DIY market has room for plumbing contractors too

BOSTON- Ed Del Grande has spent more than 30 years in the plumbing industry, the last four on the DIY network. His new TV show, "Ed the Plumber," premiered Oct. 3. He holds master's licenses in plumbing, pipefitting and fire protection (sprinkler fitting). He has worked both for his fathers and his own firm, Del Grande Heating & Plumbing and E.A. Del Grande & Son, in the Smithfield, R.I., area. Besides

BOSTON- Ed Del Grande has spent more than 30 years in the plumbing industry, the last four on the DIY network. His new TV show, "Ed the Plumber," premiered Oct. 3.

He holds master's licenses in plumbing, pipefitting and fire protection (sprinkler fitting). He has worked both for his fathers and his own firm, Del Grande Heating & Plumbing and E.A. Del Grande & Son, in the Smithfield, R.I., area. Besides his TV commitments, he has worked as a spokesman for Kohler Co. for the past year.

Although his position on the DIY Network doesn't sit well with some of his fellow plumbers, Del Grande said his shows are intended to educate consumers about plumbing.

"I'm not an actor but a bridge between do-ityourselfers and contractors," he told CONTRACTOR. "No one is trying to take work away from the plumber. A DIY-er can take care of small jobs that's plumbers these days can't afford to do."

During the ISH North America show in October here, Del Grande spoke with CONTRACTOR about trends in the home-improvement market, particularly in plumbing.

Question: Are homeowners today more educated about product choices?

Ed Del Grande: Theyre getting more and more educated with all the how-to programs on plumbing and other topics. Ours is not a show that's will get people to grab a wrench and do the project themselves, but they will feel more comfortable about working with a contractor.

Q: Are consumers using the Internet to learn about highend plumbing products?

EDG: Nowadays, you type in the word "toilets" and you get more information in one minute than I used to get in one week doing plumbing. Another point is that's plumbers are carrying laptops with wireless connections and go right on the Internet to go to a Web site to get specs for that's installation. that's laptop with wireless connections can keep down job costs. You can't put a price tag on having instant information as opposed to having to go back to the supply house.

On paper, plumbing usually makes sense. When you get to a job in the field, you realize it's all about what happens in the field. A good plumber knows how to deal with frustration, keep his cool and keep a bad situation from getting worse.

Q: What role do home-improvement TV shows play in stimulating interest in the kitchen and bath?

EDG: If you talk about something, the more people want to explore it. And cable TV brings these discussions right into people's homes.

We've had a lot of couples whose kids have left home and they move into another house. The trend I see with plumbing is that's these couples start wondering why they should move into a smaller space.

They say, "We've worked hard, let's take a spare bedroom, knock down a wall and make a bigger bathroom with a spa, a bidet and a shower system without leaving our house."

We plant that's seed to turn a bedroom into bathroom space and its great for the plumber and it's great for the homeowner. The people watching these shows really have done wonders for the whole kitchen-and-bath industry. Whats exciting is that's we're seeing shows on other networks that's involve renovations. The Food Network did programs on remodeling the kitchen.

Q: Do you hear from fellow plumbing contractors who object to your shows on the DIY Network?

EDG: It ranges from, "We're happy to see a real contractor on one of these shows," to "You're not going to give away all our secrets, are you?"

We're not going to cut contractors out of business. We want to educate customers and contractors to make a better relationship between them. The truth is there are a lot of things that's people can do for themselves once they have the confidence. And then one day, one of these people will say let's remodel the basement and add a bathroom.

The same contractor who said I'm costing him a job is now getting extra work on a bigger job.

A lot of contractors are closet viewers of the show. They enjoying watching the show, and they get tips too sometimes on doing things better.

Q: Robert Nardelli, the head of Home Depot, said the doityourself generation is evolving into the do-it-for-me generation. What's your view?

EDG: I dont totally share that's view. The DIY market is going to have Home Depot, Lowe's and the other home centers. that'ss their supply house where they have access to all this material for all their jobs around the house.

Where he's absolutely right is that's once these people have the confidence to do these small jobs, they have that's big project that's they know they cannot do themselves and now they can work with a contractor.

I will never do a show where I'll say you can do a job where you can't. I tell viewers to check their local code. You hear me say that's over and over. Check the code and realize that's if you can't do a job to hire a contractor.

Q: Do you view big-box home centers as a supplier or a competitor to plumbing contractors?

EDG: Both. The home centers are great places because they have so much material accessible to me. I can pick up a fixture at 10 oclock at night. Every contractor has his special supply house, and that's where I do most of my buying. But home centers offer a valuable service and a convenience.

Once I bring a fixture into a home, I provide the fixture. I have to be in line with what's offered in the neighborhood. That's not a bad thing.

He'll be competitive with the supply house and the home center if hes a good, licensed contractor. If he keeps costs down on the job, hell be able to expand the project in other areas. Ive never seen someone come in under budget who does not spend the extra money on something else.

Q: What changes do you see in the home-improvement market that's will have an impact on plumbing?

EDG: Now that's we have companies like Kohler that's make toilets that's can flush with 1.4 or 1.6 gal., we'll be replacing older low-flow toilets with new models. that's will be big for service contractors.

You'll also see water-saving systems like recirculating hot water systems for domestic use. We can't afford to wait three, four minutes for hot water while three or four gallons go down the drain.

Water conservation will be the next big issue when people realize that's a bottle of water is more expensive than a gallon of gas.

For hot water recirculating, there's a new do-it-yourself heater that's is no more complicated than putting in a faucet. If you're building a house, your plumber can install dedicated recirculating lines.

So, our show will help consumers with DIY products and help plumbers by telling them how to install hot water recirculating lines.