After a Time Away, Plumber Finds His Way Back

Ohio plumber transitions back into the industry after years away to start a company geared to making customers happy.

After a Time Away, Plumber Finds His Way Back

  David Hesson, owner of Hesson Plumbing, uses a RIDGID SeeSnake CS12x monitor and a RIDGID SeeSnake MAX RM200 to service a downspout drain at a residence in Pickerington, Ohio.

How does a person find a life’s work? Sometimes it’s through trial and error. In other cases, it’s a matter of heritage, with a succeeding generation finding real purpose in continuing a family business. In every case, a person looking for a suitable career knows he or she has found the coveted niche when work and pleasure become inseparable.

Just so, David Hesson found plumbing and loves it.

The owner of Hesson Plumbing in Pickerington, Ohio, was introduced to the trade early by his father, a farmer from West Virginia.

“There was nothing the man couldn’t do,” Hesson says. “I helped him when I was little, including on some plumbing jobs. Plumbing always stuck out as one of my favorite things.”

Continues Hesson: “It’s the tools and working with my hands. I love working with my hands. I learned 25-plus years ago that plumbing was something I enjoyed, so I never dread coming to work.”

Actually, there was a period of Hesson’s work history that was dreadful. After the recession of 2008-09 slammed the national economy and construction, in particular, Hesson went to work for a natural gas utility company. The first three years were OK, he says. For the last five, though, “I didn’t like my job. I was there for the paycheck,” which, as everyone knows, always falls short of producing satisfaction almost regardless of how large it might be.

In 2016, he and his wife of 25 years, Kristina, concluded that Hesson had strayed from his niche. Together, they decided he should return to working with faucets and plugged pipes and water heaters. Hesson Plumbing was born.

The 44-year-old tradesman didn’t segue into operating his own plumbing firm. Rather, he took a “leap of faith” and quit one job to start the other. It was a clean break that only worked because of relationships in the trades, he says, friends who sent him work or referred potential customers to him. Momentum built steadily as his quality work created word-of-mouth endorsements.

Hesson was driven to succeed as much for his customers as for himself, which sounds unrealistically idealistic but seems a core part of his business plan: Take care of customers. “I worked for other companies and didn’t feel the love of the companies for their customers. They seemed to be looking after themselves rather than looking after customers. I decided it was time to get back to treating customers the way that I feel they deserve to be treated.”

AN EXPANSION OF SERVICES

His plumbing clients mostly are homeowners, people living their lives and experiencing a clogged drain or malfunctioning water heater. At first, Hesson concentrated on basic plumbing tasks of that sort and then began to expand his service offerings. The company now also offers camera inspection of lines, hydrojetting of clogged pipes, trenchless sewer line patches and natural gas line repairs.

His favorite? “Frankly, I love doing drains,” Hesson says. He tells a story about a client who invited four other plumbing firms to clear a sink drainpipe. “The old galvanized drain hadn’t worked well in 15 years and the other companies had wanted to jackhammer and tear up the house. I got there and worked on it for 20 minutes and had it fixed. I managed to clear the corrosion from the pipe. The owner said, ‘There’s no way!’”

Concludes Hesson: “Big companies too often are about the big ticket. They would rather jackhammer and replace a pipe rather than just fix the problem.”

Hesson doesn’t rely on a jackhammer, needless to say. In his 16-foot box truck or his van are such fundamental plumbing tools as a Valor drum machine (DCD) and, for more aggressive clearing jobs, a RIDGID K1600 sectional machine running 1 1/4-inch cable. He has three RIDGID inspection cameras, including a SeeSnake mini unit.

If a camera viewing shows a collapsed sewer pipe, Hesson patches it employing an APS pipelining system that inserts a resin-impregnated liner, conforms it to the pipe interior by inflating a bladder and cures it in place. Voila! The pipe is patched.

When trenchless repair of in-ground pipe is impossible, Hesson subs out the excavation to a fellow tradesman, which might happen eight or 10 times a month. The relationship is one of mutual aid, with Hesson in turn doing jobs that the friend can’t. The two tradesmen are about to expand their joint service options because his “partner” just purchased pipe-bursting equipment.

Behind his work trucks, Hesson pulls a US Jetting unit, a model 4018 machine with a 75 hp diesel engine that can produce 4,000 psi and push out a stream at 18 gallons a minute. “We get several calls a week for the jetter. We don’t do near as much cabling now.”

Hesson has begun to covet a Picote system for his equipment lineup. He had planned to give the system a thorough look-see at a trade show scheduled recently in Indianapolis, but the show was canceled, another victim of the pandemic.

“You can do a lot with a jetter,” the plumber says, “but that Picote can really descale the inside of a cast iron pipe. It’s phenomenal. We have a couple of RIDGID tools for descaling but when you need to be really aggressive, the Picote definitely is the go-to machine.”

Hesson works in four counties in central Ohio — Fairfield, Franklin, Licking and Pickaway — but most service calls are in Pickerington, which has neighborhoods with pipe 50 years old and older. He calls the state of the infrastructure job security. “I’ve worked on a few projects built in the late 1800s,” he said. “And in a couple of neighborhoods south of downtown Columbus are homes that still have lines for gas lamps.”

Hesson does “quite a lot” of natural gas work. He says he has a job “going on right now where a homeowner has built a new patio behind his house and wants a gas line running to it. We do quite a bit of gas. I did a whole-house conversion from all-electric to natural gas.”

The variety of plumbing and related work leaves Hesson stumped about the proportional amount of work hours devoted to each task. “That’s a hard question,” he says. “My workday is determined by the calls that come in. There are days we do a water heater one hour and hydrojet a sewer the next or clean a storm drain. We offer a lot of services for a small shop.”

And his least favorite task? Turns out he doesn’t much like being wedged into small spaces. “I’m pushing six feet, four inches and weigh 250 pounds. Some crawl spaces are pretty tight. Some of those spaces and me don’t get along very well.”

FOLLOWING THE INDUSTRY

The company has been in business long enough for Hesson to discern trends in the local industry. Last year, he got numerous calls for replacement of foundation drainlines. The buried lines are fed by roof gutters and carry rainwater away from basement walls. Typically, the lines are made of cheap material and replacement is common. “But we haven’t done a lot of that this year.”

What is becoming increasingly popular in his region of Ohio is replacement of traditional outside faucets with Aquor fittings. The units feature plug-in type pipe connections that are covered by a small drop-down door. The advantage of an Aquor connection is that it stymies insects that want to build nests in an exposed faucet opening in winter months, creating water-flow problems when spring arrives.

Another plumbing innovation that Hesson has seen grow in popularity over three years or so is the Moen smart water security system. He is certified to install the system, which lets a homeowner shut off a water supply to the house through remote commands from a phone or tablet.

“So when a couple is boarding a plane and asking one another, ‘Did you shut off the water? No. Did you?’ they can shut it off at that moment,” Hesson says. “I strive to keep up with the most up-to-date technology.”

Keeping up with service calls over the last year hasn’t been so much a matter of technological advancements, however. It has been more about dealing with home-life aberrations stemming from the pandemic.

“During the quarantine, we’ve had tons of calls about clogged drains and failing water heaters,” Hesson says. “With everyone staying in the house, plumbing systems that aren’t used to constant all-day, day-to-day usage are getting overworked and failing. I had one client that put cat litter down the toilet.” 



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