Alan Mercurio and George Lanthier have recently moved their popular educational bulleting boards: Oil Tech Talk — Chatter and DragonTalk, and both are now private members-only sites on Facebook where we contractors can post pictures, comments and ask questions of each other in our never ending quest to better our businesses while absorbing mentor-knowledge. Do yourself a huge favor and join these sites.
On DragonTalk recently, Chris Gagne of Gagne HVAC out of Westminster, Massachusetts, asked, “I'm interested in the pros and cons of using propress fittings. Does the cost of the tool and extra cost in materials out way the time savings and if you’re doing a time and materials job do you switch back to sweating joints?”
Think about how many times you’ve asked yourself the same question of “Is it worth the investment” to purchase some widget, like the press tools for copper, black iron, and now refrigerant lines? At first glance, investing a grand or two sure does present a mental roadblock.
Turning back the hands of time, was it worth the money to purchase pipe-pullers for cast iron rubber gasketed joints instead of using oakum and lead joints? After all, we had lead pots, and the lead tools required to keep on keeping on with the skilled craftsmanship of a properly caulked and poured lead joint. In our shop, as an apprentice, I had to offer up a week’s pay to my employers in order to get them to allow me to demonstrate the labor savings. I did not lose that bet!
In 2003, I encountered pipe press tools at the ISH trade show in Frankfurt, Germany. I’m a hard-core tradesman who takes great pride in the skills learned over many decades. In some part of my psyche I rail at advances that cheapen what it is we do — shortcuts that obviate our craftsmanship skills that were hard-earned. Hell, anybody can press a joint! The rational side of my brain recognizes the potential to become a sharper tool when it comes to bidding and obtaining work via the labor savings specialized tools, like this, offer. Outside, on the streets of Frankfurt, I spied a plumber’s truck and had to peek inside. Press fittings for water and gasketed fittings for drainage lined the side bins. No soldering and no solvent cements needed!
As soon as the Ridgid ProPress became available here in the States, we purchased one. Was I concerned about this being a justifiable expense? You betcha! My bride — the bean counter and our office manager — certainly questioned my reasons for the outlay of cash. “Don’t worry, it will pay for itself,” I told her (you’ve seen the “look” too).
One of our first victories was a rush bid on replacing one of three commercial water heaters in a hotel. No isolation valves present, so old-school would have required draining the hotel’s hot water to a point where soldering would have been feasible. With the ProPress tool, we could minimize the down time and press on a valve within minutes to restore domestic hot water for the hotel guests. Bid won — money in the bank!
The post on DragonTalk caught fire and lots of mechanical contractors weighed in with their opinions and stories.
I've cut out and replaced 1-1/2" copper ball valves with full flow. Got pretty soaked in the process, but saved about six hours.
— Mark Eatheron, executive director of the Radiant Professionals Alliance
Eric Aune of Mechanical Hub, mechanical-hub.com, had this to say: “Oh boy. I'll have to hold myself back on this one. I don't know why I get so ramped up about it, but here are a couple thoughts:
First stop thinking about the cost of the fittings:
- The tool is costly but it's a great investment in your company.
- The very first time you pull the trigger on the tool you're making your money back.
- Bid the jobs the same for time except complete them in a fraction of that time.
- Make more money and never burn your client's property.
- Make more money.
- Make more money.
I could go on about why I'm a proponent, and I've done so in the past. I'm also sure someone will comment about how it takes no skill and it's literally, singlehandedly ruining the trades. Haters gonna hate I guess.”
To which Charles Garrity responded, “Eric, I don't know if you remember, but I was very anti ProPress for a very long time. I was in a situation where I had to buy the tool because nothing else would get me out of the jam I was in in a manner I felt was satisfactory. The main to the building could not be found and the main shut off inside the building would not hold water. I bought the tool and I have never looked back.”
Mark Eatherton, executive director of the Radiant Professionals Alliance & CONTRACTOR columnist, summed it up, “Labor savings is huge and as pointed out, in emergency situations where the water to a large complex can not be turned off, I've cut out and replaced 1-1/2" copper ball valves with full flow. Got pretty soaked in the process, but saved about six hours in not having to go around and notify tenants of pending shut down. Huge (said in the voice of the new POTUS) labor savings. And labor is your most expensive commodity...
Work smarter – earn more money – and enjoy that sweet ROI.
Dave Yates material in print and on Contractor’s Website is protected by Copyright 2017. Any reuse of this material (print or electronic) must first have the expressed written permission of Dave Yates and Contractor magazine. Please contact via e-mail at: [email protected].