Plumbing Zone - Professional Plumbers Forum banner

1 - 20 of 25 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
14 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I've read all the past posts on this but they are old. I'm looking to start a one man service van. I have almost no experience in service so I will need help estimating the average length of time specific repairs usually take. I don't need the book customized for my company or anything. Just the average length of time a job takes is all I want. Then I can plug in my own per hour rate with that info. If the book also gives material costs, that's a bonus but I figure I can get that info from Ferguson.
When I look online I find 2 options. One is from Amazon for 90 dollars from 2017. Another called "Plumbers pricing manual" has a red pipe wrench on the cover does not have a price.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
6,128 Posts
What's wrong with that other company you mentioned working for?
 
  • Like
Reactions: MACPLUMB777

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,333 Posts
Sorry man but for $90 I highly doubt you get anything truly useful. Also if you have not done service before then it's a terrible idea to start a company based on service. There is nothing I like more than to incurage others to aspire for greater things and development such as becoming a business owner. That said there sure needs to be some reality to it. No service experience I have no doubt you will either suffer a big fast failure or a slow suffocating death as a business. I encourage you to reconsider your plans and get some solid experience first before trying.

Sent from my SM-G970U using Tapatalk
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,333 Posts
I didn't I was a full time new commercial plumber and industrial pipe fitter. I never truly roughed houses, we roughed commercial buildings. But it came naturally for me.
Tango I think you are also a different breed than most others so you are more of the exception to the rule. Can you honestly tell us you did not have a lot of problems caused by inexperience that was causing you to struggle enough to where you were not sure if you would make it?

Sent from my SM-G970U using Tapatalk
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
6,128 Posts
Tango I think you are also a different breed than most others so you are more of the exception to the rule. Can you honestly tell us you did not have a lot of problems caused by inexperience that was causing you to struggle enough to where you were not sure if you would make it?
Exactly. Tango is clearly mechanically inclined, I am the same way. I had most of the tools I needed back when I started. But learning to service all the different types of plumbing you will run into is still a big hurdle to overcome.

The hardest part is know when NOT to take something apart. You think you want to see what's inside so you can order new parts, but then you can't get it back together without it really pissing out water. Then the customer is upset because before you came they could just keep a cup/towel under it, but now they're stuck until you come back in two weeks.

There are certain things you will learn, you do not under any circumstances take apart without having the requisite seals. Such as Interference-Fit O-rings, which are the bain of the serviceman's existence. You can have 400 sizes and still not have the right one. But there's no name on the faucet and you don't know what size you need until you see/measure it.
 

·
Registered
Lift Station Whisperer
Joined
·
214 Posts
The hardest part is know when NOT to take something apart.
This, 100 percent.

There are certain things you will learn, you do not under any circumstances take apart without having the requisite seals.
Or having a reliable method of isolation and a customer willing to go without that fixture for a while.

I agree with these other folks. I wouldn't go into service cold turkey. There are so many variables to consider without even tossing a customer's budget into the mix. I've lost count of the number of calls I've been on that quickly went pear shaped and ruined everyone's day.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
6,128 Posts
Or having a reliable method of isolation and a customer willing to go without that fixture for a while.
...............
It ain't even always that. I've been to a house where 6 people share the one toilet and it's a one piece from the 80's that takes a special fill valve, but the fill valve is spraying from the top and it drips out from under the tank lid a bit. Do you dare try to disassemble that 40yr old plastic and get it to leak a little less for the time being and risk breaking it? The answer is NO. But not all instances are that obvious, especially when you've never seen something before.

I've been doing this a long time and still run into new things where I make the wrong choice. Then all of my other skills come into play, like how to explain the situation to the customer without looking like a deer in headlights.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
3,598 Posts
It ain't even always that. I've been to a house where 6 people share the one toilet and it's a one piece from the 80's that takes a special fill valve, but the fill valve is spraying from the top and it drips out from under the tank lid a bit. Do you dare try to disassemble that 40yr old plastic and get it to leak a little less for the time being and risk breaking it? The answer is NO. But not all instances are that obvious, especially when you've never seen something before.

I've been doing this a long time and still run into new things where I make the wrong choice. Then all of my other skills come into play, like how to explain the situation to the customer without looking like a deer in headlights.

The biggest problem in this situation is fresh into starting your own business is you need any work. Those of us long in the business weed crap like that out over the phone or walk away from the job as soon as we see the situation as we have plenty of quality repeat customers and referrals.
 

·
Super Moderator
Joined
·
8,916 Posts
Tango I think you are also a different breed than most others so you are more of the exception to the rule. Can you honestly tell us you did not have a lot of problems caused by inexperience that was causing you to struggle enough to where you were not sure if you would make it?

