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Demise of the Plumbing Industry?

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  • Demise of the Plumbing Industry?

    It seems the phrase “the demise of plumbing” or similar sentiments have been bantered around lately. I have a hard time thinking of it as demise as I know of too many plumbing companies which are making a good living. I do think we are getting away from the fundamentals of plumbing and that is the fault of the plumbers and nothing less. Licensing has gotten much too easy, materials have been dumbed down to where almost anyone can install them and plumbers have limited their exposure to continuing education.

    Today plastic and glues have replaced cast iron and lead. PEX and CPVC have replaced copper piping. CSST has replaced iron pipe. Flexible connectors have replaced rigid supplies. It was the plumbers who asked for or allowed this to happen. Of course this opened the door for not only DIYs to complete tasks which use to be limited to skilled tradesman but also under qualified and/or unlicensed contractors. I can understand some not knowing how to pour lead but at the Roundup I watched guys who didn’t know how to hand thread pipe. As we let these skills disappear from the trades we lose a little more of what sets us apart from the lay person. As tempting as it is to take the easy way out it is important to test and hone our skills on occasion or we will lose them.

    There has been a lot of talk regarding DIYs and Home Depot and the work which is lost. As those in rural area understand there is more to DIYs than just saving money. Many people have grown up without the benefit of having tradesman in the community and have learned to do everything by themselves. In addition, there are those who get a certain satisfaction from doing their own repairs. Much like our woodworking buddies in the other forums who may not be furniture makers but like to make furniture there is a certain amount of pride in knowing you were able to build something.

    When Home Depot opened their first store in our valley all of the plumbers held their breath to see what effect it would have on business. To the surprise of most of us Home Depot actually increased our sales. Between the failed DIYs jobs and the jobs where customers shopped the Home Depot showroom but felt the work was above them we saw an increase in sales. However, at the same time we started to transition to more specialized work which the average property owner could not do.

    How as far as advice to the DIYs I think it really depends on the task at hand and the ability of the DIYs. A simple job like replacing a flapper on a water closet is not a big deal but as has been suggested here before many of the questions asked and answered are beyond the ability of the DIYs. This is where people skills come in. If you simply blow the poster off they will likely go elsewhere and get the information they are looking for anyways. However, if instead you explain to them why they are better off hiring a pro you may just save them from making a huge mistake. One of the primary skills for any service plumber is his salesmanship. Would you ever consider addressing a customer the way some have addressed DIYs posters?

    Now that we have dealt with the DIYs explain to me the difference between a DIYs and some of these “service techs” shops are sending out? There was a time when you had a ratio of 1-Helper to every 6-Journeyman. Today many shops have 10-Helpers to every 1-Journeyman. Then to exasperate things, where we use to have enough men to get the work done with reasonable scheduling now there are shops with guys sitting on their hands waiting for the phone to ring. Those shops brag they can get a plumber to you in an hour but neglect to tell you they had to double their rates for the non billable hours.

    All of the above is hurting our industry but we are a long way from seeing the demise of our industries. The way we correct these problems is to attend more continuing education classes and get involved in protecting the industry. Regardless of the Code you belong to there are hearings on all of the Code changes. How many of you have attended and or voted on any of your Code changes? How many Code update classes have you taken? Before you guys get too tough on DIYs consider every day of the week I am looking at plumbing which was installed by licensed plumbers and is now in litigation. We can complain all we want about where our industry is headed but only we can control where it ends up.
    Last edited by ToUtahNow; 09-04-2008, 07:28 PM.
    "Somewhere a Village is Missing Twelve Idiots!" - Casey Anthony

    I never lost a cent on the jobs I didn't get!

  • #2
    Re: Demise of the Plumbing Industry?

    Most state plumbing boards hold public meetings. GO, let your voice be heard. If you can't go, e mail them. Nothing changes unless you change it.
    sigpic

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    • #3
      Re: Demise of the Plumbing Industry?

