How I Became The Expert Plumber
[John]: And you’re listening to Talk Radio 1190. I’m John Wolf for the Ask the Experts Radio Show and our expert today is Roger Wakefield the founder/owner/operator of Texas Green Plumbing and we’re talking a lot about sewage today. But any type of plumbing problem is fair game if you’d like to give Roger a call (214)-787-1190 is the number right here. His website by the way texasgreenplumbing.com. Now we talked about the Expert Plumber, that’s that is your YouTube channel?
[Roger]: Yes, sir.
[John]: And how did you become the expert plumber?
[Roger]: It’s a really good story. I, being a member of Green Plumbers USA, I got a email from the president of their company one day, he said ‘Roger look, American Standard is running a contest and they are looking for the next expert plumber.” And they ran a plumber know-how contest, and you had to create a video into a submission, and then they looked at your certifications, anything that you had your license in. And I’m a very educated plumber I have every endorsement in Texas; Medical Gas, Water Supply Protection Specialist, Multi-Purpose Residential Fire Protection System, RMP. But then outside of plumbing I’m also a LEED AP and that is Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and that’s building green buildings. Me and my video crew got together and we had just started doing videos, and we decided this is something that we can do. So we put together a video for American Standard they wanted to know a tip, they wanted you to talk about why you liked American Standard, and then they just show them your personality. And again this goes back to YouTube, guys. If you want to see it go look at the YouTube channel at The Expert Plumber and it’s one that says “Roger Wakefield American Standard next expert plumber”. Go watch that video. We had a good time making it. We had a lot of fun. But my big tip was; everybody in your house should know how to go outside and turn the water off. Whether it is at the meter, at the valve box at your house. Because you may have a water problem or a water emergency. Anybody in your house that knows how to shut that water off, can do it immediately and that can save you thousands of dollars. And that’s why American Standard picked me as their expert plumber.
[John]: Is this a nationwide deal?
[Roger]: It is. I’ve actually, they sent me out to Orlando to KBIS; the Kitchen and Bath Industry Show. I spoke out there. I love public speaking, I love teaching people about plumbing, about the plumbing industry. I’m a great recruiter into the trades because I tell young men, young women all the time the plumbing industry you can get into right now and five years from now you can be making $75,000 a year as a plumber and you’re not gonna owe anybody for that. And it’s not just plumbing, I’m associated with plumbing, pipe fitting and welding so it’s a great industry.
[John]: I wish I’d met you when I was a younger man. I tell you I was speaking before we came on the air with your assistant and I said that until I moved into the house that I bought I’d lived in apartments all my life and the one thing that I’ve enjoyed is not mowing the lawn, it’s not edging the lawn, where I’m absolutely abysmal at, absolutely abysmal at but: completing plumbing jobs because if you fix something right, it’s fixed. You can *wipes hands* “you know I did that.” And odds are if you fixed it right it’s not gonna cause a problem for a long time. The lawn not so much, dishes not so much. But if you can – it’s a real feeling of accomplishment. More so even than fixing something on your car, because that will break down eventually again. But most likely – but a plumbing job is just, it’s a feeling of fulfillment so to be able to do that for a career and make a decent living at it sounds like, sounds like a good deal all around.
[Roger]: I love it. It’s really funny, I took a test when I was probably in the fifth or sixth grade and it’s a evaluation test, if I’m not you know, what should you be when you grow up. And I’m reading through it and mine said “engineer”. And not that I’m not a very bright kid but I thought; okay I do not want to drive trains around for a living! And that’s exactly what I thought, and it’s funny because being in this industry I have worked with some of the most amazing mechanical/chemical/hydro-mechanical engineers around. I’ve learned so much from them I just I think it’s – I would have been a wonderful engineer because I think I would have just soaked it up like a sponge, I love it.
[John]: On the fulfillment side have you trained people who’ve gone on to their own companies and come back and thank you for the training you gave them?
[Roger]: I have. I actually used to be an instructor in the Union, here in Dallas, Local 100. Anybody interested in getting in plumbing, pipe fitting or welding – give me a shout and I can introduce you to them. There’s one of my students actually when he was going through school he used to tell me “Roger one day when I get out I want you to go to work for me because I’m gonna open up a service plumbing company.” And he has opened up one, he opened up one in in Plano and he’s actually done very well with it, and we talked often. He’s a good guy, so yeah…
[John]: So this is a show about recruits, recruitment and vocations as well as fixing plumbing. But to get back to the fixing plumbing, what are the dangers, what should you know about what you can look for if your sewer line is leaking? What’s the first indication if there’s not water running through you’re – backing up in your house?
