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FOCUS - HVAC & Plumbing - Everyone needs water

image David Delgado, Manager, 1st Plumbing Services, Austin, TX

AUSTIN - How would you describe the state of the construction industry in general terms? It seems like the construction industry is booming. We have been slammed since opening our doors eight years ago.






What factors are driving this increase?
    We’re seeing a lot of people coming in from Houston, California and New York.  The cost of living is cheaper here as compared to those markets.

Are you seeing an increase in the number of outside contractors coming to the area?
    Yes, we see a lot of contractors coming from all over who have moved here.  They   have to work and if they’re willing to take the chance and try to establish themselves, then so be it.

How has this affected your business?
    If anything, it will help us out ten, fifteen years down the road.  We are experienced with the elements and the water down here.  They are not accustomed to our water and climate.  It’s not bad workmanship, and the work is up to code, but if you don’t use the best materials and techniques for all the hardness and other minerals in our water, then a few years down the road, we’ll be doing repairs on they’re work. We’re more experienced with our area, and incorporate higher standards because we don’t want problems eight, ten years down the road. 

What are the “hot button” issues in your industry?
    Code upgrades, the different municipalities and their infrastructures.  Waterlines for example, with so many new projects being built, it limits the big suppliers that supply water.  Instead of replacing old lines with 36 or 48-inch lines, the old 24-inch stay in place. They just boost up the pressure.  Because   water pressure demands have doubled, the pressure is on the homeowners who had great water pressure for years, making them more susceptible to issues.

What specific codes changes have affected your industry?
    The standards for efficiency ratings for water heaters is a big one, requiring water heaters to be made bigger with more insulation so they run more efficiently.   In many cases, newer replacement water heaters will not fit in the same space, so you have homeowners saying “what do you mean, my new water heater won’t fit?”  Having to explain to somebody why their plumbing needs to be redone, is tough.

What is the most significant challenge your faces?
    Finding qualified employees, plumbers, is our biggest challenge.  I could put eight more plumbers in vehicles right now.  We turn down more work everyday.  We can’t get qualified people.  They’re just not coming into the business.   All the vocational training has been taking out of the schools. I wish I had taken a mechanics class when I was in school.  The amount of money I pay my mechanic hurts. I’m sure people feel that way about plumbers.

Is Plumbing education available for those wishing to enter the industry?
    We offer training at our training facility in Austin.   

What is the cost increases relating to your industry?
    The cost of brass went up 20-30% due to lead-free requirements, which raised the prices of other materials like PVC.  It becomes a chain reaction.

What are the rewards of the industry?
    Unlimited potential.  Plumbing is not the oilfield, but if you put in your time, you can make a great living.  Everyone needs water.

Why did you decide to work in the Plumbing industry?

    A buddy of mine called me up and asked if I wanted to help him out during the summer, so I did.  The owner of that company asked me if I wanted a job, so I decided to give it shot and I haven’t looked back.  

    1st Plumbing Services is a commercial and residential plumbing company based in Austin with an office in San Antonio. -cmw


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Carol Wiatrek meditor@constructionnews.net