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Different people have different philosophies when it comes to home buying. Some would prefer to buy a home already constructed, either because they like the existing character, or the location, or simply because it’s a convenient alternative. Others would prefer to buy a property and build upon it, where they can see it all come together and have a say in the construction, aesthetic choices and prices.

There’s no one right answer here. It really is to each their own. But with the difference in home buying comes certain differences in costs. Whereas you might not be building your plumbing from scratch when you buy an already constructed house, the renovations you might need (if the house’s plumbing is old or in disrepair) are more costly than if you had started from scratch. Why is that?

At Mister Plumber, we field this question pretty often and understand why someone would be curious – even skeptical – of the difference in cost. Why is plumbing work cheaper for new construction compared to renovations? That’s the question we’ll be attempting to answer with this blog post, as well as what to consider in each scenario, and why a plumbing company in Toronto you can rely on is of the utmost importance both in renovating and constructing from new.

What To Consider When Renovating

Here’s the long and the short of it: expect costs to be a bit higher when renovating as opposed to new construction (more on that below). Of course, there are certain workarounds. As we’ve discussed on this blog before (see: A Short Guide to Washroom Plumbing Renovations), a great time to do plumbing renovations is when other renovations are underway, especially ones that require removing drywall, that way you can capitalize on the existing access.

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Really, it all depends on the state of your plumbing. If you need multiple system upgrades, and each requires some kind of wall removal or working around floor joists, it can cost more, because the job is trickier and more time-consuming – a good first step, in any case, is to contact us to learn more about the job.

What To Consider With New Construction

If you were weighing out the two options – say you had the opportunity to build a new house or purchase one, and the cost of plumbing was a deciding factor – you might have a difficult choice on your hands. Yes, the work itself is generally less expensive when constructing new, but it also needs to be completed wholesale. On the other hand, a purchased house might need only minor renovations, and although pound for pound those renos are pricier, the overall cost is probably still less.

But when constructing from new, you have the ability to install long-term plumbing that you know is going to last. You get it done right the first time. Rarely are homeowners in a position where they have to choose between the two, as most people have made up their mind what type of house they’ll buy well before contacting a plumber, but as a point of argument, we thought it would be beneficial to compare.

Why New Construction Is Generally Less Expensive

So let’s answer the question first posed in the intro: Why is plumbing work cheaper for new construction compared to renovations? First of all, when houses are built, there is no drywall on the walls and ceiling, which means that plumbers have full access to install both drain and water line. There is no impediment to the work, and therefore the job gets done quicker.

Secondly, new houses have bigger sizes of studs and floor joists, to facilitate more insulation. For example, all exterior frames in a new home have to be done using 2×6 – not 2X4, as was the previous standard – and therefore there is more room to install drain stacks.

However, because of this, water pipes cannot be installed inside the exterior wall, since they will be left inadequately insulated. But that’s not a huge issue – because of the smaller pipe size, they easily fit in the thinner interior wall.

Floor joists, in most cases, are 2×12, which is another helpful amount of space, since it makes putting in horizontal drain pipes with the proper slope much simpler.

Why Renovations Are Generally More Expensive

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In the picture above, you can see some of the renovation plumbing work we’ve done. Notice here that the plumber does not have space from below – this is because of the finished ceiling, which implies cutting the floor and therefore makes the job more difficult.

In such old houses, floor joists are made of 2X8 or even 2×6. According to the building codes, notches or holes on floor joists are prohibited, which makes means there is a very tiny range for the installation of sloped wastewater pipes. This can get very tricky, as it’s almost like a plumbing puzzle that needs to be solved!

But it’s not always this tricky. Check out the picture that appears first in this article. In it, you’ll see some plumbing we did in a basement wall. The job here was relatively easy, at least compared with some of the more awkward renovation jobs, since as you can see there is good access from both sides. This access makes our job much easier, and therefore quicker.

It should be noted that renovation plumbing is not only about creating new plumbing fixtures or relocating existing ones; it is also about fixing all those little problems like negative sloping, improper fittings, hairline cracks, code violations etc. You might even want to upgrade your water service during your renovation for better efficiency and performance. Such problems are usually unforeseen and affect the final cost of plumbing work. By contrast, these unforeseen problems don’t pop up in new construction plumbing.

Conclusion

Hopefully, this article has been at least a little educational. Plumber pricing, far from being arbitrary, is tied to the time and materials it takes to get a job done. At Mister Plumber, we pride ourselves on doing quality work, as efficiently as is humanly possible and for a reasonable price. And it’s articles like this one that help us create transparency with customers.

Of course, if you have any further questions about the differences between new constructions and renovation plumbing, or you have specific queries about your home plumbing, don’t hesitate to give us a ring or call us for a free estimate anytime!

     

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