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.
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.
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.
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
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...
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
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
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
(707-235-1042) since he was close
by, in San Rafael, and posted a fair
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
|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!
dba "That Plumber"
came out and created a disconnectable
water main so that my framers could
attach the exterior siding on their
Pacher had a smart solution to the slow-flushing
toilet, and a smart solution to the
dripping pressure connection. Recommended.