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View Full Version : Oh this is going to hurt


DanaMac
04-25-2006, 08:21 AM
With about 200+ systems already turn on by us, and a couple hundred more already screaming that it will be 2-3 weeks before we get there, we get a serious cold snap. I can here the bonnets and poppets already breaking.

What the hell can we do? It has been a seriously hot dry spring already, and people are anxious to turn on the systems, but many don't understand how to drain it. Then this crap moves in, and scares the heck out of me. I'm not so worried about the system breaking some parts, it's the flooding of the basement because it froze, broke, then thawed and dumped water out all day while they are at work.

Either last year or the year before, all 4 of my suppliers, and Home Depot and Lowes, were out of bonnet and poppet kits late in the spring due to another cold snap. One of my customers that works at Lowes called me to see if they could buy some from me. Told them no, but was glad that I buy at least 60+ every spring.

PurpHaze
04-25-2006, 08:52 AM
Do you guys in cold areas use any type of "unwarranty" in writing if you turn a system on and then a cold snap comes in?

Sounds like you have a corner on the market in your area and could make some serious money. :)

DanaMac
04-25-2006, 08:57 AM
I had thought about a "disclaimer" of some kind, that they would have to sign if we turned on the system bofore a certain date, such as may 15th. It would have to explain the effects of freezing temps and water, and release us from any liability. But, once again, something I didn't put together. I'm too busy in the winter to do these things. :)

DanaMac
04-25-2006, 09:00 AM
[QUOTE=PurpHaze}Sounds like you have a corner on the market in your area and could make some serious money. :)[/QUOTE]

The difficult thing is we are already booked 2-3 weeks, and they aren't giving us anymore sunlight or hours in a day. There is a physical limit as to how much work we can possibly do. And we are not hurting for phone calls and business anyway.

The day last week that my employee was in a wreck, it was at 8:30 PM after a 12 hour day. So we are too busy as it is.

BSME
04-25-2006, 09:47 AM
I have decided the residential sprinkler business is impossible to keep up with...
-had more than a couple 12+ hour days last week (including sunday) trying to pick up as many new customers as we can.
-I lose some because we can't fit everybody in within a week...

but what am I going to do? I can't hire another couple bodies that would work full time for a month until the rush is over....

growing pains...

luckily we are getting a cold/rainy streak (but not freezing luckily) so that the phone is stopping while we try to catch up on the calls from the 80 degree weather we had a week ago

Ground Master
04-25-2006, 10:09 AM
Dana- I have yet to figure that out to. The bottom line is you can't do a thing about it. I let people know that it can still get cold and they have to be aware of it. I feel by turning on these systems, there is no implied warranty that damaged won't occur. Hell, a toilet can break while someones at work causing major problems too.

I think I'll better get off my butt and buy some backflow parts now!

Mdirrigation
04-25-2006, 04:09 PM
Put yourself in control , not the customer. I send out postcards in feburary telling the customers the day date and 3 hour window I will be there to start up the system . It makes for a very tight and profitable route. Small repairs are handled at this time . anything time consuming is rescheduled . New customers are squeezed in as time allows .

SprinklerGuy
04-25-2006, 04:19 PM
Dana has a corner on the market???? I guess I better pack it up and give up...I will never make it here.... *sigh*

I am now booked until Friday of next week....and the phone keeps ringing....glad I didn't run my ad this year...!

I saw an invoice from last year and another company that said "systems turned on prior to June 1st have no warranty against freezing"

Ground Master
04-25-2006, 04:42 PM
I'm surprised that anybody would warranty a turn-on from freezing.

I won't guarantee any sprinkler work from freezing. I remember a snowstorm on June 10th, 1975! Around 2". Not sure of the temperature that day thou.

PurpHaze
04-25-2006, 05:16 PM
Dana has a corner on the market???? I guess I better pack it up and give up...I will never make it here.... *sigh*

Just an observation because of all the BF parts he stockpiled.

I saw an invoice from last year and another company that said "systems turned on prior to June 1st have no warranty against freezing"

This is what I was wondering if anyone did.

I won't guarantee any sprinkler work from freezing. I remember a snowstorm on June 10th, 1975! Around 2". Not sure of the temperature that day thou.

Without something in writing then what recourse does one have if a customer insists that the damage was done after turn-on and wants you to warranty it? Many people are looking for scapegoats all the time.

Wet_Boots
04-25-2006, 06:43 PM
Any of you Colorado guys seeing any good performance from those Watts PVBs, the ones with the 'freeze protection' built in? They sure don't do a thing for someone who never winterized, but maybe they can provide some protection for an overnight cold snap.

