Many people are still without heat in their homes after the summer floods. Local plumbers are saying they can finally see a light at the end of the tunnel as they near November, but are still replacing furnaces.
“A little bit of it is ordering, but more so, it’s manpower. I have too many furnaces for how many people I have working with me,” says Devin Nosterud of Devo’s Plumbing and Heating. “And I am booked into the middle of November for putting in furnaces. I have been doing, generally, a furnace every day and a half.”
Quinn Skulmoski at Skulmoski’s Plumbing and Heating is experiencing the same issue.
“The main issue is manpower. In a case like this, you’re just not prepared for this, and all of a sudden you get hit with it and you’re backlogged for quite a while. We’re still pretty backed up, but at least we can see the light at the end of the tunnel.”
Both Skulmoski and Nosterud say they believe furnace replacements will be completed by mid-November. Now, getting furnaces in is a race against the freeze-up, since customers are living without any heat.
“Part of the problem is that people have absolutely no heat at all, so it’s not like they can use an existing furnace in the meantime. So, they’re getting a little bit worried that they may not have heat when it gets cold,” Skulmoski says. “Customers are frustrated, and that’s very understandable, but one good thing is that the good weather has been holding, so that’s a bonus, it helps us get more work done. But as soon as the weather gets a little bit cold, the phone in the office is going crazy, and the phone calls are not happy phone calls. They are urgent and upset. It puts a lot of stress on myself and my staff.”
Nosterud says this year has been stressful, but his customers have been understanding.
“They haven’t been very happy about it, but they’ve been understanding about the situation . . . I do get a lot of calls almost every day, but they’re understanding. I give them a day and I try my best to stick to that—I’m working weekends and long days to try and get the situation taken care of,” he says. “It has been fairly stressful because of the lack of manpower. You can’t keep up with the work that’s coming and it’s becoming an emergency thing now because the cold weather is coming.”
Skulmoski says that at the start of the floods, he worked 45 days without a break, and he and his crew of four have replaced about 200 hot water tanks. He does not have an official count on furnaces. It took getting burned out to start taking breaks.
“We work our eight to 10 hours now. You need time off because your body gets run down, and then you can’t do any work, and you’re no good to anybody. And you can’t get stressed out—you need to be here for your customers. So you need to do what you can do and not let it bother you that you can’t work longer hours or do more,” he says.
Randy Veitch at Pure Plumbing and Heating experienced the same thing, according to his partner Debbie.
“He was taking no breaks for a while, and then he burned himself out. He got so tired that he was working slower, struggling to concentrate. So he started taking weekends off after that,” she says. Pure Plumbing and Heating is a smaller operation, with only Veitch and his brother helping him, so they replaced approximately 20 furnaces, and five boilers.
“There’s a lot of pressure on the plumbers—we had a few emails where people were angry with us because Randy had to turn them down because he wouldn’t be able to get to them until November, so he said they’re better off looking elsewhere. He did not want people to have to wait until November,” Debbie says.
She adds that the whole ordeal has been stressful for local plumbers who have had their hands full since the first day of rainfall in late June.
“People thought this flood would be so good for the plumbers because it is a lot of work, but it’s not. There’s always enough work for plumbers around here . . . It was way too much work for the plumbers here in town. All their other work hasn’t been done, it’s not like they can take a break when it’s done, all the other plumbing work has to be done,” she says.
Skulmoski says he is now backed up six months in terms of the other regular work to be done.
“I think for us, our business is busy anyway, but now instead of doing the work we’d normally be doing this time of year, we’re doing furnaces and boilers and trying to get the flood disaster looked after, and the normal work we’d be doing is all on hold. So we will be playing catch up for six months of work,” he says.