Plumbing

Plumbing work begins prior to concrete pour and doesn't finish till the very end of construction. Owner Builders may get discouraged because there are interrelated systems which must be planned for a properly designed, well functioning home. My advice is to address each separate issue to reduce the complexity.Sounds like life! Make a complete list of plumbing tasks related to your home. Start with water: Well, water, municipal water or hauled water.

Well Water

In some places, the water table is so dependable there is no question about drilling a well and securing an adequate water supply: all that is needed is permission to drill and a competent well driller. In other parts of the country there may be a real question of whether there is sufficient well water to sustain a home.

Where a well is needed, add the cost of drilling the well, installing the necessary pumping equipment and providing adequate storage or pressure boosting equipment. Weigh well cost as part of the price of the lot you intend to purchase. Most local well drillers can provide reliable cost information. Be sure to tell them you want a dollar estimate for the total well package.

If there is any question about the quantity or quality of water in the area where you intend to build, include in your purchase contract a provision which allows you to drill a well prior to close of escrow. If good water is not available, don’t buy the lot. Try to make an agreement that if you find adequate water you pay and if the driller doesn’t find adequate water the seller pays or you split the cost.

Shared wells are not uncommon. Read the shared well agreement carefully. Make certain adequate water is available; ask for a copy of the original well report. What are the provisions for well maintenance? Find out the annual cost of water and what agreement is in place to pay for unexpected expenses. Who will handle the finances and management of the well? After you are comfortable with all the conditions of the shared well, be sure that the agreement is recorded with your other land purchase documents.

Municipal Water

Check with your local water company for cost to connect. Cities frequently charge impact fees. The fees are often raised regularly and can be substantial. If fees are to be raised the City usually has cutoff day for a permit that would allow you to purchase your permit using the old fee structure.

In most cases municipal water companies are a dependable source of water. Ask for a water pressure test for the water supply near your home. A water pressure test will help the plumber as he designs your system. He will know if you need pressure enhancing equipment or in some cases a valve to reduce or moderate supply pressure.

Private Water Company

Proceed as above but with extra caution about water quality, and assured water supply. Be sure to do all due diligence. Ask other customers if they are satisfied with service and price of water. In Arizona, higher than acceptable arsenic levels have been found in some of the ground water. Some private companies have not maintained the water delivery system properly. State Water Resources Department is often a source of good information.

In rare instances there may be no reliable source of water other than hauled water. You will need to know how the water will be delivered and you will need to have adequate water storage tank for your needs. The cost of hauled water and limitations on water storage require adjustments in life style. Many buyers are unwilling to purchase a property served only by hauled water. Don’t overbuild.

Designing the Plumbing System

(1) Be sure your plumber is licensed, insured, bonded and has several years experience in residential construction.

2) Using your home design, most qualified, experienced plumbers will be able to design a well functioning plumbing system. Work with the plumber to be sure he includes:

a. An adequate number of outside hose spigots. (Your plumber will know how to protect your system from freezing.)

b. An outside tap for a landscape sprinkler system

c. Water tap for refrigerator.You may ask to have this connected to the reverse osmosis system.

d. Water lines required to service the panels of solar hot water system. Be sure your plumber protects these lines from freezing. It even freezes in Phoenix Arizona. (I know!)

e. Piping sized properly to feed the sprinklers for a fire sprinkler system if needed. Normally the fire sprinkler company will specify where to locate the feeder line and will layout sprinkler locations.

f. Specifics on what the plumber will provide; size of water heater, type and number of water closets, sinks tubs and type and style of water faucets, if he is providing.

Purchase your water faucets (valves) early. After your home is framed, the plumber will need these valves to install inside the framed walls. – Specifically he will need the shower faucets.

Most interior plumbing lines in new construction are PEX or a related product. The benefit to using PEX is that it is flexible, easy to install, sturdy, and can be color coded to ensure no confusing of hot and cold lines. It's easy to inspect pex lines during rough construction and simple to repair any damage should it occur.For good pex plumbing supplies visit online supply PexMall.com.

Underslab Plumbing

Review our Underslab Plumbing page to learn more about Plumbing in the building process.

Differences in Installation

There are different methods of plumbing installation. The construction industry is constantly evolving and products such as building materials are always improving.

We had a recent discussion about the water supply lines to a house. In the area I worked, all lines were run in the attic area. That painted my perspective. However, in Northern Arizona, where the temperatures often dip into the 20's come wintertime, the water supply lines are run during the pre-slab phase of construction. This prevents their exposure to possible freezing in the winter time.

Just be cognizant of the fact that your particular region may have methods that vary from those we discuss here. It is best to consult with your plumbing contractor and designer about how the plumbing will be run.

Selecting a plumbing contractor is just once portion of the bid process.

Recirculating Hot Water

A recirculating hot water system is a nice upgrade which also conserves water. Think about the energy consumption that constant recirculation may require. If you decide to install a recirculating system, some expense may be diminished by having it on a timer. A recirculating water system requires an additional insulated hot water line. Talk with your plumber.

On Demand Instant Hot Water Systems

On demand instant hot water systems, without storage, are becoming increasingly popular. Gas or electric units are available. When planning, allow adequate space for the equipment and pre-wire, or tap in gas, and plumb. The instant hot water system is more expensive to install but will save money by conserving water and energy.

Gas Lines

Install gas lines to the following locations: laundry room, hot water heater, gas furnace, range, fireplace, patio barbecue, and instant hot water locations.

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