Ask the Contractor: Purchasing on own can carry hidden costs

Homeowner calls for installation of homeowner-supplied material have been on the increase lately, with the majority of the calls pertaining to plumbing fixtures such as faucets and showerheads. Last week a homeowner purchased an InSinkErator and needed to have it installed and another homeowner purchased a soft water system and was looking for an installer. I get that many homeowners want to purchase material for a remodeling job and/or an upgrade on their own because they want to avoid any possible contractor markup and many homeowners are convinced that buying something via the "net" or shopping at a "big box" store will save money.

There are potential pitfalls when a homeowner buys their own products and then needs installation services.

When ordering via the "net," possible missing parts in delivery and only discovered at time of installation.

The owner has failed to order any special parts required for installation.

The owner has ordered incorrect parts that do not fit the current application and modifications must be made.

In the long run, this can end up costing the homeowner more money because the plumber will need to make additional trips to the supply house to work with parts that were incompatible from the onset.

Plumbers only warranty the product that they supply. If there is a concern with the performance of an item that was installed, but was not supplied by the contractor, the homeowner is on their own trying to field the issue through an online source, so attempting to return it after it has been used. There is a cost to remove and then replace.

If there is an issue with a contractor-supplied item, the homeowner has the benefit in working with a contractor that has the responsibility to rectify the problem with the manufacturer. That is not to say that if an issue does arise with a homeowner-supplied item that a contractor is not able to problem-solve the component issue, but keep in mind now there are additional expenses.

Another point to remember is that plumbing fixtures sold on the "net" and often in the big box stores are not the same fixtures sold by plumbing distribution houses. Although they might have similar model names or even the same name, the fittings might be rubber instead of chrome or brass, or they are not really nickel-plated over brass or the gasket is not as thick.

Actual issues with homeowner-supplied material for plumbing items last week: Homeowner ordered a new faucet online, scheduled an appointment with the plumber to install. The plumber opened the box only to discover it was an 8-inch hole opening for the faucet and the countertop was drilled for a 4-inch faucet. Also, the faucet drain was plastic instead of metal. The online purchase could not be returned - all sales final. The homeowner was out the cost of the faucet and paid for a service call for the plumber's time.

A homeowner ordered a fancy toilet from eBay and thought the price really "rocked" because it was a lot less than ordering one through a local plumber. A local plumber agreed to install the toilet at a price to be determined once the toilet was inspected and guess what? The toilet was missing some parts (no wonder the price was so good) and it had special adaptor that was required for installation vs. the standard installation with a 12-inch rough opening. So an easy install job of 30 minutes or so was several hours and more money because the toilet was not the same as the regular standard toilet. The price difference between the eBay toilet with the missing parts and the adaptor vs. the proper toilet from our local plumbing supply store was $150. The additional cost for installation and purchasing the missing parts and retrofitting the toilet was $225. No warranty on the toilet and it was installed with a retrofit chase down of parts and pieces. Was there really cost savings in the long run?

I understand that homeowners will continue to express an interest in providing their own materials and as long as the homeowner is aware there could be extra issues from the beginning and that the material is not under warranty pitfalls might be able to be mitigated. Wouldn't you rather buy local to support our economy?

Remember to tune in to YCCA's Hammer Time twice each weekend Saturday and Sunday morning 7 a.m. on KQNA 1130 AM/99.9 FM or the web kqna.com. Listen to Sandy and Mike talk about the construction industry and meet your local community partners and contractors.