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Whatever Happened to Quality Plumbing in San Francisco?

Dec 2, 2015 | San Francisco Plumbing

By Paul O’Grady, Founder — O’Grady Plumbing

As a San Francisco-based service plumber I find myself replacing broken parts on various plumbing fixtures — with most of this apparatus having been installed over the last two decades.

Sadly, many of these San Francisco plumbing problems that I’m called out to remedy end up with an associated cost that is more than twice the original cost had it been done right the first time. Replacement costs from flooding and gaining access through walls to fix a plumbing problem greatly multiply the cost of fixing the original repair because it becomes a much larger project.

And that’s a cost that could have been avoided altogether had a trained plumbing professional been called to performed the initial install or upgrade.

These days — more than ever before or in the past — I’m seeing shoddy work that has to be replaced, upgraded or repaired because of the inexperience, inattention or just laziness of whomever it was that preceded me to that pipe, fitting or fixture.

A lifetime ago, experienced plumbers used sophisticated processes in fabricating pipes and installing plumbing fixtures. A well-versed plumber — even a mediocre one at the time — had to have the right tools to do the job here in San Francisco, and the pipes they used were a lot sturdier. The end result was, a plumber was a plumber and the products used were made to last. Nowadays we have boutique hardware stores filled with snap-on fittings, flexible pipes and glues, tapes and sprays that are said to work miracles.

And while technology is great and it’s made our work as plumbers easier, what you end up relying on today is the experience of the plumber. A well-trained plumber with the right tools can do it the way it used to be done, and they can do it with modern plumbing parts that can save you money on labor and materials with a better-finished product.

  • Plastic pipes do quite well underground and rarely result in root intrusion.
  • Copper pipes have a very long life expectancy and don’t rot out like galvanized pipe.
  • Even plastic domestic water pipes such as PEX are durable and free of the defects often associated with bad workmanship.

The use of these products in the right places with an old-school plumber will get you a better plumbing system of equal or better quality in materials. These types of installs rarely need maintenance and will last a long time — matching or surpassing the quality of their predecessors.

Unfortunately, what I’m mostly seeing — and repairing — today is work performed by the do-it-yourself installer or inexperienced plumber who relies on cheap products to replace quality work. These aren’t plumbers. They’re “parts replacers.” And their work is far from that of generations past.

It takes time and some effort to find a good plumber who can educate you about the various new products available that can get the job done right on your home, apartment complex or office/retail structure. When making an investment in plumbing, it’s most important to use the best products available to ensure longevity and avoid damage to your property.

Again, there are many “handy men” or “handy women” out there who prefer to call themselves plumbers. But it’s up to you to check their qualifications before you make a hire.

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