Water heater, buy it or plumber supplies

16 Replies

I have a question as a new three family house owner.   Previously, water heater issues arose so rarely in a single family house, but now it will come up more often so I need to learn.

Is it best for me to buy the water heater  or  should I have the plumber supply it?

I'm asking after looking into buying one at a big box store and seeing the customer reviews are all over the place, poor to excellent.

If I buy it, is there a better place to buy it?

Thanks!

I think it's best to do it all under one entity. Plumber buys and installs. The hassle and such doesn't really save you that much. If the plumber is gouging you on materials and marking the WH up significantly then find a new plumber. You should be able to find someone that will do the install fairly cost effective. In larger areas there are folks that water heaters is all they do. 

That said, it's not my experience that multiunit water heaters go out any more frequently than ones at SFHs. If you have a heater serving a triplex then it should be larger (read much more expensive) than the one you would get for a small SFH. Ideally there would be one small one for each unit and each unit would pay for their own hot water. You may want to consider separating that out when you decide to replace the existing. It'll cost more but having the tenants pay for their own hot water will quickly pay for the heaters.

Medium rre 1to1 small sizeBill S., Reliant Real Estate, Inc. | 720 207‑8190

@Kate B.  Podcast #37 Aaron Mazzrilo gives a tip of buying hot water heaters at a scratch and dent sale. I am not exactly sure where that would be, maybe big box or local plumbing supply house. I thought it was a great idea because it is true, you don't need a pretty water heater to sit in the garage. Also they come with the same new warranties as their unblemished counterpart.  I would recommend getting it yourself. 

Medium moving forward logo jpegAndrew Emery, Moving Forward Property Investments LLC | [email protected] | 719‑649‑0598

I let me plumber bring it for the following reasons:

1)  I dont have a vehicle that can transport a Water Heater easily

2)  My plumber gets a discount on the price of the Water Heater that I would not get

3)  My plumber bills me at cost for the materials

@Kate B.  I have my GC and other trade licenses, for my own investing now, however I have found the supply houses have better warranties, and different brands, I think many times these are better quality, and a issue will result with me dealing with them, try taking a 2-3 yr old failed on the the box store, lol.

If the hot water heater is accessible it can be very quick and easy to swap out.  I have a hard time paying license plumber rates when its so easy to do.  If I feel the hot water heater is nearing the end of life during a rehab to rent,  I'll go ahead and replace.  I've learned the hard way that getting a few extra years from a functioning hot water heater is not worth the damage they cause when they begin to leak.   I don't worry too much about warranty and such.  I figure this is one item that just needs to be replaced from time to time. 

Medium jhb properties 01Jason Burr MBA, JHB Properties LLC | [email protected] | 864‑238‑9670

Most trades apply a fee on top of the price of the part.  Ask how much the water heater and labor is and compare. 

I have done installs myself but only on properties i live in.  For liability purposes and due to the fact that i am slower than molasses, I wont do them ever again.

More specifically to your point though, use a licensed plumber and let them buy the unit.  Hopefully you do better than dealing with some big company with a fleet of trucks that you found in the yellow pages.  I have two plumbers.  There is the small time independent Joe that does not gouge me, does great work but is not typically available on a moments notice.  This is who I use for renovation jobs and non urgent matters.

Then there are the big companies with a whole fleet of trucks and that big ad in the yellow pages.....they still make those right?  Anyway....I use these plumbers for the rapid response, clogged toilet, dripping faucet, water line break jobs.  They are more money per hour but can respond 24x7 and I have an account with them.  The more properties I own, the more valuable I am as a customer and the better pricing, treatment etc I get.

Regardless, if you want warranty coverage, then the plumber will typically require you use their product.  You might find a plumber that lets you buy the floor model from the big box store, or a brand new one for that matter.  And yes, you will have a valid warranty from the manufacturer since it was installed by a licensed plumber.  Your guy is licensed, right?  But, you will have to deal with the manufacturer directly and then coordinate with the plumber.  If you let the plumber buy the unit and install it, then all warranty issues are with your plumber.  He will work with manufacturer directly etc and make your life easier.

Also, the units they get....materials in general....at the wholesale distribution centers are superior to what you get at big box, consumer retail stores.  

