“I think a lot of those plumbers that came in from out of state, and even the plumbers here that weren’t up to par for the job, kind of just did a lot of handyman specials,” McGinnis Plumbing foreman Louis Ybarra said.
The company received numerous calls for improperly vented hot water heaters, which was one of several common issues, Ybarra said.
“I’ve had so many people complain about headaches and smells, and so many other things, just because the plumber that was in there didn’t ... do the ventilation correctly,” he said.
In the days after the storm, McGinnis Plumbing received hundreds of calls and texts, compared to early July when the business had 30-40 calls per day, which is still elevated.
The need for service was so prolific that plumbers were sometimes unable to move on to other calls as neighbors of customers requested assistance, one after another, Ybarra said.
“I would send plumbers to one house, and then he’d be like, ‘Hey, the next door neighbor pulled me over here, the guy across the street, his whole house is flooded,’” he said. “It was frantic.”
The rush to fix so many issues in rapid succession was also combined with homeowners attempting their own repairs and buying supplies needed by plumbers. Scarcity of supplies created additional issues, including a lack of solder, or a metal alloy that is melted to seal pipes together.
“The other thing, too, is making sure that whenever they did solder the pipes, that they use the right solder,” Ybarra said. “A lot of people think solder is solder, but that’s lead contamination if someone were to use 50/50 lead solder on a water line bringing [water] into your kitchen line.”
He said residents can check their water quality by picking up free water test kits from hardware stores, such as Lowe’s or Home Depot, or by calling plumbers or home inspectors.
To prevent frozen pipes, Ybarra suggested homeowners let hot and cold water lines drip during blackouts, as both pipes are liable to freeze. Outdoor faucet warmers and covers can prevent freezes originating outdoors, which was a common cause for burst pipes, he said.
Ybarra recommended reading reviews and being cautious of plumbers from other states, and to also make sure the company is licensed.
“Find somebody local that someone else has seen in their house and knows what type of business they do and how they approach the problems that they do come across,” he said.