Diamond Certified Companies are Rated Highest in Quality and Helpful Expertise.

  • Why this rating is the most accurate.
  • Our editors gather deep company info.
  • Performance is Guaranteed.

DIAMOND CERTIFIED EXPERT CONTRIBUTORS IN THE Bay Area – Plumbing CATEGORY

Bill Van Mastrigt is a 20-year veteran of the plumbing industry and owner of Advanced Plumbing and Rooter Service, a Diamond Certified company. He can be reached at (925) 276-5616 or by email.

Bill Van Mastrigt

diamond certified contributor profile and expert article

Bill Van Mastrigt: A Simple Profession

By James Florence, Diamond Certified Resource Reporter

SAN RAMON — Dissatisfied with working for a large corporation, Bill Van Mastrigt followed his desire for a simpler profession to a career in the plumbing industry. “After my service in the military, I went to work for the Shell oil refinery in Martinez,” he recounts. “After about six years, I decided I didn’t like the big corporate environment and wanted to do something on a smaller scale. I knew the owner of a plumbing company in Concord, and he agreed to hire me and train me in the business. Eventually, I decided to continue in the industry with the goal of starting my own company.”

Today, as owner of Advanced Plumbing and Rooter Service, Bill says his favorite part of his job is forming long-term relationships with his customers. “I enjoy getting to know my customers on a more personal level over time. I find it very rewarding to be closely connected to my community—plus, you’d be amazed at how many bags of Christmas cookies I bring home during the holidays!”

A resident of San Ramon (where he lives with his wife, Nilda, and their children), Bill prefers to spend the bulk of his free time outside. “We’re very outdoorsy people,” he affirms. “In the winter we’re skiing and snowboarding, and in the summer we do a lot of hiking, camping, and hunting. You name it—if it’s outdoors, we like doing it.”

In regard to his professional career, Bill says he hopes to build a legacy. “My long-term goal with the business is to create something that’s both a sustainable source of income and that will provide professional opportunities for my kids as they grow older. I already have one son in the industry and, just like me, it has opened up a lot of opportunities for him. Of course, keeping the business growing and successful means maintaining the core values I started with: being honest, doing the job right and taking care of the customer.”

When asked the first thing he’d do if he were to retire tomorrow, Bill says he’d expand the scope of his wilderness experience. “As an outdoor enthusiast, I’d like to travel around and see some new places. I’d also probably schedule some out-of-state hunting trips. I’ve always wanted to go moose hunting in Alaska.”

Ask Me Anything!

Q: What’s your favorite local restaurant?
A: It depends on the type of food I’m in the mood for. For sushi, I like Amakara in Dublin; for Mexican food, it’s Maria Maria in Danville.

Q: What’s your favorite thing to do on a rainy day?
A: If I’m not working, I love to stay home with my kids and make grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup.

Q: Are you an early bird or a night owl?
A: I’m kind of both.

Q: What kind of music do you like?
A: Mainly country, but I have a background of listening to heavy metal bands like Metallica, which I still enjoy.

Q: What was your favorite toy as a child?
A: My Big Wheel.

Read more

Pros and Cons of Tankless Water Heaters

Shares

SAN RAMON — If your water heater needs to be replaced, you may be considering switching to a tankless model. However, while a tankless water heater certainly has its advantages, it’s not necessarily a good investment for every home. Before making… Read more

Advantages of Hot Water Recirculation

Shares

SAN RAMON – Like most people, you’ve probably had the experience of turning on your faucet or shower and waiting for the water to heat up. In fact, this is likely something you experience on a daily basis. However, there are… Read more

Expert Video Tip

Video: Tankless Water Heater Considerations

Shares
Complete Video Transcription:

SAN RAMON — Host, Sarah Rutan: If you’re thinking about switching from a conventional water heater to a tankless model, there are a few practical considerations… Read more

Adam Garza is a 23-year veteran of the plumbing industry and owner of San Jose Plumbing, Inc., a Diamond Certified company since 2004. He can be reached at (408) 372-8978 or by email.

Adam Garza

diamond certified contributor profile and expert article

Adam Garza: Plumbing Pride

By James Florence, Diamond Certified Resource Reporter

SAN JOSE — Adam Garza learned about plumbing from his father while he was growing up, but it wasn’t until later in life that he acquired a sense of pride in the family trade. “My father has been a plumber for 35 years, and he started San Jose Plumbing back in 1991,” he details. “As a kid, I used to ride around with him and he would teach me about the trade. However, it wasn’t something I wanted to do for a living—after all, not too many eight-year-olds aspire to become plumbers.”

Following high school, Adam enrolled at a local junior college, unsure of his professional path but confident it wouldn’t involve plumbing. However, when a family emergency struck, he suddenly found himself in the thick of it. “During my second year of junior college, my dad fell ill,” he recounts. “There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for my family, so when he asked if I’d come on board and help out with the business, I dropped out of school and came to work.” Not long after getting into plumbing full-time, Adam noticed an unexpected development. “Somewhere along the way, I learned to really enjoy plumbing. I liked the fact that every day was different, and I enjoyed working with my hands and helping people. After my dad regained his health and returned to work, I decided to stick with it. Twenty years later, it’s turned out to be a great career for me.”

Today, Adam says his favorite part of his job is the opportunity to help others. “It feels really good to have a job where I get to help people every day. A lot of our jobs are emergency situations, so it’s very rewarding to show up, assure the customer that everything is under control and see them breathe a sigh of relief.”

A resident of Gilroy (where he lives with his wife, Mia, and their three children), Adam expresses an appreciation for his local community. “I was born and raised in San Jose, so I feel like I’m very much a part of this community,” he says. “I take a lot of pride in being able to serve my friends and neighbors.”

Outside of work, Adam likes to stay active with physical exercise and outdoor activities. “My job is very physically demanding, so I like to stay in shape by working out, running and mountain biking,” he affirms. “I also enjoy going camping with my family. We’re very outdoorsy, so we spend a lot of time in Tahoe going hiking and stuff like that.”

In his life and career, Adam espouses the importance of communication. “Communication is central to any good relationship, whether it’s with your family, your staff or your customers,” he asserts. “When there’s clear communication, everything is out in the open and expectations are real, but when there isn’t, it really limits your potential, so I always make an effort to keep those lines open.”

When asked the first thing he’d do if he were to retire tomorrow, Adam says he’d book an extended stay at his family’s favorite vacation spot. “I’d probably spend a summer at Tahoe with my family. We love it there and try to go a few times a year, so it would be a blast to do the whole summer!”

Ask Me Anything!

Q: What’s your favorite sports team?
A: The Golden State Warriors.

Q: Music or talk radio?
A: It depends. During the day I listen to KNBR sports talk radio, but in the evening I enjoy music.

Q: If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?
A: Italy. My wife is Italian and has family there, so I’d like to take a trip to meet them.

Q: If you could time travel, would you go to the past or the future?
A: The past. I really love the 1950s and ’60s, especially the muscle cars of that era, so it would be fun to travel back to that time.

Q: What’s your dream car?
A: A Mustang Boss 302.

Read more

Plumbing Leak Prevention

Shares

SAN JOSE — A minor plumbing leak may be easy to ignore, but over time it can constitute a substantial waste of water. Additionally, leaky plumbing connections beneath sinks and near floors often go unnoticed, which can lead to problems… Read more

Expert Video Tip

Video: Leak Detection and Prevention

Shares
Complete Video Transcription:

SAN JOSE — Host, Sarah Rutan: One of the simplest measures you can take to avoid a costly water bill is to routinely check your plumbing fixtures… Read more

Joel Ledesma is owner of Atlas Plumbing & Rooter, a Diamond Certified company since 2008. He can be reached at (650) 469-3933 or by email.

Joel Ledesma

diamond certified contributor profile and expert article

Joel Ledesma: A Fitting Career

By James Florence, Diamond Certified Resource Reporter

SAN FRANCISCO — Whereas many people discover their life’s calling early on, for Joel Ledesma, finding his niche as a plumbing professional came at the end of a lengthy pursuit. “I used to have a lot of dead end jobs—at various points, I was a bartender, a soccer referee and a massage therapist, but none felt like it suited me,” he says. “When I started plumbing, I could immediately sense something was different. It came easy to me, and it didn’t even feel like work. I enjoyed the problem-solving aspect, and it felt good to stand back and look at my accomplishments.”

Not long after starting a job with a local plumbing company, Joel felt the entrepreneurial urge and opened his own business in 2005. “By doing my own thing, I figured I could create an environment where I’d be comfortable and have greater control of things like pricing and customer care.” While he’d intended it to be a small, one-man operation, Joel soon found his business growing at a rapid rate. “At first, it was just me and a helper, but we started getting busier and busier. I never thought we’d get to be as big as we are now.”

