Combining New Technology and High Standards of Service is Part of a Bright Future for California Contractor

Investing in a UV-cure CIPP lining system opens new avenues for Sacramento-based Hall’s Plumbing

Combining New Technology and High Standards of Service is Part of a Bright Future for California Contractor

 Hall’s Plumbing foreman Joe Garin and technicians John Kim and David Montoya (from left) prepare equipment for a pipelining job.

Interested in Plumbing?

Get Plumbing articles, news and videos right in your inbox! Sign up now.

Plumbing + Get Alerts

Metropolitan areas with large populations and diverse economic bases present plenty of opportunities for a plumbing company. Chris Reynolds, owner of Sacramento-based Hall’s Plumbing, is trying to capitalize on as many of them as he can.

To do so, Reynolds has expanded beyond traditional plumbing services and become a major player in trenchless pipeline work.

“We’re still mostly doing traditional plumbing,” he says, “but now with pipelining, we can help people save money when pipes fail and we’re starting to see a whole new income stream.”

New avenues

Hall’s Plumbing was launched in 1995 by Bill Dantzler and his brother-in-law Leroy Hall, after some years of working for other plumbing companies. The two-person plumbing shop at first heavily targeted new construction and remodeling customers but evolved into primarily offering plumbing services to homeowners and businesses.

Reynolds got involved by chance 16 years ago. He was running a small painting company and was hired to paint Dantzler’s house. Dantzler liked 22-year-old Reynolds’ work ethic and offered him a career change. Reynolds signed on. When Dantzler’s health began to fail, Reynolds shouldered more and more responsibility until, at age 26, he essentially was running the company. He continued in that role for seven more years.

Five years ago last June, Reynolds and his wife Jennifer purchased Hall’s Plumbing. Today, the company continues to focus on serving homeowners and businesses, as the economic vagaries that bedevil remodeling and new construction make them unreliable customer bases. “Plumbing services never grow old, because people are constantly flushing toilets and taking showers.”

Yet it’s cleaning and restoring pipelines that propel the business to new levels. Though plumbing services remain strong, trenchless sewer line repair, cleaning and descaling has boosted the company’s revenue.

“When we took over the company, right out of the box, we did $1.1 million in annual business volume,” Reynolds says. “This year, we’re going to break $5 million. High-speed cleaning and descaling have seen explosive growth.”

The company’s partnership with Perma-Liner Industries illustrates how far and fast the company has moved into trenchless repair work. In mid-2020 — “right in the middle of the pandemic” — Hall’s invested in a $300,000 Perma-Liner-equipped trailer and began to infiltrate the market.

A year and a half later, he says, “We are one of the biggest liners in the area.” In October, Reynolds and his crew leaders traveled to Anaheim to be trained on Perma-Liner’s newest technology in curing of lining — UV light. They were introduced to a system that features 50-foot light trains emitting UV light from dual strands with proprietary hardware that can navigate 90-degree turns in a pipe.

The system targets small-diameter pipe — 3-, 4- and 6-inch lines — and reduces the curing time for a CIPP liner to 10 minutes. “Before this method, there was the ambient cure where you just leave it there until it eventually cures, a steam cure that cut down the time and a hot-water cure. But this UV cure reduces time dramatically.”

Hall’s Plumbing was among the first 10 Perma-Liner clients in the world to offer the UV solution. “Perma-Liner sees our potential and what we are doing,” Reynolds says. “Now they are considering certifying us so we can help with Perma-Liner training.”

Moneymakers

Hall’s Plumbing is headquartered in Woodland, a little southwest of the state capital in the Sacramento Valley. It’s a propitious location. Besides all the state government infrastructure in Sacramento that needs servicing, nearby is the University of California, Davis campus. A 60-year-old agricultural company, Grow West, also is headquartered in Woodland, with rice, peach, plum and tomato production on farms throughout the valley.

Consequently, although 60% of Hall’s customer base is residential plumbing, some of the company’s biggest clients are the warehousing and manufacturing facilities, rice mills and fertilizer plants that constitute the other 40%. The service area of Hall’s Plumbing ranges across 900 square miles, though the bulk of it is within a 15-mile radius in and around Woodland.

“We just got back from Los Angeles where we went to help a friend with a line,” Reynolds says. “Before that, we were at Strawberry Valley up on the mountain for a spot patch repair in a 24-inch line. We’ll go wherever the money is and people need help.”

