Case Study

plumbing uncertainties

The Problem

In a mid-century whole house, “strip it to the studs” major remodeling project, I became increasingly concerned with the quality of the plumber’s replacement of natural gas and domestic pipes to all service locations. Something just felt wrong.

Action Taken

As my concerns were partially confirmed with the requisite city inspection and the plumber initially hired became indignant and hostile when that information was shared, I hired another plumber to doublecheck and repair as needed all recently installed water and gas plumbing connections.

Outcome

The second plumber found even more installation problems, fixing all including a previously unknown leak in a newly installed gas line that was far too close to the main service panel. A second inspection passed.

Summary

Hiring a “master” electrician or plumber will typically result in a solid project outcome. Most of the time. However, it is always my best practice to observe and inspect a project’s progress at a granular level, especially with unknown vendors. For instance, in a comprehensive residential remodeling project that stripped down-to-the-studs a 1950’s single family home, I upgraded all finish levels, finished out the basement, created a plush master suite on the unused upper floor, and revitalized all spaces on three levels to create a modern, well-insulated, energy-efficient, and sustainable home. Then I started to have concerns about the work product of a master plumber.

Again, most trade professionals are truly professional, but answers to basic inquiries on his work activity—involving a major kitchen upgrade, 3 complete bathroom resets, and re-piping gas lines from the meter to all locations of service—were evasive. When his work was inspected by the city, I tagged along with the inspector to ask more questions than normal. I was disappointed to learn of serious deficiencies.

I hired another master plumber. He doublechecked everything, found even more issues, and corrected all, including a leak in a newly installed gas line—one that was far too close to the main electrical service panel. It was an expensive but necessary rework (fixing the fix) of plumbing.

This could have gone terribly wrong but didn’t. The city re-inspected, all passed, and the remodeling project progressed to a very successful completion. The new owners were excited to move into their new home.

Lessons Learned
  • Pay Attention.
  • Trust Your Instincts.
  • Ask Plenty of Questions.
  • Inspectors are Vital.

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