Municipal or Residential Drain Cleaning: Which is Right for You?

Are you considering expanding your drain cleaning services? Here's some advice to help you decide if residential contracts or long-term municipal work is best for you.
Municipal or Residential Drain Cleaning: Which is Right for You?
Do you prefer residential work or long-term municipal projects?

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Drain cleaning contractors often straddle the worlds of residential and commercial/municipal service. Two contractors share their insights on the different approaches they take to each type of work. 

Bill Heinselman is owner of Express Sewer & Drain located in Rancho Cordova, a suburb of Sacramento, Calif. He specializes in plumbing, pipe cleaning, bursting and relining. 

He says the major difference between residential and other contracts is the uncertainty factor going into the job. 

“Public projects are black and white,” he says. “Once your bid is accepted, the money has already been allocated and there are standards and benchmarks you have to meet. The inspector looks at the work and if you meet those standards, they’re happy. With the residential contract there are different levels of happiness, depending on the scope of the work you have to do and the final cost of the work.” 

Residential customers also have an emotional attachment to their properties and that affects the way they feel about the work to be completed. 

“They want to make sure that they get the best value for their money and often that leads to micromanaging the work, but without the skills required to actually manage it,” Heinselman says. “People obviously don’t want to spend money on their homes that they weren’t expecting. While we can’t work for nothing, if we can offer them something for free that they might have expected to pay for, that generally makes for a happy customer.” 

Scott Montgomery is president of Accurate Leak and Line, a company specializing in pipe rehabilitation and underground plumbing repair with headquarters in Dallas-Fort Worth. Its specialty is epoxy lining of potable water pipes and sewer drain pipes. 

Municipal and commercial contracts are generally more complex than residential contracts, often encompassing as much as an entire city block, Montgomery says. While residential customers are obviously concerned about how long it takes for their work to be completed, the non-residential work offers a little more pressure, because it’s often broken down into a series of deadlines. 

“The biggest difference between the two types of contracts is how you deal with the customer,” he says. “The municipal and commercial customer is an entity that has already allocated the funds for the project and knows the scope of work and the cost of the project. The homeowner is a flesh and blood person who probably didn’t expect the added expense of whatever work you’ll be doing for them.” 

Often, however, residential work can offer a little more face time than might be optimal. 

“Residential customers are often right there at home and it’s a much more intimate process,” he says. “To them, it’s like you’re doing surgery on their plumbing. They like to ask questions about what you’re doing as you work, so we try to head them off at the pass by explaining the project in detail before we start. That tends to ease their concerns.” 

Montgomery says he tries to approach residential work with the attitude of a homeowner.

“I often introduce the options available to them, then tell them that if it were my home, this is the option that I would go with,” he says. “It helps to win their trust.”

Whether you want to win the trust of a homeowner with reliable equipment or meet the black-and-white demands of large municipal projects, these drain cleaning tools will help you tackle the toughest jobs:

Why do you prefer residential work or long-term municipal projects? Let us know in the comments below. 


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