Pandemic keeps plumbers busy; housebound clients mean ‘a lot more toilets being flushed’

Pandemic keeps plumbers busy; housebound clients mean ‘a lot more toilets being flushed’

Plumbers say they’re busier than ever thanks to the coronavirus pandemic keeping most of us at home most of the time the past few months.

“It’s more use of the toilets,” says Tom Mascari, president of Mendel Plumbing & Heating in St. Charles. “Handles are breaking, valves inside need to be replaced.”

“We’ve been working seven days a week, 10-, 12-, 14-hour shifts,” says Jose Rivera, owner of A Solution Sewer & Plumbing in Bridgeview. “By the time I get home, it’s a shower, and off to bed I go.”

“We’ve been incredibly busy — beyond belief,” says William Taylor, owner of Four Seasons Sewer & Plumbing, 6807 W. Irving Park Rd. “There’s a lot more toilets being flushed.”

Pre-pandemic, “You’re using the bathroom facilities in the morning before you go to work or school and then in the evening,” says Brian Wilk, owner of Bishop Heating, Plumbing and Cooling in Des Plaines. But with people stuck at home, “You’re getting more clogged drain lines.”

Some clogs have been caused by people, perhaps worried about toilet paper shortages, who instead did what plumbers will tell you is a big no-no: They used paper towels or wipes that are advertised as flushable but don’t dissolve like T.P.

And sometimes kids, bored with being home so long, toss things in to the toilet that aren’t meant to be tossed into the toilet. Rivera says he recently handled “a dozen of those little trolls that got flushed down the toilet. We were just pulling them out hair by hair.”

People spending so much time at home also have looked around and decided: It’s time we finally fixed things, like replacing old water heaters and taking care of wonky garbage disposals.

“Everyday plumbing fixtures in the house are getting a lot more use,” says Mike Aldous, owner of MJA Plumbing & Sewer in Forest Park.

Plumbers say they’re also getting calls to come repair botched repairsby housebound clients who’ve been filling their hours by studying home-rehab videos and decided: Let’s do it ourselves.

Early on during the COVID-19 shutdown, a lot of people were reluctant to let plumbers enter their homes due to worries about the virus. But backlogs of repairs started building up, plumbers say, and, once workers started wearing face masks and business owners added contactless payment, business started coming back.

“About a week into May, the phones were ringing off the hook and we have been very busy ever since,” says David Ariano, owner of Ravinia Plumbing, Sewer, Heating & Electric in Lincolnshire.

Commercial customers are keeping plumbers busy, too, doing things like adding washing sinks at factories and retrofitting toilets and sinks so they’re touch-free, according to Mascari and Mike Mannion, director of new business at Garces Contractors, 5423 W. Division St.

“Businesses are doing that,” Wilk says, “to protect their workers when they do come back.”

In some cases, the housebound are viewing their bathrooms with new and critical eyes. Byran Henderson of Big Wrench Plumbing & Sewer in South Holland says he’s getting more renovation calls. He says people are telling him, “I’m home now to see this remodel through.

“They’ve had time to look at their house,” Mascari says, and start thinking: “ ‘Why don’t I replace these toilets? They’re old.’ ”

Published at Fri, 19 Jun 2020 18:11:44 +0000

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