Today, as owner of Atlas Plumbing & Rooter, Joel says he enjoys being on the cutting edge of industry innovation. “I like the challenge of learning new things and keeping up with the latest plumbing technology. Not only is it neat to see all the innovation, it’s also becoming easier to do what we do, thanks to advancements like trenchless sewer line replacement.”

As a resident of San Bruno (where he lives with his wife, Sarah; daughter, Julia; and son, Joely), Joel appreciates the perks of living and working in the San Francisco vicinity. “In such a large and old city, there’s no shortage of strange things for a plumber to come across. Every so often, I’ll see something I’ve never seen before, like a 50-year-old copper-lined water heater.” Joel says he also enjoys the close-knit character of his San Bruno community. “It’s a small neighborhood, so everyone knows each other, which I really like.”

Outside of work, Joel enjoys spending time with family and attending local sporting events. “I’m a sports guy, so I like going to Giants and 49ers games, but I also enjoy taking my kids to places like the zoo,” he says. Regardless of the destination, Joel’s outings also give him an opportunity to practice his hobby of photography. “I enjoy photography, whether I’m taking pictures of my kids, animals at the zoo or athletes at sporting events.”

In regard to his career, Joel espouses the importance of professional integrity. “If someone is unhappy with my service, I don’t dodge their phone calls; rather, I get to the bottom of it, even if it means refunding their money,” he explains. “I just want to be as fair as possible, which is something I think my customers appreciate.”

When asked what he’d do if he were to retire tomorrow, Joel says he’d transition into a full-time career as a stay-at-home dad. “I’d stay home with my kids, take them to school and pick them up afterward. I currently coach my daughter’s soccer team, so I’d probably be more involved with that as well.”

Ask Me Anything!

Q: What’s your favorite restaurant?
A: Trapeze Restaurant in Burlingame.

Q: What kind of movies do you like?
A: I like goofy comedies like “Dumb and Dumber” and “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective.”

Q: Did you play any sports in high school?
A: I played baseball and basketball, but I particularly excelled at soccer.

Q: What was your favorite video game as a child?
A: Super Mario Bros.

Q: If you could talk to anyone living or dead, who would it be?
A: Freddie Mercury, just because I’m a big Queen fan.

Read more

Getting to the Root of Sewer Pipe Damage

Shares

SAN FRANCISCO — When it comes to preventing sewer problems, most people assume it’s a matter of not putting the wrong things down the toilet or sink drain. However, few realize that the primary cause of damage to a home’s… Read more

Expert Video Tip

Video: How to Prevent a Broken Sewer Pipe

Shares
Complete Video Transcription:

SAN FRANCISCO — Host, Sarah Rutan: Avoiding costly sewer line repairs in the future often means taking proactive steps today. We’re in San Francisco with Diamond Certified Expert Contributor,… Read more

James Burton is general manager of Oak Plumbing Inc., a Diamond Certified company. He can be reached at (707) 652-9121 or by email.

James Burton

diamond certified contributor profile and expert article

James Burton: True Survivor

By James Florence, Diamond Certified Resource Reporter

BENICIA — Before he was general manager of Oak Plumbing Inc., James Burton handled logistics for major corporate accounts—no small responsibility, to be sure. “In my prior career, I ran massive warehouses on huge accounts for clients like Honeywell and Hewlett-Packard,” he details. “One of the biggest accounts I managed was a billion-dollar vaccine program. It wasn’t unusual for me to be managing up to 400 employees at one time.”

So, how did someone accustomed to handling such large-scale operations end up working at a small plumbing company? As James relates, it resulted from the combination of a lifelong friendship and a life-altering event. “I’ve been friends with Matt Harris, the owner of Oak Plumbing, for about 30 years. What’s more, he saved my life. When I was 30, I found out I had stage 4 cancer and, if I didn’t get to a specialist immediately, I might be dead within a couple of days. When my insurance company declined to cover an airlift or ambulance transport, Matt rushed me from Nevada to San Francisco in his car to get me the care I needed. He was there for me throughout my recuperation as well. Incredibly, I made a complete recovery, and now I’m totally cancer-free.”

Following his recovery, James took the opportunity to reboot his professional livelihood. “Matt and I always wanted to work together, but it just never worked out,” he explains. “When Matt started Oak Plumbing in 2016, I helped out as a consultant, assisting him with things like corporate structure and process. Eventually, it made sense for us to work together on a permanent basis, so I joined the company and have been working here ever since.”

Today, as general manager of Oak Plumbing, James says his favorite part of his job is having a positive impact. “One thing I like about working in the service industry is the opportunity to help people and be a positive presence in their lives, if only for a short while. When you have a chance to interact with someone and improve their day, it feels very validating.”

A resident of Rocklin (where he lives with his wife, Maricar, and their two children, Camille and James), James spends his free time on a variety of active pastimes. “I’m not the type of person who likes to sit still, so if I’m not working or having family time, I’m usually busy with one of my hobbies,” he affirms. “My main hobby is creating independent comic books for a company called Scattered Comics. I make appearances at comic conventions and have won a few awards for the books I’ve done.” James’ other pastimes include restoring vintage vehicles (“I have a 1976 Harley that I’ve been rebuilding forever.”) and teaching kung fu.

In regard to a personal philosophy, James espouses the power of a positive mindset. “When I began cancer treatment, the doctor explained that if I didn’t maintain a positive mindset, the stress would cause a chemical reaction that would destroy my immune system and I wouldn’t survive. Afterward, I was sitting there with Matt and I said, ‘What did I do wrong to make this happen to me?’ He replied, ‘You didn’t do anything wrong. You’re a good person, and bad things are always trying to bring good people down. It’s up to you to decide how you’re going to respond to this bad thing.’ That had a big impact on me, and it helped me change my mindset. I’d never been a very positive person, but I now saw that it was up to me whether I was going to be a victim or a survivor. That was the second time Matt saved my life.”

When asked the first thing he’d do if he were to retire tomorrow, James says he’d devote more time to the people and pastimes he loves. “As a cancer survivor, I feel that I’m living on borrowed time, so I try to make the most of it. On that note, if I retired from my job, I would spend more time on my two favorite pastimes: being with my family and creating comics.”

Ask Me Anything!

Q: What’s your favorite book?

A: “American Gods” by Neil Gaiman.

Q: Music or talk radio?

A: I love music, but these days I mostly listen to podcasts. I have a really long commute, and listening to podcasts gives me a chance to learn something new and make the most of that time in the car.

Q: Are you an early bird or a night owl?

A: Both.

Q: Do you have a favorite movie?

A: My all-time favorite movie is “Army of Darkness.” However, a more recent favorite is “Logan,” which I appreciated in a way I never thought I would. A superhero infected with cancer, watching his surrogate father die—it hit pretty close to home.

Q: What’s your favorite kind of food?

A: I really love Asian food and Mexican food. I married into a Filipino family, so Asian food is a staple. On the other hand, you can’t beat a good taco!

Read more

Thinking Proactively About Your Plumbing System

Shares

BENICIA — When it comes to maintaining your home, one of the best things you can do is think proactively. The health of your home is just like the health of your body. Most of us tend to think proactively about our… Read more

Expert Video Tip

Video: Proactive Care for Your Plumbing System

Shares
Complete Video Transcription:

BENICIA — Host, Sarah Rutan: The best way to avoid plumbing problems is to be proactive about routine maintenance and inspections. Today we’re in Benicia with Diamond Certified… Read more

Kyle Barnhart is vice president of Mike Testa Plumbing, Inc., a Diamond Certified company. He can be reached at (415) 868-5917 or by email.

Kyle Barnhart

diamond certified contributor profile and expert article

Kyle Barnhart: Gradual Growth

By James Florence, Diamond Certified Resource Reporter

SAN RAFAEL — Looking back on his plumbing career, Kyle Barnhart identifies a gradual progression of steady professional growth. “My entire career has basically been one big on-the-job learning experience,” he says. “It started in my childhood—my father was a plumber and he used to take me with him to jobsites. I always had an interest in the trade, especially the troubleshooting aspect. You really have to use your brain, and a lot of times, it’s like figuring out a puzzle. After high school, I got a job with a general contractor I knew and things took off from there. In 2012, I was hired at Mike Testa Plumbing and I’ve been here ever since.”

As vice president of Mike Testa Plumbing, Inc., Kyle says his favorite part of his job is passing on his knowledge to rookie plumbers. “I do a little bit of everything here, from hands-on work to office management, but I particularly enjoy training our new employees. It’s good to see younger people with an interest in the trade, and I appreciate the opportunity to teach them the right way to do things.”