      Good "article" Mark. I've grown tired of the DIY arguments myself. Been on both sides too.

      I've seen exactly what you're talking about from larger shops. 1 licensed guy, 2 good unlicensed guys, and 8 hacks on call. I get called to repair what they "fixed" alot of times.

      As far as demise of the plumbers skills, I think it goes both ways. The older plumbers could probably lead and thread circles around most today.

      But some of the ones I knew never had to figure their way around some of the engineered lumber we do. (No AAV's NH ) They didn't have inspectors that will fail you for something being 1/2" off. And they probably would refuse to put in a "carwash shower system" as I call it rather than calculate total water pressure, volume, and H/W needed to keep it all running properly.

      With that said, I repaired something recently where the insurance person from Raleigh, N.C. came to look at and commented to the owner, "Wow, you got a plumber that can solder. All I ever see anymore is PEX."

      As far as DIY vs. Professional. I've seen both screw it up. There are some very detailed DIY that think of all the details that a good Pro would. And some Pros that cut corners.

      I don't think there will be a demise in our work as a result of DIY and easier installation products. At least I haven't seen it. Seen it so many times that the majority of DIY will work with the "easy" products but miss something and they have to call someone. The devils always in the details.

      Plus there are alot that just refuse to do it or have disposable income to get someone else to handle it. We've all replaced a flapper in under 3 minutes that to me I have no idea why an average homeowner just refused to touch.

      There will always be a demand for the trades, but there seems to be a decline in quality people to do it. Sorry to let people in on it, but I've never met a parent that wants their kid to be a plumber. Even plumbers want something different for their own kids. But less people to do it, demand goes up, price goes up too!

      I've been like some in the past. Being mad at DIY or free advice at the supply house counter. But I find the greatest satisfaction with the feeling that "I'm going out the door today to help others." That's kept me as busy as ever with alot better attitude.

      J.C.

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      • #4
        Re: Demise of the Plumbing Industry?

        The 10 helpers to 1 journeyman is pure GREED perpatrated by our own SPECIES...

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        • #5
          Re: Demise of the Plumbing Industry?

          Excellent post Mark.

          The "demise" as I see it is the sheer volume of freely offered information regarding service plumbing.

          Just ten years ago, there was nowhere near the level of traffic we see online now for DIY info...Terry's site averages 4000 visits daily, that tells you something.

          Right now, the majority of tension is related to the R.E. market and the economy.

          As jobs shrivel, plumbers that used to do new construction will start migrating to service, installation and whatever else they can do to eat.

          That I could live with.

          But, add the fact that there is an unprecidented quantity of increasingly more available interactive information free for the taking from real plumbers online, and it don't look good for our future.

          When the band Metallica protested Napster, people thought they were being stingey, until they made their argument known, there was no way a new talented musician or band could make it when their music is given away for free.

          Napster was ordered to stop.

          Offering DIY for a flapper, sure...I even do it over the phone when thats the only problem they have, not worth my time and their money for me to drive for just that.

          Offering free, hard earned experience on installation of any plumbing fixture is stupid...ESPECIALLY a gas fixture.

          Specifically where it's illegal in my state, but also because the indiviiduals that seem to enjoy offering the info are also either employee's that have never had to fight to survive, or older more established shops that have forgotten how hard it was to build a clientelle.
          Last edited by DuckButter; 09-04-2008, 08:32 PM.

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          • #6
            Re: Demise of the Plumbing Industry?

            Originally posted by NorthernIllinoisPlumber View Post
            The 10 helpers to 1 journeyman is pure GREED perpatrated by our own SPECIES...
            Last shop I worked for, just that.

            I woke up with knots in my stomache each day, knowing I was in for headaches redoing work to ensure the livelyhood of an unscrupulous hack who hired self proclaimed unlicensed "plumbers" at lower rates so he could lowball his bids.

            I went self and never looked back.

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            • #7
              Re: Demise of the Plumbing Industry?

              lots of good stuff guys and I agree with each and every one of you in one way or another!

