OK, so the economy stinks! The housing market has slowed to a standstill, bank loans are difficult to come by, and customers are putting off remodeling projects because they’re afraid to spend the money. You’ve still got to get out of bed each morning and go to work because your family and your employees are depending on you to keep the business alive. What’s a plumbing contractor to do?
Consider this: Drains clog! No matter what the economy, no matter what the season, drains clog. If you’ve only been in new home construction and remodeling to this point, it’s time to look at the steady income that comes from clearing clogged drains. Think of it as a renewable resource.
I’m sure you’ve had experiences while working at a home, when you were asked, “While you’re here, can you look at this slow-draining tub?” Or, “My willow tree is causing problems with our drains again. Can you take care of it?” Or, “We’ve got water backing up from the basement drain. Can you help us?”
Did you have a tool on your truck to help out your customer and win loyalty points, or did you have to refer them to a local drain-cleaning specialist and risk losing your customer permanently to someone else?
If you clear the drain yourself, you get to keep the money. One advantage of drain-cleaning work is that it’s basically a cash business. No need to wait 30 days or more to get paid. Also, it’s a faster way to get referrals for other jobs.
The Right ToolIf you have the right tool for the job, you can clear the clogged drain fast, take care of a regular customer, and become a hero. (Well, OK, maybe not quite a hero, but a versatile contractor and source for future projects.)
So which tools do you need? To determine that, you must first locate the source of the problem. If only one drain in the house is backed up, the clog is likely to be in the smaller line leading directly from that drain. For sinks, tubs and laundry overflows with 1 1/4- to 2-inch drains, a hand-held, drill-type drain cleaner with a 1/4-, 5/16- or 3/8-inch snake will do the job. You might also consider a water ram-type tool for this application. It’s lighter, faster, and more easily handles slow-draining tubs and long narrow lines in trailer homes.
If the clog is in a small floor drain, laundry tub, or is accessible through a roof stack, a medium-sized floor model machine equipped with a 3/8- or 1/2-inch cable is the appropriate tool to use. This will clear 2-, 3- and most 4-inch lines, but should not be used to clear tree roots. The small diameter cables cannot handle the torque required to cut roots.
If several drains are affected, then the blockage is probably in a larger line common to those drains. If so, a larger drain-cleaning machine equipped with 5/8- or 3/4-inch cable is the right tool for the job. The bigger diameter cables have the strength to cut through tough stoppages and clear longer lines to the street or septic tank.
Ask yourself what types of drain-cleaning problems you’ve run across and you’ll know what size machine(s) you’ll need.
Old MachineryIf you are thinking, “Maybe I can dig up Uncle Frank’s old draining-cleaning machine from the basement,” you’d better make sure you check out the machine before you use it. Older machines didn’t have the safety features of the newer drain cleaners. First things first; think safety:
Purchasing NewIf you’ve decided it’s time to purchase a drain-cleaning machine, here are key factors to keep in mind:
Drain-Cleaning SafetyIf drain cleaning means, “Eww, yuck!” to you, then drain cleaning is probably not for you. Of course, standard precautions for cleanliness around wastewater should be followed: Never touch a cable with your bare hands, and wash your hands after completing a job.
Some manufacturers have instructional videos on their websites to show you the safe way to operate their machinery. Contact them, or your plumbing distributor for more information on the right drain-cleaning tool for you.
In these tough economic times, don’t let potential income flush down the drain. Get into the drain-cleaning business, and get that income flowing toward you instead.