Pipeshield Power Couple Invests in New Technology to Complete Jobs Faster

Husband-and-wife team grows pipe rehab company by leveraging equipment investments to fill a market niche

Pipeshield Power Couple Invests in New Technology to Complete Jobs Faster

 Jaco Vasile attaches a chain knocker to a milling machine to clear a sewer line before lining the pipe.

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The ability to offer customers more solutions for their drainline problems not only opens the door wider for more business opportunities, it also maximizes revenue and profitability.

For proof, look no further than Pipeshield, a small drain cleaning and trenchless pipeline rehab company in Pennsylvania that punches above its weight when it comes to embracing numerous technologies.

In just three short years, owner Jaco Vasile and his wife, Sonya, have increased the company’s revenue by nearly 300% while developing a roster of equipment that would be the envy of many companies. From a trailer jetter and pipe lining, bursting and coating systems to a full array of drain machines and pipeline inspection and locating equipment, Vasile clearly understands the benefits of investing in new technology.

“We’re continually reinvesting back into the company,” he says of the business, located in Downingtown, about 40 miles northwest of downtown Philadelphia. “You have to spend money to make money.

“We’re always interested in finding ways to do jobs easier and faster. Our equipment enables us to turn around jobs quicker, which allows us to do more work than we otherwise could. And with so many solutions at our disposal, we can choose the best option for our customers.

“And we never have to give work away to other companies because we usually have a solution for our customers.”

The one thing that stymied the company from growing even more is difficulty in finding quality employees. “We’re willing to start people at $20 an hour, but still have trouble finding good employees,” he says. “I just don’t understand it.”

But Sonya helped minimize some of the labor issues by leaving her job as a physical therapist and joining forces with her husband in early 2021.

“Bringing her on board really helped,” he says. “Having a second set of hands 24/7 made a real difference.”

Entrepreneurial spirit

Vasile was born and raised in Italy, where he was both a restaurant owner and also helped his uncle, who is a plumber. “I just love to fix things,” he says.

The Vasiles moved to the United States in 2009. While attending school to get his journeyman’s plumbing license, Vasile worked for a Rooter-Rooter franchise and then a trenchless pipeline rehab company before striking out on his own.

“It always was my dream to open my own business and be in control of things,” he explains. “If I fail, it’s my own fault. And if I succeed, it’s to my credit.”

The business really took off when Sonya came on board — and when the company invested in a Mongoose Model 123 trailer-mounted water jetter (12 gpm at 3,000 psi), a brand owned by Sewer Equipment Co. of America. “That machine gave us a lot more options for drain cleaning,” Vasile says.

A RIDGID SeeSnake Compact M40 inspection camera coupled with a RIDGID SeekTech SR-60 utility locator also were game-changing investments.

“If I was starting over, I’d buy the SeeSnake camera right away because you can show clients what’s going on inside their pipes,” he says. “Sometimes what we do is hard for customers to understand, but the cameras help a lot.

“Sometimes we let customers use one of our cellphones or an iPad so they can watch an inspection in their home through a RIDGID app while we’re doing the inspection outside.”

The SeeSnake isn’t cheap, but because it helps sell so many jobs, it paid for itself quickly, he says.

Investments in productivity

The company also owns a Quik-Shot pipe lining system and a Quik-Coating pipeline coating system, made by Quik Lining Systems and sold by Pipe Lining Supply; a Liner Cannon made by Picote Solutions and used for short lining runs; and a TRIC Tools pipe bursting system.

“The Quik-Shot makes it easy to line pipes with just two people,” Vasile points out. “We’ve done up to 250 feet of 6-inch-diameter pipe in one day, which I think is pretty good.”

Vasile uses fiberglass PrimeLiner liners made by Primeline Products and felt liners from MaxLiner USA. He also relies on the PipePatch point repair system made by Source One Environmental; jetting nozzles made by Enz USA; and an SC70 air compressor made by Con X Equipment.

The company’s wide range of drain machines includes a RIDGID K-5208 sectional drain machine; RIDGID K9-102 and K9-204 FlexShaft drain machines; and a Super Midi Miller and a Mini Miller from Picote Solutions.

In addition, Pipeshield has invested in an enclosed box trailer made by Rock Solid Cargo, used to haul pipe lining equipment; Dodge and Ford pickup trucks; and a Komatsu mini-excavator.

Fulfilling a need

Trenchless pipeline rehab work accounts for about 90% of the company’s revenue, with drain cleaning kicking in the balance. “Drain cleaning is a good way for use to get our foot inside the door,” Vasile says.

He decided to focus primarily on trenchless pipe rehab work for two reasons: There’s a large amount of aging infrastructure in the area, and when he started out almost no one else on his service area was doing it, which left an inviting niche to be filled.

Most of the company’s work centers on rehabbing residential sewer laterals. These drainlines typically are 60 to 80 feet long and about 6 to 11 feet deep.

Diversifying into other areas is not likely, he notes. “We’re pretty satisfied where we are. We want to keep focusing on our specialty, trenchless technology, and see where it can take us.”

Vasile credits several things for the company’s success and quick growth. One is constantly communicating with customers during every step in a project. “People really like that,” he says.

Another factor was cultivating relationships with plumbing companies that don’t do drain cleaning or use trenchless technology. Furthermore, Vasile capitalized on a new market when local municipalities began to pass ordinances that require lateral inspections prior to home sales, in order to reduce the chances of unexpected — and very expensive — repairs.

The trend toward required inspections started about 1 1/2 years ago, Vasile says.

“We saw it as a business opportunity. We scope the lines so everyone involved, both the home seller and the homebuyer, can have peace of mind.”

Vasile met with and gave presentations to local realty companies, and word-of-mouth referrals soon followed.

“We found out about the new laws through our Pennsylvania Association of Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors [PA PHCC] organization. Every plumbing company should consider joining local groups like this. A membership will keep you up to speed on things like new laws and building codes.”

Looking to grow

The couple definitely is interested in continuing to grow their business, but concede that expansion will be difficult without more employees. The pair already works long hours every day as well as on weekends at times, so they’ve reached their limit, especially with children to attend to.

“Finding good people is our biggest obstacle to further growth,” Vasile says. “We already have turned down work at times because we simply don’t have enough manpower.

“We’d really like to help out more people, but we physically can’t do anything more than what we’re already doing.”

Eventually, Vasile envisions offering trenchless pipe rehab franchises based on the company’s business model and family-owned culture. But first the company will have to grow further, he says.

“But even if we get bigger, we want to keep that family-owned and local company feel. We also want to hire people who share our values and ethics and are willing to take care of clients the same way that we do.”

Vasile would eventually like to have two or three pipe rehab teams made up of two to three employees each, plus an office staff that can attend to customer needs. He envisions employing 10 to 15 people in all, but given the scarcity of good employees, he has no idea how fast that might happen.

“But I definitely think it’s doable,” he says. 


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