Avoid Most Big Box Stores For Shower Plumbing

In Arizona, homeowners face a unique challenge beyond the scorching heat and into the very pipes of their homes: hard water. This prevalent issue affects not just the quality of the water but can have a lasting impact on plumbing fixtures, particularly in the shower. 

Avoiding big box stores for shower plumbing is crucial because fixtures from these outlets often contain cheaper plastic parts that are less resistant to hard water's damaging effects, leading to more frequent replacements and repairs.

While it might be tempting to head to popular big box stores like Home Depot or Lowes for all your plumbing needs, this approach could end up costing you more in the long run.

This blog post by a shower remodel contractor will show why specialized retailers are your best bet for sourcing shower plumbing materials that stand the test of Arizona's hard water.

Understanding Hard Water in Arizona

Hard water is characterized by a high concentration of minerals, primarily calcium and magnesium. Arizona's water supply is notorious for its hardness, a natural result of the water's journey through mineral-rich landscapes. 

While hard water is not harmful to health, it poses significant challenges for plumbing fixtures. These minerals can build up over time, leading to blockages, reduced water flow, and increased wear and tear on the internal components of plumbing fixtures.

Many homeowners might consider a water softener as a solution to hard water woes. However, while water softeners can reduce the mineral content in water, they are not a catch-all solution. Particularly in Arizona, the level of water hardness often surpasses what a standard salt water softener can mitigate, leaving your plumbing fixtures vulnerable to damage. The salt water softeners also can create issues for your fixtures.

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The Difference in Plumbing Fixtures: Big Box Stores vs. Specialty Retailers

At first glance, the plumbing fixtures available at big box stores appear identical to those offered by specialty plumbing retailers. However, the devil is in the details—or, more accurately, in the internal components. 

Fixtures from big box stores often utilize cheaper plastic parts to keep costs down. While this might make them more affordable at the point of purchase, these materials are significantly less resilient against the ravages of hard water.

In contrast, specialty plumbing suppliers offer fixtures designed with high-quality materials that can withstand harsh conditions. These products may come with a higher upfront cost, but the investment pays off in durability and longevity. 

The internal components of these fixtures are often made from more robust materials designed to resist corrosion and wear from mineral deposits. This difference is crucial in Arizona, where the hard water can quickly degrade lower-quality materials, leading to leaks, malfunctions, and premature failure of the fixtures.

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How Hard Water Affects Plumbing Fixtures

The impact of hard water on plumbing fixtures cannot be overstated. The mineral buildup can clog showerheads, leading to reduced water pressure and the need for frequent replacements. 

In valves and faucets, these minerals can wear down seals and gaskets, causing drips and leaks that can lead to significant water waste and potential damage to your home. Moreover, the aesthetic impact of hard water—such as stains and buildup on fixtures—can detract from the beauty of your bathroom.

The cheaper plastic components used in many big box store fixtures are particularly susceptible to these issues. They are less resistant to the abrasive effects of mineral buildup, leading to cracks, leaks, and breaks that necessitate early replacement. 

In contrast, fixtures from specialized retailers are designed with these challenges in mind, featuring components that resist corrosion and wear, ensuring that your shower functions smoothly for years to come.

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How to Choose the Right Plumbing Fixtures for Arizona Homes

Selecting the right plumbing fixtures for your home in Arizona, where hard water is prevalent, requires more than just an eye for design. It involves understanding the impact of hard water and knowing what features to look for in fixtures that can withstand its effects. 

2 places that are known for having good internal parts are Ferguson and build.com. They are owned by the same company and don’t use the less expensive internal parts. 

Here are some tips to guide you in making the best choice for your home:

  • Material Quality: Look for fixtures made from materials known for their durability and resistance to hard water, such as high-grade plastics, stainless steel, or brass. Avoid fixtures that rely heavily on lower-quality plastics for their internal components.

  • Design Considerations: Some designs are more resistant to hard water buildup than others. Opt for fixtures that are easy to clean and maintain, with minimal crevices and joints where mineral deposits can accumulate.

  • Supplier Reputation: Research suppliers before making a purchase. Specialty retailers like Build.com and Ferguson have a reputation for providing high-quality fixtures suited to challenging conditions like those found in Arizona. Read reviews and seek recommendations from professionals or others living in hard water areas.

  • Internal Component Construction: Pay close attention to the internal components of faucets, showerheads, and valves. Opt for those with ceramic disc valves over rubber or plastic washers, as they are more durable and better suited to handle hard water.

  • Finish Durability: Choose fixtures with finishes that are specifically designed to resist tarnishing and corrosion. PVD (Physical Vapor Deposition) finishes are notably effective in maintaining their appearance despite hard water exposure.

  • Warranty and Support: Look for fixtures that come with a robust warranty and good customer support. This can be invaluable if you encounter any issues down the line, providing peace of mind that your investment is protected.

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Questions to Ask Retailers

When shopping for plumbing fixtures, arm yourself with questions that will help you discern the best options for your home.

How does this fixture perform in hard water conditions? 

This question can help you understand if the fixture has been tested or designed with hard water in mind.

Are replacement parts readily available? 

Knowing you can easily obtain replacement parts is crucial, as even the most durable fixtures may need maintenance.

What is the process for claiming warranty coverage? 

Understanding the warranty process can save you time and frustration should you ever need to use it.

Avoiding Big Stores For Shower Plumbing in Arizona 

The challenge of hard water in Arizona is unavoidable, but it does require a thoughtful approach to selecting plumbing fixtures for your home. While big box stores offer convenience and affordability, the true cost of opting for lower-quality fixtures can be far higher in the long run. 

By focusing on quality materials, durable construction, and reputable specialty retailers, you can ensure that your plumbing fixtures will stand up to the demands of Arizona's hard water and continue to perform beautifully for years to come.

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About the author

Hi my name is Jeremy Maher. My wife, 2 kids and I went through Contractor Nightmares for 3 years straight.

Ben, Mark, and I teamed up to start Phoenix Home Remodeling to help homeowners remodel without the common contractor nightmares.

Learn more about Jeremy's expertise and topics he likes to write about on his author page.