More than 30 years ago, when I was working as an apprentice at my father's plumbing company, I remember installing one of my first tub and shower units. When I asked one of the master plumbers why we were leaving without installing the shower door, he said with somewhat of an attitude, “That’s not our job, the owner will get a door guy.” That didn't make sense to me, so I asked; “Why don't plumbers install shower doors?” The old plumber laughed at me and said, “Kid, you're a plumber not a finish carpenter!”
That stuck with me, and it always bothered me that we would leave a tub/shower unit without installing the door. Didn't any of my plumber elders realize that if we stocked and sold shower doors and offered installation service, we could realize more profit for our company? For some reason, my father didn't understand that offering more services to an existing customer base is the easiest way to generate new work and increase sales.
What was the big deal with shower doors? I couldn't figure it out until years later when I tackled this question head on. By this time, I had my own master plumber license, and like many family businesses – unfortunately or fortunately – my father and I agreed on only one thing. That I should leave his company immediately and start my own plumbing business. With my new business, things were going to be a lot different, and near the top of my plan, I was going to sell and install shower doors.
Alas, after my very first solo performance at installing a shower door for a customer, I realized I had made a huge mistake. With (1) trying to cut heavy metal framing, (2) trimming the frame to fit round corners, (3) the time needed to drill in tile and subsequently breaking a number of drill bits and the tile itself, (4) screws that were too long, (5) missing parts, (6) wrong measurements, (7) frames falling off the walls, and (8) walls that were out of plumb, I finally understood why most plumbers turned their back on this “can’t-miss” business opportunity. Back then, installing a shower door properly really was as hard as finish carpentry work, and that old plumber was right when he said, “Kid you're a plumber, not a finish carpenter!”
Well, it pleases me to say that was then, and this is now. In today's marketplace my initial business sense was finally proven right with a new genre of bath/shower shower doors that really are easy to install. These “quick install” bypass shower doors require no cutting, no drilling, no trimming of the side jambs to fit curved corners, and no specialty tools.
All a plumbing contractor needs to install this style of door is: (1) silicone sealer, (2) masking tape, (3) tape measure, (4) level, and (5) the pre-packaged hex wrench. The hex wrench is the key to turning the special “expansion mechanism” that holds the top and bottoms tracks in place. Once installed, finish caps on the tracks trim out the entire door. Now, any plumber can easily do finish work on a tub and/or shower door.
Aside from installing the main frame in a matter of minutes, these doors also pack some high quality features. CleanCoat glass coating helps water runoff quickly to cut down on unsightly water spots, and the door handles double as built-in towel bars.
Easy install features that are proven and reliable will help you “up-sell” your tub/shower jobs to include shower door installation. This can increase sales and better yet – profits – differentiate your business to attract new customers, and offer your existing customers expanded and better services. Once again, this gets us back to my original question that I asked over 30 years ago: “Why don't plumbers install shower doors”?
By Ed Del Grande, Master Plumber, LEED Green Associate, Kohler Co./Sterling Plumbing Spokesperson. Del Grande has more than 30 years of experience in natural and propane gas piping, plumbing, and general construction. As host of his own television show Ed the Plumber on the DIY Network, program host on HGTVPro.com, and author of a home syndicated Q&A newspaper column for Scripps Howard News Service, Ed serves as an expert resource for home enthusiasts all over the country. His debut book, Ed Del Grande’s House Call (Penguin/Viking Studio), was first published in 2007. Ed holds Master licenses in pipefitting, fire protection, and plumbing, and recently earned his LEED Green Associate certification from the Green Building Certification Institute. Also a private pilot and a Coast Guard charter boat captain, Ed has appeared on The Today Show, Ellen, CNN, and MSNBC, and has given hundreds of television and radio interviews nationwide. Ed also makes live appearances across the country on behalf of Kohler.