What Is First Fix Plumbing?

First fix plumbing is also referred to as shell and first fix. This is a stage that is a part of all construction projects that follow internal surface planning, like plastering. First fix plumbing is usually done with respect to tasks done by plumbers, electricians and carpenters.

First fix plumbing is a process that is followed by another step which is called second fix plumbing, named quite obviously.

In this piece, we will take a brief look at second fix too so that there is no confusion in terms of which set of tasks are to be accomplished at what point in the timeline.

The Importance of First Fix Plumbing

Building a structure from scratch is an exciting project to take on. Whether you are doing this professionally or building your dream home, it is an adventurous journey.

But all parties involved must also understand that it is also a massive undertaking and you need to know how to plan the work and line it up on a timeline that is convenient and efficient. This makes sure that the structure is built safely and on time.

Now, building a house involves the bringing together of many different trades from brickwork to pipework to electrical work. This happens in stages and one of the important stages we will discuss here is first fix plumbing. As mentioned earlier, there is also second fix plumbing and we will talk about it but in relation to the first.

What First Fix Plumbing Includes

First fix plumbing typically includes tasks like the construction of the overall structure, flooring, getting the door frames in places, cladding and building stairs.

It also includes setting the cables in place for electrical distribution along with water, gas, heat and AC distribution. So, you will be dealing with the pipework for water and gas along with the HVAC distribution system.

When the construction of the building is complete, you often don’t see the first fix. That’s because a lot of it is internal work that takes the building from its foundation stage to the plastering stage (for the walls on the inside of the building).

Here, it is important to note that ideally, you should make sure that in the timeline of the construction process, you have enough time to test the first fix before proceeding to the second fix.

Now, it is important to get the plumbing work done before you get to the electrical work because you cannot lay electric lines if the structure has not dried up. When we say plumbing, we are talking about a range of tasks.

Now, you will need many different plumbing fixtures to finish building a complete structure—like pipes, fixtures and valves.

But that is not the only reason to look more closely into plumbing. It is also because the plumbing of every structure deals with different types of fluids.

Keep in mind that this is different from pipefitters and boilermakers who deal with your heating and cooling systems but are not actually professional plumbers.

Many professional plumbers like to start with the HVAC systems even before they go through the basic plumbing requirements. The ducting for the heat recovery ventilation is put in place before scheduling any other job under the slab made of concrete.

If the structure is a house with a frame made of timber, this ventilation work must be scheduled even before the floors and walls are partitioned.

After this, the plumber will get the pipework for the water supply into the structure and the drainage system in place.

Then comes the electrical work. But, at this stage, it will just be the basics like installing switches, light fixtures and sockets.

And finally, it is time to install the ducting for the central vacuum system. This goes inside the internal walls, which means it must be done while placing the stud walls and before the plastering, which is followed by the second fix plumbing.

The Difference between First Fix and Second Fix

Speaking of which, the second fix is all about the tasks which take the house from the plastering stage to the finished structure. It starts after you are done with the internal surfacing.

One of the major differences between the first and second fix is that part of the structure will be finished when the second fix begins. This means you will have to be mindful of not damaging those areas.

In the second fix plumbing stage, you will deal with internal doors, handrails, fittings and connections to appliances like sanitary ware, electrical equipment, radiators and such.

When you are done with these, you will schedule some time to test their inner workings. So make sure there is a gap between the first fix and the second fix plumbing activities.

On a side note, if you are dealing with a large project, there might even be a third fix where high-value fittings and connections like the installation of artwork, chandeliers and so on are done.

However, in some cases, second fix plumbing includes the testing of everything that has been installed during first fix plumbing. That is why some contractors deal with activities like:

Installation of electrical equipment like sockets, light fixtures and faceplates on the light switches. This is also when you connect the main fuse board to these fixtures, followed by testing to make sure they have been safely installed.

In these cases, second fix plumbing also includes testing the plumbing appliances including the radiators and boilers to make sure water isn’t leaking from anywhere.

Then there is testing the ducting of the central vacuum system. As mentioned earlier, this is to be done when the plastering on the inside is almost done. If your structure is going to have underfloor heating, you need to lay the ducts before the flooring work is done.

And once the plastering is over, the joiners deal with skirting boards, internal doors and the kitchen. The second fix plumbing stage also includes installing the bathroom appliances and kitchen fixtures.

In Conclusion

You might have noticed that there are a few overlaps between the two stages. This is because the definition of both these stages is more of a way to plan the list of activities.

The idea is to list them out and schedule them well enough on paper to make sure there is no miscommunication among the different trades.

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