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  • Annual Roto-Rooter Franchise Meeting Held - May 11, 2015

    Roto-Rooter Franchise Association Holds Annual Meeting

    By Paul Abrams


    The RRFA or Roto-Rooter Franchise Association is a supportive forum for Roto-Rooter franchisees to gather, teach, mentor and share new ideas with each other. The organization promotes relationships within the Roto-Rooter family that foster growth and understanding between the franchise owners themselves and their relationship to Roto-Rooter Corporation and Roto-Rooter Services Company.

    There are more than 500 independently owned and operated Roto-Rooter franchises across North America and several others overseas. Many of the franchises have been in the same families since the 1930s when Roto-Rooter was founded on the invention of the original mechanical sewer cleaning machine. At one time, all of the Roto-Rooter system consisted of franchises but today about 117 Roto-Rooter locations are company owned and operated. Together, both groups make up the largest plumbing repair and sewer and drain cleaning business in the world. Company owned locations have learned a lot from the franchise community over the years and vice-versa. We work together to strengthen the Roto-Rooter brand, provide better service to our customers and explore new ways of achieving success for all.

    During the week of May 11, the RRFA will hold its annual meeting. The location changes every year and this year it will be held in Las Vegas. There will be a series of meetings and workshops that never fail to improve the Roto-Rooter business as a whole. While the public is well aware of the Roto-Rooter brand, they don’t often understand that it is held aloft by individuals who are always leaning forward to find ways to improve our service offerings, customer service and commitment to employees. One of the greatest challenges Roto-Rooter and our industry faces is plumber recruitment & careers. There simply are not enough plumbers to meet demand for plumbing services anymore. As a group, the RRFA and Roto-Rooter Services Company will share ideas for promoting the plumbing profession and making Roto-Rooter an even better place to work so as to recruit more plumbers to our company.

  • Roto-Rooter Becomes the New Preferred Plumbing Partner to Greystar

    Greystar Partners with Roto-Rooter

    By Jack Kortekamp

    When Greystar Real Estate Partners purchased Riverstone Residential Group last June, the nation’s top apartment manager acquired the second largest apartment manager. Recently, Greystar announced their supplier partnerships and Roto-Rooter Services Company made the list. Currently, Greystar manages almost 400,000 apartment units in the U.S. and has recently expanded internationally. With a combined force of over 10,000 team members, Greystar currently manages apartment communities for many of the premier ownership groups and institutions in the multifamily industry.

    Jack Kortekamp and Keith Vadas from Roto-Rooter’s Commercial Business Development Group had relationships and business dealing with both companies previous to the merger. After meeting with the combined management of both companies shortly after the purchase was announced, Roto-Rooter’s proposal for a partnership was accepted for the new Preferred National Partner Program. Roto-Rooter Services Company currently provides drain cleaning, plumbing, water line repair and replacement, excavation, backflow testing and high-pressure water jetting services to Greystar’s managed properties and Roto-Rooter recently presented our newest service, Water Restoration to Greystar management.

    Roto-Rooter sponsors Greystar’s Green Awards Program, a web-based program that rewards Greystar properties that conserve energy, water and promote sustainability.

    Greystar is a fully integrated real estate company offering expertise in property management, investment management and development of residential properties. Headquartered in Charleston, South Carolina, Greystar is the largest operator of apartments in the United States, managing over 385,000 units in over 100 markets. Greystar also has $ 1.5 billion of development underway and has a robust institutional investment platform with over 7.5 billion is assets in major markets globally.

    Roto-Rooter Services Company currently provides plumbing services to Greystar properties in most of their major markets and we look forward to growing with Greystar as they continue to lead the multifamily industry.

  • Discover How & Why Tree Roots Can Cause Sewer Damage

    How and Why Tree Roots Clog and Damage so Many Sewers

    By Paul Abrams

    The Roto-Rooter sewer cleaning machine got its name because it rotates a spinning cable with sharp blades on the tip through underground sewer pipes cutting away tree roots that can clog a sewer and cause sewage backups. Tree roots might seem like fragile little stems but they can grow to monstrous proportions and are incredibly resilient and strong! Roots can cause lots of damage to underground pipes but it takes a long time for the damage to show itself.