DanaMac
04-25-2006, 08:29 PM
So far, I have 4 Febco 825Y RPs to replace and at least 6 bonnets due to last night. ANd I still have 23 more calls to make. YIKES!! Looks like I'm working Sunday for the 4th week in a row.

SprinklerGuy
04-25-2006, 10:35 PM
Remember the older lady w/ the bag of parts near the timer? She just called and guess what blew up today???? Ugh.

Beartooth
04-25-2006, 11:47 PM
I feel your pain! We had a good hard freeze last night clear and cold. One of my customers had water dumping from the PVB for who knows how long thank God the basement's not finished yet. It still took 1.5 hours with my shop vac to get up the water. The basement floor drain couldn't keep up. And, of course, the customer had to "go to work". By the way, the day we started up his system he was crying like a school-girl because his lawn was "dying" from lack of moisture. I still haven't been paid either!

PurpHaze
04-26-2006, 08:13 AM
We, as of yet, still have not turned on our systems. This has been the strangest spring in the valley that I can remember with all the rain. It rained again last night so systems probably won't go on this week either. Our mowers have been working overtime to keep up with the explosion of weedy and grassy growth. I'm afraid it's going to go from 65 to 90 in one day. :cry:

DanaMac
04-26-2006, 10:31 PM
Went to one home today to repair damage due to the freeze Monday night/Tuesday morning. Replace a ball valve. While there, home next door had a plumber out repair split copper and bonnet. House across street had another sprinkler company doing the same. 4 houses down had another plumber doing the same. The house that was next door had 2 Farmers Insurance cars drive up as I was leaving. They flooded the basement and were looking at a claim on it.

One more RP repair called in, replaced one PVB today (Wilkins with the brass bonnet tore apart the brass body) and 6 more bonnet calls. And the phone has been unplugged for 3 hours so there may be more.

DanaMac
04-28-2006, 06:59 PM
I have 7 cracked RPs in my truck right now. Will post pics later. Real fun. Oh, and it snowed,rained all day. My first appt. had 1" of snow on the grass at 8:30.

Dirty Water
04-28-2006, 07:04 PM
Wow...I feel sorry for you Dana.

Up here in the wonderful land of buried backflows, we don't have this problem, though we also rarely get cold snaps below the teens.

SprinklerGuy
04-28-2006, 07:17 PM
I did 2 appointments today...both of them cracked copper in and out of backflow.....sigh....snowed all day in Cripple Creek...almost done!

PurpHaze
04-28-2006, 10:00 PM
Sheesh... Why do I keep hearing the cha-ching of the cash register during all this biatch slapping??? :laugh:

DanaMac
04-29-2006, 07:33 AM
Sheesh... Why do I keep hearing the cha-ching of the cash register during all this biatch slapping???

The biatching is because there is a physical limit to how much work a person can do in a day, and we weren't hurting for work to begin with. I absolutely hate disapponting people, and that is what I am doing when I tell them their lawn will have to wait another 3 weeks before I can be there. I sent one new call to SprinklerGuy, she biatched that I couldn't meet her needs, he asked what they were, they said to get their system started now, and Tony said he couldn't meet their needs either. I have lost a few customers this spring because I couldn't get there soon enough. You can hear them sigh, and feel disapponted over the phone.

I may have things opened a little though. I had left a bunch of time slots open, waiting for a rental company to get me all the info for their tenants. I think they are shopping around, now that I gave them a list of conditions/demands. They were some anxious 2 weeks ago that things were burning up. I still have no list, so hopefully I got rid of that.

PurpHaze
04-29-2006, 10:23 AM
The biatching is because there is a physical limit to how much work a person can do in a day, and we weren't hurting for work to begin with. I absolutely hate disapponting people, and that is what I am doing when I tell them their lawn will have to wait another 3 weeks before I can be there.

That's the nature of the beast... feast or famine. :rolleyes:

DanaMac
04-30-2006, 06:38 PM
OK - here is some of the freeze damage from just this week's cold front.
Notice the one real shiney RP. It's only been in 3 weeks. And I have at least one more to do that is about 4-5 weeks old.

DanaMac
04-30-2006, 06:39 PM
A few more. Check out the Wilkins PVB with the brass bonnet. Rips the body apart. I also have replaced 10-12 Febco bonnets late this week.

Wet_Boots
04-30-2006, 08:44 PM
I dunno, I always preferred a PVB with a brass bonnet, for the ability to take physical abuse. As for freeze damage, I'd rather replace the entire PVB, charging accordingly. Nothing like a $200+ invoice to remind a homeowner not to jump the gun. Besides, if you replace only a bonnet, are you standing behind the entire device? (as far as leak-free check valve goes) I would expect the freezing water might warp a brass body before it burst the bonnet.

