THE PERILS OF SUPPLYING YOUR OWN PLUMBING AND ELECTRICAL FIXTURES!
Almost everyone likes to save a buck. Many customers are drawn to the big box store ads showing named brand items at much cheaper prices than licensed tradesmen charge for them. The two trades that have the hardest sell are PLUMBERS & ELECTRICIANS. Customers see the advertised prices of fixtures and REALLY resist paying the plumber or electrician his mark-up for providing the fixtures. The lure is undeniable, but is it smart?
Let's look at plumbing fixtures first.
- There are many upscale designer names that you can't buy directly, as the manufacturers protect their distribution chain.
- Many of the recognized name brands produce a "SPECIAL" line of their products for the big-box stores. For the most part, these are NOT nearly the same quality nor do they offer the wide selections available from the established distributors. The price difference can be more than substantial (perhaps 50%-75%), but it is absolutely NOT apples to apples and, in fact, may not be a great value, just a cheaper price!
Plumbers typically get a discount from the distributors, they can buy the quality fixtures for less than you can. To their cost they add a mark-up, as any business does. This tends to bring YOUR cost of the quality fixture to perhaps 110% of the MSRP of the fixture! But that is NOT the whole story, not by a long shot. When you allow the plumber to provide the fixtures you get a warranty that is ALL INCLUSIVE. If anything is wrong with the fixture, the plumber is responsible for removing the defective fixture, exchanging it for a proper functioning/finished one and re-installing the fixture. THIS IS A HUGE DEAL!
When YOU provide the fixtures, the plumber will rightly charge you for installing them. But what happens if you bought a defective (damaged appearance, poor functioning, lousy finish in a short time, etc.) fixture? Well, the fixture likely has a warranty, but - HOW DO YOU EXCHANGE AN INSTALLED PLUMBING FIXTURE??? YOU must pay the plumber to remove the fixture, YOU must haul the fixture back to the store, or make arrangements with the store to pick it up (lots of luck with that one), and YOU must then pay the plumber again to re-install the fixture - and he can charge you whatever he feels like. There are fixtures that need to be changed out more than once (a bad manufacturing run - it happens all the time)!
So, do you go for the easy savings up front or do you insulate yourself from any problems by allowing the plumber to supply the fixtures??? It's a personal call, and in truth, many customers choose to save the money up front. I certainly understand the motivation, but it is NOT necessarily the best value, just the cheapest up-front price. High end customers don't have a choice, as many of their selections are NOT available outside the established supply chain. In the end, smart money says to pay the plumber to supply the fixtures and avoid any finger pointing and hassles!
Ok, let's look at light fixtures and fans. Much like plumbing, the big box store are tough to beat, price wise. Most people are quite satisfied with the selections of fans they see, though there are many specialty fans that you will never know of, looking only at the big box stores. For the same "basic" bath fixtures, a lot of folks are satisfied with the spread of what they see at the big box stores but for "different" lighting fixtures, chandeliers and better quality stuff - we are back to the custom distributors. I can say with complete confidence that most of the lights and fans bought from the big box stores have issues! They are often missing small, but important parts, they are made very cheaply and don't fit together well, the fans often are poorly balanced and hum. If you don't allow the electrician to furnish the fixtures, you will be faced with the same scenario as with the plumbing fixtures. YOU pay the electrician for removing the fixture, YOU take the fixture back to the store and exchange it and then YOU pay the electrician for re-installing it. Some fans can take a good hour to assemble or disassemble and some lights are hung on ceilings so high that special scaffolding or ladders are needed just for access, some fixtures take 2 or 3 men to safely handle - - - - these costs start to add up VERY quickly. As for the missing parts, the electricians deal with this issue all the time. They can not install a fixture that is missing parts so they must attempt to fabricate parts from their materials or make runs to the big box stores or whatever - they have a crew of men to supervise and this costs them money. Someone will have to pay for this lost time and that someone is the customer who saved the money up front. Again, in the end, smart money says to pay the electrician to supply the fixtures and light bulbs to avoid any finger pointing and hassles!
No discussion would be complete without mentioning purchasing on the internet. Not only are the choices pretty large, but the prices are alluring and there is usually a way to avoid the sales tax (for now). Most on-line merchants are really good about exchanges and returns, as their business depends on customer satisfaction but that doesn't do a thing for addressing the removal & reinstallation costs mentioned above. Shop where ever you like, but give the list of fixtures to your tradesman and let him buy them and mark them up reasonably - you can discuss and deal, there is nothing wrong with trying to get a good price. Smart money says to ALWAYS PAY THE TRADESMAN FOR SUPPLYING AND INSTALLING YOUR FIXTURES!!!