    Thirsty trees and shrubs send tiny feeder roots out through the soil in search of water and nutrients. When the roots find water, they begin sipping it and pumping it back to the tree. One of the easiest places for roots to find water is an old sewer pipeline made of clay, concrete, iron, Orangeburg or other imperfect materials. When the sewer pipes were laid, their sections were joined together tightly to prevent roots from getting inside. Each section of pipe has a male end and a female end. Clay and concrete were usually “pitched” together using tar pitch or a similar material that helped seal the joints. The problem is that the seals don’t last forever and as the seals fail over time, those little feeder roots work their way inside to infiltrate the sewer pipe and discover the moisture and nutrients they were sent to find. Mission accomplished!

    Tree Roots Grow Larger – Causing Pipe Problems

    In time, those little roots grow fat and happy. They soon become the tree’s most important lifeline to a seemingly endless supply of water and waste nutrients (think fertilizer). As a result, the roots grow larger so they can deliver more and more water to the growing, healthy tree. As roots grow larger in diameter, they put a strain on the pipe joints and gradually break the clay, concrete or other materials away. To visualize how they do this, think of how many times you’ve seen a tree root push up a section of sidewalk. It’s a slow but steady pressure that gradually defeats the concrete and shoves it aside. The same thing happens to your sewer pipe. As the holes in the pipe get bigger, more water and sewage leaches out of the pipe into the surrounding soil. The soil supporting the pipe begins to erode and the pipe sections start to move around in the watery loose dirt. Pretty soon, the once reliable pipeline starts looking like a loose collection of pipe sections that are only semi-connected as more and more roots infiltrate the pipe and compound the damage. To make matters worse, the roots spread out like nets and catch toilet paper and waste until a clog forms.

    Roto-Rooter’s State-of-the-art Equipment & Technology Can Help with Sewer Problems

    A Roto-Rooter plumber can easily cut away young tree roots and restore flow in your sewer. Mature roots become more of a challenge but we can usually cut through those too – up to a point. Once the root mass starts looking like a tree limb, even the mighty Roto-Rooter machine can’t always cut through. And by that time, chances are good that the pipe sections are so damaged and misaligned that the sewer has just about had it anyway. Toilets stop flushing and drains stop draining and sewage has nowhere to go but into a bathtub or sink. Remember, sewers are designed to be a sealed system. If they are leaching sewage into the soil, it’s an environmental issue. Annual sewer cleanings can keep a sewer line open for years if a homeowner keeps up with root growth but eventually, the sewer will reach the end of its life and it has to be replaced. 

  • Have a Sewerage Problem? Call 811 and Work with Roto-Rooter

    RotoRooter guest blog:

    Scott Finley
    Texas811 media and PR manager

    …And Away Go Troubles, Down the Drain!

    Everyone knows the Roto-Rooter® jingle. And everyone wants to see their troubles go down the drain!

    Normally, when you dial 8-1-1 to get a utility locate, you have to wait up to 48 hours for the service to be completed.  But – there are times when you just don’t have 48 hours, and neither does your customer.

    Let’s face it – it’s tough for a company as large and busy as Roto-Rooter trying to explain to a customer without service or with sewage running into the street or their yard that it’s going to take 48 hours to get lines located.  “Well,” the customer will say, “this is obviously my sewage line that’s causing the problem, what’s the difficulty?”

    The difficulty, of course, is illustrated by this illustration from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration of the major natural gas and oil pipelines in the United States. Hazardous liquid lines are in red, gas transmission lines in blue.

    The map illustrates about 2.5 million miles of buried pipeline.   Not seen are the who knows how many miles of smaller feeder lines, communications conduits, electrical cables, sewer lines, water lines – you name it – that are running through, around and under residential and business sites.

    A Roto-Rooter customer, though, only sees that they’ve got a problem, and Roto-Rooter has to fix it.   Pronto.

    Roto-Rooter’s sewer solutions specialist can still provide the service customers have come to depend on from Roto-Rooter, AND play it safe at the same time.

    Every state’s 811 call center has some form of Emergency Ticket that will get a work area marked as soon as possible so Roto-Rooter can begin repairs. 

    In Texas, an Emergency Ticket must meet these criteria:  The State of Texas defines an Emergency Excavation as one involving danger to life, health or property.  Does the work meet that criteria?