A resident of Petaluma (where he lives with his wife, Kaci, and their two daughters), Mike spends his time outside of work on a variety of pastimes. “I have a 2010 Harley-Davidson FXDC that I enjoy riding and working on,” he details. “I’m also a big reader and do a lot of small remodeling projects on our home.” Additionally, Kyle enjoys spending quality time with his family. “We try to keep our kids busy, because otherwise they go crazy. They’re involved in soccer and taekwondo, and we also take them to the park and go on family bicycle rides.”

In regard to his professional career, Kyle says honesty is the best policy. “I try to be upfront about everything with our customers. I don’t like to sugarcoat things. I find that a straightforward, honest approach helps ensure our customers get the best possible value and service.”

When asked the first thing he’d do if he were to retire tomorrow, Kyle says he’d plan a European vacation. “I’ve been to Europe once, but I’d like to go back for an extended length of time and bring my family. In particular, I’d like to tour the Nordic countries of Sweden, Iceland and Finland.”

Ask Me Anything!

Q: What’s your favorite local restaurant?

A: Sauced BBQ & Spirits in Petaluma.

Q: Are you an early bird or a night owl?

A: A night owl.

Q: What’s your favorite thing to do on a rainy day?

A: Stay inside, read and hang out with my kids.

Q: Music or talk radio?

A: Music.

Q: What’s your favorite snack?

A: Cookies—you can’t go wrong with those.

Read more

Maintaining Your Water Heater

Shares

SAN RAFAEL — Most water heater problems stem from a lack of routine maintenance. Over time, sediment and mineral buildup can inhibit a water heater’s efficiency and water flow, leading to subpar performance and even premature failure. Routinely flushing your traditional or… Read more

Expert Video Tip

Video: Maintaining Your Water Heater

Shares
Complete Video Transcription:

SAN RAFAEL — Sarah Rutan: Whether you have a traditional or tankless water heater, annual maintenance is crucial to ensure efficient operation. Today we’re in San Rafael with… Read more

Roman Scanagatta is a 21-year veteran of the plumbing industry and owner of Roman’s Plumbing, Inc., a Diamond Certified company since 2011. He can be reached at (707) 948-6178 or by email.

Roman Scanagatta

diamond certified contributor profile and expert article

Roman Scanagatta: Plumbing Opportunity

By James Florence, Diamond Certified Resource Reporter

PETALUMA — As soon as he reached adulthood, Roman Scanagatta took advantage of a professional opportunity that would set him up for long-term success. “After high school, my fiancée and I wanted to get married, so I knew I needed to find a career that would pay the bills,” he explains. “I had a friend who was apprenticing at a local plumbing company, so I asked if he could get me an apprenticeship as well. Basically, I figured learning a trade would give me skills I could take anywhere, so when I saw the opportunity to do so, I went for it.” After working for the same company for 15 years, Roman founded his own plumbing business in 2010.

Today, as owner of Roman’s Plumbing, Inc., Roman says his favorite part of his job is its dynamic character. “I love being out and about, working at a different location every day and encountering new problems to solve. I also enjoy the opportunity to meet new people—in fact, a lot of my former clients have become good friends of mine.”

A resident of Petaluma (where he lives with his wife, Eleni, and their two daughters), Roman expresses his appreciation for its quaint yet cultured character. “Petaluma is a great town. It has grown a lot over the years but still managed to maintain its small-town feel. It’s also located at the edge of Marin and Sonoma Counties, which enables our company to service a sizeable area.”

When he’s not working, Roman can usually be found with his family. “As a business owner, I don’t have a lot of down time, so when I get it, I like to spend it with my girls,” he affirms. “One of my favorite activities is making food with my daughters. I’ve always enjoyed cooking and actually considered becoming a chef before I became a plumber. I taught my daughters how to cook and bake, and now they’re better at it than me.” Roman also enjoys attending his daughters’ sporting events (“My younger daughter plays basketball and my older daughter plays volleyball.”) and going on dates with his wife.

In regard to his professional career, Roman says he’s a big proponent of customer education. “We make it a point to give our customers options and help them make informed decisions. Plumbers often get the reputation of being rip-off artists who take advantage of unknowing people, so we’re always working hard to change that perception. Basically, it all comes down to educating customers and taking care of them the same way we take care of our own families.”

When asked the first thing he’d do if he were to retire tomorrow, Roman says he’d take an international vacation. “My wife has family in Greece, so if I were to retire, I’d probably book a trip there with my family. I’d also bring along a few books. I love to read but I never have time for it, so I’d take the opportunity to catch up on my reading.”

Ask Me Anything!

Q: What’s your favorite book?
A: “The Sicilian” by Mario Puzo.

Q: What’s your favorite sports team?
A: The San Francisco Giants.

Q: What’s your favorite local restaurant?
A: Mi Pueblo in Petaluma.

Q: If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?
A: Italy—I’m of Italian heritage and I still haven’t been there.

Q: What’s your favorite thing to eat for dessert?
A: New York cheesecake.

Read more

A Better Choice for Water Filtration

Shares

PETALUMA – If you want to have filtered drinking water in your home, you have a couple of options. One is a reverse osmosis system, which is effective at removing chlorine, lead and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) found in tap… Read more

Expert Video Tip

Video: Plumbing Water Saving Tips

Shares
Complete Video Transcription:

PETALUMA – Host, Sarah Rutan: When it comes to saving water in your home, there are a couple of things you might not be aware of.… Read more

Nic Ratel is sales and operations manager of Water Heaters Only, Inc., a Diamond Certified company. He can be reached at (877) 932-5525 or by email.

Nic Ratel

diamond certified contributor profile and expert article

Nic Ratel: Heating Up

By James Florence, Diamond Certified Resource Reporter

CONCORD — Nic Ratel started working for Water Heaters Only, Inc. part-time during college, but once he decided to go full-time, his career began to heat up fast. “I started out working the late shift, answering customer calls and booking jobs,” he remembers. “At the time, I was studying graphic design and attending classes in the mornings. I actually had some plumbing experience—my father was a maintenance technician and I worked with him a lot throughout high school. At Water Heaters Only, I found that I enjoyed dealing with customers, and I eventually decided to join the company full-time. Over the past 11 years, I’ve worked my way up from answering phones to running the company’s entire Northern California operation.”

Today, Nic says his favorite part of his job is still interacting with customers. “I enjoy talking to people, hearing their stories and helping them with their water heater problems. I love it when I get a call from a customer who’s happy and excited about their experience with us—as a people-person, I find that very fulfilling.”

A resident of Sacramento, Nic spends his free time on a variety of pastimes, from working out to hanging out. “I’m an avid weightlifter,” he reveals. “I have a friend who’s a competitive bodybuilder and we work out together regularly. I also enjoy going four-wheeling, range shooting, and hanging out with friends and family.” Additionally, Nic likes to pursue his passion for music. “I love all kinds of music and play a few different instruments, including trombone, guitar and drums. I don’t play in a band or anything—it’s just something I do for fun on my own.”

In regard to his professional career, Nic espouses the importance of customer care. “Essentially, I try to treat every customer like family,” he explains. “Our technicians are trained to be personable and make sure customers are well taken care of. The goal is that by the end of each job, we’ve not only served a client, we’ve made a friend.”

When asked the first thing he’d do if he were to retire tomorrow, Nic says he’d take his first real vacation. “I’ve been working ever since I got my first work permit at the age of 12. I’ve never taken a real vacation—it’s always been just one or two days here and there. So, if I retired, I would take a week or two and go somewhere tropical, like the Caribbean.”

Ask Me Anything!

Q: If you could immediately master a musical instrument, what would you choose?
A: Piano.

Q: What’s your favorite snack?
A: Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.

Q: Would you rather live in the city or the country?
A: I do appreciate the city, but if I had to choose, I’d probably pick the country. I grew up in Grass Valley, so I’m a country boy at heart.

Q: Do you collect anything?
A: Mementos from life experiences, like photos and concert tickets.

Read more

Two Considerations for Tankless Water Heaters

Shares

CONCORD — When selecting a new water heater, you may be interested to know if a tankless water heater would be a good fit for your home. While this depends on several factors, there are two basic considerations to look… Read more

Pros and Cons of Water Heater Design Changes

Shares

CONCORD — Water heaters have changed a lot over the years, especially in regard to their design. Many of the design changes have been implemented due to state and federal government mandates for improved safety and energy efficiency. As a… Read more

Expert Video Tip

Video: Changes in Water Heater Design

Shares
Complete Video Transcription:

CONCORD — Host, Sarah Rutan: Water heaters have changed a lot in recent years, bringing benefits in some respects and drawbacks in others. Today we’re in Concord… Read more

Ernie Ongaro is a 37-year veteran of the plumbing and HVAC industries and president of Ongaro & Sons, a Diamond Certified company. He can be reached at (707) 652-9891 or by email.

