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Wed, Oct. 16

Ask the contractor: Be wary when supplying products for your projects

(Courier stock image)

(Courier stock image)

We are receiving a “rash” of phone calls lately from homeowners who have purchased materials/products and are calling for a referrals of contractors to perform installation of the material and/or products.

The majority of the calls have pertained to plumbing fixtures, faucets, shower heads, tile and even a water heater. Last week a homeowner purchased a garbage disposal 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 internet or shopping at a “big box” store will save money.

There are potential pitfalls when homeowners buy their own products and then seek installation services.

When products are ordered via the internet, the package could be missing parts and/or contain misaligned parts that are discovered only at time of installation, if the homeowner can even find a contractor that wants to take on the installation portion. There have been many situations where the owner had failed to order necessary special parts required for proper installation. There have been situations where the owner had ordered incorrect parts that did not fit the current application and modifications had to be made.

In the long run this can end up costing the homeowner more money because the plumber and/or the applicable contractor had to make additional trips to the supply house to work with parts that were incompatible from the onset and/or make modifications to the area where the homeowner-supplied material was going.

Contractors only warranty the products that they supply. If there is a concern with the performance of an item that was installed, but was not supplied by the contractor, homeowners are on their own trying to field the issue through an online source, or 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 directly with the contractor who 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 items sold on the net and often in big box stores are not the same fixtures sold by local 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 happened last week: The homeowner ordered a new faucet online, and 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 a 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 online 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. Were 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?

Homeowners have responsibilities when they furnish their own materials. Again, if there are any problems with the materials they purchased, they will be responsible for not only replacing those materials, but also any surrounding or attached parts that might have been damaged or destroyed. Additionally, they will pay more than twice for the labor; they’ll pay for the first install, for the removal of the first install, then for the second install.

In closing and stepping off my soap box, homeowners, please know that while buying the parts or materials could possibly save you a little money, in the long run those parts or materials could cost you double the amount or more.

Most contractors do not recommend or accept jobs where the customer has furnished materials for the job, because almost always it ends up costing the customer more and puts the contractor at risk.

Enjoy your weekend and thanks for reading YCCA’s Ask the Contractor. Remember to tune in to YCCA’s “Hammer Time” twice each Saturday and Sunday at 7 a.m. on KQNA 1130 AM/99.9 FM/or 95.5 FM or the kqna.com. Listen to Sandy and Mike talk about the construction industry and meet your local community partners and contractors and so much more.

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