they then asked you to pay more for the extra digging?

        • +6

          They most likely would have, have no doubts about that.

      • +4

        TLDR: No.

        Most the cost will be the equipment hire (excavator), cartage of equipment, time for operator to organise job, get to job, do job.

        In my experience, the excavation of the trench is not the cost/time part of the job, the actual digging is a minor part of the cost.

      • Firstly its not for anyone here to say and YOU OP have no idea either

        But be careful
        They might ask for MORE!

        Any reasonable plumber will adjust their quote accordingly.(up or down)

        Keep in mind that no quote is binding

        Maybe just ASK the plumber if it will cost any less as it "appears" there is less work involved.

        Dont forget much of the quote is loading the truck with required equipment, purchasing the required items, getting to and from the site, unloading and reloading the truck.
        Hiring required workers for the job. etc.

        Its not just 'hours" on the job.

        And as the plumbers bill sated - ITS A FIXED PRICE
        Not hours on job.

      • +1

        "But they only excavated 1/2 of the pipe. The other 1/2 is still in the ground."

        Thats irrelevant.
        You hired them to fix the problem….yes!!!
        Not dig up so many meters of pipe.
        Not to work so many hours either

        Seems to me that the issue was resolved to your satisfaction

        DONT BE UNREASONABLE!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • +5

    What did the plumber say when you asked for a reduction on the final bill?

    • We are still thinking if we reply with request or pay

  • +9

    The difference will be negligible. Just pay the current invoice.

  • +9

    The majority of the bill is their time and expertise, did they do what they said they would do in the quote ? Then pay it.

    • -1

      did they do what they said they would do in the quote

      "excavation of the storm-water line "

      No they didnt, did they fix it ? yes.

      • +5

        They did excavation to determine the issue then determined no further excavation was required. What you are arguing is symantics.

        If you took them to the tribunal you would lose.

        • I am not taking them to the tribunal.

          We accepted the quote with the idea the storm water pipe to be excavated would go the whole length, not just 1/3 of it.

          • +2

            @cameldownunder: You agreed to the quote, the quote specified an excavation, obviously they do not have super human powers knowing how much of the pipe would need excavating. They determined that the whole pipe being excavated was not required.

            They have an obligation to fix what was broken, they did that, pay the money. If you refuse to pay it, and plumber takes you to the tribunal, not only will you have to pay the entire amount to the plumber, you will also be required to pay for the tribunal costs.

            Either way you cant change your mind after the fact due to some imagined wrong they did you.

          • @cameldownunder: Win!

            Less mess for you.

          • @cameldownunder: Did the quote give you that idea or did it state implicitly?


        You hired them to do a job - to fix a problem
        Not to dig up so many metres of pipe,

        they simply outlined what they thought would be involved.
        And they did excavate as much of the pipe as was required



  • +4

    Is it reasonable to request a reduction on the final bill?

    What did the contract say about variances?

    • Nothing.

      • +4

        Then they are not required to reduce the bill.

    • there were no variances

      There was no quantification of how much pipe was to be excavated

      they turned up and did the job.
      BOTTOM LINE: Problem solved
      Time to pay

  • Is it reasonable to request a reduction on the final bill?

    is it reasonable to have a more detailed bill

    You can but ask, they will either say "Yes" or "No".

    • +1

      Even of a detailed bill?

      So they simply can say "we did the job" ?

      • So they simply can say "we did the job" ?

        I think you are effectively saying "they did the job" in that you do not seem to be disputing that whatever the problem was has now been resolved?

        Here's another way to look at it.

        You could ask if there will be any adjustment due to (apparently) less work being undertaken … they will do whatever they'll do and you either pay it or you don't.

        Deal with it in a civilised manner and pay your bill whatever the outcome of your conversation is. Everyone walks away happy.

        If you don't pay it, you could put on a stink (to whatever degree you wish to) … and you'll still end up paying a very large percentage of the bill, if not all of it … and presumably an outfit that on the whole has entirely rectified your problem won't be willing to quote for you on any future jobs.

        • +2

          I'll pay. Of that you can be sure.

      • CORRECT!
        problem solved

    • +1

      they will either say "Yes" or "No".

      OP wants to know the answer before asking though…

  • +5

    Look you could ask for a reduction if you really wanted to, but if you were happy to pay the original amount and the work was done satisfactorily, then what's the issue?

    • The issue is that it seems a bit expensive to charge what they charged if 1/2 of the length was just to dig a trench.

      It's much different to brake up a pipe and cut off the roots of the trees. And that's what the quote was, excavate the existing ( clogged ) pipe, not to dig another trench and put the new storm water pipe there.