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              • #8
                Re: Demise of the Plumbing Industry?

                it's a changing world. like evolution you adapt or die

                when i was in electronics/broadcasting there were those that fought the new technology and were afraid of it. they quickly became unemployed and were unemployable. new isn't always better but it is the way of the world.

                i prefer the sound of a tube amplifer (whether for guitar or home stereo), i prefer vinyl over MP3s, i prefer HD over regular TV, i prefered plumbicon cameras over charged couple davices, and i prefer film over digital. new isn't always better but it is the way of the world.

                plumbers, like every other trade or ocupation, will either advance or fall behind. it's the way it is

                steve
                In the never ending struggle to keep the water flowing.... The Poo Poo Cowboy rides again!!!

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                • #9
                  Re: Demise of the Plumbing Industry?

                  Steve, Napster was new too.

                  A plumber who likes looking good, like a hero to homeowners by offering free advice online isn't change, it isn't new.

                  I don't mean to seem harsh, but the ones who seem to have no problem with it are the ones who aren't affected by the free DIY plumbing advice.

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                  • #10
                    Re: Demise of the Plumbing Industry?

                    Napster was cool. i miss it

                    i feel the same way about abortions as i do "free" advise.
                    Don't like abortions? Don't have one.

                    the rest of will not kill the trade. silliness will hurt the forum, though

                    just my $.02 before taxes

                    steve
                    In the never ending struggle to keep the water flowing.... The Poo Poo Cowboy rides again!!!

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Re: Demise of the Plumbing Industry?

                      I don't mean to seem harsh, but the ones who seem to have no problem with it are the ones who aren't affected by the free DIY plumbing advice.[/quote]

                      This is so true. People never seem to care until it affects them personally. People love cheap Chinese labor/products until it closes their factory.

                      People love growth until imminent domain takes their 5 generation family home.

                      And I guess alot of people love giving free DIY plumbing advice until it affects them.

                      Sorry if it's having a bad affect on you. Understand where you're coming from.

                      J.C.

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                      • #12
                        Re: Demise of the Plumbing Industry?

                        But less people to do it, demand goes up, price goes up too!
                        That's a short term attitude. Eventually that gap will be filled by someone, licensed or not, US citizen or not, skilled or not. Then the price will fall and your rates along with it or you will starve.
                        ---------------
                        Light is faster than sound. That's why some people seem really bright until you hear them speak.
                        ---------------
                        “If I had my life to live over again, I'd be a plumber.” - Albert Einstein
                        ---------
                        "Its a table saw.... Do you know where your fingers are?"
                        ---------
                        sigpic http://www.helmetstohardhats.com/

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                        • #13
                          Re: Demise of the Plumbing Industry?

                          Originally posted by Bob D. View Post
                          That's a short term attitude. Eventually that gap will be filled by someone, licensed or not, US citizen or not, skilled or not. Then the price will fall and your rates along with it or you will starve.
                          I don't think out anything short term. The scenario you describe is the cycle of any economy since the establishment of economy itself.

                          J.C.

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                          • #14
                            Re: Demise of the Plumbing Industry?

                            Originally posted by JCsPlumbing View Post

                            This is so true. People never seem to care until it affects them personally. People love cheap Chinese labor/products until it closes their factory.

                            People love growth until imminent domain takes their 5 generation family home.

                            And I guess alot of people love giving free DIY plumbing advice until it affects them.

                            Sorry if it's having a bad affect on you. Understand where you're coming from.

                            J.C.
                            Whats ironic is it really isn't affecting me that bad, yet.

                            I have noticed a large decrease in closing new calls over the percentages just two years ago.

                            Ironically, I have also gotten a large increase in repeat business & referrals, which is whats supposed to happen over time.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Re: Demise of the Plumbing Industry?

                              Keep at it brother. You'll probably get so busy with repeat customers and referrals in the near future that you'll have to have a DIY hotline.

                              J.C.

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