Online shopping can be fun. You can see lots of information about products, see design ideas you love, and build a cart that matches your budget. However, there are some traps to watch out for when purchasing plumbing parts online and we want to explain those now.
We are not saying you can *never* buy plumbing parts online, it’s just that you need to be aware of certain things to watch for.
What to Watch Out for When Buying Plumbing Parts Online
The US has a plumbing code that is different than other countries and buying parts online might mean you are having to do costly conversions to get those fixtures to work. Often these changes make the installation impossible or ridiculously expensive.
One example we dealt with recently is when a homeowner contacted us to clear a drain line in her free standing tub. She purchased it online because it had a beautiful design she loved. In tubs and showers, there is a p-trap that allows for proper drainage, but in this case, the tub had a drain in the middle, but had no p-trap.
Instead of the standard underground drain line, this tub relied on a tube and small holding tank (like a plastic version of an illegal drum trap). The only way to clear the clog was to remove the tub and clear the hair from the tube. A chemical product like Drain-O would very likely damage the tube, as would a simple hair barb stick because the tube and holding tank wasn’t made of very high-quality plastic and really wasn’t designed to solid plumbing standards.
Just like a cheap t-shirt destroyed the first time its washed, this homeowner was stuck with, ultimately, a short-lived bathtub.
When an item number is matched identically (what you see in the store is exactly the same as what’s online), it should be the same product. Unfortunately, some online retailers are reselling refurbished (used) parts, counterfeit parts, or swapping what looks like the same item with a poorer quality item (ie. instead of metal, plastic).
In one scenario a commenter named HB in this Houzz article about online plumbing fixtures posted that they ordered two of the same item and they weren’t the same, leading to a nightmare of a return to get it corrected.
It is a standard practice in plumbing that if a customer supplies the part, the plumber doesn’t warranty the part. This is one-way customers can save money because plumbers do markup supplies (just like any business does).
If the product carries its own warranty and you are willing to take responsibility for it, this is a great option, but with online parts, this may not be the case. An example we have on this is that we went to a customer’s home who had purchased a toilet online because it had a style that matched his overall design. It was a smooth side toilet that he had installed about 4 years before, when he did the remodel to his home.
We arrived to address the leak at the base and when we pulled the toilet saw that the wax ring seal had failed, allowing water damage over the course of four years that destroyed the subfloor. The original installer found a way to attach the toilet, and it worked for 4 years, but when it was time to do the repair, the entire subfloor and flange had to be redone. What normally would have been a $200 job, turned into a $2,000 job.
Our suggestion here is that if you do purchase plumbing parts online, you buy directly from the manufacturer and check their customer service and return policies. Use the internet to do research and then talk to your plumber about the fixtures you want and their warranties. This way you can save money and get the right parts for the job.
Have questions? We are always happy to help. Give us a call today for questions or to schedule a plumbing fixture installation at 303-571-5114.