Career Venting,Threaded fittings, Valves, Manifolds, Glue, Etc...

Discussion in 'Professional Discussions' started by GreenLight, Oct 14, 2018.

  1. GreenLight

    GreenLight LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 560

    Im ready to open the whole can of worms with this thread. I have been doing irrigation work for the better part of my adult life. From starting out as a summer job in college 20 some odd years ago, to ending up making it a profession that has supported my family.

    To say the least, it's a very love/hate relationship I have with this field. It has given me the freedom to be my own employer, the workflow is pretty much endless 10 months out of the year without having to spend a dime on advertising, I have made a lot of relationships with good people in the field and customers and in all honesty it has given me the respect of a lot of people that depend on our knowledge and that is a satisfying feeling.

    For all the positives, the negatives are simply endless. I think most small business owning irrigators can relate to the fact that somehow this profession dominates almost all aspects of your life. Free time, forget about it. If you are lucky you can spend Sunday with your family a few weeks out of each month and cross your fingers that the phone doesn't blow up all day. Yet most of Sunday im itching to go out and organize our inventory, straighten up trucks, etc, etc. because I know if I don't, the upcoming week will be a cluster. It definitely feels like in some ways I made a deal with the devil. He gave me a profession that provides endless business, supports my family and honestly Im pretty financially comfortable. Yet the trade off seems to be, I had to give him every other aspect of my life. So enough about that tangent, im just kind of throwing it out there because im starting to wonder if somewhere in my mind im looking for an out because im getting older and my patience is not what it used to be, nor are my joints.

    Next venting topic! Threaded fittings and threaded valves. I have been working with them for 25 years and one thing I can say is they are terribly inconsistent. Threaded fittings are almost always on the pressured side of an irrigation system which just seems like bad practice in general unless you are dealing with copper and brass only. I hear the "hand tight" plus a half turn argument, which does not really seem logical considering everyones hand tight is considerably different. My 25 year old employee can hand tighten a fitting far tighter than my mid 40's hands. You have all these arbitrary warnings of "don't overtighten threaded fittings", yet they notoriously drip if you don't crank the hell out of them. We basically use only schedule 80 banded adapters, Toe nipples or brass adapters and that helps, but it's not a miracle cure. You have some fittings, valves, etc, that are plenty water tight with a fitting that only goes half way to bottom and then other that we have to bottom out. I had 2 cases this week alone of working with 2 inch PEB valves where both had TOE nipples pre wrapped with TEFLON. The only way they wouldn't drip was to completely bottom them out and this was at 85 PSI incoming pressure. We even alternated the TOE nipple with a LASCO schedule 40 2 inch male adapter and ended up with same result. Only way it wouldn't drip was to be bottomed out. Suffice to say this took multiple turns with channel locks as it required far more than hand tight and a half turn. Did I just get a batch of badly calibrated PEB valves, possibly, but that is far to common with threaded fittings and it's really annoying.

    Last venting topic! Manifolds and glue. One thing I can say without any hesitation is that the ABSOLUTE single greatest thing that an irrigation system can have is a Pressure regulator at the cross connection. This will save thousands of dollars in repair work over the years in fitting failures and valve failures. That said, far too commonly they are not installed and you can generally bet that when there is not a regulator, the manifolds are going to be slapped tight with 4-5 valves in a 17 inch valve box butted together. One pin hole in the incoming pvc manifold fittings and the whole thing is garbage. The whole practice seems so damn dumb, but it's almost the norm. I really do see the future of irrigation being high psi lock and release fittings on all PVC fittings on the main side. Obviously, it's hard to find any reputable push lock and release fittings for pressurized lines, but I would venture to say that this will ultimately change in the near future. We are still building irrigation systems with antiquated practices used in the 1940's and 50's. It's a service and repair heavy industry because overall it's just extremely poor practices that are still being used today.

    Sorry for writing a novel. I finally had some free time and have had a few frustrating past weeks. One thing that has become glaringly obvious over the years in my opinion is that almost all real problems occur at manifolds, threaded fittings or tap fittings where PVC cross connects to copper. Granted, we are only working with PVC here and not poly, but I assume it's all somewhat relative.
     
  2. CAPT Stream Rotar

    CAPT Stream Rotar LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,340

    In my mind I have been telling myself it was just me.

    At least there is 2 of us.
    You put the threaded fittings topic right on the $.

    My guess. All threaded plastic fittings aren't created equal.
    Good luck. The accounts own you don't ever think otherwise.
     
    GreenLight likes this.
  3. zr100

    zr100 LawnSite Member
    from NH
    Messages: 216

    Fixed it for ya!
     
    GreenLight likes this.
  4. greenmonster304

    greenmonster304 LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,941

    When I started my business I would run around like a crazy man trying to keep everyone happy 7 days a week. Now I have honed my client list to the best ones. I am not the biggest company but I don’t want to be. I’d rather work for people I like and take on projects that interest me. Sure the spring is crazy but I don’t work sundays anymore and shoot for half day Saturday. I could work for someone else if I wanted to be miserable.
     
