Clean Up Your Walk-In Shower Overhead Costs

Relying less on subcontractors can increase profits.
Clean Up Your Walk-In Shower Overhead Costs
Ed Del Grande

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One of the best bits of advice I ever received when I was starting my plumbing business was from an experienced service plumber. He told me that a big part of his success was doing as much of the work as possible without relying on his subcontractors. I know that sounds like very simple advice. But, what he was actually telling me was that I had to carefully think through every project before calling in my subs. Basically, figure out a way to complete the job myself using only the resources I had available to work with. A good example on how I put his advice to good use was when I landed a small remodeling job to replace an existing bath tub with a new walk-in shower stall.

By the way, this is a very popular aging-in-place plumbing upgrade that you can offer to your “empty nest” clients who may be looking to stay in their present home for the foreseeable future. Anyway, the point of my story is if you are planning a job like my walk-in shower project, profits can get washed down the drain if subcontractors are called in before you carefully plan the project. If your first reaction is to bring in subs, like many of us plumbers do, you may be giving away income that you yourself created. The two subcontractors I called in for my walk-in shower jobs were my tile people and my shower door installers.

If I continued this practice, about two-thirds of my shower stall profits would keep going to others. Basically, I would end up with only one-third of “my” job. I soon realized I had to change my install process.

If I could cut down my use of subs, not only would this increase my job scope, I could also include “extras” for my customers to make my quotes more attractive.

So, here are a few changes I made whenever possible to streamline my walk-in shower projects. With these changes I lowered my use of subcontractors and gave myself more work. I was also able to offer my customers extra showering features for just about the same price as my previous shower stalls. This made my quotes very attractive to my clients. For that reason I’ve included some of those extra showering features in my tip list: Three ways to streamline your bath-to-shower projects:

1. Use pre-made shower bases, component panels and solid surface wall materials whenever possible. When replacing a standard bath tub, in most cases you can find a precast shower base that can match up with the footprint and drain line of the old tub. Finish the surround walls with the matching component panels for the new base, or use solid surface panels you can cut to fit. Either way, this can eliminate tile work for the shower stall. If you eliminate all the tile work and you are able to install the wall systems yourself, you just picked up a larger portion of the profits.  

2. Install “Quick Install” shower doors instead of traditional cut-to-fit custom shower door systems. If you are using a precast shower base, chances are a quick-install door or QID can fit the standard base. A QID is basically a shower door that requires no drilling or cutting and can be installed in about an hour. Remember, I am not advocating you eliminate your subcontractors completely. We all need our subs from time to time. I just want to point out that there are ways to make our companies run more efficiently.

3. With extra job profits, give a little back to your customers in the form of a free shower extra. Letting your clients know your quote includes a free option like a body spray, personal hand shower or an innovative shower head may help you land the job over another plumbing company.

For a video companion to this article please visit and click the “Ed’s Bonus Banner” to view the “Quick Install Shower Door” bonus video below.

About the Author: Ed Del Grande is a three-time master plumber, GBCI LEED green associate and contractor with licenses in pipefitting, fire protection and plumbing. He grew up in a family-owned plumbing business and has 30-plus years of construction experience.


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