How New Construction Is Changing Society’s View of Service Plumbers

Cheaper building methods and what that means for the types of plumbing systems installed ultimately hurts the plumbers called upon to make repairs

How New Construction Is Changing Society’s View of Service Plumbers

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When homeowners move into a brand-new house, what they focus on most are the aesthetics. They will spend a lot of time picking out the right chandelier, the right color paint, furniture, television, decorations, carpeting, bedding, curtains, etc.

While you can’t blame homeowners wanting their house to look great to friends and family with a warm and cozy feel, many times they are not willing to spend time or money on their plumbing and heating systems. Instead of sitting down at the kitchen table with a professional and considering cost-effectiveness and comfort, their mind is tailored to “What’s the cheapest thing I can get away with?” This mentality starts with new construction builders.

New Construction Builders

As America’s demand of owning a large yet affordable home increases, some builders are slashing costs at every available avenue to maximize profits. Cheap and fast is how builders stay alive in the new housing market. If they can get what used to be a nickel for penny, they will. Same goes for the cost and expertise of the labor used to build. Cutting back structural steel, over-spanning joists and stud bays, and sub-8-foot ceilings for cheaper, shorter lumber, overhangs out of cheap oriented strand board, low-year shingles, cheap metal doors, cheap piping using sub-standard installation methods, cheap plumbing fixtures, and scrimping and undersizing of HVAC systems and ducts, to name a few.

Most builders have kept in mind that they only have to warranty their work for one year. The houses going up now are cheap from day one in many circumstances, but they will usually make it through at least a year of someone living in the home. Builders are able to provide an affordable home that is clean, new, and big. But it almost always requires major plumbing repairs within a few years.

The Homeowners’ Perspective

When the homeowners encounter their first major plumbing problem, such as a belly in the sewer line causing routine backups, they call a plumber. The plumber comes out and scopes the line. He informs them of a misinstalled pipe, and gives them a price to dig it up and fix it the right way. The homeowners at this point have been tailored to believe that all the plumbing is new, it is all high-quality material, and plumbing is cheap to repair since they got all the plumbing for the house cheap. They cannot understand why it is so expensive to fix a brand-new line. Therefore you — the service plumber — must be wrong.

They have a hard time understanding that the builder may have used unskilled, non-licensed “plumbers” who installed the system with the cheapest possible material and methods. And furthermore, by doing so the builder cost the new homeowners even more money, which could have been avoided by having it all done the right way the first time by a plumbing professional.

Homeowners lose sight of the plumbing, heating, and air conditioning systems because most of those systems are concealed. It is not something pretty that they can see, so they oftentimes don’t care about it and surely don’t ever want to spend any money on it. What they fail to realize is that no matter what the builder scrimps on in the beginning, they will eventually pay for in the end. They have to pay for it many ways other than money. They pay for it in comfort, savings, costly repairs, health concerns, leaks, noises, clogs, smells, etc. No matter what tangible or intangible problem they have, it always costs less to do things the right way the first time.

The Solution

Builders and homeowners are both on the hunt for cheap and fast. When they finally come together and get what they both want, service plumbers end up being the bearers of bad news and therefore get the brunt of the homeowners’ frustrations. A healthy understanding of the aforementioned details, delicately explained to homeowners when there is a problem could be a start. Showing empathy for someone who just bought one of these cheap new construction homes and leveling with them about the building process and about how builders undersize and undercut material in order to save money might make enough sense to them so that they consider the builders the crooks rather than the service plumbers.

If we can inform these types of homeowners the truth about how these developments are thrown up, maybe we can reap the rewards of the builders’ missteps. We can build long-term customer relationships with individuals instead of them becoming enraged every time there is a plumbing problem and sifting through the phone book for the plumber that they haven’t called yet.

About the Author

Anthony Pacilla is a registered master plumber for McVehil Plumbing in Washington, Pennsylvania. He has 22 years' experience in the plumbing and HVAC trades, and has a bachelor’s in business and economics from Thiel College. 


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