Plumbing Damage Costs & How to Avoid Them


Plumbing Damage Costs & How to Avoid Them

Are your repairs swept under the rug and labeled as a cost of doing business?

“Your truss was in the way of some of the plumbing, but we took care of it.” 

Unfortunately, this is not an uncommon phone call for component manufacturers (CMs) to receive but how often do you consider the costs associated with a repair when providing the necessary customer service? On top of that, how can you prevent these calls from happening in the first place?

This article will briefly explore how these calls can impact a CM’s bottom line and a few ways in which CMs can proactively work with tradespeople to avoid such issues.

Truss repairs can very easily turn a profitable job into a money losing project. The cost incurred with this type of repair goes beyond the price of the materials. Costs for determining the issue for repair, designing the repair, and implementing a repair solution shouldn’t get lost in your accounting books. 

Preventable issues like these can create an unexpected cost and can add up to more than you would expect.

According to Bob Dayhoff, director of technical operations for Shelter Systems, communication between contractors, salespersons, and technical staff can add up to 30-40 minutes of wasted time per person per repair, plus around $50 per truss for the repair itself. This may not seem like much for one job but it adds up when it occurs multiple times on multiple jobs. 

While each situation is different, at the end of the day truss repairs cost money. The issue is that truss repairs occur after the job has shipped and cost management is no longer at the forefront of the CM’s mind. Are your repairs swept under the rug and labeled as a cost of doing business? Do you track engineering and material costs but ignore conversations coordinating with contractors, designers, floor managers, and delivery crews? Below is a rough outline of costs to consider that are easy to overlook or underestimate.

Repair Needs Engineering Repair Cost of New Truss Shipping General Overhead Total
Best Case $50 $0 $0 $100 $150
Worst Case $50/Truss $100/Truss $400 $500 $1050 min.

The easiest and least expensive way to avoid repairs caused during plumbing installation is to have a conversation with the plumbing contractor. Having a designer consult with other trades during the design process, possibly during a subcontractor meeting, allows all parties to understand the interconnection of everything on the job and provide solutions that are suitable for everyone involved. 

A subcontractor meeting is a good idea if the project is large enough to work with a plumber, but with single-family homes, CMs typically do not have an opportunity to meet the plumber. This doesn’t preclude the CM from seeking out the plumber or having the delivery driver make sure people on the jobsite understand the risk that comes with modifying an engineered product. This can be especially important when working with plumbers who may have performed work that resulted in truss repairs in the past. 

Another option for communicating the importance of not modifying trusses is to hold plant tours. Inviting your local trades into the plant to educate them about components can provide a lot of downstream value. This is even more impactful when it’s the installers themselves who see how trusses are designed and built. You can find out more about hosting a plant tour on SBCA’s website.

A final idea for preventing truss repairs due to plumbing drops is to design trusses in a way that prevents major repairs, or simply sending an additional truss to the jobsite. Since trusses are engineered, there is a specified spacing that the truss is designed for. Moving this truss increases area over adjacent trusses, which increases loading on the truss. Having the additional truss where the plumbing is coming through the floor, for example, allows workers to shift the truss over to avoid the plumbing and add another truss on the other side of the plumbing. This eliminates the need for truss repair or re-evaluation. 

If nothing else, having a few additional trusses shipped to the site will cause tradesmen on the jobsite to notice the extra trusses and have a conversation about trusses. This conversation could result in a learning experience for those unfamiliar with the use of components. 

About the Author: Evan Protexter walked in one day, claimed an office, and got to work. Since then he has been involved in testing and research to advance quality control practices within the industry.