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by • October 15, 2014 • Housewrap & Waterproofing, Water Heating & Plumbing & ToiletsComments (5)11295

Rookie Builder Mistakes Part 3 Plumbing

Plumbing is a huge topic and isn’t easy to cover in one blog post but here’s a few rookie mistakes that I’m seeing in the field.

Mistake #1 – Cheap Plumbing Materials & Fixtures  

The materials your plumber uses can make a big difference in the final quality of your homes.  Rookie builders don’t pay much attention to the finer details of what the plumber is installing.

For instance:  I use all 1/4 Turn Ball Stop Brass Shut off valves for my houses (I like the KT Series from BrassCraft).  These will last for decades and be leak free in 30+ years when you need to turn them off!  They run about $11-15 each.

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1/4 Turn Ball Valve stops for toilets are incrementally more expensive but much better.

 

If you are taking the lowest bid on your plumbing (and you’re not specifying) you’re going to get these cheapie shut off valves that run about $3-5 each.  In my remodel experiences, I’ve seen these fail in under 15 years of service quite often.

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Cheap valves in my experience are prone to failure.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I also think this holds true to the plumbing fixtures themselves.  I’ve found that the cost of the fixture directly relates to the quality and longevity of it’s service life.  I don’t want to bash any plumbing brands, but if you buy quality fixtures from Kohler, Grohe, or Toto you’ll get the quality that comes with the higher price tag.  The less expensive brands seem to have issues inside of 10 years.  Rookie builders buy based on price, experienced builders will pay for the quality.

Mistake #2 – Plumbing Penetrations

The plumbers are your #1 hole-maker in a house.  They arrive onsite at the “Top-Out” stage (where the house is framed and they run the pipes inside the walls pre-sheetrock) and start drilling.  I’m going to mainly focus on exterior envelope penetrations, but this also goes for making holes in your structural components too.  The rookie builder gives the plumber no direction on how to fix holes in the weather barrier.  Here’s an common example I saw a few months ago.  This is a recessed exterior tankless water heater box that comes into the inside envelope, and notice the yellow “duct tape” the plumber used to seal the holes in the weather-resistive barrier (WRB).  There are multiple errors here and I was dismayed to see the mason on the house next door putting up his rock over this WRB with it’s penetrations.  Not good.  Rookie mistake.

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I doctored this photo to protect their identity… not sure “Rookie Builder Inc” would attract many clients

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Plumber drilled a copper water heater drain pipe hole through the finished siding. Major Rookie Builder Mistake!

Experienced builders have a plan for exterior plumbing penetrations and their plumbers know how to handle these holes in the critical air and water barrier for the house.  I’m a big fan of the Quickflash plumbing boots and use them for my “holes” in the WRB.  Here’s the Quickflash P-50 panel that goes on every hose bib penetration.

Here’s a link to a how-to video I shot 4 years ago where I’m installing one of these.

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Quickflash P-50 for 1/2″ hose bibs

 

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I used to stock up on these flashing panels and carry a huge bin of them from Job to Job, but now I’ve persuaded McCoys Lumber in Austin to stock them.  I still provide them to the plumbers, but they are trained to always use them and ask if they aren’t on the site. Bottom line: Rookie Builders leave the critical air & water barrier up to the plumber and experienced builders are serious about their envelope.  We must take this issue seriously as these small water/air intrusions will make a huge impact on the longevity of the house.

Quickflash Boots come in all sizes.

The Quickflash boots come in all shapes and sizes for plumbing, hvac, and electrical penetrations through your WRB.

Mistake #3 – Bidding  

This is a mistake that can be made in many phases but is especially true in plumbing.  Plumbers often bid projects with a simple one-page bid form and don’t give much details.  If you are bidding your houses to three plumbers I often see the rookie builders going with the low bid without realizing there is a HUGE difference in plumbing companies and their work.  Rookie builders don’t vet their plumbers well, experienced builders spend serious effort finding a good plumber and once they find one they stick with him and educate them on their systems.  I won’t bid plumbing, I’ve got a great company I work with and I only use them.  This is true for all my main trades.  My plumber knows my carpentry crew and they watch out for each other.  These long-term relationships go a long way towards high quality construction.

