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Old 12-17-2012, 07:41 PM   #1
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Help me understand the huge difference in sewer pipe estimates?


Hi all,

Some of you might have seen my post from the other day. I've gotten a couple of estimates for getting my main sewer line replaced. The two estimates I got, though, are way way different.

Here's a summary of the work I'm having done:

There is 10 feet of cast iron sewer pipe that has to be dug up and replaced. In addition, I have several drains that aren't vented. The work also includes running a new vent for these drains up through the house and out the roof.

I got two estimates for this work. Company A gave me an estimate of $10,700 and Company B gave me an estimate of $3,900. Both are reputable companies with lots of great reviews online. Why would there be such a difference in the price?

Company A was really, really pushy, so maybe they're just out to make more money. I don't know. Another strange thing is that Company A wouldn't give me a written estimate because they said it's "proprietary information".

How can I make an informed decision on which bid to accept?

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Old 12-17-2012, 07:58 PM   #2
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Help me understand the huge difference in sewer pipe estimates?


Quote:
Originally Posted by thinksincode View Post
Hi all,

Some of you might have seen my post from the other day. I've gotten a couple of estimates for getting my main sewer line replaced. The two estimates I got, though, are way way different.

Here's a summary of the work I'm having done:

There is 10 feet of cast iron sewer pipe that has to be dug up and replaced. In addition, I have several drains that aren't vented. The work also includes running a new vent for these drains up through the house and out the roof.

I got two estimates for this work. Company A gave me an estimate of $10,700 and Company B gave me an estimate of $3,900. Both are reputable companies with lots of great reviews online. Why would there be such a difference in the price?

Company A was really, really pushy, so maybe they're just out to make more money. I don't know. Another strange thing is that Company A wouldn't give me a written estimate because they said it's "proprietary information".

How can I make an informed decision on which bid to accept?
get a 3 rd quote .. I don't like pushy salesman ....another bid will help you make that decision..between b-c....ben sr

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Old 12-17-2012, 08:01 PM   #3
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Help me understand the huge difference in sewer pipe estimates?


"proprietary information" B/S.
Did the guy have a mask and a gun, if not he should have.
Call at least one more company to get an idea if there other quote is in line.
No way anyone here can really tell you what it should be, where not there.
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Old 12-17-2012, 08:02 PM   #4
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Help me understand the huge difference in sewer pipe estimates?


Your post is very confusing. You say that company A will not give you a written estimate. Then you refer to the "bid" that company A provided. First off, an estimate is an approximate valuation of the cost of an item, it is NOT A BID. A bid is a binding statement offering to perform specific work for a specific price, usually accompanied by a detailed description of the scope (what the company is proposing to do), the terms (payment, insurance, whether they will pull a permit, warranty, dispute resolution, and often many other items), and a time frame within which they will do the work. Bids are always in writing, as a verbal "bid" is essentially impossible to interpret.

You cannot compare two bids unless they both refer to the same scope of work. You need to write down the scope of work so any company wishing to perform the work will understand exactly what you want done, and any specific conditions you want them to meet. Specific conditions may include timeframe to perform the work, insurance they will be required to carry, who will pull the permit, when you will allow them to work, and any other conditions you wish to impose. If the companies you invite to bid do not like your conditions, they may elect to pass on the project, or they may suggest changes to the conditions, which of course you are free to accept or reject.

In the end, you would ideally like three or so written bids from reputable companies, in the form you require. You also need to specify the type of contract you want, this might include fixed price (all risk is on contractor), hourly rate (not recommended), hourly rate with a not to exceed price, cost plus profit, or one of several other types of contracts. If you are uncomfortable preparing a contract, you may want to consult with a paralegal firm, they can help you put together a simple contract that protects you from a wide range of problems that can develop on home improvement projects.
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Old 12-17-2012, 08:02 PM   #5
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Help me understand the huge difference in sewer pipe estimates?


I'm waiting to hear from one other guy, so hopefully that will help clear it up.
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Old 12-17-2012, 08:02 PM   #6
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Help me understand the huge difference in sewer pipe estimates?


How can "A" expect you to agree to a verbal price? A material and labor price is not needed. Simply a scope of work will do- such as depth of excavation, lineal footage, type of pipe, landscape excluded/included, drywall, paint, etc. Explain that you want to compare apples to apples. If they don't want to deal with that then get another bid to compare with the low one. The lowest is not always best.
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Old 12-17-2012, 08:19 PM   #7
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Help me understand the huge difference in sewer pipe estimates?


Daniel: Sorry, I wasn't really sure the right terminology. I can try to explain a little clearer.

The guy from Company A presented me a handwritten description of the work to be performed along with a price. I wanted to compare numbers, so I asked if I could make a photocopy. That's when he gave me the spiel about "proprietary information". He wrote the total price on the back of his business card, and wrote only "ALL PIPING" (meaning the sewer pipe and the ones that need vents). This guy was very pushy, almost like he was a car salesman trying to get me to commit. Stuff like "Well, I really need to know soon so we can try to get you on the schedule...", stuff like that. He actually gave me two "options" - one to do the sewer main *only* for $5,389, and one to do the sewer main and vent piping for $10,767.

