Installing Rough-in Plumbing: 7 Tips and Tricks

New construction plumbing is an important source of income for many plumbing businesses. The scale of these jobs means that DIY is impossible and scalable workloads are potentially needed, making plumbing professionals the only option. On top of this, the amount of work that goes into a new construction plumbing project can mean a healthy amount of work for the business, potentially for a longer duration.

However, in order to fully reap the benefits of going this route, you need to master both aspects of new construction plumbing. This includes finish plumbing, but arguably more importantly, installing rough-in plumbing. Not only do these precede finished work, but it’s also arguably more difficult and complicated.

What Is Rough-In Plumbing?

In essence, rough-in plumbing is the first part of creating a greater plumbing system. This includes installing the pipes, water lines, sewers, connections, and vents. The other elements of plumbing that the client actually sees are fixtures like sinks, toilets, and showers, which aren’t a part of this stage. These are installed in a secondary step known as finish plumbing. So, what are some of the things that you’ll be working on during your rough-in plumbing work?

-Routing pipes through wall cavities

-Making pipe connections as needed

-Running vent stacks to the roof

-Making sure your drain and water supply lines are connected to sewer/septic systems

-Excavating and laying underground pipes that will serve utility connections 

-Putting in components that will attach fixtures to the greater plumbing system, like toilet flanges, sink drains, and sanitary tees

The reason why fixtures aren’t added on right away is multifaceted. First, if there is an issue with a chosen fixture or piping, the fixture doesn’t have to be removed so the pipework can be done again. Second, for new construction work, installing rough-in plumbing will need to be approved by an inspector. As a result, you want to make sure that the work is easily accessible to them.

installing rough-in plumbing
Photo By visivastudio

Improving Your General Installation

Now, we can get into some practical advice on better methods for installing rough-in plumbing.

Be prepared: The last thing you want is the client to be surprised by a component or method that you used because you didn’t specify things clearly. As a result, you want to make sure you have all the product specifications, layouts, and plans your client wants to utilize before you get started. It may not be a bad idea to walk the framed home as well. This will help you confirm the planned locations for fixtures and piping to make sure they align with the plans.

Talk to the HVAC contractor: Note that for this part of the discussion, we’re assuming you’re a plumbing company as opposed to a general contractor that may be handling HVAC and plumbing work. Part of the reason why rough-in plumbing needs to be done with the input of the HVAC team is to make sure that there is enough room for the hot water and cold water piping as well as any ductwork needed. This is especially important for open floorplans, as there’s less wall space to work with.

Prioritize: Assuming you are doing the plumbing for a whole building (commercial or residential), the bathroom is where you want to start first. The reasoning is pretty basic, as this is the room that not only requires the most plumbing, but the most specialized plumbing as well (waste lines, etc.)

Be sure to use gravity with the waste system: Because there is no air pressure for waste systems, you need to use gravity. This generally entails having all pipes slow downward, dropping at a rate of around 1/4 of an inch per horizontal foot. You also need a pipe that vents outdoors, generally through the roof. Because of this added consideration, as well as how large and unwieldy waste pipes can be, this work is generally done first.

Read up on local codes: Most plumbers work in set regions so they know all the local codes inside and out. However, if you do work in a unique area for any reason, make sure that you know the local building codes. Failing the inspection we mentioned earlier means a lot of man hours lost for you and a very upset client. Even if you don’t go outside of your normal area of operations, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on the building codes, as they may change.

Run your final water test: Even if everything looks effective and up to code, you want to make sure that nothing is missed. This is done, in part, through a water test. With this step, you run your water service to where the blueprints call for and install the water shut off. After this, you check for leaks or any other issues. When things look good on your end, you can call in an inspector for their opinion.

Check your local competitors: This last piece is just general good business sense. You want to make sure that you are pricing your rough-in plumbing appropriately to the needs of the local area, and the best way to do this is to average out the prices of your competitors. However, if you offer additional services outside of the norm, you can use this as justification for a higher price.

installing rough-in plumbing
Photo By Rido

Working with supply lines or any part of a general plumbing system is all about keeping things as efficient as possible while maintaining a standard of quality. As a result, you want to make sure you fully understand your labor productivity when it comes to any sort of rough-in installation. 

This is best accomplished by using software like eSUB. By charting exactly how long it takes to install drain pipes, drain lines, or other aspects of plumbing work versus your estimates, you can see concrete benefits. This includes increasing your profits or creating more competitive bids to win new business.

How eSUB Can Help

eSUB is a cloud-based project management platform built especially for subcontractors. It seamlessly integrates with leading construction software systems so you can easily switch from your current document process to a cloud-based system to upgrade your construction project management process.

eSUB organizes all of your project information in one place, allows for smooth collaboration, and streamlines communication through its intuitive interface. It also works on your mobile, so you can track projects on the go—no matter where or when—and stay up-to-date.