[Roger]: Really if you’ve got a sewer leak chances are you’re not gonna know it unless you do have water coming up inside your house. And that’s normally only gonna happen if you have a blockage. I work with a lot of Realtors, that is actually how I grew my business when I started I would get out meet Realtors ask them for the opportunity to come speak at their office and train their Realtors about; what sewer leaks, are what slab leaks are, what causes them – So many people have no idea. One thing I recommend that every Realtor, if you people listening if you know anybody buying a house, I always recommend doing a sewer and water test. And what we do, John is we go to the two-way clean outs that we were talking about while ago stick a test ball in there. Where water – it cannot go out to the sewer, we fill it up with water. It’s not called a “hydrostatic test” because we do not apply any pressure. We literally just fill the line with water. It’s a plumbing drain line, it’s made to carry water anyway. So we fill that line with water and see if that water level goes down. If that water level goes down, there is a leak somewhere. If there’s a leak somewhere, it can be causing foundation problems and like you just talked about, if it ever stops up there or out towards the main and backs up in your house that water could come up through your floor or anywhere else.
[John]: Have you ever done this and gotten – or tried to do this – and got resistance from a seller?
[Roger]: We have. There’s a certain real estate brokerage in Dallas that has a note in their contract that – or did have, and I’m not sure if they still do. So I’m not saying anything bad about anybody – that if you did a hydrostatic test on the house you had to sign a letter saying if you damaged anything you would pay to fix it. And I used to tell buyers walk away from that because number one; it’s not a hydrostatic test. Number two; is it’s a leak test and that’s all I’m doing: is filling a system that’s made to hold water with water and there’s no way I could damage it. There’s nothing that I can do by putting water –
[John]: No pressure…
[Roger]: No I’m not applying any pressure. if you look at it – the drain line – say it comes out three feet under the house and I just fill it up with three feet of water you’re looking at what? .431 pounds per pressure per foot, so you’re talking 1.2 pounds of pressure on the whole system.
[John]: Okay, again we’re speaking with Roger Wakefield of Texas Green Plumbing, texasgreenplumbing.com. If you have a question about anything, maybe you’re not buying a house today, 972- 442-4101 is their office number and the number here is 214-787-1190. Now if the blockage is not in the house when you open up the two systems out next to your house, is it necessary that you’re gonna have to tear up the lawn? Or is there some way to find more specifically where the leak is with a gigantic stethoscope or something?
[Roger]: For a sewer line – a stethoscope type system is what we would use for a water line because that leaking water is gonna make a lot of noise – if you open the two-way cleanouts and there’s water in it. So that tells you that you’ve got a stoppage between your two-way clean outs in the city tap, what’s going to happen there is we’re gonna run a sewer machine through it. We’re gonna clean out that blockage, then we’re gonna stick a camera in it, run it out towards the main, we’re gonna look at what it, what we see. Is it a break? Is it just a belly? If it’s a break and it’s in one isolated position, we may be able to just dig that up, uncover it and make a spot repair right there. If it’s a big belly, we may end up having to replace the section of pipe. If it’s an older pipe and we see roots in several locations we may tell you; you need an entire new yard service. But that’s the thing, we’re gonna give you options and it’s gonna be up to you as to what you do.
[John]: Now when you say yard service, what are you referring to?
[Roger]: Your – from the two-way clean outs out to the city. You know, the city tap is out by the curb somewhere. That’s your yard service. That’s your sewer relay that goes from the two-way clean-out, so you’re responsible for that as the homeowner.
[John]: Okay, now my neighbor had a couple of times he had roots that had grown into the sewage pipes, if sewage pipes is the correct term there, and what can he do to prevent that? Are there heavier duty things you can wrap around it, or is it just something that foliage is gonna look for water and you can’t really stop that?
[Roger]: Yeah it’s always gonna look for it. What there are there’s things that you can put down the ditch on each side that kind of blocks the roots from getting over to it. To be honest if a plumber puts in a good PVC system and it’s solid and it doesn’t break, and which most repairs now are made with PVC, you’re not gonna have a problem. The roots are never gonna get in it.
[John]: And there’s only so much you can do if you’re buying a house. You can’t tear up the yard. You ever go to – let’s say especially for a high-end house – run the camera through for any reason or just like, you can’t examine everything.
[Roger]: We recommend to all realtors to recommend every buyer they have to do a sewer/water test. We check under the house, we also do the same thing basically on the water system. We put a gauge on the system in the house, we shut off the water at the meter, we see if the pressure drops, we have had some customers that want us to do a gas test also, especially with all the explosions lately. I would want to know if I was buying a house is there a gas leak inside the house?
[Roger]: The other thing is running a sewer camera like you said. I’ve had some customers want us to go up on the roof go, down through the vents look at every bit of sewer pipe that we can see, and also run a camera from the two-way clean-out out to the tap – the area we’re talking about the yard service and say are there any roots? Are there any breaks? Is there anything like that, that we need to worry about before buying the house? if I was buying a house right now, I would want a sewer test, a water test, a gas test and run a camera just so I know. And these are things the home inspector does not check.
[John]: I’m learning a lot now for the next time I buy a house myself. I’m amazed how lucky I’ve been so far and it hasn’t always been perfect yet. We’re speaking with Roger Wakefield of Texas Green Plumbing, we’ll be back. The number here: 214-787-1190, John Wolf with Ask the Experts Radio Show.