Plumbing fixtures priced higher than expected

Discussion in 'Plumbing Forum, Professional & DIY Advice' started by Danspot, Jun 20, 2013.

  1. Danspot

    Danspot New Member

    Messages:
    1
    Location:
    Bellevue, WA
    We’re building a new house. We tuned up the default plumbing fixtures a bit, and the general contractor came back with an updated quote from the plumbing supplier, Ferguson’s.

    Their prices are 20-30% higher than what I can find at Home Depot / Lowes, or Terry's online store (for the Toto toilets) based on a representative sample for a couple rooms. This ends up amounting to several thousand dollars, which is significant. I even found them charging a buck more for a tub wall kit than they what they list on their web site at retail, not contractor prices.

    Based on past experience, my GC is going to balk at getting supplies from somewhere else, whether box store or online. These are just the fixtures, and the quote comes directly from the supplier. There are separate line items for labor.

    Does anybody have any tips on dealing with this situation?

    Should I push on the supplier, the GC, both? If my GC rants about not being able to warranty things he didn’t source, should I just take that risk and source the items myself, trust that Kohler == Kohler, and trust his sub to do the same quality job on the install?

    I've heard that in fact the same Kohler part from Lowes inferior to the same Kohler part from Ferguson's, which is surprising to me.

    Is it practical to go with a bare minimum set of fixtures and installation (e.g. necessary valves and piping, only one working bathroom) to pass inspection, and then do all the fixtures with another contractor later?

    Should I close my eyes and accept this as the cost of going with a GC, and reassure myself that I’ve saved much more in money and time elsewhere in the project?

    Thanks.
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 16, 2014
  2. Terry

    Terry Administrator Staff Member

    Messages:
    15,423
    Location:
    Bothell, Washington
    For starters, all that inventory you're talking about is being picked up by somebody else, stored at times, moved and then installed.

    How many times is each piece being touched and re-touched, and how many chances to be broken or damaged before the job is complete?
    Just picking up a bowl and setting it down too hard on a concrete garage floor can damage it. How do you determine when that happened? Did the painter move it and break it? Was it damaged while carrying it upstairs?

    If you want the online pricing, which is delivered to your current home, then who do you pay to deliver to the job site, and move that product around during construction? And who takes the "hit" if there is a problem?

    I tried to ship $2,000.00 of plumbing product with Oak Harbor Frieght here locally in Washington, and they managed to smash all of it. I was out $2,000.00 because they said I couldn't prove that they smashed it in the warehouse before they loaded it. I had mistakenly told the guy that loaded it on the pallet to be careful. He didn't like that.

    Anyway, part of that expense is taken up by them "babysitting" and "taking care" of "your" product.

    And then there is the question of whether you're even getting the good stuff from the box stores. I won't buy there.
    Last edited: Feb 16, 2014
  3. Tom Sawyer

    Tom Sawyer In the Trades

    Messages:
    3,314
    Location:
    Maine
    I flat out will NOT install anything that I don't sell for all the reasons Terry mentioned above. How many restaurants let you bring your own food in for them to cook?
  4. DougB

    DougB Member

    IMO - if you want to supply the parts - they should install them for their labor.

    "Is it practical to go with a bare minimum set of fixtures and installation (e.g. necessary valves and piping, only one working bathroom) to pass inspection, and then do all the fixtures with another contractor later?"

    This seems like a lot of extra work to save a $1000 - and could result in a lot of finger pointing if there are problems down the line. That 'later date' stuff sometimes get's put off indefinetely.

    I don't see any problem suppling the parts - but I'd get it all done at once, by the same plumber.
  5. Tom Sawyer

    Tom Sawyer In the Trades

    Messages:
    3,314
    Location:
    Maine
    I would be suspect of any licensed plumber that would install fixtures he didn't supply
  6. DougB

    DougB Member

    Why is this? There are many, many fixture manufacturers. Take a look on Faucets.com - there must be 100 mfg's of faucets. People see this stuff on line - they know what they want. Why should they have the plumber purchase the parts (maybe from Faucets.com)? Should I look for a Grohe plumber?

    A competent tradesmen should be able to read the installation instructions and install the item properly. Actually I think it's better for the plumber if the customer buys his own faucets. The customer can retain the order form / sales slip - and deal with the supplier if there are warranty issues or repair parts.
  7. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Messages:
    22,332
    Location:
    New England
    On a house that is being built...you do not own it until it is finished and then paid for. The contract typically requires the builder to make it 'whole' and livable and the conditions and components are spelled out in the original contract. You can often negotiate change requests - they'll define a cost, and if you accept it, it becomes part of the contract. This limits your flexibility. If you want to pick and choose, and take the responsibility for the whole, thing, then you become your own general contractor, and deal with all of the problems associated with it. So, yes, you supplying parts puts the contractor at risk and they typically either will not or will charge you for that 'privilege', often costing more than if you let them do it themselves. It becomes a slightly different issue when you're doing a remodel, especially if you're acting as the GC; you already own the house.
  8. Terry

    Terry Administrator Staff Member

    Messages:
    15,423
    Location:
    Bothell, Washington
    You mention Grohe.