Ernie Ongaro

diamond certified contributor profile and expert article

Ernie Ongaro: A Family Dynamic

By James Florence, Diamond Certified Resource Reporter

SANTA ROSA — A third-generation plumbing and HVAC professional, Ernie Ongaro reflects on the longstanding legacy of his family’s business. “My grandfather started Ongaro & Sons in 1932,” he recounts. “All three of his sons followed him in the business, and it was the same way with me, my brother and our two cousins. Now, with my son and nephew joining the company, we’re heading toward our fourth generation of family ownership.”

As president of Ongaro & Sons, Ernie says his favorite part of his job is staying on the cutting edge of his professional field. “It’s really important for us to keep up-to-date with our industry, so we’re always looking for the latest equipment and methods of doing things. I also enjoy watching our technicians start from scratch and progress in their careers. It’s kind of exciting to see the growth of your employees—it gives you a sense of pride.”

A longtime resident of Santa Rosa (where he lives with his wife, Debbie), Ernie has fond memories of growing up in rural Sonoma County. “In addition to running the company, my dad was sort of a gentleman farmer and raised cattle. Growing up on a ranch was fun, even though I used to have to milk the cows twice a day. I still love living in Sonoma County—it’s a beautiful place.”

Outside of work, Ernie engages in a variety of active pastimes, from traveling to restoring vintage cars. “My wife and I love to travel, both within the United States and abroad,” he says. “I also enjoy restoring vintage vehicles. I have a 1942 Willys Jeep that I drive in local parades, and I also restored a 1932 Chevy pickup that I modeled after my grandfather’s first plumbing truck.” Additionally, Ernie enjoys reading and spending time with his family, including his grown children, Ernest and Allison.

In regard to his professional career, Ernie says the family dynamic has always played a vital role at Ongaro & Sons. “Being a fourth-generation business, family is very important to us, and that informs the way we treat our employees and customers. We treat our employees like part of our family and try to be sensitive to their needs. Likewise, we take care of our customers and always follow up with them to make sure they’re 100 percent satisfied.”

When asked the first thing he’d do if he were to retire tomorrow, Ernie says he’d hit the open road. “I would probably take a road trip and visit some places in the U.S. that I haven’t seen yet. Actually, I recently finished a book about Lewis and Clark, and I think it would be neat to take a trip that follows the path they traveled.”

Ask Me Anything!

Q: What kinds of books do you like?
A: I’m a history buff, so I love to read biographies and historical accounts.

Q: What’s your favorite kind of food?
A: Italian.

Q: Do you collect anything?
A: Vintage cars, trucks and military vehicles.

Q: Are you an early bird or a night owl?
A: Definitely an early bird.

Read more

Upgrades to Reduce Your Home’s Resource Consumption

Shares

SANTA ROSA — Here in California, there’s great concern about conserving resources like water, gas and electricity. If you share this concern, you may be wondering how you can reduce resource consumption in your home. Fortunately, there are many ways to… Read more

Expert Video Tip

Video: Reducing Resource Consumption in the Home

Shares
Complete Video Transcription:

SANTA ROSA — Host, Sarah Rutan: When it comes to reducing consumption of natural resources like water and energy, there are measures that even the most… Read more

Matthew Hechim is a 27-year veteran of the plumbing industry and owner of Water Heaters Masters, Inc., a Diamond Certified company since 2011. He can be reached at (925) 435-1896 or by email.

Matthew Hechim

diamond certified contributor profile and expert article

Matthew Hechim: Water Heater Master

By James Florence, Diamond Certified Resource Reporter

CONCORD — Matthew Hechim’s involvement in the plumbing industry may have begun from a family connection, but it was his own talent and drive that led to his mastery of the trade. “My grandfather worked construction, and when I was growing up, I tried my hand at several aspects of the industry, from demolition to concrete to carpentry,” he says. “I enjoyed plumbing the most, so that’s what I ended up sticking with. I started doing it professionally in the early ’90s, worked my way up from an installer to a field supervisor and, in 2006, founded Water Heaters Masters with my partner, Alex Diaz.”

Today, after 25 years in plumbing, Matthew says his favorite part of his job is the versatility made possible by modern industry innovation. “Things have changed a lot since I first started—there are more high-end, energy-efficient products on the market, which gives us more flexibility when it comes to finding products that meet our clients’ needs. Plus, with our long-term experience, we’re able to utilize today’s technology to come up with smart solutions for particular problems.”

A lifetime resident of the Bay Area, Mathew grew up in Brisbane and today resides in Vacaville with his wife, Maura, and daughter, Samantha. Outside of work, he enjoys spending time with family and pursuing outdoor activities. “As a family, we love going skiing at Lake Tahoe in the winter, as well as going to Disneyland when we get a chance,” he says. “I also enjoy fishing; playing golf; and going to 49ers, Raiders, and Warriors games.”

In regard to his professional career, Matthew espouses the value of going above and beyond for customer satisfaction. “In addition to doing good work, I think our commitment to taking care of our customers is the secret to our success,” he affirms. “For example, we always clean up after ourselves because we want to leave things looking better than when we arrived. Also, if a customer has a problem with something we’ve installed, we go back and take care of it at no extra charge. It all comes down to customer service.”

When asked what his future retirement might look like, Matthew says he’ll make sure to stay active. “I’ll probably play a lot of golf and do a lot of hiking, as well as get involved with some type of charity work. But as it stands, I’m not really thinking about retirement because I like working, and I hope to be doing plumbing for a long time.”

Ask Me Anything!

Q: What’s your favorite TV show?
A: “Mad Men.”

Q: What was your favorite toy as a child?
A: My Evel Knievel toy, which came with a ramp so you could build your own jumps.

Q: What’s your favorite local restaurant?
A: Scott’s Seafood in Walnut Creek.

Q: Have you ever read a book more than once?
A: I’ve read “The Lord of the Rings” a few times, as well as some of Ernest Hemingway’s books, like “The Old Man and the Sea” and “The Sun Also Rises.”

Q: What’s your favorite snack?
A: Pretzels, carrots and hummus.

Read more

Inspecting Your Water Heater

Shares

CONCORD — For most homeowners, water heaters tend to be out of sight and out of mind. In reality, periodic water heater inspection is an important aspect of home maintenance, mainly because it allows you to preventatively identify problems like leaks and… Read more

Expert Video Tip

Video: Inspecting Your Water Heater

Shares
Complete Video Transcription:

CONCORD — Host, Sarah Rutan: Water heaters are easy to ignore, but the truth is they should be inspected on a regular basis. Today we’re in Concord with… Read more

Albert Nahman is owner of Albert Nahman Plumbing and Heating, a Diamond Certified company since 2002. He can be reached at (510) 859-3990 or by email.

Albert Nahman

diamond certified contributor profile and expert article

Albert Nahman: Crash Course to Success

By James Florence, Senior Writer

BERKELEY — Whereas most budding professionals make a point of gaining field experience before offering their services, Albert Nahman got hired first and asked questions later. “I had just moved from San Francisco to North Lake Tahoe and was looking to get into a trade,” he recounts. “One day, while working in a restaurant, I overheard a customer say he needed a plumber to work on some condominiums in Squaw Valley. I spoke up and volunteered my services. I didn’t know much about plumbing, but within a few weeks, I was on the job. It was pretty haphazard, I have to admit!”
Despite taking a crash course at the outset, Albert’s gutsy move ultimately led to a successful career. “I may not have had any experience with plumbing, but I was extremely motivated and quickly learned the ropes,” he says. “I did a lot of reading on my own and learned from other professionals when I had the opportunity. Thirty-six years later, I’m still at it and running my own business. It just goes to show how far a little determination can take you.”
Today, as owner of Albert Nahman Plumbing and Heating, Albert says his favorite part of his job is interacting with people. “I have many long-term employees, and I love seeing them grow and develop over the years. Of course, I also enjoy serving our clients. It’s very gratifying to receive positive feedback and know we’re doing a good job.”
A resident of Berkeley (where he lives with his wife, Marjorie), Albert expresses his appreciation for his adopted hometown. “As everybody knows, Berkeley is a unique place. My business is actually within a mile of my house, so I feel very connected to the community I serve. Plus, I have a lot of family close by, so it really feels like home to me.”
Outside of work, Albert likes to stay active, whether with sports or volunteer work. “I’ve been playing in a softball league for many years, and so far they haven’t kicked me off the team,” he laughs. “I’m also a board member for Rebuilding Together East Bay-North, which rehabilitates homes for low-income and disabled residents of Berkeley, Richmond, and Emeryville.” Additionally, Albert enjoys spending time with family, including his and Marjorie’s three children and three grandchildren.
In regard to a professional philosophy, Albert says it’s all about the clients. “I really feel that I’m here to serve my customers. Obviously, as a business, we have to make a profit, but my main focus has always been helping people. I think my employees and I do this very well by treating our customers with the utmost respect and doing the best work we possibly can.”
When asked how his life might look if he were to retire tomorrow, Albert doesn’t anticipate a lot of change. “I don’t think things would be much different, honestly. I like my life and enjoy running my business and spending time with my grandchildren. Maybe I’d do a little more traveling, but other than that, I’m not pining for any big changes.”
Ask Me Anything!