Another big issue I see in bidding plumbing is that many plumbing companies have “ground”, “top-out”, and “set-out” crews.  That means that three different crews will be in the house at three stages.  With the complicated custom homes I build this can lead to big problems.  I really want the plumber who pipes the house to be the plumber who will ultimately set the fixture.  This accountability is crutial when dealing with wall thickness & depths for tile.  Trust me, you want the same guy on the the entire job.

Mistake #4 – Protection

Rookie Builders fail to protect installed plumbing!  I’m mainly talking about tubs here, but this applies to all sorts of finished items that are in contact with trades in the final months/weeks of construction.  Tubs are especially prone to damage as they are usually installed pre-drywall and get bombarded with junk during construction.  One huge culprit of tub damage is drywall nails left in tubs that later get ground into the finish by people stepping into the tub.

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Tubs are a magnet for trash, and are easily scratched. Rookie mistake

 

Experienced Builders protecting their tubs.  The easy method is using a scratch protection strippable film like this.

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I also like to make a platform so the drywall guys aren’t standing on the tub.

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We went a bit light on the “tub coat” protective film, but we’re about to cover this tub.

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A sheet of left over 3/4″ foam works great on top, then…

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We use a sheet of OSB for a skirt cover with some 2x’s vertically

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Finally a top sheet of OSB and this tub is fully protected for the duration of construction!

 

 

Thanks for reading my blog and my series on Rookie Builder Mistakes.  I hope that my blog is helping the younger guys learn how to do it the right way, and that even the experienced builders who follow me can catch a few tips here and there.

Best,

Matt Risinger
– Risinger Homes in Austin, TX

Visit my Blog at www.MattRisinger.com

Risinger Homes is a custom builder and whole house remodeling contractor that specializes in Architect driven and fine craftsmanship work. We utilize an in-house carpentry staff and the latest building science research to build dramatically more efficient, healthy and durable homes.
Be sure to check out my video blog on YouTube, and follow me on Twitter @MattRisinger

Risinger Homes on Facebook.

You can also check out my new Amazon Store here with Matt Risinger approved items.

 

 

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  • Drew Auman

    Matt I really enjoy your blog and have employed many tips from you over the past couple years in my business. I’ve always been very impressed with your waterproofing of the building envelope. I’m very curious to see how you waterproof showers and tub surrounds. We have been using kerdi and I’ve been pleased with but always looking for the best. Thanks, Drew

    • Drew, Thanks so much for following my blog! I’ve heard good things about Kerdi but it’s not an approved system by our local plumbing inspector. I typically use a fiberglass site constructed pan then do a mud-set tile over top. For walls I’ll use felt paper, then Dura-rock, then a full Laticrete trowel on barrier, then tile.
      Hope this helps… Might need to blog or video this sometime. Matt

  • Ben Chase

    Matt,
    I’ve seen several of your videos on using Quickflash products and they are awesome; I will definitely be using them on my own house to come. But, I’ve never heard you mention anything about best practices for flashing of roof penetrations. Your plumbing vents have to go somewhere; I know you don’t use AAVs for your whole house. Quickflash seems to be for walls only. Do you just use plain Oatey flashing boots? If so, which ones? The galvanized, or thermoplastic? Do you have some special “awesome-sause” for roof penetrations? Keep up the good work. We really appreciate you taking your time to share your knowledge.
    Ben
    P.S. This would be for an 8/12 roof. I don’t care about any of that modern-architecture, flat-roof stuff 😉

    • Ben, Great question! In general I prefer Lead flashings. Just be careful using Lead with metal roofs. It will react to Galvalume so you need a different flashing for some metal roofs. Hope this helps, Matt

  • Peter Williams

    Matt,
    As a re- modeler who just left NJ for NC I have a few questions that a seasoned Southern Builder could help me with…
    First the home I am building has a crawl space and my builder is asking me if I want to condition this space
    or insulate it. I would think you do both, but if I condition it they will only foam the block.
    Second He has asked about heat/air which coming from the North I had wanted gas hot air heat with separate air cond not a heat pump, which was ok, but the heat/air contractor says he is using the newer DaikinVRV system.
    Can you give me your opinion on these topics I can not afford any mistakes!
    Thanks for all the good advise in JLC Peter D