    Roto-Rooter representatives should check with their local 811 notification center for the specific requirements for requesting an emergency locate request in the area.

    Roto-Rooter employees should never put themselves or their customers’ lives and property at risk, or make a bad situation worse, by blind digging.  Always call 8-1-1 first.  Then the entire Roto-Rooter team, from the local office to the corporate headquarters to the crew at the excavation site can all join in the customer’s chorus:

    ¯ “And away go troubles, down the drain!” ¯

    Texas811 is, first and foremost, a damage prevention company.   We serve over 1,400 member utilities and municipalities in Texas, and in 2014 processed 2,629,287 inbound ticket requests by sending out 14,045,818 notifications to utilities and municipalities for line locates.

    We’re glad to be serving Roto-Rooter® in Texas, too!

  • New Water Heater Standards & Guidelines Take Effect April 2015

    New Water Heater Standards Take Effect April 16, 2015

    How Will These Changes Effect Homeowners?

    By Paul Abrams

    In case you haven’t heard, new federal mandates going into effect on April 16, 2015 are forcing water heater manufacturers to make water heaters (the kind with a water tank) a lot more efficient. For the most part, they will be smarter, safer and better insulated. But the rest of the story may impact some homeowners in some inconvenient ways. This is especially true if your utility closet is already cramped. A new water heater of the same capacity may have a larger physical footprint (to accommodate that extra insulation) than the unit that currently occupies the space in your house. A replacement water heater may no longer fit inside that space and could require a build out and other modifications to make it work.

    Additionally, gas models may require more advanced chimneys (flues) and plumbing. They will incorporate electronic ignition instead of the old standard pilot flames. Electric water heaters will also be larger in diameter and/or height to account for the extra insulation needed to make them more energy efficient. Many models will now have integrated heat pumps in order to meet the new Department of Energy guidelines. One other change that may affect you is cost. Expect newer high-efficiency models to be almost twice as expensive!

    The new complexities of water heater standards will make it much more difficult for the do-it-yourselfer to install the new water heater models and still remain in compliance with the new codes. So choosing a trained professional plumber to install a water heater will be more crucial than ever before. If all of these changes sound alarming to you because your current water heater barely fits into its current location, act fast because older models will still be in stores until current inventories sell out. Manufacturers were required to make the changes on production lines beginning April 1, 2015, so if the prospect of cramming a larger water heater into your small space scares you, why not purchase an existing model and store it until you need it. Or if your water heater is getting close to the end of its lifespan (the average is 11 years), it might make sense to replace your old water heater now.


  • Advantages of Flat-Rate Pricing for Plumbing Customers

    Why Flat-Rate Pricing is a Better Deal for Plumbing Customers

    It’s a subject that homeowners and plumbers have debated for years. Which is the better deal? Flat rate pricing (sometimes called contract price) or hourly rate? First, let me state that certain situations might tilt the advantage to hourly and other situations might tilt the advantage to flat-rate, but for most plumbing repairs, a flat rate for a plumber is usually a better deal. Here’s why:
    First, you’ll be given a price on parts and labor upfront before any work begins. This can be very comforting to just get the agreed upon price out of the way without having to worry about the plumber dragging his feet and racking up hourly charges. When you pay a flat rate, you’ll pay the quoted price whether the job takes an hour or five hours. Advantage customer! This is especially true if the plumber came out without hitting you up for a trip charge or an assessment fee.

    Furthermore, sometimes (but not always) plumbers have some negotiating room on their flat rate. If you don’t like the price, try haggling. The worst that can happen is he says “no.” But if a plumber is having a slow day, he may be willing to drop his rate somewhat to get the job. After all, he’s already at your house, he’s invested some time evaluating your problem and he’d probably rather discount the job than go back to the shop empty handed. He may also give you a discount coupon or refer you to one on his website to justify the discount and provide a good value to you. After all, a good plumber wants your business for life, not just for one job. If he does discount, that doesn’t mean his original price was a scam. It just means his schedule or other circumstances have allowed him some flexibility to give you a lower price.