Thanks for all the help.  I decided to let the plumber supply it.   It was a good choice.   I've only had the property for two months and I learned some of the plumbing is not up to code.   I asked the plumbing co to give me an estimate to do the work.

I didn't see #37 but this is a terrible idea.  Very bad.  

Talk type water heaters consist of a mild steel tank which is internally lined with a glass-like material to protect the steel from the very potent corrosive effects of the fresh water and it's dissolved oxygen.  This lining is somewhat fragile and getting the WH into service with it intact is something which requires a fair amount of careful handling.

AND . . . . it is impossible to know whether the tank lining was intact - until the steel tank fails / leaks.  

For this reason, I would Only buy new, first quality, water heaters from a reputable plumbing supply and have them installed by careful people who know how.  A good water heater properly handled and installed and maintained has a nearly infinite lifespan.

stephen
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Originally posted by @Andrew Emery:

@Kate B. Podcast #37 Aaron Mazzrilo gives a tip of buying hot water heaters at a scratch and dent sale. I am not exactly sure where that would be, maybe big box or local plumbing supply house. I thought it was a great idea because it is true, you don't need a pretty water heater to sit in the garage. Also they come with the same new warranties as their unblemished counterpart.  I would recommend getting it yourself. 

Updated almost 3 years ago

TANK - not talk type water heaters! Damn (so-called) spell-check

Thanks all!   I had the plumber do it -- and his price was comparable to what I would get if I bought it on my own.   Installation by the plumber was essential with the old plumbing here.

Originally posted by @Stephen S. :


.  A good water heater properly handled and installed and maintained has a nearly infinite lifespan. 


I need to buy the infinite lifespan type you are referring to above.  This has not been my experience at all. 

Medium jhb properties 01Jason Burr MBA, JHB Properties LLC | [email protected] | 864‑238‑9670

Any water heater has an infinite lifespan IF IF IF -

The tank lining was installed properly at the factory.
The factory workers handled it gently enough to avoid cracking it.
The plumbing supply guys handled it at least as well.
The plumber handled and installed it even more gently.
It landed, fully intact, at the end user's address.
And which then was properly maintained afterwards.

Until very recently I owned a house which had a gas water heater which had been installed in 1958.  I own a house right now which has an 80 gallon electric HWH from 1980 in it.

A 'scratch & dent' unit is the Least likely to last as it should. <g>

stephen
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Me:  A good water heater properly handled and installed and maintained has a nearly infinite lifespan.

You: I need to buy the infinite lifespan type you are referring to above. This has not been my experience at all. 

@Kate B.  

Buy it yourself, if your a Flipper/Rehabber 

or if your a home owner just have your plumber pick it up.

it saves you the hassle.

I always will make my contractor pick up the materials.... if they are a new contractor i happily meet them at the store to pay for it to insure they cant try to mark up the price on me.   

If it is a contractor i have worked with i simply pay for the materials over the phone. 

No company avatar mediumSky Mikesell, Portfolio Development | [email protected] | 7046223326

Originally posted by @Sky Mikesell :

I always will make my contractor pick up the materials.... if they are a new contractor i happily meet them at the store to pay for it to insure they cant try to mark up the price on me.   

If it is a contractor i have worked with i simply pay for the materials over the phone. 

I dropped a contractor whose time and work were both excellent because he marked up the prices, thinking I was an idiot who could not check what it cost.   Right in front of me he calculated the price for installing a lock on a door saying it was this minus that plus that, quoting a steep price for the lock itself.   I took the packaging out of the trash (where he put it) and went to Home Depot (I was already going there..) where it cost $12, not $35 he told me.  He did this time after time, padding his materials.   So I dropped him, a high quality worker, because I did not trust him.    Also, many times this man said inappropriate things to me and then apologized a day later....   I could live with it, but got sick of how he padded the money.

The plumber -- I want to say again -- gave me a price on the water heater that was equal to what I found on the web.  His labor was $78 an hour.  My city requires a permit, because it is a gas heater.   The plumber had to change some of the vents, pipes, etc, because he found holes and that's dangerous.

I believe it was money well spent.

home depot has great prices and very reasonable  install fees

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