Q: Coffee or tea?
A: Coffee.

Q: What was your first car?
A: A 1959 Ford Fairlane. It was the family car that was handed down to me, and people used to make fun of me because wherever I drove, a big cloud of black smoke followed me.

Q: What’s your favorite thing to eat for dessert?
A: Any kind of fruit pie, especially blueberry, raspberry or boysenberry. Put a dollop of ice cream on the side and I’m in heaven.

Q: The Beatles or The Rolling Stones?
A: The Beatles.

Q: If you could speak to any famous person, living or dead, who would it be?
A: I’d want to speak with somebody like Gandhi, the Buddha or Jesus—one of those people who actually figured it out, so to speak, and lived their life without letting material things get in the way.

Read more

Benefits of Upgrading Your HVAC System

Shares

BERKELEY — If your home’s HVAC system is outdated, it might be time for an upgrade. Typically, this consists of replacing the central heating/cooling units and upgrading the ductwork and attic/crawlspace insulation. Since old, deteriorated ductwork and inadequate insulation detract… Read more

Expert Video Tip

Video: Three Benefits of Upgrading Your HVAC System

Shares
Complete Video Transcription:

BERKELEY — Host, Sarah Rutan: If your home’s heating and cooling system is outdated, consider the benefits of upgrading it to modern standards. To learn more, we’re… Read more

Yussef Nesme is marketing director of Rayne Plumbing and Sewer Service, Inc., a Diamond Certified company since 2004. He can be reached at408-640-6107 or by email.

Yussef Nesme

diamond certified contributor profile and expert article

Yussef Nesme: Expanding His Horizons

By James Florence, Diamond Certified Resource Reporter

SAN JOSE – While landscaping and plumbing may seem like completely different industries to many people, for Yussef Nesme and his career path, one led to the other. “I started out in landscape design,” he explains. “It seemed to me that plumbing was pretty similar to landscape irrigation, and since plumbing is something everyone needs, I decided going into that industry would be a good career move.” Today, as Marketing Director of Rayne Plumbing and Sewer Service, Inc., Yussef enjoys the professional diversity that his position allows. “I love every aspect of my job, whether it’s meeting with people and building relationships on the sales and marketing side or working with my hands in the field.”

A lifetime resident of the Bay Area, Yussef says he appreciates living in what he considers the “capital of technology.” “In terms of technological innovation, the Bay Area is where the action is, so it’s exciting to be a part of that. Our area is both home to some of the major technological leaders and innovators and the place where all the new startups want to come to get established.”

When he’s not working, Yussef likes engaging in a number of sports-related activities, including playing pick-up basketball, snowboarding, jet skiing and training mixed martial arts. He also enjoys spending time with his mother and sisters, as well as his dog, Capone, a 150-pound boxer-pitbull mix.

Throughout his career, Yussef has learned the value of the age-old maxim: the customer is always right. “A lot of times, people will get carried away trying to convince somebody else that they’re right,” he explains. “But the amount of energy, time and frustration involved is rarely worth whatever they’re arguing about. As a professional, I’ve found it’s much more beneficial to avoid arguments altogether and just do what I need to do to make the customer happy.”

When asked the first thing he’d do if he could retire tomorrow, Yussef expresses a desire to expand his horizons. “I’d travel the world,” he says. “I’d especially like to visit Greece—besides the historical sights, I’ve been told it’s gorgeous and the people live really simply, which sounds like it’s right up my alley.”

Ask Me Anything!

Q: If you had a theme song, what would it be?
A: “Simple Man” by Lynyrd Skynyrd.

Q: What’s your favorite movie?
A: “Dumb and Dumber.”

Q: What were you most known for in high school?
A: I guess I was the class clown.

Q: Who’s your favorite comedic actor?
A: Will Ferrell.

Q: Which Seinfeld character do you most identify with?
A: Kramer.

Read more

Safety Requirements for Water Heater Installation

Shares

SAN JOSE — An important yet often overlooked aspect of water heater installation is safety code compliance. Due to the potential safety risks posed by a water heater, you should be aware of safety code requirements and make sure they’re properly implemented.… Read more

How to Maintain a Water Heater

Shares

SAN JOSE – The best way to maximize the lifespan of a water heater is with ongoing maintenance. This comes down to two primary tasks: flushing the tank and replacing the anode rod. Flushing a water heater tank The most basic step… Read more

Expert Video Tip

Video: Water Heater Safety Codes

Shares
Complete Video Transcription:

SAN JOSE — Host, Sarah Rutan: Prior to replacing a water heater in your home, you’ll need to be aware of safety code requirements. Today we’re in San… Read more

Eloy Baeza is a 27-year veteran of the plumbing industry and owner of Baeza Plumbing Service, a Diamond Certified company. He can be reached at (831) 708-8920 or by email.

Eloy Baeza

diamond certified contributor profile and expert article

Eloy Baeza: Making His Mark

By James Florence, Diamond Certified Resource Reporter

GILROY — When Eloy Baeza started doing plumbing work as a young man, he didn’t realize he was preparing for a lifelong career. “My brother-in-law was a plumber, and as a teenager, I would sometimes go out and help him on jobs,” he remembers. “I learned a lot from him, which ended up coming in handy later in life.”

After high school, Eloy joined the military, but midway through his enlistment, an injury sent him back home. Fortunately, his prior experience in plumbing gave him something to fall back on. “I finished the last year of my enlistment with the National Guard,” he explains. “Since it didn’t require a huge time commitment, I started working with my brother-in-law on the side, and after my term was up, I went to work with him full-time. Over the next several years, I worked for a couple of different companies and made my way up from journeyman to crew leader to project manager and, finally, general manager. In 2012, I made the long-overdue move to start my own company.”

Today, as owner of Baeza Plumbing Service, Eloy says his favorite part of his job is being out and about. “I like the fact that I’m a hands-on owner and not just sitting in an office all day. When I was in a management position, I spent my days at a desk doing paperwork and it just about drove me nuts. I’d rather be out in the field, meeting people and helping them with their plumbing problems.”

A lifelong resident of Gilroy (where he lives with his wife, Arlene), Eloy spends his free time visiting with family and enjoying the splendor of the Bay Area milieu. “Arlene and I have four children and two grandchildren, and we’re very family-oriented,” he says. “We also like to go out to dinner and go for drives to the coast—we love the ocean.”

In his life and career, Eloy says his ultimate professional goal is to leave a legacy. “My main motivation in running my business is to establish a strong company that will be here long after I’m gone. I have family members and close friends who work with me, and I want to leave something behind that will provide opportunities for future generations. Basically, this is my way of making a mark.”

When asked the first thing he’d do if he were to retire tomorrow, Eloy says he wouldn’t—not completely, at least. “I don’t think I can retire, but maybe I could semi-retire. I’d definitely like to travel and go to Italy with my wife. But I wouldn’t be able to leave the company completely. After all, it’s my baby.”

Ask Me Anything!

Q: What’s your favorite local restaurant?
A: FireFish Grill in Santa Cruz.

Q: Would you rather live in the city or the country?
A: The country. One of my dreams is to have a small ranch—maybe a couple of acres.

Q: What’s your favorite snack?
A: PayDay candy bars.

Q: If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?
A: The Vatican in Rome. I love art, so to see the Sistine Chapel and all that art would be a dream.

Q: Do you collect anything?
A: Diecast model cars.

Read more

How to Shut Off Water to Your Home

Shares

GILROY — When a catastrophic plumbing leak occurs, you need to act fast to minimize the subsequent damage. Before calling a plumber, your first move should be to go outside and turn off the water at your home’s main shut-off valve.… Read more

Expert Video Tip

Video: Shutting Off Water to Your Home

Shares
Complete Video Transcription:

GILROY — Host, Sarah Rutan: In the event of a catastrophic plumbing leak, you’ll need to act fast to minimize the subsequent damage. Today we’re in Gilroy with… Read more

Graham Jones is owner of The Genteel Plumbers, a Diamond Certified company. He can be reached at (650) 525-4193 or by email.