  5. ArTurf

    ArTurf LawnSite Fanatic
    Male, from Ark
    Messages: 5,434

    Gotta love the manifold repair that could have been a $100 repair but ends up being $400 due to configuration. I'm sort of more less anti-manifold myself preferring single valve/box in most cases. Always do things with the thought I'm gonna be the one that replaces this sucker one day.
     
    jbell36 likes this.
  6. DanaMac

    DanaMac LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 13,254

    After 25 years, I left the biz this spring, partially due to the headaches.
    My suggestions:
    Cherry pick the customers
    Cherry pick the systems - get rid of the ones you have to go to 5-10 times a year that consistently break down
    Create a tight route, cutting out areas that have minimal customers
    Turn the phone off after 6:00 PM (Mike Leary, don't fight me on this one)
    Take a cut in pay, and work the hours you want - money isn't everything
    Don't try to please everyone
    Learn to say no
    Learn to pass off unwanted jobs to others in the biz
     
  7. Mike Leary

    Mike Leary LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 23,965

    What Dana and others said. It's interesting how most of us spent 10/15 years building the biz up only to realize "I don't want ALL the work!" One of my favorites is about the guy who'd bought a large spread in my service area and wanted it done. Nice site, could have been a great job. The problem was, I did not like (or trust) him. But I needed to keep the crew busy, so, against my better judgement, did a prelim design to come up with a price. It took some time, and I finally had a number. Went over to meet them, the first thing he said was, "all the time you spent fooling around measuring, the system could have been done by now!" Maybe he was kidding, but I flipped, tore the plans up in front of him and drove out. But wait; there's more: I swear, the next day I got a call from a couple who had been turned on to me, nice waterfront site, friendly, software money, wanted it done 'right'. I gave them a from-the-hip price and he said, "Cool, when can you start?" "Tomorrow" said I. If I had taken the DW job, I could not have done that one, they became great friends and clients for my whole career. Guess what they sent me every year for Christmas?

    Screen Shot 2018-10-16 at 9.28.05 AM.png
     
  8. Srlance31

    Srlance31 LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 688

    I am fortunate to work in this field but not be a contractor. I work with some of you fine hardworking folks from time to time on projects, but I don't own an irrigation business nor work for an irrigation business. Around here (Michigan/Indiana) the hours are long and dirty, lasting April-November then typically laid off. It's a tough field but hats off to all that do it.

    If redoing threaded fittings weren't such a chore it'll be entertaining. If doing metal to plastic, make dang sure that the metal is female and plastic is male, otherwise you're asking for a crack in that PVC. And no, doesn't matter if you follow any rule about tightening, the female PVC will crack again the male metal threads, just wait.

    I've read many plumbing articles and what nots about how to correctly tighten PVC threaded fittings and there's no real consistency to it. I did find some info about cut threads versus molded threads which was interesting and may explain why you needed to bottom on the threads on the TOE fittings into the valves. When it comes to PVC threaded nowadays I almost always use one layer of Telfon tape then reach for the thread sealant paste that is approved for PVC and ABS and tighten 2 revolutions beyond what a strong person would normally do (again, I'm not that strong here so it's more like 3 revolutions with the wrench). On metal to plastic it's tape (if the plastic is male) and always, always thread sealant.

    I don't like manifolds in their purest, most common form because of the situation you just stated: one problem and the whole thing is garbage. In the better situation, the installer put some space between the valves so the lateral can be cut and valve unthreaded. I have site where the installer ran 1 1/2" PVC mains and dead ended them at these massive manifold builds. Literally 8 to 12 1" valves in 1 valve box, then he had the bright idea to run that 1" poly 500 feet before it got to the first head. What can I say? Our industry takes all kinds...
     
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  9. jbell36

    jbell36 LawnSite Bronze Member
    from KANSAS
    Messages: 1,554

    I agree with a lot of that. I am guilty of most of it. Early on trying to please every single customer. During that era I also handed out my personal cell phone number. Big mistake. I also didn't realize how large my company would become so at the time the phone calls were manageable. I always feel guilty if I'm not working. There's always SOMETHING that needs to be or can be done. This past weekend I stocked our newest service truck because I knew if I didn't have it done by Monday that the employee that is driving that truck would not be able to do the jobs I needed him to do.

    I honestly thought threaded fittings were pretty straight forward across the board. I'm glad to hear it wasn't just me wondering why some fittings get bottomed out and some only half-way. I always chalked it up to how much thread tape was being used and torque. There really is a sweet spot to not crack the fitting or valve, not only at time of install, but longevity. The only time we have brass fittings touching PVC fittings is after our backflow. We transition with a schedule 80 male adapter.

    I hate manifolds. One of the first things I learned was to not manifold valves. Like you said, repairing them sometimes means replacing EVERYTHING. Terrible design. The only thing I ever liked about manifolds is they are in a larger valve box that can't be overtaken by grass, so you never lose it. It also has multiple valves in it, so if you can find that box then you usually found 3-5 valves. We use individual 6" boxes. We also give about 10" or so after the tee in the mainline so if we ever need to repair it we have something to grab onto. I've seen manifolds built correctly, where if you need to repair one of the valves then you have room to do that. It's still a more difficult task. The main problem is when all the tees/elbows are butted up against each other, then you are just screwed.






    All that said, I love what I do.
     
    GreenLight likes this.
  10. magna111

    magna111 LawnSite Senior Member
    from NJ
    Messages: 376

    Think again!
     

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