So from Company A, I have, written on the back of a business card:
STANDARD
ALL PIPING
$10,767.00

ECONOMY
SEWER MAIN ONLY
$5,389.00

Now, here's what I got from Company B. They emailed me a document listing all the details:

We are pleased to submit this quotation to perform plumbing work at your home.
This estimate is for a complete installation including all labor and material required to
perform the following work:

1. Excavate building sewer 10 feet outside the foundation wall and replace 4” cast iron
soil pipe along with the 4x3 and 4x2 wyes in the house;
2. Replumb the drain pipe to the shower so that it will be vented;
3. Replumb the laundry drain piping so that it will be vented. Provide trap primer for
laundry pan trap;
4. Acquire all permits and pay all fees as required by the Town of Billerica Plumbing
Inspector.
The cost to perform the above described work will be $3,976.00.

Note: Patching of walls and ceiling that will need to be opened is to be done by others
under a separate contract.

Thank you for the opportunity to submit this quotation. Work will be scheduled upon
return of this signed contract. Please feel free to call if you have any questions or would
like further information.
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Old 12-17-2012, 08:27 PM   #8
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Help me understand the huge difference in sewer pipe estimates?


FORGET about company A!! Get one more then compare. company B looks on paper to be professional.
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Old 12-17-2012, 08:48 PM   #9
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Help me understand the huge difference in sewer pipe estimates?


"B" gave you what I was trying to describe above. Call A's manager up and tell them that due to their unprofessional methods and tactics- you will not be doing business with them. I can understand a concern that a customer may "bid shop" them but they are out of line. I still recommend another bid
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Old 12-17-2012, 08:53 PM   #10
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Help me understand the huge difference in sewer pipe estimates?


Thanks for the advice. Hopefully I will hear from company "C" tomorrow. I don't want to wait too long because my sewer main is in real bad shape, it's pitched back into the basement and there is a slow leak of water. So time is of the essence.

I know prices vary a lot by region, company, work, etc. but I was just wondering if one of the bids seems ridiculously low or ridiculously high. The only other thing I forgot to mention on Company A's $10,767 number is that it also came with a 3-year warranty. But that still seems like a BIG price difference to me.

Another question maybe some of you plumbers could clarify for me - Company B's estimate is replacing my current cast iron sewer pipe with another 10' cast iron pipe. Company C, who I'm still waiting to hear back from, says they would most likely do it with PVC. Is there any good reason for one over the other? As far as I can tell, the 10 feet of cast iron is original from 1968. After the 10 feet, it connects to a newer PVC line. So would there be some advantage to do 10 feet of cast iron from the house then connect to the PVC as opposed to run all PVC?

Thanks for your patience as I know next to nothing about plumbing.
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Old 12-17-2012, 09:16 PM   #11
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Help me understand the huge difference in sewer pipe estimates?


TBH I think B is a tad low. But I have no idea of the site conditions. For all I know your pipe is 18" deep and your soil is sand or it could be 6-8' deep and rocky like mine is.
There is nothing wrong with going with CI, but my choice would be plastic- cheaper and will last just as long or longer.
You mentioned the line is backgraded to the house- how do they propose to fix that? Raise the line inside the house or what. Be sure the contractor will guaranty the pipe is graded out to the sewer.
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Old 12-17-2012, 09:57 PM   #12
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Help me understand the huge difference in sewer pipe estimates?


Here is a picture of my mess of a sewer pipe.

You can see my strategically placed buckets that catch the occasional leakage. The worst leakage is the joint between the PVC and cast iron sections. There is a pretty significant downward angle leaning back into the basement.

So the house was originally on septic, that's why the sewer line exits the house horizontally instead of vertically. In the mid '90s the previous owners switched to town sewer. The cast iron section that goes into the wall continues for about 10 feet where it meets the newer PVC that connects to the town sewer.

What do they need to do, just make sure the sewer pipe has the correct grade leaving the house? I'm assuming a cast iron pipe doesn't "bend" over the years...

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Old 12-17-2012, 11:23 PM   #13
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Help me understand the huge difference in sewer pipe estimates?


outside, they will replace the bad pipe and make sure it has downward grade. Inside, I would rebuild most or all of the cast with plastic while venting fixtures. What you discussed with the plumber and what he quoted needs to be documented so you both are on the same page at the get-go.
I'm curious what "C" will quote
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Old 12-18-2012, 06:43 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ben's plumbing View Post
get a 3 rd quote .. I don't like pushy salesman ....another bid will help you make that decision..between b-c....ben sr
I agree, always get more than one or two EST. I got had a new roof put on I got 6 EST. they ranged from 6,800 to 13,500. And listen to each one carefully.
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Old 12-18-2012, 09:30 AM   #15
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Sorry Daniel, but a "Bid" is not a binding agreement either. A Binding agreement, commonly known as the Form of Agreement in construction projects is a binding agreement, and it refers to General and Supplementary Conditions. General being the boilerplate stuff, and Supplementary being the specific conditions relative to a particular project.

Thats what I hate about residential work, the Conditions of the Contract are anybodies guess, then people wonder why they get screwed.

Oh, and the "Proprietary" guy is a THIEF, CLEAR AND SIMPLE

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