Graham Jones

diamond certified contributor profile and expert article

Graham Jones: A Unexpected Direction

By James Florence, Diamond Certified Resource Reporter

SAN FRANCISCO — Graham Jones never planned on becoming a plumber, but when his original professional pathway diverged, that’s the direction it took him in. “I was actually going to automotive school, with plans to become a mechanic,” he recounts. “However, at a certain point I realized it wasn’t the right career for me, mostly because I didn’t want to be stuck in the same place every day. I expressed this to my brother, who’d recently switched from working as a chef to becoming a plumber. He recommended I look into plumbing, so I did. I ended up doing an apprenticeship with a company in San Rafael, and a few years later, I decided to start my own business.”

Today, as owner of The Genteel Plumbers, Graham says his favorite part of his job is coming to his customers’ rescue. “I love coming in and saving the day when a customer has a major plumbing problem. I especially enjoy the challenge of finding a solution to a difficult issue. It keeps things interesting—plus, it feels good to be the hero.”

A resident of San Francisco, Graham spends his time outside of work on a variety of hobbies and pastimes. “I’m a big reader and enjoy educating myself about different topics,” he details. “Lately, I’ve been reading a lot about business management and growth. I also enjoy skiing, hiking, camping and traveling. Additionally, living in San Francisco, I like to explore the city and check out new restaurants.”

In his life and career, Graham espouses the importance of investing in quality. “I believe in having the best of everything, from tools and equipment to customer service,” he says. “In order to do the job right, you need to have the right equipment, and you also need to answer the phone when customers call. When you invest time and money into these areas, you’re going to have happier customers, so it’s really an investment in the long-term success of your business.”

Ask Me Anything!

Q: What’s your favorite local restaurant?
A: Original Joe’s in San Francisco.

Q: What’s your favorite book?
A: “How to Win Friends & Influence People” by Dale Carnegie.

Q: If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?
A: Nepal. I’ve always wanted to go there because it’s one of the highest places in the world in terms of elevation. It even has Mt. Everest!

Q: What’s your favorite snack?
A: Apples.

Q: What’s your favorite TV show?
A: “Breaking Bad.”

Read more

An Easy Way to Maintain Your Sink Drains

Shares

SAN FRANCISCO — To prevent clogged sink drains, it’s a good idea to routinely clean out your drain pipes. Rather than using a store-bought drain cleaner like Drano®, try a simpler method: dish soap. It’s no wonder that dish soap is an… Read more

Expert Video Tip

Video: A Simple Way to Clean Your Drains

Shares
Complete Video Transcription:

SAN FRANCISCO — Host, Sarah Rutan: Keeping your sink drains clean and clear is easier than you might think. Today we’re in San Francisco with Diamond Certified Expert… Read more

Tom Cortez is a longtime veteran of the plumbing industry and owner of Savior Plumbing, Inc., a Diamond Certified company since 2012. He can be reached at (925) 233-6962 or by email.

Tom Cortez

diamond certified contributor profile and expert article

Tom Cortez: Taking the Field

By James Florence, Diamond Certified Resource Reporter

PLEASANTON — Even though Tom Cortez never reached professional status as a football player, he found success after applying his experience on—or rather, in—another field. As he recounts, it all started with the dual fraternal influences that shaped his childhood aspirations. “Growing up, my two older brothers were my primary role models,” he says. “One of them coached football and the other was a plumber, so I got involved with both the sport and the trade. When I didn’t get drafted to the pros after playing football in college, I decided to join the plumbers union. I really enjoyed working with my hands and solving problems, so it turned out to be a great career for me.”

Tom began his plumbing career working in institutional settings like hospitals, prisons and research facilities, but when he established his own business in 2000, he shifted his focus toward the residential and commercial sectors. Today, as owner of Savior Plumbing, Inc., Tom explains the ethos behind his company’s name. “We’re not the Savior; we’re just here to fix the plumbing,” he laughs. “My faith permeates everything I do, and I think the best way for me to live that out is by operating with integrity and treating others fairly and honestly.”

Born and raised in Hayward, Tom resides today in Pleasanton with his wife and business partner, Tammy. An avid outdoorsman, he appreciates the many opportunities the lush Bay Area setting affords. “I love bicycling, camping and getting out into the wilderness, and this is a prime place to enjoy those things.” Besides cycling for fun, Tom likes doing it competitively—especially when there’s a charitable cause involved. “I participated in AIDS/LifeCycle this past year,” he says. “It’s a 600-mile ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles, and the proceeds go toward funding AIDS research.” When he’s not on his bike, Tom enjoys spending time with his family, including his and Tammy’s three grown children and granddaughter, Anna.

In regard to his life and career, Tom says being a plumber entails a greater responsibility than most people realize. “When I first started in this industry, I was taught that plumbers are responsible for the health of the nation. In servicing the sewer, water, and gas piping in homes and businesses, we’re accountable for making sure things are operating safely and efficiently. I take pride in being responsible for maintaining my customers’ plumbing systems.”

When asked the first thing he’d do if he were to retire tomorrow, Tom says he’d jump on his bike. “I guess I’d go for a long bicycle ride, but to be honest, I don’t plan to ever retire—I want to continue running my business for as long as I can. I would like to do a little more traveling, though.”

Ask Me Anything!

Q: What were you most known for in high school?
A: Being an athlete. I was the quarterback of our football team.

Q: What are your favorite sports teams?
A: The USC Trojans, the San Francisco 49ers and the Oakland A’s.

Q: Music or talk radio?
A: Music.

Q: What’s your favorite local restaurant?
A: Los Compadres Mexican Restaurant in Hayward.

Q: What’s your favorite TV show?
A: “American Idol.”

Read more

Innovations in Sewer Line Diagnosis and Repair

Shares

PLEASANTON — If you experience chronic sewer line backups in your home, it’s likely a symptom of a larger underlying issue. Fortunately, thanks to innovations in plumbing technology, it’s now easier than ever to diagnose and repair sewer line problems. Diagnosis In… Read more

3 Water Heater Components to Know

Shares

PLEASANTON — Besides its tank, a water heater has several functional components and connecting parts. Here are a few important ones to know about: Water connectors These deliver water to and from the water heater. The best product for this is… Read more

Expert Video Tip

Video: Sewer Line Diagnosis and Repair

Shares
Complete Video Transcription:

PLEASANTON — Host, Sarah Rutan: Thanks to modern innovations in plumbing technology, diagnosing and repairing a sewer line problem is far easier today than it was in the… Read more

Jin Lee is a veteran of the plumbing industry and owner of Smart Plumbers, Inc., a Diamond Certified company since 2005. He can be reached at (408) 247-2288 or by email.

Jin Lee

diamond certified contributor profile and expert article

Jin Lee: Plumbing Smarts

By James Florence, Diamond Certified Resource Reporter

SANTA CLARA — Jin Lee has always possessed a mechanical mind, so it only made sense for him to enter a field where he could utilize its full potential. “As a child, I was fascinated with how things worked and was always taking things apart and putting them back together,” he remembers. “Not surprisingly, plumbing was something that really interested me. Later, while working in furniture manufacturing, I did plumbing on the side as a hobby. When I came to the United States in 1995, I finally got a chance to pursue plumbing as a career, and in 2002, I started my own business.”

Today, as owner of Smart Plumbers, Inc., Jin says his favorite part of his job is bailing customers out of bad situations. “When someone is without water or can’t use their toilet, it’s not just an inconvenience—it’s an emergency. When I’m able to fix the problem and restore their plumbing system, they tend to be extra appreciative, which is very rewarding.”

Originally from South Korea, Jin now resides in Santa Clara with his wife, Sylvia. Outside of work, his favorite hobby is playing golf. “I try to golf at least once a week” he affirms. “Sometimes I don’t have time, but I do my best to make it happen.” Jin also enjoys following professional sports like football and soccer, as well as spending time with his children and grandchildren.

In regard to his professional career, Jin emphasizes the foundational importance of sanitation. “Modern plumbing originated because of a need for sanitation, and that’s still one of its most important aspects,” he explains. “Unfortunately, some plumbers and handymen neglect this, which can lead to unsanitary conditions and consequent health hazards. As far as my company is concerned, sanitation is a top priority—we always make sure our customers’ plumbing is clean, safe and secure.”

When asked what his life might look like if he retired tomorrow, Jin says he would spend more time doing the things he currently enjoys. “I would definitely play more golf—I’d probably go from playing once a week to playing every other day. And, of course, I’d spend more time with my wife, kids and grandkids.”

Ask Me Anything!

Q: What’s your favorite sports team?
A: The San Francisco 49ers.

