Texas Plumbers Get a Taste of Frozen Pipe Problems

The types of plumbing issues typically associated with northern climates are currently plaguing southern states, especially Texas, following the recent cold snap

Texas Plumbers Get a Taste of Frozen Pipe Problems

Plumber Roberto Valerio shows a customer a broken pipe after removing it from beneath a kitchen sink. (Photo by the Associated Press)

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The winter weather that hit Texas hard last week, cutting off power and heat to millions of people, now is taking a new form: plumbing problems.

The state’s plumbers are being inundated with service calls for pipes that froze and burst, a cold-weather plumbing issue that people in northern locales are more accustomed to dealing with. Edgar Connery, owner of One Call Plumbing in Houston, told the New York Times that his employees have been answering the phones nonstop. In his nearly 40 years of being in business and dealing with the aftermath of other natural disasters, he says he has never seen a demand for plumbing services this severe.

"I'm literally just burning through supplies," says plumber Randy Calazans of his workload in the aftermath of Texas' severe cold snap. (Photo by the New York Times)
"I'm literally just burning through supplies," says plumber Randy Calazans of his workload in the aftermath of Texas' severe cold snap. (Photo by the New York Times)

Randy Calazans, a plumber with One Call Plumbing, has been visiting customers’ homes to determine the extent of damage since returning to work on Feb. 18. He does simple repairs on the spot if he can, but he is also encountering homes that will require major work, maybe even complete repipes. And the simple jobs aren’t always simple, as obtaining materials is becoming a growing problem in the state. Calazans told the New York Times that he has spent hours waiting in lines at supply houses. When he tried to pick up some things at a Home Depot, the shelves were bare.

“I’m literally just burning through supplies,” Calazans said to the New York Times.

“We can’t find what we need easily. There’s a great shortage of supplies,” Roberto Valerio, a plumber in North Texas, told the Associated Press.

“We’re probably one of the last people with anything in our building,” Brad Silver, general manager of Hughes Supply in San Antonio, told TV station KABB 29 on Monday as customers lined up outside the building. “You go to a local Home Depot or Lowe’s, they probably got ransacked the first couple of hours. We keep an inventory that’s certainly capable of handling new construction. So we’re able to take that inventory and leverage it in the position of helping 1,000 people if we have to. We’ve reordered everything, and everything’s going to be coming in just as fast as it’s going out.”

An unfortunate side effect of the backlog that plumbers are trying to catch up on is that some homeowners are attempting DIY fixes instead of waiting for a professional to become available. Recalling some of the poor craftsmanship he has come across over the years, Calazans said that it’s important that the repair work be handled by professionals — even following a disaster of this magnitude.

“You don’t just want anybody doing plumbing,” he told the New York Times.

Victor Martinez of Vekter Plumbing and Drains in Houston told TV station KPRC 2 that he’s already encountered one burst pipe that was the result of a bad repair done following Hurricane Harvey in 2017.

“What happened is they didn’t put in the insulation. They didn’t put in the right pipe, and unfortunately this customer is going to have to tear apart the entire master bathroom to do the proper repair,” he says.

As the full extent of the cold snap’s damage continues to be unveiled, and in anticipation of the need for plumbers, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s office has said that the state will grant provisional licenses to out-of-state plumbers and will waive fees and certain other requirements for plumbers with lapsed licenses who want to renew them. Also, registered and qualified plumber’s apprentices will be allowed to perform repairs without direct supervision to help expedite the recovery.

Chris Pilcic, a spokesperson for State Farm Insurance, told the New York Times that as of Feb. 19 the company had received about 18,900 property claims from Texas customers, most of them related to frozen and broken water pipes.

“Once the pipes start thawing out and the temperature starts getting back to normal, with all that pressure in the pipes, I’m sure there’s going to be a lot of leaks,” Calazans told the New York Times.

And plumbers will stay busy, trying to keep up with the fallout of the cold snap.

“We try to do as best we can. But it’s only so much we can do. It’s only so many hours we can work a day,” plumber Abel Ortega of The Beyer Boys in San Antonio told KABB 29.

Imperial Plumbing of Springville, Utah, is one outside company that is traveling to Texas to help alleviate some of the workload burden. 

“The other morning, I woke up, it was two in the morning, and I was having anxiety. I was feeling really bad for the people in Texas,” owner Frank Hatch told KSL-TV. “And I knew they didn’t have enough plumbers down there to take care of their needs. They don’t deal with frozen lines like we do.”

He and his team decided to go to Texas to provide their services for free to as many people as possible. A GoFundMe page has been set up to support Hatch’s efforts.

“For us to be able to go down to Texas and help our fellow Americans, it means a lot to me,” Hatch says.

Sources: New York Times; Associated Press; KABB 29; KPRC 2; KSL-TV


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