We started hearing bathroom and kitchen suppliers (and our builder) mention the terms ‘first fix’ or ‘second fix’. We had no idea what they were talking about.
Thankfully, like many unfamiliar trade terms, the actual meaning is very simple.
First-fix plumbing and first-fix electrics is in essence the installation of the infrastructure of your house. The bits that sit behind the walls, under the floors, above the ceilings. Think pipework, water supplies, waste drainage, power cables, data and lighting wiring … all the stuff behind the plastering. You’ve probably seen a house or pictures where the plastering had been done and which looked like a completed house, until you looked a little closer and noticed that where you would expect to see light fittings, wall switches, plug sockets, or, a sink, toilet or washing machine in fact you saw bare electrical cables or copper pipes neatly (hopefully!) poking out of the wall. That would be a house which is at the end of its first-fix stage and before the second-fix stage.
Second-fix plumbing and second-fix electrics are the bits you can see and access more easily, post plastering. The proper, neat and safe connection of light fittings and switches, power and data sockets, as well as the connection of certain appliances and testing. For example, the second-fix plumbing and electrics stage for a kitchen might typically include the following: an electrician who would safely install plug sockets in the wall (at the appropriate points, safely connecting to the power cabling installed at the first-fix electrical stage), the safe and proper installation of under-cupboard lighting (again running from the previously installed lighting wiring behind the plaster) and a plumber to ensure certain appliances are properly connected to the plumbing of the house, such as proper inflow of hot and/or cold water plus drainage of waste water for a washing machine and dishwasher.
Importantly, we learned that it is important to agree what your quote will include. The builder will often include both first-fix and second-fix services but in some cases may expect your kitchen supplier to carry out certain elements of the second-fix services. Conversely, you may have paid your builder to do all the second-fix services but find that your kitchen supplier includes second-fix elements within their quote.