    We have a job where we did supply the Grohe tub/shower fixtures. The tub spout is a 13.611
    The first tub spout leaked. A very slow drip once a minute, but it was there.
    I could see that on the second trip out there.
    The third trip out, we replaced with a new spout from Grohe.
    That one leaked too.
    Back at the office again, we took the spout apart and looked at the pieces. I taped the threads where the two pieces meet. Assmembled that, pushed it on copper pipe and pressurized it. It looks good now. Okay, this took about 30 minutes puzzling and testing.
    Now we will make our fourth trip out to install it in place.

    And, we had to "pick" up a new spout, and the phone calls that were made to suppliers and to tech support.
    A friggin' lot of time for a wee little drip on a tub spout.

    So under your, "the homeowner should provide all the parts", that's fine too. At this point, I woujld be up to $400 to $500 dollars in service calls for a $30 spout if that is the case.

    If a tub is installed and it's defective, homeowner supplied, then the subs on the job are being paid to do the job twice. However long it takes if it's all time and material.

    Of if the homeowner wants to supply the parts, the parts should be sitting on the job, in the rooms they are going in, and on hand to make sure they are in the right place.
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2013
  9. DougB

    DougB Member

    I empthazie with you. I too am a contractor - Computer Science contractor - but contractor none the less. I think it's fair to say that if you Mr customer want this (which is outside of what we normally do) we will do it, but any problems with the devices are billable at $85/hr or what ever you charge. This is what I do - and they can buy all the crap software they want - I just bill'em.

    I don't think that a 'different' brand is always problematic - it happens with all manufacturers. Me, I would not buy Moen, Kohler, Delta. I've had homes with these faucets and have had bad experiences fixing them - after replacing all the guts and O-rings.
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2013
  10. DougB

    DougB Member

    With my limited experience with building contractors - they want to do the least. They will scrimp anywhere possible to save a buck - they really don't care an iota about you. IMO the problem is that once it's built, you're stuck with the minimal crap they have delivered.

    The 'normal person' has no way of knowing what the contract really implies, and how the contractor is going to use the document to screw them.

    Over the years I've remodeled several homes (that we have lived in) - and I can tell you that most contractors / trades people do half assed work, with minimal utility. There are exceptions - IMO minimal is the norm.
  11. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    27,272
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    parts

    quote; they what they list on their web site at retail, not contractor prices. WHY would you expect to get "contractor prices"? IF a supply house sold you the items at contractor prices, then he would be MY competitor, because he would limit my ability to make a profit on them. AND, if he did sell you the items, then I would NEVER do business with him again for just that reason. Actually, I, and most plumbers in this area, prefer that the customer purchase their own fixtures. That way we do not have to deal with "I changed my mind", or "It is leaking come fix it".
  12. cacher_chick

    cacher_chick Test, Don't Guess!

    Messages:
    3,281
    Location:
    Land of Cheese
    In most trade businesses, part of the profit comes from parts. If I have to source it, inspect it, test it, and warranty my labor if something is not right with the part at installation, I have to made up for that time somewhere. Our labor rates would have to be substantially higher if we were not profiting from the resale of parts.
  13. DougB

    DougB Member

    I came to this mindset 25 years ago. As a software developer, I don't want to make any money on the hardware, or the printers, or the software. I'll modify the software, interface it with other systems, etc, etc... but I want nothing to do with their 3rd party products.

    It works really well - the management can argue amoungst themselves about the problems - I'm out of the loop!
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2013
  14. DougB

    DougB Member

    I would have to disagree with you. You make a big generalization with "In most trade businesses" - are you speaking for someone else? IMO (without being insulting) selling materials is 'old school' and 'thing of the past'. With a name / part number anyone can get near dealer net prices (without sales tax) from a simple google search.

    I say... Don't be afraid to charge an hourly rate... $85 ... $125... etc + enviornmental disposal fee + shop materials. I say be upfront. The days of wholesale / retail are vanishing.
  15. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Messages:
    22,332
    Location:
    New England
    If you want specific things in a house you are having built, it is best to negotiate them before you sign the deal to buy it and it starts to be built. In that, you can also specify adherence to specific building codes and industry standards (for example, there are some quite specific requirements when it comes to tile covered by the ANSI and TCNA standards). You might also want to specify all items to be installed per the manufacturer's recommendations so if they happen to omit something, or fail to install it properly, there's a document to 'judge' the proper method, and who's at fault. Building a house is a big step, and most people are sorely inept at the best way to go about it, and yes, sometimes you end up with poor quality. The alternative is to end up spending more money for what's likely to be a smaller house, built with a custom builder that actually cares - cost may be the same or more likely higher, but you'll get what you want done at a workmanship like manner. There's at least some truth to the adage that you get what you pay for...
  16. Terry

    Terry Administrator Staff Member

    Messages:
    15,423
    Location:
    Bothell, Washington
    My son reminded me tonight, that he had lost 1-1/2 hours of billable time returning a toilet with a cracked tank today.
    If it had been customer supplied, we would have had to wait for another day to finish, and charged for the second trip.
    It would have been up to the homeowner to do the running around.
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