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Replacing the Decks

  Plumbers  
 
 


I have had five plumbers visit the property. One a major disappointment; two overpriced, and two "finds."

Plumber #1 - I don't even remember his name. He came out during the April '07 parking project to replace the exposed iron water feed from streetside with 1-inch copper. I liked him, and the price seemed quite fair, but months later I noticed a damp spot mid-yard where the copper surfaced to a pressure-reduction device. When I dug down, I saw a small leak at a soldered joint, but with quite a bit of water squirting, since this was just before the pressure-reduction valve.

Months later, with the foundation remodel in full swing, a second joint this plumber had soldered failed - this one where his new copper connected to the existing system. Yes, workers had brushed against the piping repeatedly, but I was in the room when it failed - and simple vibration seemed to be the culprit. Two joint failures within the first year seems two too many.

Adrian Askeland (415-457-5243) was my second plumber. The leak mentioned above happened at noonish. I was able to quickly use the house's shutoff valve, so that the work area didn't become a mud-pit. The workers got back to work; reminded everyone not to use the toilets, and Dave Hoffmire mentioned a plumber he knew, and spoke with him. The good news: he was working only 8 miles away.

Seven hours later (with no tap water, no flushing, etc.) he came by, with his assistant. He seemed prepared to work, but mentioned that it was his daughter's birthday - I encouraged him to simply come back the following day. He thanked me, and left. That evening, I tried to make Terry's life as civilized as possible. I used the 7-gallon emergency jugs of water to flush the toilet when critical, and, the next morning, heated water on the stove so that we could take sponge baths.

Midday he came back, and quickly fixed the bad joint. He then billed me $160. Damn. I was annoyed at the charge, especially as I had done without service for 24 hours, in order to be a nice guy. There was a lesson here: I should have gotten a price from him the night before - especially after he had seen the simplicity of the task. His mistake was failing to understand that $160 was real money to me, that I had plenty more plumbing work, and that I would not be calling him for that work.

My third plumber was John Benefield, dba JRB Plumbing (415-730-4910) found on Craigslist. I still needed someone to fix the leak in the yard, plus move the water heater out of what was the pantry, plus move a trip-hazard water pipe in the downstairs construction area, etc. John said that he's be out at noon, but showed up at 6pm. He worked til 11pm, and we got the water heater moved so that the foundation crew could continue. He said he'd come back the next day, Saturday, but didn't.

My foundation contractor and I clashed over the weekend. He was lecturing that it cost him money if I don't get things done, get things out of the way. He pointed at a piece of sewage pipe that would be in the way of his form-work for the concrete. I told him it was the first time he had mentioned this, and he needed to give me a day or two before he complained about my inability to solve things. It was tense - the first clash we've had after weeks together on this project and months together on the parking space.

I got on Craigslist again Saturday afternoon, and called two plumbers. One was a resident of Mill valley, and he came by. Unfortunately, he just didn't seem up to the task. He was more of a handyman. I told him I'd call him Monday if my primary plumber, John, didn't show up. The next plumber I contacted, Joel, dba United Plumbing (636 Church Street, Santa Rosa 707-396-3673) listened to my needs. I told him that I might already have a plumber - I wasn't sure. He said he would call me Monday morning and see if the work was still available. 

Monday, 8:30 in the morning, there was Joel - at my front door. A plumber that arrives early! Even when he doesn't have the work yet! Joel was a go-get-em' kind of guy and I explained the task list, as I still hadn't heard from John:

 
 
Leak in the mid-yard area from the plumbing work done in the spring.
Piece of fresh water pipe downstairs that was now a trip hazard.
Move the sewage piping near the north wall, so that it ran up over the forms
Install the earthquake gas shutoff device.

 
 

I was very pleased with Joel's productivity, and I highly recommend him.

Update: a few weeks later, on a Thursday, my contractor flagged some more plumbing that would be in his way. I asked if I had 24 or 48 hours. He said 72. I phoned Joel, he was busy til Monday, but promised to come out Monday, 8am. (Knowing Joel’s record, I expect that he’ll be early.) The form-builders were already chomping at the bit, shafted, as they had been, by really wet weather the past two weeks. I decided to phone John, the first plumber (who had trouble being on time), and see if he was available. He was working 10 miles away, and said that he was booked for the day, but would make it at the dinner hour, if that was OK. I said "sure," but implored him to simply keep me posted if his plans changed. He thanked me for giving him another chance. John phoned at 5pm, saying that he was running late. Fifteen minutes later he showed up. He worked for an hour and a half, seemed to have a smart solution to moving the pipes, and charged a very-fair rate.  Moral: Every contractor has a bad day. So don’t burn bridges, if your first impression is mixed. John Benefield is back on my "Recommend-List."

A month ago I needed a plumber again. I phoned Joel and John, and both had full message machines. So I phoned one other plumber I knew, Roy Kliendietz (18 Brodea Way, San Rafael, CA 415-454-9090), who had been recommended by the prior owner of this house, and who had been by when we first moved in to add a pressure-reduction valve to the water line. phoned, and Roy was available the following morning. Before hanging up, I asked his rate. I was told $90/hour, which seems pretty typical. The next morning, at 8:10 or so, I could hear the framers downstairs, but also at least one new voice, speaking English. I went downstairs and there was Roy, and an assistant. I showed them what I needed done, and they got started. My Roy-review is mixed. On the one hand, he convinced me not to move a gas pipe, since I would need to move it again, once the furnace was installed. On the other hand, I was billed $150/hour since there were two people, which was an unpleasant surprise, and I was billed for time when they were downstairs, chatting. Not sure if I can recommend Roy...

Plumbing Update: Two weeks ago my framers advised me that they needed some pipes temporarily disconnected, so that siding could be added. On Wednesday I phoned my two trusted plumbers, Joel and John, asking for a slot the coming Friday or Monday. Neither phoned back. Ever. Dang! Should of at least returned the call...

So back to Craigslist I went. Jason, dba "That Plumber" (707-570-9606) came out. He was priced right, worked efficiently, and came up with a nifty disconnectable water main when my framers suddenly were not ready to get the siding in place. "That plumber" is highly recommended.

Months have passed. The disconnectable water main is dripping, and the downstairs toilet seems to be flushing slowly, so it's time for a plumber again. I phoned Jason, but he's now working full-time in northern Marin, so I phoned John, one of my earlier plumbers. Left a message, but didn't get a call back, so back to Craigslist. Selected Randy Pacher (707-235-1042) since he was close by, in San Rafael, and posted a fair rate.

I thought that the toilet needed to be snaked, but Randy decided that the problem was that the toilet simply wasn't flushing with a full load of water. He adjusted various items in the toilet, and fixed the shutoff while he was at it. I thought that the dripping disconnectable water main would have to be replaced with soldered pipe, but Randy stopped the drip without replacing the connections. Randy's specialty is radiant hydronic heating, but he seems to do everything. I recommend Randy.

 
     
 
Granted, the connection point for the new 1-inch water service was awkward to reach... But it shouldn't have failed...

It was time to move the water heater...

John Benefield - Recommended.

Joel at United Plumbing - Recommended.

With the pantry under construction, the water heater, washer and dryer were all placed in the kitchen. They're still in the kitchen, 4+ months later!

Jason, dba "That Plumber" came out and created a disconnectable water main so that my framers could attach the exterior siding on their own schedule.
Randy Pacher had a smart solution to the slow-flushing toilet, and a smart solution to the dripping pressure connection. Recommended.

 
 
 
 
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Last Updated Feb 2014.