Sent from my SM-G970U using Tapatalk
Seriously I did not have too many problems in service because on commercial you still install sinks, in highrise condos it's basically a house on top of another. You have to realize when I was in the union I took on every job that came along, Papermill one day fitting 12" pipe, the next month doing gas piping on a roof of wally world mart, the next month, going to Alberta to an oil refinery fitting pipe with a 300 ton crane. Then going back home and doing gas pipe for residential houses. After that, more condos, commercial restaurants, hundreds of buildings like schools, super markets, hospitals, fitting heat pipes at the casino. Working midnight shifts at the casino for another company on maintenance. The list is long very long, I worked on average 5 companies a year for 20 years(So maybe 80 different ones). I took classes on evenings and weekends and earned several trade certificates in both provinces, plumbing, natural gas/propane fitter, gas technician(I have it but know nothing about that), oil pipe fitter, steam fitter(Heating).

Bolt up in industrial buildings from the hundred of shut downs I attended was pretty basic after getting the hang of it, I could fit pipe with a welder sure. What I could not do is fit a 150' spaghetti pipe(a single piece!) in thin air in a boom lift with 5 come alongs and 3 chain blocks and try to shove that into the hay stack of other pipes. That was reserved for those who only did this kind of thing every day.

What made me the most nervous in service was drain cleaning, I had done it only 2 times in my apprenticeship all alone, no one to even guide me how to run the machine or run the cables. Finding how to do it and even guess the type of machine I needed to buy was tough. I managed with trial and error, I even built pipe sets in the back yard to practice.
 

·
Registered
Lift Station Whisperer
Joined
·
214 Posts
Seriously I did not have too many problems in service because on commercial you still install sinks, in highrise condos it's basically a house on top of another. You have to realize when I was in the union I took on every job that came along, Papermill one day fitting 12" pipe, the next month doing gas piping on a roof of wally world mart, the next month, going to Alberta to an oil refinery fitting pipe with a 300 ton crane. Then going back home and doing gas pipe for residential houses. After that, more condos, commercial restaurants, hundreds of buildings like schools, super markets, hospitals, fitting heat pipes at the casino. Working midnight shifts at the casino for another company on maintenance. The list is long very long, I worked on average 5 companies a year for 20 years(So maybe 80 different ones). I took classes on evenings and weekends and earned several trade certificates in both provinces, plumbing, natural gas/propane fitter, gas technician(I have it but know nothing about that), oil pipe fitter, steam fitter(Heating).

Bolt up in industrial buildings from the hundred of shut downs I attended was pretty basic after getting the hang of it, I could fit pipe with a welder sure. What I could not do is fit a 150' spaghetti pipe(a single piece!) in thin air in a boom lift with 5 come alongs and 3 chain blocks and try to shove that into the hay stack of other pipes. That was reserved for those who only did this kind of thing every day.

What made me the most nervous in service was drain cleaning, I had done it only 2 times in my apprenticeship all alone, no one to even guide me how to run the machine or run the cables. Finding how to do it and even guess the type of machine I needed to buy was tough. I managed with trial and error, I even built pipe sets in the back yard to practice.
I don't think anyone was doubting your hard skills. The vibe I got from Dane's comment was more pointed towards the business side: pricing, overhead, building your customer base, etc.

Not having been a business owner, I wouldn't know much about advertising or customer base. I have been a department manager in the maintenance division of a sizable company, I do know how difficult it can be to build a budget and take into account transit time, job length, setting up prices to cover all expenses. That's gonna be the tough part for him starting out. The soft skills of customer service can be tough for some people too.
 

·
Super Moderator
Joined
·
8,916 Posts
Exactly. Tango is clearly mechanically inclined, I am the same way. I had most of the tools I needed back when I started. But learning to service all the different types of plumbing you will run into is still a big hurdle to overcome.
I made mistakes a lot of them but I push on to make it right. Every day is a new puzzle, it's not easy dealing with the public. I refuse a lot more jobs now because I know they are cans of death.

I'm about to reply to customers when they say : Tell me how a pipe can flood a ceiling without a single pipe leak.

Yep mechanically inclined, as seen in the tool thread I made non existent tools. I also repair all my rusty rotted vehicles, this develops the brain cells to become even more knowledgeable! :p
 

·
Super Moderator
Joined
·
8,916 Posts
I don't think anyone was doubting your hard skills. The vibe I got from Dane's comment was more pointed towards the business side: pricing, overhead, building your customer base, etc.

Not having been a business owner, I wouldn't know much about advertising or customer base. I have been a department manager in the maintenance division of a sizable company, I do know how difficult it can be to build a budget and take into account transit time, job length, setting up prices to cover all expenses. That's gonna be the tough part for him starting out. The soft skills of customer service can be tough for some people too.
1000's of hours studying books, the net, etc. Before signing up on this forum I was reading it for years, there's so much useful info, you just have to grasp it and write it down.

Overall it takes military like discipline. he's off to a good start it's a small community and everyone talks to one another, within a few months everyone will know him.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
94 Posts
Exactly. Tango is clearly mechanically inclined, I am the same way. I had most of the tools I needed back when I started. But learning to service all the different types of plumbing you will run into is still a big hurdle to overcome.

The hardest part is know when NOT to take something apart. You think you want to see what's inside so you can order new parts, but then you can't get it back together without it really pissing out water. Then the customer is upset because before you came they could just keep a cup/towel under it, but now they're stuck until you come back in two weeks.