      • +3

        if it turned out they had to dig 2 times the distance would you be willing to pay 2 times the price?

        • -2

          Why do people ( you ) make an example that does not correlate the the situation discussed.

          Why would they have to dig 2 time the distance ? does not make sense.

          If you bring your car for a service, do you expect the mechanic to repair all issues on the car for the price of a quote for service ? ( to relate to your comparison )

          Would I have paid without doubts if the existing pipe would have run the whole way down and not just part of it? Absolutely.

          • @cameldownunder: you literally answered your own question

            If you bring your car for a service, do you expect the mechanic to repair all issues on the car for the price of a quote for service ?

  • If you don't pay, you'll get a free bag of quick set

    • Delivered by Biker's ?

    • I'll just dig it out myself, it's less than 20 cm below surface.

      • +1

        If you end up not paying, take a photo please - for research :)

  • i think a reduction is reasonable. what distance is "1/2"?

    • +1

      cm or km…no other possibilities…

      • mm probably because no one works in cm.

  • +1

    were you offered an hourly rate or just a quote? one is fixed one is variable

  • Was it terracotta replaced with PVC?

    What is the final bill?

    • Terracotta replaced with PVC. About 1/2 the length terracotta pipe removed, other length just digging trench.
      Total length 12m, including removing pipe from under footpath. Total $6000+.

      • +5

        If quoted to replace 12 or 24m of terracotta, then they should have replaced the terracotta with PVC regardless if it needed to be or not.

  • Just ask nicely.

    Who knows maybe it took more effort than expected maybe less.

  • They still excavated to install the new pipe. If they removed the old pipe would it not have gone been the same trench as the new pipe required?

    • If they removed the old pipe would it not have gone been the same trench as the new pipe required?

      No, the old pipe went off tot he side. Is it the same effort to dig a 20cm trench, or to remove a clogged ( with roots ) existing pipe?

      Because the quote was based on removing a clogged, filled with roots existing pipe for the full length. Luckily for the workers they did not have to.
      So my thought was, that if they had to do less work, the bill could be adjusted.

      • I don’t get it.

        You said:

        The worker had to remove the existing pipe only for 1/2 of the length and the other 1/2 to only dig a trench for the new pipe.

        Did you originally plan for them to remove all the old pipe and install a new pipe in another location anyway? Or was it purely to remove the blockage and install new pipe? When you say 1/2 the distance how much are you talking about? Surely not 20cm, it would have to be measured in Metres.

        My guess is that the quote was to remove blockage and replace with new pipe. The fact it moved from where they though means they got lucky with the job. Unlike probably many others where they quote for something and end up spending a lot more time than expected.

        • The way it was described to us, was that the pipe would go along the driveway, and that they would have to excavate the old pipe ( 12 m) all along the driveway and then put a new one in, where they excavated the existing one.

          What they encountered is that the existing TC pipe veered off into the garden after 2 meters of excavating the TC pipe. They did not follow ( excavate the existing pipe ) and instead dug a trench along the driveway ( so they did not have to excavate about 6 meters of TC pip, and roots ).

          So the thought is that if you can dig a trench for 6 out of the 12 meters, where the quote was to excavate a pipe, you would save quite a bit of work, and the company doing the work could consider the reduced amount of hours put into the project to be reflected in the bill.

          • @cameldownunder: It doesn’t matter they left the old pipe. The still dug a trench for the new pipe.

  • +4

    Update: Very polite email has gone out. I do accept whatever the response is.

  • +2

    OP comes here asking for opinion. Overwhelming majority recommend that they should pay. But, as it is not the most convenient answer, OP now wants to argue with each person who suggested that they pay. So, you either want an honest opinion or you don't. If you don't when why ask the question. If you do, you have got the answer.
    Apologies, I know that you are a long time contributing member, but on this occasion this is how I see it.

    • +1

      I do want an opinion, and the responses influenced very much how the email was formulated.

    • +5

      OP now wants to argue with each person who suggested that they pay

      OP has been working from home since March 2020, and longing for bit of a discussion.

      • +1

        We are always happy for a chat.

        • +1

          Whats the weather like today ?

          • +1

            @isthatallyougot: It is cold and windy here in Melbourne. I wish it was better.

            • +2

              @spal: Bright and windy here in Sydney. Wish I didn't have to work today.

  • I think $6k is over the top. Would have checked other quotes.

  • +1

    It sounds like you really want the old pipe removed, but ask yourself why? The problem you had (blocked drain) is fixed for a price you had accepted to pay. What does it matter if the old pipe remains in the ground? My advice would be get rid of the stress in your life & stop worrying about it, pay the bill and move on.

