Everybody thinks they can be a plumber, and this is the one area where many construction projects fail to maintain standards. Maybe it is because plumbers do grimy jobs at times that the quality issue gets overlooked. Or, it could be unlike the dangers of electrical work, amateurs and handymen feel emboldened to do work in plumbing with limited skills. Whatever the reason, there is an epidemic of poor-quality plumbing work throughout Lake and Sumter counties. Many times, the homeowner or business owner doesn’t realize it until there is a failure, which floods the structure, or a major tear-out because of incorrect placement.
Recently, a family guest discovered a significant plumbing issue in my house that had been going on for probably a decade. Our guest came to breakfast one morning and said, “I love your heated floor in the bathroom.” Okay, but we don’t have a heated floor. We went to the guest bathroom and the floor was very warm. We hired a company that specializes in leaks in the foundation and found out that the hot water line was leaking, because the plumber glued a 90-degree elbow half-cocked and it was spewing hot water underneath the floor. It cost about $1,000 to fully repair this issue, which included fixing the tile in the bathroom. The worst part was this leak had been going on for years and we didn’t know it. It also ruined a regular water heater, tankless water heater and cost us about $150 per month. It was all because of an inattentive plumber who incorrectly glued a fitting in 2005. First tip — a warm floor is not good.
There are some clear and common signs that a plumber has done substandard work. If you see any of this, hoist your red flag before you buy or sign off on a job.
- A jiggly faucet, showerhead, or drain. This is a sign that your plumber has not attached and mounted your pipes in the wall, and it is a clear sign of inferior workmanship. Your plumbing fixtures should be solid and not moving as you open or close the valve.
- Caulk, caulk, and more caulk. If you see more than a hairline of caulk around your plumbing fixtures in your home, it normally means the plumber did not correctly measure the pipe coming to the fixture and it is too long. Rather than going back to correct the error with new piping, which takes effort, they choose to shim and caulk in an effort to hide the problem. Keep in mind, caulk will mold and within a short period you’ll see a black mold ring around your new bathroom fixture.
- If your plumber goes to a big-box store and buys cheap plumbing fixtures off the shelf, then you probably have a problem. Let me give you my honest opinion on plumbing fixtures as well as all fixtures in the home. The most expensive and aggravating part of any fixture replacement in your home is the work and labor charges. Although the cost of the fixture is the least expensive portion of the equation, it’s the most important. Every day, people are paying a lot of money to have craftsmen install cheap, worthless fixtures in their home—why? Always buy the best you can afford. Another tip—good plumbers go to professional plumbing houses for their supplies, and they don’t let their customers buy them from a big-box store.
- Sloppy joints make sloppy and expensive repairs. If you see a plumber installing pipes on your job and glue or sealant is flying everywhere, especially at the joints, then you will probably have a problem later. Most flooding in the home occurs because some inattentive plumber glued a joint on an angle and six months later the home is flooded. Neatness matters in plumbing.
- If you see pitted pipes and fixtures it is usually because of leaks around the joints. Plus, a dark spot in the bottom cabinet is a sign of a leaky drain. Don’t forget, a dark streak on the outside of a house below a faucet is a sign of a leaky faucet.
- Ensure your plumber is using protective plates in the wall to protect the pipes. There are plates, which can be placed on studs, to prevent someone from nailing through a pipe and creating a flooding nightmare. Good plumbers protect the pipes in the wall.
Who you hire as a plumber and the quality of your plumbing fixtures does matter. Be sure to hire a licensed and insured local plumber, because a local plumber understands their reputation in the community matters. If you are buying a home, check the plumbing out before you close on the house. A good licensed home inspector can help with this. The first step is to realize all plumbers and plumbing fixtures are not created equal.
Don Magruder is the CEO of RoMac Building Supply. He is also the host of the Around the House TV show on LSTV and LakeSumterTV.com at 1 and 6:30 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday; at 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday; and at 7 a.m., Noon and 6 p.m. Saturday.