Plumbing Product Advice

The best plumbing product advice will usually come from a plumber that fixes plumbing in the home. There are different types of plumbing specialists. The plumbers that specialize in fixing problems in the home are more likely to know details concerning the good and the bad plumbing products. Experience makes a difference. Mike hopes that by illustrating here and by providing more details in his book, you will understand how important it is to select the best available plumbing products. As you read this sample of Mike’s book, you will see why you need the whole book.

Durability is one of the most important factors to consider as you search for top-quality plumbing products. Many factors affect over all durability. Some factors to consider:
•    Chrome seems to hold up much better than other finishes. Fancy state-of-the art finishes seem to scratch, show abrasions, peel, and show other defects much sooner than chrome. Manufacturers have been making claims about state-of-the-art technology that developed durable finishes, but I haven’t seen a finish as durable as chrome.
•    It takes many years of use, before plumbing products can establish a proven record of reliability and durability. New exciting products often take many years to perfect. When selecting newly developed products, always be aware of the risk. Most old washer-type faucets use to require maintenance about every fifteen years; many people thought washer-less faucets would last forever since there supposedly is no washer to wear out. Many people find that washer-less faucets often need maintenance every eight years or even earlier.
•    Many new plumbing products seem to be rushed to market as business focuses more on today’s profit and less on long-term profits. Manufacturers and other businesses operate in an overly competitive environment. Most customers expect a bargain and can’t tell the difference between durable, top-quality products and products that are only designed to look that way.
Durability and reliability seem to fall in the same category but they are different.
A plumbing product can be reliable under normal use and normal conditions but fail if exposed to abnormal use or abnormal conditions. Many years ago, plumbing products seemed to hold up much better when pushed to the extremes (i.e., spikes in pressure, aggressive water, heavy-handed use, etc.).  Manufacturers can blame problems on abnormal use or other conditions, but some products just don’t seem to be as durable as others.
After durability and reliability, serviceability and availability of parts should be considered.
Serviceability refers to how difficult it is to replace or install and how difficult is it to repair. Some plumbing products are easy to install if the work is performed while building a new house or installing a new bathroom or installing a new kitchen. Replacing plumbing products often requires working in a very confined area. Some products are very easy to replace and some very difficult. Some products are difficult or not practical to repair (i.e., parts stick together and every trick in the book will not free the parts, time requirements and/or collateral damage prevents cost-effective repairs). Very expensive plumbing products are not necessarily durable, reliable, or serviceable.
Availability of parts is a major concern. Everything eventually wears out (some sooner than others). For many years plumbers found it relatively easy to keep necessary parts on their truck. An assortment of faucet seats, washers, o rings, and other seals made it possible to fix just about anything. Today, manufacturers change products every week and make it impossible to keep all the necessary parts. Cartridges and other parts are often extremely expensive, less than reliable, and very difficult to obtain. The best chance most people have of finding parts is if they keep the paperwork that came with the plumbing product. Most faucets come with model numbers and guarantees.
Guarantees (to the original purchaser) often seem to have replaced quality production, reliability, and durability. People seem to feel safe buying anything with a guarantee. People don’t seem to realize that most manufacturers’ guarantees only cover parts. Labor can be expensive.  When there were major changes in toilets, people started noticing guarantees for toilets. Many major improvements did take place in the design of toilets. As expected, some durability problems did result in premature failure of some new parts. I noticed that one manufacturer eventually had to provide a complete flush valve after it realized a replacement rubber seal was too flimsy. I still see some problems occasionally, but it seems that most problems have been addressed.
Many years ago most faucet manufactures started offering “lifetime” guarantees (for the original purchaser). About the same time I started noticing “lifetime” guarantees, I noticed an increase in poorly manufactured and poorly designed faucets. It seems that manufacturers decided that people shouldn’t complain about poorly designed or poorly made parts as long as replacement parts are available free. (If people keep the right paperwork, they usually can call a toll free number and get help ordering free parts.) Usually shipping is free—if you are not in a hurry.
Labor expenses to replace parts can get to be a problem for the customer. Some people have so many reoccurring problems that they end up replacing the fixture.
In Summary
Heavy-handed use, exposure to abnormal conditions, and other factors often seem to cause more problems with certain plumbing products and fewer problems with others. No manufacturer can protect its product from every overly aggressive person or abnormal condition. Some products are dramatically more durable than others. Some products are dramatically more flimsy than others. Serviceability greatly affects labor costs and whether or not plumbing products can be fixed. Often, important paperwork, model numbers, and guarantees are the key to finding special parts.

The key to selecting the best available plumbing products is gathering plumbing product advice from as many trustworthy sources as possible. Mike’s book is essential.

[Special note from Mike: This page is focused mostly on faucets and other plumbing fixtures. It is also important to get trustworthy advice before you buy tools. As an example, I recommend cost effective “everyone should have” tools. Today’s recommendation is something that can save you lots of money, embarrassment and inconvenience. When your toilet stops up you will need it.]
Ridgid 59787 K-3 3-foot Toilet Auger with bulb head

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