  • I got 3 quotes to replace 2M of collapsed TC pipe with PVC, 40CM deep, went with $800. Took one guy half a day as clay was rock hard and minimal fall impacted pit connection, so $6,000 for 12M Inc camera check-up and other complications if any may be little over the top buy not rip off level, me thinks…

  • The quote doesn't mention a volume of soil removed, or distance for the excavation, so they have delivered the works to the letter of the 'contract'.

    Having been on the other side of this, customers that think a quote is a 'maximum price' suck. Fixed price quotes have risk.. sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. That has to apply on both sides.

    If I was the contractor in this situation I would have limited my risk exposure also, by having some upper limit (i.e. excavation of pipe up to 20m in length and to a maximum depth of 1200mm). Imagine if they had of started, and 2m in the pipe just starts to head downwards… could have been a hilarious situation where the storm water was run as a return to aquifer system and the pipe dropped like 90m inc through bedrock. Contractually that could have bankrupted them.

  • Did you get plumbing plans from your local government before getting the quote/work done? If not, 100% on you. It's only around $40 to get these plans, and it would have saved you whatever the difference in the quote would have been.

    • Do you get plumbing plans for storm-water drains too ? Or just for Sewage ? ( For next Time )

      • +1

        Council plan only shows Stormwater discharge point, not internal piping leading to it. In my council.

        Water provider and DBYD shows sewer lines within your property and connection point in your property.

        Did all this on another stormwater issue a while back.

    • -2

      no, drainage plan from the council will set you back $120 easy, the sewage from water authority is around that mark.

      • Literally just got drainage plan from BCC yesterday. $46.50.

  • How many days work? if they spent 3-4 days plus parts to do the job then I would consider this to be acceptable (for you)… I would never spend $6k to get someone else to dig - but that's because I am cheap and would do it myself and where I couldn't I'd use Airtasker, though plumbers are the one difficult tradie to find on Airtasker…

    • Total "Men hours" about 24. Work done in 1 1/2 days

  • +1

    I think OP needs to focus on the core problem. A drain was blocked; a plumber provided a quote to fix it, which was accepted; the plumber did the job and fixed the problem.
    How they fixed it is largely irrelevant. The quote just provided some detail of the works expected to be necessary.

    • +1

      If you bring the car to repair the air conditioning, and the garage gives you a quote based on replacing the compressor and the condenser, for $2000, and on pickup they tell you only the compressor had to be replaced, would you still be happy to pay the full amount ?

      • It's probably the same though, isn't it. Your car air-conditioning isn't working, you get a quote to get it working, you accept the quote, they fix it, you pay the bill.
        You don't really know how they did it, what they replaced, what they didn't. And they probably wouldn't tell you anyway.

        • Well my car has in fact a broken A/C and the garage guy gave me a verbal quote of $2000, and told me that they needed to replace the condenser and compressor.

          When I bring the dingy, the mechanic always hands me a bag with the old parts he replaced. Just to show that he would not charge for parts that he did not replace.

  • If you weren't there to see it, you were away or they didn't mention it, you would have paid the quote wouldn't you?

    They fixed the problem nonetheless, however little or more work was needed.

    • If you weren't there to see it, you were away or they didn't mention it, you would have paid the quote wouldn't you?

      Probably. But I was there, and I did see it.

  • Why was a new line run? Is it because the bend in the old line caused blockages? So the old pipes after the bend are now detached from the line?

    • Why was a new line run?

      The new line was run directly to the road. Probably less of digging old pipe up.

      So the old pipes after the bend are now detached from the line?


      • They private expected the old line to go in the same direction, ergo, the quote was for the same amount of pipe and digging as expected.

        Or would you rather they dug two trenches? One for genome removal and one for the new pipe.

  • The quote should be amended to reflect the true situation.

  • Tradies must provide you all the details such as goods used and its cost, and services including labour hours in his word order/report.

    • "…must provide…"

      I've never had that from any number of different trade providers, over decades.
      Is this mandated somewhere?

      • +1


        Pretty severe.

        "If a consumer asks for an itemised bill, you must give the consumer the itemised bill, without charge, within seven days of the request. It must be expressed in plain language, legible and clear."

        • +1

          Go for it.
          And let us know if the bill varies.

          Makes me wonder why you started this post?

    • Thanks.

  • Next time get more detail on the quote. Think of the what if’s and ask the questions before you accept the quote. If you dont and work starts then it’s too late and the trades can say well you didn’t ask that.
    If the job works out a lot simpler than expected a quality tradie may ask for less $ but they don’t have to.