Anyone seeing the newer Watts PVBs (with their so-called freeze protection) survive the cold snaps?

Dirty Water
04-30-2006, 08:54 PM
We don't have RP's here, mostly buried DC's with an occasional PVB. Can you put a RP in a box, or does it have to be suspended at a certian height?

I ask this, because it seems like burying a RP and insulating around it would be the simple solution in your area's.

DanaMac
04-30-2006, 09:04 PM
No you can't put an RP below ground. If it dumps water like it is supposed to during a backflow incident, it could theoretically suck water back in if it is submerged. It still couldn't survive the entire winter below ground without proper winterization.

Boots - I'm not reliable for the unit at all. There is no residential testing here. At all. Even if I replaced the enitre unit, who's to say the check valve won't crack or fail due to another quick overnight freeze.

Dirty Water
04-30-2006, 09:18 PM
No you can't put an RP below ground. If it dumps water like it is supposed to during a backflow incident, it could theoretically suck water back in if it is submerged. It still couldn't survive the entire winter below ground without proper winterization.

So, properly installed in a box with 3 feet of drainrock is still not an option? Thats a shame.

Your freeze depth must be a lot deeper than ours (3" or so :) )

DanaMac
04-30-2006, 09:21 PM
Oh yes. We like right next to the Rocky Mountains between 6500-7500 feet. We get plenty of cold weather that will get frost line down a few feet.

SprinklerGuy
04-30-2006, 10:28 PM
And where I am the frost line is 60-70 inches deep.....

Wet_Boots
04-30-2006, 11:04 PM
I've seen the occasional RPZ in a meter pit, likely as replacements for double check valve assemblies. Not what I'd prefer to install on new work, but I believe our regional code has some weasel-out language that permits the practice. Possibly with some requirement that the pit not be located in a flood plain.

Folks hereabouts still don't fully appreciate the beauty of a nice backflow preventer, installed above ground, where everyone can look at it.

PurpHaze
05-01-2006, 08:33 AM
Good pics Dana. Nice to see that your freeze is an equal opportunity freeze and affects different types of devices. :laugh:

Do freeze blankets work very well in your area?

PurpHaze
05-01-2006, 08:34 AM
I ask this, because it seems like burying a RP and insulating around it would be the simple solution in your area's.

Blankets or insulation can be used above ground. Some of them don't look very bad either.

DanaMac
05-01-2006, 08:46 AM
Do freeze blankets work very well in your area?

They work ok for late spring/early fall. I even tell people to at least wrap the BF with a couple big insulating blankets to keep the wind chill from affecting it. Some listen. Some will go put a dish towel over it and think that's good. WTF!!??

:hammerhead: :hammerhead: Idiots!!

DanaMac
05-07-2006, 08:42 AM
So far 10 RPs, and one on the schedule. The owner actually already bought it and needs it installed. He paid $240 for a 3/4" Febco 825Y. That's exactly double what I get pay them at Ewing. $100 to install. I normally charge about $350 to replace it. What's it costing him? $340, yet I don't get to make my huge mark up. :confused:

BSME
05-07-2006, 10:46 AM
This brings up a good question...

what do you do when the homeowner wants to use his own parts? I realize I'm still making my hourly rate but I do enjoy the markup on parts.

I tell them that parts won't be covered under warranty in an attempt to get them to use my parts...

this is also why I hate the internet... although the list price on a febco pvb is probably around $130 they can find it on ebay for $50 and then complain to me about my prices

Flow Control
05-07-2006, 11:32 AM
This brings up a good question...

what do you do when the homeowner wants to use his own parts? I realize I'm still making my hourly rate but I do enjoy the markup on parts.

I tell them that parts won't be covered under warranty in an attempt to get them to use my parts...

this is also why I hate the internet... although the list price on a febco pvb is probably around $130 they can find it on ebay for $50 and then complain to me about my prices

If the owner is going to take the time to price shop on ebay then he should take the time to research how easy it is to replace himself. This goes back to the thought that each service vehicle has X amount of stock. Now if we all had ESP and would know exactly what parts we needed before we went to a service call and those parts were delivered for free then great lower your prices. But it is not going to happen. Take his part don't warranty it since your supplier will probably only warranty parts he sells to you and charge him for every minute and part you do use.

Wet_Boots
05-07-2006, 12:35 PM
I won't install someone else's backflow preventer, no matter how much they beg.

