By Steven Delgado, WC&P Senior Editor

How many plumbers does it take to screw in a light bulb? The answer to this and other probing questions involving the plumbing industry are available to anyone with a computer thanks to the World Wide Web, which offers access to a virtual plumber’s world of products, supplies, contacts, freebies, jokes, cartoons and much more.

According to the tone of many of these sites, plumbers have a good sense of humor and that goes a long way with the Website of the Month. Now, if your plumber is anything like my plumber, you’re going to need fast and clear access to as much humor as possible. What quicker way to accomplish this but via the Internet, your personal, digitally based, stress pressure valve?

http://www.plumbingstore.com
Clear product categories, two search prompts on one page and more: The PlumbingStore.com spares the frills such as digital images of water dripping or pipe wrenches and delivers the goods in an interesting and direct package. The designers of this page must know that plumbers and plumbing suppliers don’t have time to revere in the imagery of their trade; they need parts and they need them now.

The no-nonsense homepage features a combination of proprietary products and components plus a variety of water systems manufactured by outside companies. Under “water softeners” and immediately following the online ordering information is a list of FAQs, a host of general consumer-level questions on water softening.

The first asked, “Why should I buy your softeners?” to which part of the reply was, “We sell thousands of other quality plumbing products… we know plumbing, are stable, and we only sell what we believe in.”

But four questions later, when someone asks about magnetic water conditioning: “Our owner does not believe that any brand of magnetic conditioner can remove hardness. We do offer them because so many people keep asking about them, but we do not recommend or believe in them.” These guys waffle more than I do. The company has since changed its wording on this subject, so please don’t write us with any magnet letters.

Most products had interesting FAQs immediately following their ordering information. Reverse osmosis systems manufactured by KISS International offered full products specs and the FAQs, which discussed both the pros and cons of specific treatments—a refreshing find on the Internet indeed.

http://www.masterplumbers.com
Australian-based MasterPlumbers.com features plumbing news, a chatroom, downloadable software demos, a free webpage for plumbers and much more. Easily the most diverse of the websites here, again with a little something for both the industry and consumers.

To encourage other companies to link up to this site it offers free animated digital flags of nations and states as incentives. It also features plumbing cartoons, poetry and a page with over 500 hyperlinks. This site also keeps an effective archive of plumbing industry articles by its experts from the last few years, which inadvertently offers a unique international perspective of plumbing issues. And plumbers think they’re regulated in this country.

The message board is divided into subcategories, each containing a variety of industry questions. All of the messages posted are archived back to 1996 in a clear format; in fact, most of the information offered on this site is clear and easy to get to, making it a stunningly competent information source.

One posted comment read: “Great site Plumbers! Good to see helpful hints in reply to the public’s questions. I used to be a plumber, but I’m all right now…” I told you these guys were a hoot. A free job board is also featured here. This site pretty much gets my unofficial industry Website of the Year award.

http://www.plbg.com
The Dynamic Plumbing Information Sharing Forum’s purpose is to educate and elevate the plumbing profession. This site is frequented by expert plumbers, plumbing manufacturers, master plumbers, kitchen and bath designers, architects, engineers, home owners and the like. It’s motto: “Our site is strictly for the exchange of kitchen, bath and plumbing information.” No tomfoolery to be found here.

It wants to keep the forum positive too. Don’t post a question like “Which is better, union or non-union contractors?” This inquiry will not bring a positive discussion to the table. It will bring a heated discussion, and will be censured off the site. My plumber should view this site for its positive outlook. Every time he quotes a job for me he says, “Ugh oh. Looks like this whole thing’s gonna hafta come out for us to reach the pipe.” That’s not thinking positive man, in union or non-union terms.

http://www.naphcc.org
The national Plumbing Heating and Cooling Contractors Association’s website is an excellent place to find out more about the association, its associates and its benefits. A locator map of the states pinpoints member companies, and that’s about it as far as site content goes. In terms of an Internet presence, this association is getting left in the dust compared to other groups. That’s probably okay with some; my plumber thinks a laptop is what you get during bachelor parties anyway.

Note that this is the national association’s web presence and many of the regional association websites are more tailored to regional needs.

http://www.build.com
Build.Com is a web site directory for the building and home improvement industries from BuildingOnline Inc. It boasts over 5,000 companies and organizations involved providing products and services to the industry. Hyperlinks here are also free.

At the time of this review, this site was largely untapped by the home water improvement market, but has plenty of other links and a quick search engine. The information renders fast and if you can’t find what you’re looking for here you can always jump over to parent site at BuildingOnline.com, touted as the leading search engine for the $400 billion home improvement and building industry.

Conclusion
The plumbing industry’s transition to digital marketing has gone swimmingly, according to these websites, which are available through most major search engines. Free hyperlink opportunities abounded, as did other industry benefits. My plumber should definitely take note of such dedication.

So how many plumbers does it take to screw in a light bulb? The answer, according to the Australian master plumbers, is three: two to make the beer run and one to call his electrician buddy for the side work. These guys kill me.


Websites: Everyone’s a commodian

http://www.plumbingstore.com
FAQ discussions, customer testimonials and plumbing products presented in a clear, e-commerce friendly format.

http://www.masterplumbers.com
Australian plumbers having a little practical fun while serving their industry. Unofficially dubbed the industry’s Website of the Year by yours truly. Not a bit of website is wasted here.

http://www.plbg.com
The Dynamic Plumbing Information, Advice and Sharing Forum offers positive thinking while delivering industry discussion. Just don’t talk about unions, scab.

http://www.naphcc.org
The national Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association website flows with association promotion, but only drips with actual industry information.

http://www.build.com
The $400 billion home improvement industry’s Internet directory. Four hundred billion? No wonder there’s 5,000 companies on this site.

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