The Inside Outside Guys: Don’t Buy the Toilet Before You Hire a Plumber

By Ken Calverley and Chuck Breidenstein

DETROIT, July 2, 2021 ~Decades ago, I was in the process of building a new home. Through a catalog I had gotten what appeared to be a great deal on solid brass faucets for the master bath. Even though a professional plumber was going to take care of all the plumbing on the home, this was too good a deal to pass up.

Far less expensive than the exact same ones the plumber was going to supply! Or so I thought.

When I showed the faucets to my plumbing contractor and explained where I had gotten them, he simply laughed before offering to purchase one of them from me. He wanted to cut it in half.

A couple days later he showed me the cut section along with another section from a similar, higher priced, faucet.

What I saw shocked me. The cheaper faucet, while looking the same on the outside, was a very poor quality casting on the inside. The moving parts were made to very loose tolerances that would have required a lot of service and repair.

If my plumber had installed these, I would have expected him to warranty the performance, but he made it clear that not only would he not install them, he would never warranty a product that I supplied.

The issues here are many.

The professionals know what products are made well. They know what products perform over time as expected. They see and service the bad stuff every day. Why would they want to install bad product only to have to service it constantly?

They work too hard to build and maintain a good reputation. One of the few variables they can control, at least most of the time, is the quality of product they furnish.

The professionals can usually purchase quality product at better prices than you or I can. They buy in volume over many years from the same suppliers. Most such professionals do not make their money by up charging for installed product. That becomes a lose-lose proposition for good companies over time.

The faucets I ended up purchasing, through my plumber’s wholesale house, were certainly more expensive than the junk I bought through the catalog but I was able to get a discount because he was doing the entire job for me. While I lived in that home I never once had an issue with those faucets.

Another point to be made has to with the actual install. When a fixture is delivered and the box opened, who’s to say all the parts are there and in good shape? If my “guy” is there and ready to install and “my” toilet was damaged in shipping, or a vital piece is missing, who do you think is going to pay big time to get those pieces needed and to get the fixture installed after replacement?

If the plumber bought it, it’s his issue and his supply house will get a quick replacement to him at the job site. I may never even know it occurred. If I bought it, it could turn into weeks of back and forth with the product seller and shipper while then trying to get my guy back out to the site for the install. That all represents time, hassle, stress and more money.

And what about warranty and service? Professionals today will generally provide what the Guys call “first person warranty”, FPW, on product they supply and install. This is a critical concern for any building owner.

If those shingles fail or that new window breaks or the electrical system does not perform as expected, the providers at will take the call for service. This compares to someone else making you dial up a call center and try to obtain service from people who generally have very little interest in you or your concerns.

The Guys consider FPW a deal maker. For years we looked at brand names that you could trust based on long-term performance. But so many companies have lowered product standards to compete on volume and price; you cannot always depend on the historically “trusted” name brand. So we now default to a long-time provider/installer with a history in the local marketplace to determine the “best” brands.

And one of the first things we look for is their FPW. If I have an issue with the product you supplied and you installed I want to know, in writing, that you will take care of it.

So don’t buy the toilet before calling the plumber. Don’t purchase that beautiful new door, and then hope to find an installer. The best value out there is from an installing professional that also specifies and supplies the materials. Just ask the Guys.

For more housing advice, listen to the Inside Outside Guys every Saturday and Sunday on News / Talk 760 WJR from 10 a.m. to noon or contact us at


The “Inside Outside Guys” are published every Saturday in the Homestyle Section of The Detroit News.