Q: Coffee or tea?
A: Coffee.

Q: What’s your favorite restaurant?
A: Sizzler.

Q: Are you an early bird or a night owl?
A: A night owl.

Q: Music or talk radio?
A: Music.

Read more

Locating Your Water Shut-Off Valve

Shares

SANTA CLARA —One thing every homeowner should know is the location of their water shut-off valve. Since this valve controls the flow of water to the entire house, knowing where it is and how to use it can minimize water… Read more

Expert Video Tip

Video: Locating Your Water Shut-Off Valve

Shares
Complete Video Transcription:

SANTA CLARA — Host, Sarah Rutan: In the event of a major water leak, knowing the location of your home’s water shut-off valve can help you minimize… Read more

Jonatan Bautista is a 14-year veteran of the plumbing industry and owner of Oro Pro Plumbing, Inc., a Diamond Certified company. He can be reached at (650) 549-5950 or by email.

Jonatan Bautista

diamond certified contributor profile and expert article

Jonatan Bautista: Plumbing Inspiration

By James Florence, Diamond Certified Resource Reporter

SOUTH SAN FRANCISCO — When asked what made him want to become a plumber, Jonatan Bautista traces his inspiration back to a particular incident in his young life. “On my 17th birthday, just a few hours before my party was going to start, our house’s sewer system backed up,” he recalls. “The plumber came out, fixed everything and pretty much saved the day, which really made an impression on me. I’d always been mechanically inclined, so when I graduated high school, I decided to give plumbing a shot. I went to trade school in Fremont and spent a decade working in the field before starting my own business, which is where I’m at today.”

Today, as owner of Oro Pro Plumbing, Inc., Jonatan says his favorite part of his job is the daily variety it entails. “I enjoy interacting with different customers, as well as the variety of situations I encounter. Every day is different—you never know what you’re going to get into—but having a good team and the right equipment allows me to solve every problem and provide great service along the way.”

A lifetime resident of San Bruno, Jonatan expresses his appreciation for the Bay Area’s characteristic diversity. “Working in the Bay Area, we serve customers from all different cultures and lifestyles, which is something I really enjoy. It’s interesting, though—despite our many differences, I still find similarities in the way we all look at and experience life.”

Outside of work, Jonatan enjoys a variety of pastimes, from following professional sports to engaging in outdoor activities. “I’m a big sports fan and enjoy watching football, basketball, and baseball,” he says. “I also like hanging out with friends and taking my dog, Ziggy, on hikes and trail runs around the area.”

In regard to his professional career, Jonatan espouses the importance of educating customers. “Plumbing is an expensive service, so I like to make my customers feel comfortable by being as informative as I can,” he says. “I always explain what we’re going to do and what kinds of scenarios may arise, so they never feel taken off guard. Overall, I find that informed customers tend to be more comfortable and confident, which is better for everyone.”

When asked the first thing he’d do if he were to retire tomorrow, Jonatan says he’d plan an international vacation. “I would take a month-long trip to Europe. Anywhere in Europe would be nice, but in particular I’d like to see Italy and Spain, especially because I’m a big fan of Italian food.”

Ask Me Anything!

Q: What’s your favorite sports team?
A: The San Francisco Giants.

Q: What were you most known for in high school?
A: Being the class clown.

Q: If you could time travel, would you go to the past or the future?
A: Probably the past, just because I wouldn’t want to know my future.

Q: Music or talk radio?
A: Music.

Q: What kind of music do you like?
A: I’m all over the place. I listen to everything from hip hop and R&B to salsa music.

Read more

A Better Source for Plumbing Fixtures

Shares

SOUTH SAN FRANCISCO — When it comes to purchasing faucets and other plumbing fixtures, rather than going to a home supply store, a better choice is to buy them directly through your plumber. The box may look the same, but the… Read more

Expert Video Tip

Video: Better Source for Plumbing Fixtures

Shares
Complete Video Transcription:

SOUTH SAN FRANCISCO — Host, Sarah Rutan: When it comes to purchasing faucets and other plumbing fixtures, rather than shopping at a home supply store, a better… Read more

Frans Cartwright is a 13-year veteran of the plumbing industry and owner of Better Water Heaters, a Diamond Certified company since 2006. He can be reached at (650) 557-3559 or by email.

Frans Cartwright

diamond certified contributor profile and expert article

Frans Cartwright: Recapturing Fulfillment

By James Florence, Diamond Certified Resource Reporter

SAN JOSE — After finding himself at a professional impasse, Frans Cartwright was considering his options when inspiration came from an unlikely source. “After several years as an engineer in the tech field, I started to feel unsatisfied with my work and was figuring out what I wanted to do,” he remembers. “One day, we had a plumber come out to replace our water heater, and I was struck with the notion that I could do water heater installation as a small business venture. After doing a little research, I decided to go to work for a local plumbing company, which enabled me to gain experience while I studied to get my plumbing license. Within a couple of years, I was ready to launch my own water heater installation company.”

Since founding Better Water Heaters in 2003, Frans says he’s recaptured the sense of fulfillment that had been missing from his prior occupation. “I really enjoy the problem-solving aspect of the trade because it allows me to exercise my engineering skills. However, I also appreciate the opportunity to interact with and take care of my customers, which is something that had never been a part of my former career. Altogether, it’s been a very satisfying experience.”

Originally from Southern California, Frans moved to San Jose in 1996, where he currently lives with his wife, Melinda, and their five children. “San Jose is a great place to raise a family, with a lot to do locally and many nearby national parks for spending time in nature,” he says. “In addition to attending different local events and festivals, we enjoy going camping at places like Yosemite and Big Sur, as well as skiing at Lake Tahoe.”

In keeping with his values as a devoted family man, Frans has made it a point to create a family-centered culture at Better Water Heaters. “I’m all about family, and that’s the type of environment we foster here,” he affirms. “A lot of my employees have kids, so I try to be accommodating with scheduling so they can take time off for family things. Obviously, making a living is important, but I think being there for your family is an equal priority.”

When asked what his future retirement might look like, Frans says it will hopefully involve plenty of exotic locales and fine foods. “My wife and I are foodies, and we also love to travel, so that will probably be the focal point of our post-retirement ventures. It’s been quite a few years since we’ve been to Europe, so we’d probably kick things off with a trip to France or Germany.”

Ask Me Anything!
Q: What’s your favorite movie?
A: “The Usual Suspects.”

Q: What’s your favorite local restaurant?
A: Sen Dai Sushi in Milpitas.

Q: Are you an early bird or a night owl?
A: Early bird.

Q: Do you collect anything?
A: Marbles. I still have a bunch of them from when I was a kid.

Q: What’s your favorite newspaper comic strip?
A: “Pickles.”

Read more

Considerations for Choosing a Water Heater

Shares

SAN JOSE — When choosing a water heater for your home, you have two options: a conventional water heater or a tankless model. Before making your choice, it’s important to learn more about the costs and maintenance involved with each.… Read more

Expert Video Tip

Video: How to Choose a Water Heater

Shares
Complete Video Transcription:

SAN JOSE — Host, Sarah Rutan: When choosing a water heater, you'll need to decide whether to install a conventional or tankless water model. Today… Read more

Jason Schlunt is a 11-year veteran of the plumbing and HVAC industries and owner of Bellows Plumbing, Heating & Air, Inc., a Diamond Certified company since 2008. He can be reached at (844) 208-7715 or by email.

Jason Schlunt

diamond certified contributor profile and expert article

Jason Schlunt: Part of the Family

By James Florence, Diamond Certified Resource Reporter

SANTA CRUZ — Even though Jason Schlunt is co-owner of a family business, he hasn’t always been part of the family. “I got started in the plumbing and HVAC trades when I went into business with my father-in-law, Greg, who was just my girlfriend’s dad at the time,” he explains. “Prior to that, I did some consulting and worked a little in television. I knew I wanted to run my own business one day, so when Greg offered me the opportunity to partner with him, I accepted. Soon after, I married his daughter, so now I’m part of both the family and the family business.”

Today, as co-owner of Bellows Plumbing, Heating & Air, Inc., Jason lists several aspects he enjoys about his adopted career. “It’s a good business to be in—it’s challenging, technical, and we get to help people make their homes more comfortable. Overall, it’s very satisfying in terms of what you come away with at the end of the day.”

A resident of Marin (where he lives with his wife, Chelsea, and their daughters, Brooklyn and Hazel), Jason expresses his appreciation for living and working in the North Bay Area. “As someone who enjoys the outdoors, I love being in a place with so much natural beauty that’s close to both the mountains and the ocean. From a business standpoint, there’s a good economy here. There are a lot of homeowners who are concerned about maintaining their homes, so that keeps us busy.”

