A Cable for Every Clog

Multiple drain cleaning machines ensure contractor can handle anything clogged lines can dish out.
A Cable for Every Clog
Fayette Drain & Sewer lead service technician Justin Simmons (left) and service technician David Beard show off the full complement of Duracable drain cleaning machines that each of the company’s service vans carry.

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When buying equipment, Mark Vice — the owner of Fayette Drain & Sewer in Fayette, Alabama — relies on a very simple but effective philosophy: Buy only machines that you’re sure can turn a profit.

“I don’t buy anything unless it’s going to make me money,” says Vice, who’s been cleaning drains and providing plumbing service in and around Fayette since he founded his company in 2000. “And I always make sure I have enough work to support that piece of equipment.”

So far, that’s been the case for Vice, who’s heavily invested in drain cleaning machines made by Duracable Manufacturing. The company owns nine Duracable machines; each of his three service trucks carry three different-size machines: a DM55 (for 3- to 6-inch-diameter pipes), a DM30 (for 2- to 3-inch pipes) and a DM10 (1 1/4- to 2-inch pipes).

Most of his work centers on clogged sewer laterals and plugged drainlines in restaurants and residential homes, he says.

Of course, contractors can’t make money —­ or keep generating repeat business — with breakdown-prone equipment. That’s exactly why Vice invests in Duracable machines, which he first started using in 1996 while working for a drain cleaning franchise. In fact, he says he owns a 30-year-old Duracable machine that’s still going strong.

“I really don’t know about other drain machines because I’ve always run Duracables,” says Vice, whose company employs 12 people and also offers septic tank pumping and septic system installation services. “But I think they’re the best for durability. They almost never break down. If something does go wrong, it’s usually just a small electrical problem.

“They don’t require a ton of maintenance, either,” he adds. “We just use them every day and they keep holding up.”

The reliability aspect also benefits Fayette Drain in terms of customer satisfaction and word-of-mouth referrals. On-the-job equipment breakdowns not only hurt profitability and productivity, they also make a contractor look unprofessional, Vice says.

The machines’ durability became more and more important as the company grew, because Vice was no longer able to oversee every job and help out with problems. “You need more reliable equipment when other guys are working without you around,” he explains. “My guys are trained plumbers, not electrical repairmen — they’re not equipped to fix the machines. So now it’s even more important than ever that we use reliable machines. Technicians want to know that when they flip the switch, the machine is going to turn on and be ready to go to work.”

In addition, Vice says the compact machines are designed for portability and maneuverability, yet are heavy enough to provide the stability required when a cable hangs up in a drain. “When you’re cutting roots, you need something strong that won’t slip around if the cable gets in a bind,” he notes. “When you get into tough spots with these machines, they keep the rpms high enough to get you through it.”

Two things Vice avoids are closed-face reels (except on smaller machines) and the automatic cable-feed option. While he admits a closed reel minimizes on-the-job mess, Vice also points out that they can retain water in the bottom, which can lead to rusty cables. With an open-cage reel, most of the water has dripped off by the time a technician loads it into his service vehicle.

Manual feed gives a technician a better feel for what’s happening inside the pipe. Vice says an experienced drain cleaner can tell if he’s run into roots or mud in the bottom of a broken pipe; he compares it to the way a veteran angler knows what he’s got on the line by the way a fishing pole bends. “I can even tell what kind of pipe I’m running into — PVC versus Orangeburg, for example,” he says. “I think an automatic feeder slows you down, and you can’t feel or judge as well what’s going on because it’s taking the stress of the cable for you.”

The Duracable machines also generate a great return on investment, typically paying for themselves within months of purchase. Even at $3,000 per machine, Vice points out that at $95 per service call, for example, it doesn’t take long to recoup the up-front investment.

Why buy three different-size machines? Vice believes too many inexperienced drain cleaners think they can get away with buying one medium-size machine and using it for handling everything from sinks drains to sewer pipes. But what they end up with is a machine that’s too big for sink drains and too small for unclogging sewer lines. “It’s essential to use the proper snake for the proper drain size or you’re not going to do a very efficient job,” he explains.

Vice says the Duracable machines contribute substantially to his company’s profitability.

“Our name is Fayette Drain & Sewer. We’re a service company, and a high percentage of our service calls stem from clogged drains,” he says. “The drain cleaning business is great for generating profits because you can show up on jobs and not incur any expenses for repair parts. All you need is a trained technician and a truck.”

And durable, reliable drain cleaning machines.


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