Behind the wall – reduce your risk and play to your strength

Behind the wall – reduce your risk and play to your strength

Plumbing errors or failures can be costly to both you and your customer, but there’s ways to make sure they rarely happen says John Fennell.

A simple plumbing leak can be a major headache for a customer particularly if it means ripping down those expensive Italian tiles in the bathroom to find the source. As a plumber you have the responsibility to use the most reliable products you can, as well as your experience and skill, to create a great installation so that the chances of problems occurring are minimised.

Sure, there’ll are always be those jobs that come back to bite you and when the failure is in a product that lies behind the wall, the risk and cost to your business and reputation can increase significantly.

However,  you can minimise the risk of them occurring by discussing the options available with your customer, providing your expert advice to assist with your customers decision, using those products that you know have a proven track record, and, most importantly, not taking short cuts just to save a few dollars.

The business of a plumber has many competing responsibilities that have to be considered and evaluated. The graphic below shows some of these responsibilities. Ultimately, how well you manage these responsibilities can determine the ongoing success of your business.

A simple way to ensure this success is to minimise your risk and captialise on your competitive advantage by using quality products, employing best practice installation methods and leaving very little to chance.

Employing the best installation methods and understanding and complying with the relevant installation standards is the starting point. The Australian plumbing Standard AS/NZS 3500 has many installation methods that must be followed and have been designed to assist plumbers and prevent or alleviate any problems that can occur during installation. These include such things as fixing distances, allowance for expansion of heated water lines, concealment of pipes in or under concrete are all dealt with in the standard and help ensure a trouble free installation.

The products you use are just as crucial. Not only must they be agreeable to the customer, but they must meet regulations such as WaterMark.

It is the plumber’s responsibility to install only WaterMark approved products. Even though you might see non WaterMarked products marketed cheaply for sale at a store or online, the responsibility lies with the plumber not to use them. If you are in doubt of a product it is also possible to check the validity of the item on the WaterMark database at

There have also been cases where non-compliant products displaying the WaterMark symbol have been sold, making it very difficult for the plumber to determine if these products are genuine and fit for the purpose they were intended. The safest way to minimise the risk of non-compliant products is to use a reputable plumbing distributor and use well known and trusted brands of products which have good local technical support or representation should you find yourself with an issue or if you simply need some advice.

Plumbers and homeowners need to be aware that not all products and systems are equal and that some products or components have a limited life. Just like a tap washer, some other components may need replacing earlier than may be expected.

A recent issue concerning flexible braided steel hoses has highlighted that some of these have a life of 10 – 15 years, but if they fail they may cause considerable water damage that hopefully the plumber will not be blamed for. There are longer lasting alternatives to these hoses in most cases, such as solid copper pipes, but there are also some products where there is no alternative. The modern sink flick mixer tap assembly comes with flexible braided steel hoses and due to the connections and limited space there are limited alternatives.

Copper has a long and proven track record of use in plumbing installations globally and its advantages are well known. All plumbers are trained in its installation methods, plumbing techniques and standards are based on the use of copper and when installed correctly provides a reliable and high quality installation. Copper can be used for cold water and heated water at all temperatures whereas other products have limitations.

Copper, and other metallic pipes, are the only pipes that can be directly connected to any water heater as well as all pipes used to connect solar hot water collectors to the heated water tank. The choice of copper for your installation means you are further minimising the risk of failure, especially when you know how well a job you have done during installation.

Choosing quality copper products ensures you not only minimise the risk of any plumbing system failure, but you are also enhancing your business’ reputation and competitive advantage by using a trusted, high quality and proven material in your installation. Letting your customer know that the use of copper in their installation means they have a high quality plumbing system behind the wall is a reflection of the quality of your business.

Just because your best work is often hidden behind the wall, it doesn’t mean your customer shouldn’t know about it.

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