VWBOBD
05-19-2006, 03:49 AM
The difficult thing is we are already booked 2-3 weeks, and they aren't giving us anymore sunlight or hours in a day. There is a physical limit as to how much work we can possibly do. And we are not hurting for phone calls and business anyway.

The day last week that my employee was in a wreck, it was at 8:30 PM after a 12 hour day. So we are too busy as it is.



TIME TO ADD MORE TECHS......EXPAND MY MAN , EXPANSION IN A DEMANDING MARKET= MORE MONEY FOR BOSS MAN!!:cool2:

SprinklerGuy
05-19-2006, 07:01 AM
This coming from Beavis or Butthead?

Expansion is not always the answer.....it is a choice that is best made by the owner of the company based on his/her goals..not based on "busy" or "not busy"....

DanaMac
05-19-2006, 07:45 AM
TIME TO ADD MORE TECHS......EXPAND MY MAN , EXPANSION IN A DEMANDING MARKET= MORE MONEY FOR BOSS MAN!!:cool2:

Yeah, sure. Why don't I just hire Beavis or Butthead right off the street, and send them to little old Mrs. Bachtel who would probably scream if she saw them, and then refuse to pay because he took 2 hours to replace a head and smoked his cigs, and swore the whole time. Let's see, I have over 20 irrigation and landscape companies that send me work. Wanna know why? BECAUSE NOBODY CAN FIND OR TRAIN TECHS HERE. So they send the work to me. (And then I send some to Tony).

Stupid troll.

VWBOBD
05-20-2006, 11:42 PM
This coming from Beavis or Butthead?

Expansion is not always the answer.....it is a choice that is best made by the owner of the company based on his/her goals..not based on "busy" or "not busy"....


WHENEVER WORK EXCEEDS THE ABILITY TO DO IT, THEN ITS IS TIME TO GROW. I CANT THINK OF A BETTER TIME TO ENTERTAIN THE NOTION. I GUESS YOU RECCOMEND WAITING TILL ITS SLOW.

VWBOBD
05-20-2006, 11:45 PM
And a troll that shouts with every post. :hammerhead:

WELL I GUESS ILL HAVE TO START ASKING YOUR PERMISSION FROM NOW ON, HUH?


OH MIGHTY FORUM GOD!! RAIN THY KNOWLEDGE UPON ME, GUIDE ME IN THE WAY THAT IS TRUTH.

STAY SMALL GRASSHOPPER

DanaMac
05-21-2006, 08:09 AM
WHENEVER WORK EXCEEDS THE ABILITY TO DO IT, THEN ITS IS TIME TO GROW. I CANT THINK OF A BETTER TIME TO ENTERTAIN THE NOTION. I GUESS YOU RECCOMEND WAITING TILL ITS SLOW.

Yes we must wait to hire and train when it is slow. I have barely have time to breathe, never mind screen, hire, and train people right now. It would be more of a complication than help. My one employee was trained 5 years ago by myself, and another employee at the time. We were still installing then, so he learned how to install, and learned the operations of how a system worked. He worked along with the other employee all year on the installs and repairs. I think that is the best way to learn. Since we no longer install, stopped doing that his first year, I can't do that anymore.

DanaMac
05-21-2006, 08:57 AM
One of the oldest companies in town doesn't take any new service work due to not being able to find a tech. They send me work daily.

Same with my previous employer. He tried to sell me the service end of his business about 3-4 years after I left working for him. I wasn't ready to handle the jump at that time. He sold to the tech that came in after me. And that guy folded soon after. Now that employer sends all service work to me.

I have one good landscaping company that subs to me for probably 80% of their service work, including warranty work. I do all their blow outs in the fall, and also do their stub outs when spring slows down.

Finding a service tech isn't as easy as one might think. I can't hire someone who doesn't speak english, as they need to communicate with 5-10 homeowners a day. They must be a good communicator in general. They can't be a dirt bag, as the customer must be comfortable and trust this person who represents my company. I don't have a shop, and my tech takes the vehicle home every night. Just giving Joe Schmo a vehicle to take home is an accident waiting to happen. And some people just don't fit the mold. To troubleshoot and repair, you need a mechanical mind. Have a thought process to know the most efficient steps in finding the problem and fixing it.

Would you want to take your truck to just anybody to fix problems? Someone who just starts replacing parts until the problem is finally resolved after bringing it back 5-10 times?

SprinklerGuy
05-21-2006, 09:41 AM
Been there done that....

Dana...need a job?

Wet_Boots
05-23-2006, 07:56 AM
I think you're all taking the title of this thread wayyyyy too literally.