Home repairs can be confusing when you're not familiar with choices in design and material or how much things cost to buy, operate and repair. Today's consumer economy has driven us to buy and dispose of almost everything we own. Many products are designed to break like the toilets you buy at the box stores with plastic parts, proving you get what you pay for.
Surprised there are no plastic parts to repair these toilets? That a toilet purchased from a plumbing supply house has metal parts and therefore lasts longer? Let's look at how you can buy smarter and make better decisions about when to repair versus replace items for your home.
Tips for Buying Household Items
Looking at general buying habits, not just the home, this table outlines the consumer buying process taught at the University of Delaware (Consumer Buying Behavior). It shows why you should re-think how you make purchases for things you're less familiar with, but are expected to last longer and therefore affect your life more.
Buying things for your home follows this process but requires more care when evaluating alternatives (my bullets here). You don't install a dress or car, well maybe you hem a dress. Cars are similar to homes with operating and maintenance costs but no one to tell you when maintenance is needed or the cost.
|Time Spent Buying a …|
|Steps in the Buying Process||Dress||New Car||Refrigerator|| New Roof ||House|
|Recognizing a need|
|Picking method of purchase, i.e. online?|
|Making the purchase|
|Post-purchase evaluation, i.e. right decision?|
|Average lifetime (number of years)||2+||6-10+||10-15||20-25||100+|
Repairing Versus Replacing Household Items
You can buy a toilet for under $100 at a box store and if there are no plumbing problems, you can replace the toilet in … plumber under 30 minutes, handyman 45-60 minutes and a handy homeowner, maybe 2+ hours? You won't find many parts to repair the toilet – they want you to buy a new one. A quality toilet from a plumbing supply store is better suited for repairs, and they do have the necessary parts. Why?
Inexpensive toilets sold at box stores are manufactured overseas. When you buy a brand, remember the Kohler toilet from a box store comes from China versus the Kohler toilet you buy at a plumbing supply store, which is made in Kohler, Wisconsin.
Home fixture require basic maintenance and repairs. Many repairs taking only 5 to 15 minutes once you know what's wrong, and have the knowledge and tools. For a toilet, these include re-attaching the handle, the chain when it falls off the float ball or putting in a new flapper. There's a universal (fits most manufacturers toilets) toilet rebuild kit our handymen techs carry to handle these simple repairs.
With inexpensive products, as soon as you have to take it apart to find the problem, it's time to think about replacing it. Consider the time it will take to remove everything inside the toilet tank (learn more about Toilet Parts) and rebuild it – maybe it's an hour or 2? You've got to go to the store and buy the parts (or rebuild kit), reassemble the toilet correctly, or do it again. You're likely to spend 3 to 4 hours working on the toilet and then discover the leak is due to a hairline crack in the porcelain?
By comparing the steps and associated costs between repairing versus replacing your toilet on paper, you'll save time, money and lots of aggravation. It also helps you prepare to do the work correctly, or you might decide it's more complicated and time to call a professional. The math shows unless you enjoy fixing things, it often saves time and money to simply replace.
- Replace a new toilet = $100 for toilet + 2 hrs @ $25/hr = $150
- Rebuild the toilet = $20 for rebuild kit + 5 hrs @ 25/hr = $145
- … or my preference, buy a $400 toilet that will last for 20 years!