As a working plumber I lost count of just how many, “My tap’s dripping” calls I got. Invariably, the next line from the customer would be an apology. “Sorry it’s such a small job.” Quite naturally, most people assumed a dripping tap to be a small, easy and therefore cheap job.
The reality of late 20th & early 21st century taps though, is that the traditional (patented in Rotherham in 1845 by John Guest & Edward Chrimes (jnr)) multi-turn variety of taps (using a rubber washer) are becoming comparatively rare. A quiet, invisible & unstoppable revolution has taken place; traditionally washered valves have been superseded by ceramic disc cartridges. The physical struggle to open or close a tap that’s worn, is increasingly being consigned to the history books. This change has been a God send to older people with conditions like Arthritis because taps are now so much simpler & physically easier to use.
As a homeowner, generally all we want is a tap that works! We couldn’t care less about how it does it. It was seeking reliability and ease of use that drove Alfred Moen (of the USA) to patent the original ‘non-drip’ tap in the 1950s because he was fed up with continually changing washers. In the early 1980s another American organisation (who’s name escapes me) modified Moen’s design to what we see in taps today. Just to be clear, I mean taps with separate hot and cold handles, not the type with a single lever.
When customers have a dripping tap they call a plumber. The first thing we plumbers ask is, “Is your tap a ¼ turn tap?” If it’s ¼ turn, so ceramic, then our historic response was, “Sorry but it’s better to fit you a new tap.” I’ve literally lost count of how many times I said it!
As soon as that phrase was uttered, I could feel the customer bristling. You could almost see the cogs whirring and them thinking, “Thieving swine. He’s already talking the job up. He’s turning it into something more profitable – for himself!” or any one of a thousand variations of “I hate plumbers because…” You could just hear it in their voice.
Of course as the professional, your natural reaction is to defend yourself, and your integrity, and then to try to justify yourself, to explain why. The more you try though, the deeper that black hole seemed to become…
With over 5000 variations of ceramic cartridges to be found installed in taps, no plumber can be certain, even if the make and model is known, which cartridge is fitted to which tap without considered & extensive investigation. Supplies must be isolated, the tap disassembled, the cartridge accurately measured and then it all put back together before your investigation ‘proper’ can begin. Firstly, is the cartridge available? Stock situations? Prices? Then it’s back to the customer. This all takes time which, of course, must be paid for.
Once you’ve investigated, it’s easy to provide an estimate of what this ‘simple’ job’s final cost might be. Adding in the detail talked about above takes a perceived £5 job to over £125 to finish. “Ridiculous” in the words of a good few of my old customers.
Customers advise, “Keep some in stock.” If only! Merchants don’t keep spares and, even if they did, we’ve worked out we’d need some 8000 (a pair of each) at a cost of approx. £120,000 plus a dedicated vehicle for them. Let’s just say, “Ha. Ha. Ha.”
Frankly, one could be forgiven for thinking manufacturers do not want taps to be repaired. We in business can certainly understand that they would want to sell new every time, but as they’ve known about this issue for over 40 years it becomes difficult to understand why they’ve let us plumbers take the blame – hung us out to dry. I have had customers say to me, “Manufacturers wouldn’t do that!” Seemingly they do. Seemingly they have. Most importantly, seemingly they continue to do so…
My evidence is that manufacturers actively steered away from standardisation and they continue to chose not to. The Why? isn’t difficult to find; standardisation would reduce new tap sales. Manufacturers talk ceaselessly about their ‘green’ credentials, and even lecture both consumers & installers, but their daily actions encouraging the wholesale waste of raw materials and energy required to wastefully extract the raw materials and process it into taps which are then shipped across the globe when the original was perfectly capable of being repaired simply, cheaply, with almost zero impact upon our environment. It’s extremely difficult to conclude anything other than the drive for profit comes with an unwritten caveat of ‘at any price’.
When a working plumber, I experienced people scrimping and scraping to get enough money together, especially during the recession, to pay for a new tap when I should have been able to effect a simple, low cost repair. I have had people ‘joke’ with me that a cup of tea and an ability to wash up was more important than eating! I didn’t find it funny then and I still don’t. I’d rather do it for free, as would many of you – despite the nonsense published by the sensationalist press – so in those circumstances I’d invariably ‘forget’ to invoice them but, being the people they were, more often than not they’d hunt you down and even drop money off in cash through the letterbox. Many who let it slip simply never called me again as they felt, I suspect, too embarrassed.
With TapMedic, any professional can instantly set most taps back to better than new for a fraction of the cost of a new tap. Furthermore, that tap will now be able to be kept going for as long as the customer wishes to keep it.
TapMedic are but a tiny part in a growing global revolt against needless waste called the Circular Economy. Our aim is to leave something for our children to inherit, to not fritter it all away. To our mind, it’s time wider industry stepped up to that same plate. We are no longer neither impressed nor hoodwinked by the Emperor’s new clothes (aka marketing) and if things do not change there is going to be an awful price to pay.
In the meantime, next time you get a dripping tap, insist that your Professional uses TapMedic, it’ll be a very pleasant revelation…
Inventor & founding director of TapMedic