The difference between Commercial Plumbers and Domestic

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When I started working for my dad, I spent a lot of time learning how to put together plumbing estimates for tenders. I had little plumbing knowledge, but there were key things dad taught me to look for when it came to quoting jobs for a new tenancy fit out.

Was the tenancy on the ground or on a level in a building?

Was the ceiling fixed or ceiling tiles? If the ceiling was fixed were there man holes available to get into the ceiling cavity?

Where was the closest sewer stack?

Where was the closest water supply?

In those early days I would take pictures with my digital camera to show dad the answers to those questions.

As I did my apprenticeship I became more proficient in knowing what fittings to allow for in my quote and how to scale off a plan to work out how much pipe would be required.

The estimate would never lie. Our estimating program had formulas that were so accurate it worked out how much primer and sealer would be needed on a job. This was helpful when builders came back to us to negotiate on price. We could see the bare minimum of what we could drop to before we would break even or start to lose money.

Some plumbers have little idea of how to estimate or use an estimating program properly to ensure they make money on every job. It’s a skill that is not taught at Tafe and is learned on the job or taken up blindly by counting pipes and guessing how many fittings might be needed to do the job.

Our clients were Design and Shopfitting companies like Tu Projects who would run the tenancy fitout project from start to finish. They would win the tender as the project manager and shopfitter for the new tenancy, and then they would send out purchase orders to the trades whose prices they had used to win the tender.

Before the 2008 Global Crisis, dad had secured a niche area of plumbing in the tenancy fit out sector. We had a number of tenancy fitout companies that we worked with and we knew who our competitors were. We were all commercial plumbers, but occasionally we would see a new plumber join the scene to give the commercial side a crack.

Design and Shopfitting companies would love the pricing they received from these inexperienced commercial plumbers because they would offer cheap prices. But with cheap prices came unexpected headaches.

Specifications would be ignored and the fit off would be rough. And getting the necessary paperwork after job completion like manuals and as builts would be a nightmare for the project manager. It was a hard lesson, but one that needed to be learned.

Tenancy and shopfitting work would generally be clean work. The dirtiest part of shopfitting is disconnecting the old fixtures. The hardest part is dealing with other tenants in the same building.

After heading into the city on Friday, I noticed so many new buildings and I thought about the potential work Dad and I could have had with all the new tenancies available.

But then I thought about the stress of meeting tight deadlines and dealing with all the extra Occupational Health and Safety laws that have flooded the trade industry. I’m glad we’ve retired from that era in our lives.

My advice when looking to lease a tenancy is to use a Design and Shopfitting company to look after the project for you. Shopfitting companies have extensive experience when it comes to fitting out new tenancies.

The same can be said of plumbers. Don’t use a domestic or residential plumber in a commercial area unless they have had experience in the commercial sector. Domestic plumbing is different to commercial plumbing and while both areas are governed by the same plumbing standards, there is expected protocol to be followed when doing tenancy fit out work.

Have you ever hired a tradie only to find that they weren’t right for the job?

This is post has been written in accordance to my disclosure policy.