“While the entire project took six months of construction time, they piped it in a day.”
— Tommy Strong on the benefits of home run plumbing
BROTHERS STRONG’S STORY
[IMAGE: PEX piping, which ranges in size from 1/4 to 2 inches, is lightweight and flexible, allowing Brothers Strong to easily work the hot and cold supply lines through insulation to reach a shower valve like this one.] “We began using home run plumbing in 2004,” says Tommy Strong, project manager. “We were looking for the design flexibility it gives you in a remodeling project. Often you are in a situation where you strip the walls, and you are limited in where you can put the things you want. The existing structure can be very restricting, and copper takes up a lot of space and is difficult to work with in small spaces. There can be a real fire hazard working with copper on site too.”
“Above all, flexible piping is ideal in retrofits or additions where you are working with the existing piping,” Tommy says. “It greatly reduces the time needed for piping.”
“Installation is way easy; speed of construction is way fast,” says Michael Strong, vice president. “While the entire project took six months of construction time, they piped it in a day.”
“With the two bathrooms, it would’ve been much more challenging using conventional piping,” says Tommy. “There were several tight spots, as we were trying to get from old areas to new areas. We probably would’ve had to make some design compromises if we used a conventional system, like building out some fir down chases or lowering the cathedral ceilings.”
“On the sales side of things, I would say the primary reason for using home-run plumbing is the opportunity to differentiate ourselves from the competition. It is in accordance with our evolution toward cost-effective construction and green building,” says Michael Strong, vice president.
“PEX piping and a manifold just make so much sense for so many reasons,” Michael adds. “It gives us another arrow in our quiver when we talk about high-performance remodeling or new construction.”
COST: FIVE PERCENT LESS
“In most of our jobs, we automatically include home run plumbing in the cost, and it’s listed in the appendices of our proposals, but we don’t usually pitch it to clients as an option,” Michael says.
“That being said, if we have a particularly large job and a tight budget, we don’t always specify home run plumbing. In those cases–like in the Cyprus addition–we had not determined what type of plumbing system we were going to use. We were going to go with what we could budget.”
“Since it wasn’t included in the original design, and we had a fixed plumbing budget internally, we told the plumber we were going to pay this amount for the plumbing, but that’s it. So we told the plumber to be creative. Then the plumber said, ‘Hey, we are doing PEX on your smaller remodels, let me do it on this project and I’ll meet your price objective.’ It cost about 5 percent less than what was in the original budget.”
[IMAGE: With two bathrooms in the addition, Tommy Strong says it would have been difficult to use conventional plumbing. PEX piping preserved the integrity of the original design.]”That is unusual. One problem we are struggling with is that our plumbers are not giving us the price break for the plumbing installation, when we know the labor is a fraction of normal costs. However, there are still not enough plumbers out there doing it, so there’s not enough pressure on pricing to make it more cost effective. That’s a shame because it’s a great system with a huge number of benefits.”
“In this case, our plumber showed a willingness to partner with us, probably because over several projects, we’ve had a good relationship,” Tommy says.
EASY MAINTENANCE, HAPPY CUSTOMERS
“The big impact that clients are going to see over the long term is the flexibility in maintenance and repair,” Michael says. “You can shut off any individual water source conveniently. This is a huge advantage. It’s easier for the homeowner, and it’s easier for the remodeler. So if we go back to a house and remodel the bathroom in five years, we just shut off the water to that bathroom. We are not looking for the main in the street, and we are not shutting off the water to the rest of the house. If the homeowners want us switch out the water heater, all we do is shut off that water supply. That means way less hassle for us, and less cost for the client.”
“We try to build value into our projects that way. We are planting these little seeds of satisfaction that will blossom in the years ahead.”