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Where do you draw the line?

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  • Where do you draw the line?

    I'm a drain cleaner, and very good at what I do. Good enough that I often get asked by customers and or friends who don't understand the distinctions between drain cleaning, plumbing, and HVAC to do things that are really plumbing or HVAC work. I generally refer them out, but have had a couple situations lately where I was tempted to do what needed done.

    Friend had an incident where a tree dropped on his elec service and somehow crossed it up instead of severing it such that his whole house got 220V. Fried a bunch of stuff, including controls and circ pump on his boiler. He had this repaired by an HVAC tech, then had a problem and could not get that tech or any other to answer the phone (Sunday). I went out to have a look and tell him if it was dangerous or not. It was.

    Options were shut off heat and let house freeze if no-one will show up, leave situation as is and risk burning house down, tell him 'yes, it is dangerous, but I can't touch it' and leave him hanging as to what to do, apply bandaid fix and tell him to get a real HVAC person there asap, or fix it for real. It was pretty clear what needed to be done, but it is not what I do. I generally just don't touch anything gas for liability reasons. Called up HVAC person I refer work back and forth with, he called a buddy in the area and sent him.

    Second one; Prior drain customer calls, describes problem, clearly a bad zone valve for domestic hot. Also his shower has no water to it, which I think was maybe an anti-scald doing it's thing as his zone valve had failed open, or maybe a separate issue. I feel pretty competent to replace a zone valve, but it just isn't what I do. Referred this one as well.

    Prior drain customer calls wants sinks and faucets replaced, including popups, p-traps and supplies, water to ice maker on new fridge, new dishwasher put in.

    Many times after shutting a stop for a toilet or sink the stop will leak after turning back on. These I generally replace myself if I cant get them to quit dripping unless they have an in-house maint person to do it.

    Get called for a leaking sink drain, turns out to be a leaking faucet running down and dripping off the drain. These I have repaired, replaced and referred at various times.

    Clear a drain, line backpitched or has a sag in it, relatively easy fix in crawlspace to put it right.

    Clear a 4" service, camera and find it collapsed/separated/whatever in need of digging and repair or replacement.

    As plumbers and HVAC people, where do you think the line should be drawn as to when someone should be liscensed, certified, etc, assuming the liscencing/certs are the only issue; ie, the person doing the work has liability insurance and feels comfortable with the work, just no certs? Where is the line drawn legally in your area?
    Last edited by Ace Sewer; 12-17-2008, 01:48 AM.
    This is my reminder to myself that no good will ever come from discussing politics or religion with anyone, ever.

  • #2
    Re: Where do you draw the line?

    alex, i'm more than qualified to do electrical work, but i reserve it for myself and family. why? because i'm not licensed or insured for it.

    basically it's a liability that my insurance co. won't cover me for.

    same with appliance repair.

    check with your liability co and see what they will cover you for with your current policy.

    phoebe it is


    • #3
      Re: Where do you draw the line?

      the agreement the plumbers i work with is, i don't do plumbing and they don't do drain cleaning. that being said the plumbers will run a top snake, since they are already there, and call me after they fail. i will replace a trap (or parts thereof), a stop, flush valve, fill valve, sometimes repair a broken flange, and have dug up a pipe or two that i suspect as being broken or damaged. i do not repipe or anything beyond simple things that will get the customer back in service. so far this has worked out well for everyone involved.

      i refuse to touch electricity, for liability reasons and i just don't like to mess with it.

      In the never ending struggle to keep the water flowing.... The Poo Poo Cowboy rides again!!!


      • #4
        Re: Where do you draw the line?

        Some guys will try to tackle anything that has a problem and get themselves in trouble. I pretty much know my limitations. I won't work on a oil fired equipment. Mostly because I don't have the equipment to test properly. Power burners on commercial boilers and large steam boilers are off limits. I'll do simple residential wiring switch replacements and such but any work inside a breaker panel is a no-no

        3 way switches and GFI outlets always leave me stumped