Thursday, July 12, 2012

Step 17 - Bring in the Reincarnation of Einstein

“If I had my life to live over again, I'd be a plumber.”

Albert Einstein

When the framing is complete, I bring in the plumber.  The electrician or the heating and air team may want to do their rough-in work first, but in my view the plumber needs the green light before those other two trades. It's easier for the electrician to weave his wires around the plumbing and a good HVAC contractor can set up his system after the other two are long gone.  Like I've said before, what I'm describing is how I do it and a routine that I've grown into over dozens of projects (commercial and residential) and renovations as well as new construction.  It's not the way, it's just what I do.

Now, I always supply my plumbing contractor with the things people will see and touch when the project is complete; faucets, sinks, shower units, etc. ...those are all chosen, grabbed up, and paid for by me.  Understand that I don't buy the supply lines, PVC pipes, connections, or fittings.  They take care of what goes inside the walls, under the cabinetry, beneath the floors, and up in the attic while I provide the fixtures everyone will see when the tradespeople have moved on to the next job.

After Step 16,  I am responsible for a few key things as part of the plumbing rough-in.  For one, I make sure the tub/shower units I've purchased are in the house before the plumbing crew starts.  Along with that I also have the shower or tub valves ready.  Water heaters, kitchen faucets, commodes... the plumber doesn't need any of these things until trim-out (after the painting, cabinets, and counters - See How I Do It), but he needs the built-in bathroom units and the valves right away, so if you do it like me (and supply them), have all this material ready on the plumbing crew's first day.  After this, all I do for the plumber is make sure the house is unlocked and try to stay out of the way until he passes his rough-in inspection.

I don't want to make this sound harder than it really is.  Furthermore, this is not textbook information.  Like a good chunk of what I get into on BSAPE, I figured some of this out over time working for other people and parts were learned the hard having the plumber calling me at seven in the morning saying, "Dude...where'd you hide the shower valves?  I thought you were providing them."  The handles that you turn to start the water in the shower are part of what I know I have to buy, but it comes in the same box with the rough-in materials (that aren't seen because they're behind the tub walls and between the studs).  I'd like to tell you this is a one-time oversight (forgetting to have the valves on hand right away), but I've done this on a few jobs and had to scramble so the plumber could stay on track.

There are a few reasons I do it this way, but basically it's just works out better and is more efficient for me to buy the units myself.  For example, I don't want to leave buying the toilet up to the plumber and then come into the bathroom at the end of the project and find some dinky little thing that looks cheap and wrong for my house. Also, I don't want to see some funky, Lady Gaga type fixtures either.  Maybe the plumber would mean well in his selections, but he doesn't know what look I'm after.  Besides, his time would be better spent focusing on the craft he's licensed for.  

And to take this method-behind-the-madness a little further, how would I expect my plumbing contractor to estimate how much the fixtures will cost if he doesn't know exactly what I want when he's quoting my job? I'll tell you what he's going to do.  He'll do what I'd do if I was him.  He'll error on the side of caution and price up the higher end options so he's covered.  If there's a $200 faucet, a $150 unit, and one for $99, he'd have to assume I might expect the $200 one.  In the end, maybe I'd choose the one in the middle and maybe he gives me a $50 credit on my final bill, but I doubt it.   If this same guesswork goes into all the plumbing needed to trim out, I could find myself wasting a lot of money because I had them buy my plumbing finishes for me.  I'd rather do it myself and in most cases, the plumber feels the same way.

Now I get that I can hand the plumber a spec sheet and he can fill it at his supply house, but without going into the mind-numbing details, I'll tell you how that goes in a nutshell:  I end up spending more time and money and I don't get exactly what I want.  That's why I don't bother with a plumbing list of specified items and I do it the way I'm saying.   It's more practical, it's easier, my money goes a lot further, and we're all good


  1. oh good!
    I was thinking the same way -- like I want to pick out everything that will be "Seen". I had that experience before of asking for a faucet "upgrade" - which in my mind was the nicer gooseneck nickel faucet, but when the plumber left I had a totally crappy Moen faucet with plastic handles -- apparently that is an upgrade, lol!
    I am concerned about getting my cast iron clawfoot tub up 3 stories and into the bathroom before it's framed in -- that's my big worry. I just need to make sure that the contractor calls me to tell me when they need it, so I can drop everything and trailer it down to the coast. At that point I wanted to take the cast iron kitchen sink as well, but I was afraid to leave it in the partially-framed house in case it gets stolen!

  2. You sure don't want either of those to walk off in the middle of the night and you prob don't them in the way or getting slopped up with drywall mud either. The plumber will need that tub after your flooring is complete in your 3rd fl. bath. & your sink will need to be in the kit. when the tops/counters are being installed.