The company has two locations in Woodland, a 6,600-square-foot office on one side of town and a multi-acre warehouse and equipment facility on the other. The Perma-Liner equipment is there along with an old piece of trenchless repair equipment that predates Reynolds’ involvement with the company: an 18-year-old Pipe Genie pipe bursting machine that still works beautifully, so Reynolds keeps working it.

Newer pieces of equipment include wheeled 727 Spartan jetters plus a trailered model. The latter was hauled to a tomato farm where a clogged 24-inch waterline seriously jeopardized a tomato crop. After two hours of work, Reynolds says, the jetter blasted through, much to the relief of the crop grower.

The company relies exclusively on Vivax-Microtech cameras for drain and sewer inspections. When a line is shown to have failed, Hall’s has Bobcat and Yanmar mini-excavators to remove the soil for a spot repair. The excavation units are used sparingly — 98% of the company’s pipeline work is trenchless. In the future, “I’m thinking about getting a Ditch Witch trailered hydrovac. Probably will buy one pretty soon,” Reynolds says.

The company turns to IMS Robotics for equipment to inspect old pipes, then clean and smooth the pipe interiors, reinstating the infrastructure to a condition that will facilitate lining instead of replacement, and at much lower cost. “It allows old pipe to keep draining.”

The pipeline division of Hall’s Plumbing specializes in delicate and difficult tasks. In one example, a restaurant in a building dating from the 1800s was to be shut down for a week so its historic old flooring could be cut away and its thick concrete subfloor jackhammered to reach a faltering pipe. Instead, Reynolds and his crew came in, dug an access hole in an alley, robotically roamed the pipe and reinstated problematic sections using Picote descalers and lined the pipe. The project was completed in little more than a day.

The company’s longest lining success was a 172-foot shot under an apartment complex. “Perma-Liner people said that was pushing the limits,” Reynolds recalls. He got some pointers from a friend in the industry — Raymond Gray of A1 Total Service Plumbing — and undertook it anyway. Once again, the robotic units were called upon to smooth out the interior so the line could be successfully lined.

Training for a career

Hall’s Plumbing has 24 employees, up from half a dozen when Reynolds began working for the former company owner. “And we could use another three or four.” It’s been difficult to attract and retain new hires at a time when tradespeople are at a premium.

Reynolds says he hires experienced professional help when they are available. Generally, however, they aren’t experienced, and when they are their salaries are inflated.

To bring new, less experienced hires up to speed, he came up with a training program. His crews meet three times a week for sales and trade training. At the equipment warehouse, he constructed a service tech training platform with plumbing fixtures. There, new employees can learn how to work on faucets and water heaters and other plumbing fixtures instead of learning at the expense of customers.

“I always have four to six trainees working. We’re always training. Right now, I’m training five guys under 23 years of age.” The mentoring and training come easily for him because Reynolds calls himself “a people person. My number one passion is helping people and training people. I want to show young people that the trades can be a great avenue for a career, show them the satisfaction that comes from taking care of people, solving problems for them and helping them navigate through stressful times.”

His crews essentially work in separate teams. He split them to reduce the number of people working together, a response to the coronavirus pandemic, but the framework has continued as a way to specialize crew members. “When I hire someone, I ask them if they want to do this or that and then I put them with the people already doing what they want to do. They can focus on certain kinds of work and get proficient more quickly that way and then we can cross-train them as needed.”

High standards

The gregarious company owner appears in most of the company’s Facebook videos where he discusses products and projects, usually mentioning nicknamed employees working alongside him. Postings on the Facebook page are frequent — sometimes daily. While Facebook and other social media outlets constitute most of the company’s marketing, Reynolds looks to Morgan Dietsch, owner of Trenchless Innovation, for additional marketing and graphics help. Company vans are brightly and dramatically wrapped with Dietsch’s designs.

“But the majority of our customer traffic is organic and word or mouth,” says Reynolds. “We have a huge snowball of customers, that’s the biggest thing. We win the Best in Yolo County Award every year. Our reviewers all give us about five stars.”

The future seems bright for Hall’s Plumbing, a future that Reynolds says includes expansion and possibly franchising. “We believe that our quality of work is beyond what most of the competitors offer. We are trying to bring back that old standard of service where you fix something like you said you were going to fix it. It’s about giving a customer what he deserves — hard, fast and quality work.” 



Discussion

Comments on this site are submitted by users and are not endorsed by nor do they reflect the views or opinions of COLE Publishing, Inc. Comments are moderated before being posted.