    In my view, the only time an hourly rate might be a better value is when the job only requires a quick fix that commonly takes five to fifteen minutes to complete. For instance, lighting a pilot light on a water heater or tightening a loose water connection. A customer oriented hourly rate plumber ought to divide his hourly fee and only charge you for a quarter of an hour. Unfortunately, many will simply tell you their company policy states that they MUST charge you for the full hour - so you may not get any price advantage after all. On the other hand, many flat-rate plumbers who want to keep your business have a special low “quick fix charge” for such instances instead of dinging you for a couple of hundred bucks. Just as commonly, I’ve seen Roto-Rooter plumbers do such simple fixes at no charge, especially if it’s a customer who has used them before or whose business they hope to earn in the future. “There’s no charge. It was a simple fix. Call me the next time you need me.” That’s a very powerful gesture that often wins the hearts and minds of a customer. Just to be sure the gesture is remembered, I recommend that the plumber place a sticker with his name and phone number around the work area, beneath the sink or on the water heater so the customer will always be reminded who that nice plumber was who was so generous and helpful.

    Now taking into account everything you just read in the last paragraph do not confuse a very fast, efficient plumber with “a quick and easy job.” A more experienced plumber may be able to complete a difficult job faster than a less experienced guy. Don’t get angry and critical of him for being good. Some people will say, “It took him only 30 minutes to replace the disposal but his fee was equal to what the other guy would have charged me for a full hour of labor.” So what? He was fast, efficient and he saved you time. Would you prefer that he slow down and waste your time or just appreciate the fact that he’s out of your home quickly at the contracted price and you can get on with your day?

    And what if the plumber has to run out for more parts? This is a common occurrence and the meter will be running the entire time on the hourly plumber but the price remains fixed with the flat rate plumber. Finally, when calculating your overall value, please don’t forget to factor in hard costs that every business has to include in to its pricing. There is the service truck, fuel and maintenance as well as vehicle insurance, liability insurance for the business, even the plumber’s health insurance. Also, office staff, rent, phones, utilities, advertising, tools and equipment. Plumbing is a professional trade that involves never-ending learning to keep up with changing fixtures, materials and plumbing codes. Not just anybody can do this kind of work so please don’t pretend that a plumber’s time is less valuable than that of any other professional, whether blue collar or white collar.

  • Roto-Rooter Earns Super Service Award from Angie’s List

    Roto-Rooter Plumbing & Drain Service is proud to recognize several of our locations that are being honored with the 2014 Super Service Award from Angie’s List.

    This distinction recognizes the top 5 percent of qualifying businesses per category who maintained superior service ratings and reviews throughout the past year in each market.

    By striving for, and earning the Super Service Awards each year, Roto-Rooter demonstrates its commitment to providing all customers with world-class service when they call for plumbing, sewer & drain cleaning and water restoration services.

    Many Roto-Rooter branches earned the Super Service Award in multiple categories (including drain cleaning, sewer cleaning, water heaters and wells & pumps).

    In the plumbing and other service-related categories, the following branches received a Super Service Award:

    • St. Louis
    • San Antonio
    • Norfolk
    • Raleigh
    • Buffalo
    • Fort Wayne
    • New Orleans
    • Yakima
    • Reno
    • Eugene
    • Hawaii
    • Boise
    • Lexington
    • Long Island
    • Wilmington
    • Cincinnati

    Roto-Rooter has been providing superior service across America for 80 years. Customers depend on us 24 hours and day, seven days a week and we are pleased to have received these service awards from Angie’s List that demonstrate our commitment to providing world class customer service.

  • Meet Your Seattle Roto-Rooter Plumbers

    The trained plumbing professionals at the Seattle branch of Roto-Rooter are ready to serve the surrounding area 24/7. Plumbing problems can strike when you least expect them, which is why the team of 39 expert Seattle plumbers are ready to help when you need them.

    The Seattle team can handle any job your home or business may require. From small jobs like drain cleaning and water heaters, to much bigger problems, like excavation and water damage restoration, the Seattle team has seen it all!

    The Seattle branch are members of Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors (PHCC), International Association of Plumbing & Mechanical Officials (IAMPO), Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC) and the Washington Apartment Association (WAA).

    For more information about your local Seattle Roto-Rooter, please visit the Seattle Google+ page.

