Don’t buy the toilet before you hire the plumber

Decades ago I was building a new house. Through a catalog I had found something that looked a lot like solid brass faucets for the Master Bath. Although a professional plumber would take care of all the plumbing in the house, this was too good a deal to pass up.

Much cheaper than the exact same the plumber would supply! Or so I thought.

When I showed the faucets to my plumber and explained where I got them from, he just smiled before offering to buy one from me. He wanted to cut it in half.

A few days later he showed me the cut section, along with another section from a comparable, more expensive faucet.

What I saw shocked me. The cheaper faucet, which looked the same on the outside, was a very poor quality casting on the inside. The moving parts were made to very loose tolerances that would have required a lot of maintenance and repair.

If my plumber had these installed, I would have expected him to guarantee performance, but he made it clear that not only would he not install them, but he would never guarantee any product I supplied.

The problems here are many.

The craftsmen know which products are well made. They know which products perform as expected over time. They see and maintain the bad things every day. Why would they want to install a bad product and have to maintain it constantly?

They work too hard to build and maintain a good reputation. One of the few variables they can control, at least most of the time, is the quality of the product they provide.

The professionals can usually buy quality products at better prices than you or me. They buy in bulk from the same suppliers for years. Most such professionals do not make their money by charging the installed product. Over time, that becomes a loss-loss proposition for good companies.

The faucets I ended up buying wholesale from my plumber were certainly more expensive than the junk I bought through the catalog, but I got a discount because he did all the work for me. While I lived in that house, I never had a problem with those faucets.

Another point to make has to do with the actual installation. When a fixture is delivered and the box is opened, who is to say that all the parts are there and in good working order? If my “husband” is there and ready to install and “my” toilet is damaged in transit, or if an essential part is missing, who do you think it will take a lot of time to get those needed parts and to fix it? to have the fixture installed afterwards? replacement?

If the plumber bought it, it’s his problem and his storehouse will soon get a replacement for him at the job site. I may not even know it happened. If I bought it, it could be weeks of back and forth with the product seller and shipper, while I then tried to get my husband back to the site for installation. That all represents time, hassle, stress and more money.

And what about warranty and service? Professionals today will generally offer what the guys call “first person guarantee” FPW on the product they supply and install. This is a critical point for any building owner.

If those shingles fail or that new window breaks or the electrical system doesn’t work as expected, the providers at take the call for service. This is like having someone else call you into a call center and try to get service from people who generally have little interest in you or your concerns.

The Guys consider FPW a deal maker. For years we looked at brand names you could trust based on long-term performance. But so many companies have lowered product standards to compete on volume and price; you can’t always depend on the historically ‘trusted’ brand name. So by default we now use a provider/installer with a history in the local market to determine the “best” brands.

And one of the first things we look for is their FPW. If I have a problem with the product you supplied and installed, I want to know in writing that you take care of it.

So don’t buy the toilet before calling the plumber. Don’t buy that fancy new door and hope to find an installer. The best value out there is from an installer who also specifies and supplies the materials. Just ask the boys.

For more housing advice and more, listen to the Inside Outside Guys every Saturday and Sunday on News/Talk 760, WJR-AM, 10 a.m. to noon, or contact us at

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