Contractor Sees Great Return on Investment With Powerful Cart-Mounted Jetter

Portable water jetters prove to be a profitable investment for Hawaiian drain cleaner

Contractor Sees Great Return on Investment With Powerful Cart-Mounted Jetter

Pipe Masters technician Rory Chinen prepares to clean a drainline in a condominium unit, where the Brute jetter’s maneuverability becomes a great asset.

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Jason Koran hit the return-on-investment jackpot when he purchased a Brute portable water jetter from Jetters Northwest for about $14,000.

His company, Pipe Masters, landed a $100,000 annual maintenance contract to clean sewer lines at two high-rise condominiums in Honolulu, on the Hawaiian island of Oahu. And the contract definitely wouldn’t have happened without the Brute.

“We couldn’t do jobs like this without the Brute,” he says. “It’s not only powerful, but it’s also small enough to fit inside an elevator so we can work in high-rise buildings.

“We also can move the machine around and clean with just one guy. We still have two guys out there for safety reasons, but we can get away with just one guy if needed. It weighs almost 500 pounds, but it sure doesn’t feel like it when you’re moving it around.”

Koran notes the machine’s 4,000 psi at up to 9 1/2 gpm makes it powerful enough to push debris, such as heavy scale, downstream. The Brute also features 200 feet of 1/2-inch-diameter hose, a triplex plunger water pump manufactured by UDOR U.S.A., a 12-gallon “buffer” water tank, a heavy-duty hose reel and a 25 hp propane-powered engine made by Kohler Power Systems. It also offers pulse control, an easy-access control panel; an adjustable pressure regulator; and heavy-duty caster wheels that improve maneuverability in tight quarters. It measures 45 inches long by 33 inches wide by 46 inches high.

Proving its mettle

Thanks to the Brute, cleaning pipes to virtually brand-new condition is no problem for technicians at Pipe Masters. In fact, a bigger issue is just convincing people that a water jetter can get the job done where cable machines with cutter heads often fail, Koran says.

In fact, that’s exactly what happened at the two high-rise condo buildings, one 27 stories tall and the other 13 stories high. Both buildings were plagued by sewer line backups, he explains.

Pipe Masters provided the owner of the condos with two quotes, one for jetting the lines and another for cabling the lines. “We ended up with a one-year maintenance contract to do cabling but still had issues with clogged lines on the bottom floors,” Koran says.

But the problems ceased when the owner agreed to let Pipe Masters use the Brute to jet the lines clean. “From then on, the board (of the condominium’s homeowner association) was sold on jetting technology. But the contract is ours to lose, too. If we don’t do a good job, they can pull the contract. So we need a machine we can rely on.”

The insurance company covering the two buildings threatened to drop the policy unless the owner committed to a regular maintenance program aimed at reducing the number of claims filed for sewer backups. So now Pipe Masters cleans about 1,000 linear feet of underground sewer lines (6 to 8 inches in diameter) and roughly 5,000 linear feet of cast iron vertical stack pipes (3 to 4 inches in diameter).

“It takes us about six weeks to clean all the lines in both buildings, using one Brute and two technicians,” Koran says.

Clog-free guarantee

Pipe Masters guarantees its work for one year — a guarantee Koran says he’d never offer without the Brute. “If a pipe backs up after we clean it, we’re out there working for free, unless the clog is caused by a mechanical failure or foreign objects.

“We inspect the lines when we’re finished, so we know they shouldn’t clog again. The Brute gives us a great deal of confidence because we know it’s opening up pipes to their original size.”

The company owns five SeeSnake inspection cameras: one standard model for inspecting mainlines, plus two Mini and two microDrain models. The company also relies on three SeekTech SR-20 pipeline locators made by RIDGID.

Established in 2008, the Honolulu-based company employs 10 people, runs five service vehicles (Ford cargo vans) and services the island of Oahu. Its main services are drain cleaning, trenchless pipe repair, and residential plumbing service and repair work.

For drain cleaning, the company’s main customers are apartment and condominium buildings, commercial businesses and shopping centers, Koran says.

Making bank

The Brute is a good revenue generator because Koran charges a premium rate for drain cleaning work that includes a two-hour minimum charge. “If we’re out on an emergency call and we’re done in half an hour, which isn’t unusual, we still charge for two hours. Plus, we can do jobs with the Brute that others can’t. We’re constantly dealing with 4-inch-diameter pipes that are (tuberculated) down to 2 inches or less, but the Brute restores them to their original size.”

Pipe Masters actually owns two Brutes, one bought in 2012 and the second in February 2019. Koran says they’re well-engineered machines that are reliable and easy to maintain. His plans include buying another one.

“I already know that for sure. We just hired three techs, and if we continue with this kind of growth, we’re going to need more jetters. We’re as busy as we can be and there’s still so much work out there.”


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