  • Expert Tips to Prevent Your Home from Flooding, Prepare Now

    After the Thaw Comes the Flooding. Now is the Time to Prepare Homes and Avoid Damage

    By Paul Abrams

    Sump PumpBy mid-March the deep freeze is finally receding in most parts of the nation. This means the snow melt is happening at the same time that early spring rainfall begins. Storm drains and roadside ditches are flowing with water leading to swollen creeks, rivers and lakes. And in some cases, some of that extra water ends up flowing into homes and businesses causing havoc.

    To avoid problems, just consider the path that water might take to find its way into your home. Is it coming through the sewer and drain system or through the walls and floor? Basements are the most susceptible areas for flooding because they are below ground level. Many older basements aren’t equipped with sump pumps to drain away excess ground water so it seems up through floors and through walls. You can seal wall seams all you want but if the ground is saturated on the outside of your basement walls, it will find its way into even the smallest cracks via hydrostatic pressure. If this is the problem you’re experiencing, the only sure fire way to prevent this problem from happening again is to have a sump system installed. We see many families that just accept the fact that water is going to get into their homes every spring. But they don’t have to live with the problem, they just have to face it realistically.

    Another source of flood water is from clogged drains, especially floor drains. You’ll find them in basements, on patios, older garages and sometimes in bathrooms and laundry rooms. Test these drains by pouring several gallons of water through them, or hook up a hose and let it drain into the floor drain. If the drain doesn’t move water away quickly and seems to be working slowly, you have a partial clog and it could result in standing water around the floor drain. Run an auger snake through the pipe to clear away the obstructions.

    Be sure to check roof gutters and downspouts. Make sure they aren’t filled with debris that will inhibit their ability to move water away from your home quickly. Try running a hose from the gutter into your downspouts. If it doesn’t flow through quickly, water could easily back up and cause damage to your roof. It can also force water into your home that can cause wood to rot.

    Yard culverts and storm drains near your house should be inspected. Make sure the grates aren’t obstructed by debris that could allow water to back up onto your property and even into your home. If you need help on the plumbing side, Roto-Rooter can help. If your property has sustained water damage, Roto-Rooter’s water restoration team can get your life and property back to normal in no time.

  • Learn Why It’s Important to Call 811 Before Any Digging Excavation

    What’s underground?

    Know where utility lines are located at all times before you dig. Your life may depend on it

    The best way to answer that question is with another question:  what isn’t underground?

    At Roto-Rooter, the plumbers and sewer excavation crews no doubt run into many things underground in the pursuit of their jobs, from trenching out a new line, to making sewer repairs on an existing line, to excavating for a septic tank,  and while some of those finds may be interesting – any dinosaur bones? – some of them, like natural gas lines and electrical lines, can be downright deadly.

    Texas811 is part of the national 811 “call before you dig” system. We’re proud to be partnering with Roto-Rooter in Texas to get the word out about safe digging practices. In Texas it’s the law that a call be made to 811 prior to any excavation more than 16 inches deep – but we recommend a call for ANY excavation, no matter how deep the cut.

    The 811 number is valid in every state, thanks to a ruling by the FCC in 2005. It is part of the so-called “N-1-1” numbering system, which includes Community Information and Referral Service, 211; Non-Emergency Police and Other Governmental Services, 311; Local Directory Assistance, 411; Traffic and Transportation Information, 511; Repair Service, 611; Telecommunications Relay Service, 711; and Emergency Services, 911.

    Anywhere in the nation that you dial 8-1-1 you will immediately be routed to the nearest One Call center that will take your dig information and issue a locate request ticket to relevant utilities or municipalities in your dig area.  Those utilities have 48 hours to respond and mark the location of their buried lines.

    Here is what the colored flags or spray paint marks on the ground stand for – the uniform color code of the American Public Works Association:

    When you see these flags or paint marks at your dig site, proceed with caution. Hand dig carefully until you unearth the buried lines below.

    Texas811 is, first and foremost, a damage prevention company. We serve over 1,400 member utilities and municipalities in Texas, and in 2014 processed 2,629,287 inbound ticket requests by sending out 14,045,818 notifications to utilities and municipalities for line locates.

    We’re glad to be serving Roto-Rooter Plumbing & Drain Service in Texas, too!

    Because of their close partnership with Roto-Rooter, Texas811 was invited to write a guest post for the Roto-Rooter blog.

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