There are certain things you will learn, you do not under any circumstances take apart without having the requisite seals. Such as Interference-Fit O-rings, which are the bain of the serviceman's existence. You can have 400 sizes and still not have the right one. But there's no name on the faucet and you don't know what size you need until you see/measure it.
Forty years of experience in service and remodeling have taught me at least a few things:
1) Remember the Kenny Rodgers song The Gambler -"you got to know when to hold up, know when to fold up, know when to walk away and know when to stay" . You cannot take every job you are offered, you have to turn them down when they are just trouble looking for some one to get sucked in.
2) Never start repairs on anything that you cannot identify. On the newish kitchen or lav faucets, I won't work on them unless I can identify the brand and have a complete rebuild kit in front of me. If the customer doesn't know the brand and doesn't have the invoice from the big box or the website from where it was purchased, I make them responsible for obtaining the information and then I will get a schematic before working on it. Most of the time I don't hear back from them (because I come across as an AH!) unless they decide to buy a new faucet for me to install. And then, with the new deep sinks, offset drains and crowded situations under the sink they may not want to pay what I need to charge.
3) Don't listen to the customer's diagnosis of the problem. Well, you can listen to it, but don't accept it as accurate. You have to be able to determine what is wrong even though the customer doesn't agree with you. If they say the toilet is leaking through the floor, you reset the toilet, and it starts leaking a week later they will hold you responsible for
the damaged ceiling even though it was just leaking from a lav tube. You are supposed to be the expert , you should of figured out the true source of the leak before doing the work.
4) If you are on your own, by definition, you have no back-up for you to call for help when the simple job turns to s--t. You install a water and it is leak free when you are finished. Two days later you get a call while you are on a nice little repair job, that the heater is leaking and ruining the basement carpeting. You are either going to run over there immediately and replace the defective dielectric union, which gets the repair customer angry because you left prior to finishing their job,OR you will piss off the heater customer because you didn't do good work and ruined their carpet. In either case you are going to work until eight o'clock, miss your kid's soccer game and have your wife angry because you also missed dinner and the soccer game, and didn't get paid for the extra time spent.

Don't jump into a lake unless you can swim and don't jump into service work until you have some sort of service experience and business knowledge. Work for a service company for a year or two just to get your feet wet and to learn, learn, learn.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
6,128 Posts
Forty years of experience in service and remodeling have taught me at least a few things:
1) Remember the Kenny Rodgers song The Gambler -".............

You butchered those lyrics lolz, But I certainly agree with everything you said!
 
  • Like
Reactions: MACPLUMB777

·
Super Moderator
Joined
·
1,860 Posts
Forty years of experience in service and remodeling have taught me at least a few things:
1) Remember the Kenny Rodgers song The Gambler -"you got to know when to hold up, know when to fold up, know when to walk away and know when to stay" . You cannot take every job you are offered, you have to turn them down when they are just trouble looking for some one to get sucked in.
2) Never start repairs on anything that you cannot identify. On the newish kitchen or lav faucets, I won't work on them unless I can identify the brand and have a complete rebuild kit in front of me. If the customer doesn't know the brand and doesn't have the invoice from the big box or the website from where it was purchased, I make them responsible for obtaining the information and then I will get a schematic before working on it. Most of the time I don't hear back from them (because I come across as an AH!) unless they decide to buy a new faucet for me to install. And then, with the new deep sinks, offset drains and crowded situations under the sink they may not want to pay what I need to charge.
3) Don't listen to the customer's diagnosis of the problem. Well, you can listen to it, but don't accept it as accurate. You have to be able to determine what is wrong even though the customer doesn't agree with you. If they say the toilet is leaking through the floor, you reset the toilet, and it starts leaking a week later they will hold you responsible for
the damaged ceiling even though it was just leaking from a lav tube. You are supposed to be the expert , you should of figured out the true source of the leak before doing the work.
4) If you are on your own, by definition, you have no back-up for you to call for help when the simple job turns to s--t. You install a water and it is leak free when you are finished. Two days later you get a call while you are on a nice little repair job, that the heater is leaking and ruining the basement carpeting. You are either going to run over there immediately and replace the defective dielectric union, which gets the repair customer angry because you left prior to finishing their job,OR you will piss off the heater customer because you didn't do good work and ruined their carpet. In either case you are going to work until eight o'clock, miss your kid's soccer game and have your wife angry because you also missed dinner and the soccer game, and didn't get paid for the extra time spent.

Don't jump into a lake unless you can swim and don't jump into service work until you have some sort of service experience and business knowledge. Work for a service company for a year or two just to get your feet wet and to learn, learn, learn.
WOW 90 POSTS IN 6 YEARS ON THE FORUM ! YOU REALLY KNOW HOW TO INTERACT WITH A GROUP
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
94 Posts
WOW 90 POSTS IN 6 YEARS ON THE FORUM ! YOU REALLY KNOW HOW TO INTERACT WITH A GROUP
Thanks for the snarky remark.
I didn't know that there was a quota.
I make up with length what I lack in frequency.
I learned as a child that one shouldn't say anything if you can't say something constructive.
 
1 - 20 of 25 Posts
Top