Outside of work, Jason engages in a variety of active pastimes, both at home and abroad. “We like to travel, and we’ve been all over the world with the kids,” he says. “We also enjoy outdoor activities like biking and camping. Personally, I love surfing, which is one of the reasons Chelsea and I wanted to live somewhere close to the beach.” In addition to his nuclear family unit, Jason says he enjoys hanging out with his extensive extended family. “We have a huge family, with relatives spread all throughout the Bay Area, so there are a lot of get-togethers and activities. It seems like we’re doing something with someone almost every weekend.”

In regard to a professional philosophy, Jason says his primary goal is earning the loyalty of his customers. “There’s no greater value for a business than having long-term customers. If all your customers are just one-timers who don’t ever return, it’s very hard to grow and succeed. That’s why I’ve always stressed the importance of customer service and satisfaction, because we want to have customers for life.”

When asked the first thing he’d do if he were to retire tomorrow, Jason says he would find ways to keep himself occupied. “Even though I enjoy my free time because I get to travel and go biking, I like to stay busy as well, so I would probably get involved with a trade or business. I just don’t think I could sit still.”

Ask Me Anything!

Q: What are your favorite sports teams?
A: The San Francisco Giants and the San Francisco 49ers.

Q: What’s your favorite thing to do on a rainy day?
A: Watch a movie.

Q: Coffee or tea?
A: Coffee.

Q: What’s your favorite food?
A: I love Asian-style soups like ramen and pho.

Q: What’s the best gift you’ve ever received?
A: My family.

Read more

HVAC System Longevity

Shares

SANTA CRUZ — When it comes to assessing the condition of an HVAC system, age is a pertinent factor. I often meet clients who are proud to say they have a 50-year-old furnace that’s still working, despite not having been maintained. However,… Read more

Expert Video Tip

Video: Importance of Filter Replacement

Shares
Complete Video Transcription:

Host, Sarah Rutan: When caring for your home, you’ll need to learn how to maintain and change your filter. Today we’re with Diamond Certified Expert Contributor… Read more

Mostafa Sowadah is a 10-year veteran of the plumbing industry and owner of One Source Plumbing and Rooter, Inc., a Diamond Certified company. He can be reached at (415) 340-2353 or by email.

Mostafa Sowadah

diamond certified contributor profile and expert article

Mostafa Sowadah: One Source for Success

By James Florence, Diamond Certified Resource Reporter

SAN FRANCISCO — Following high school, Mostafa Sowadah knew he wanted to get into a trade—it was just a matter of deciding which one to pursue. “When I was enrolling in trade school, I had the choice of going into automotive, plumbing or HVAC,” he says. “Based on what I saw most people signing up for, it seemed that plumbing was the least popular option. However, I’d always heard good things about plumbing, so I decided to give it a shot.” After finishing his two-year program at WyoTech-Fremont, Mostafa did a four-year apprenticeship with a local plumbing company and then worked another three years as an employee before starting his own business in 2013.

Today, as owner of One Source Plumbing and Rooter, Inc., Mostafa says his favorite part of his job is building relationships of trust with his customers. “The first time you do a job for a customer, they aren’t totally sure if they can trust you. However, when they call you again a couple of years later, it shows there’s trust because the first job didn’t fail. That’s a great feeling.”

A lifetime resident of San Francisco, Mostafa expresses his appreciation for the character of life and work in the City by the Bay. “There are three things I like about San Francisco: the diversity, as there are people here from all over the world; the nice weather, which is good for plumbers because we do a lot of work outside; and the simple fact that I’ve lived here my whole life and it’s home.”

When asked about a professional philosophy, Mostafa offers a simple guideline for ensuring quality workmanship. “On every job, I have the mindset that I want my work to outlive me,” he explains. “When your main goal is to build something to last as long as possible, you’re going to do a better job than if you’re just looking to make money. The great thing is that when you build something to last, your customers are going to be happy and bring you more business, so the money will follow naturally.”

When asked the first thing he’d do if he were to retire tomorrow, Mostafa says he wouldn’t. “That’s a tough one, because I’ve sort of become programmed to stay busy. I think it started during my apprenticeship, where for four years I worked six days a week, with no holidays or vacations. As soon as I finished it, I took a week-long vacation; the first two days were nice, but by the third day I was kind of bored. That’s why I’m not sure I could retire—I like being busy and I enjoy my work, so the idea of retirement just doesn’t appeal much to me.”

Ask Me Anything!

Q: What’s your favorite kind of food?
A: Mediterranean.

Q: Are you an early bird or a night owl?
A: An early bird.

Q: If you could time travel, would you go to the past or the future?
A: The future, just so I don’t have to worry about it anymore.

Q: What’s your favorite snack?
A: Chips.

Q: What’s your favorite thing to do on a rainy day?
A: Work—we get really busy when it rains.

Read more

Maintenance Tip for an Older Toilet

Shares

SAN FRANCISCO — If you have an older toilet, you may notice that you have to flush multiple times just to get everything down the drain. The likely culprit behind this issue is sediment: over time, the jet holes in your… Read more

Expert Video Tip

Video: Toilet Maintenance Tip

Shares
Complete Video Transcription:

SAN FRANCISCO — Host, Sarah Rutan: If you routinely find that one flush isn’t enough, you’ll be glad to learn about a simple solution for a common… Read more

Scott Duncan is a 22-year veteran of the plumbing industry and owner of Duncan Plumbing Ent., Inc., a Diamond Certified company. He can be reached at (831) 708-8909 or by email.

Scott Duncan

diamond certified contributor profile and expert article

Scott Duncan: Westward Expansion

By James Florence, Diamond Certified Program Reporter

SANTA CRUZ — For Scott Duncan, the decision to migrate from the East Coast to the West was prompted as much by the allure of adventure as it was by an occupational opportunity. “When I was 27, I moved from Cape Cod, Massachusetts to Santa Cruz,” he recounts. “My dad moved here a short time before I did, and he told me that in California, anything you could want to do was within a day’s drive, whether it was hiking, fishing, sailing or visiting the city. So, when my uncle gave me an opportunity to apprentice at his plumbing business, I eagerly accepted.”

It didn’t take long for Scott to realize he’d found a good fit in the plumbing trade. “I found that I enjoyed everything about plumbing, from the technical aspects of the work to interacting with customers,” he says. Today, 15 years after striking out on his own and founding Duncan Plumbing Ent., Inc., Scott says as an employer, he’s grown to appreciate another aspect of his job. “I get the most satisfaction from seeing my younger employees come into their own and make their place in the world.”

As a resident of Santa Cruz (where he lives with his wife, Joy, and their sons, Chance and Josh), Scott enjoys being a part of his local community. “As a business owner, I’ve enjoyed forming long-term relationships with local homeowners and business owners,” he says. “I’ve done work at the grocery store my wife shops at, as well as for our mechanic and insurance agent, so it’s just neat to see how the local business community relies on each other.”

Outside of work, Scott spends the bulk of his time with his family. “Through my boys, I’ve become an expert in two things: Legos and fishing, which are their respective obsessions,” he says. “We also like to go on short trips to the snow or nearby lakes and just enjoy nature. Basically, whenever we get a chance to get away for a day or two, we take it.”

In regard to his professional career, Scott espouses a piece of wisdom he gleaned from his grandfather. “When I was a young man trying to make my way in the world, my grandfather told me it didn’t matter what I did; as long as I did the best job I could, I’d be successful. That’s stuck with me throughout the years, and in addition to applying it in my own life and career, I’ve passed it on to my employees.”

When asked the first thing he’d do if he could retire tomorrow, Scott says he’d embark on an expedition to the United States’ northernmost annex. “I would take a trip by boat to Alaska. And I don’t mean just take a cruise—I’d buy a boat and sail there myself. That’d be a dream come true.”

Ask Me Anything!

Q: What’s your favorite sports team?
A: The New England Patriots.

Q: Are you an early bird or a night owl?
A: An early bird.

Q: Music or talk radio?
A: Talk radio.

Q: What’s your favorite local restaurant?
A: Salsa’s Taco Bar in Santa Cruz.

Q: What’s your favorite snack?
A: Anything salty.

Read more

How to Replace a Water Heater Anode Rod

Shares

SANTA CRUZ — One of the most crucial components of a water heater is its sacrificial anode rod. Made from magnesium, aluminum or aluminum/zinc alloy, this rod serves one function: to attract and absorb corrosion and divert it away from… Read more

Expert Video Tip

Video: Replacing Your Water Heater’s Anode Rod

Shares
Complete Video Transcription:

SANTA CRUZ — Host, Sarah Rutan: As a crucial component in maximizing your water heater's lifespan, it is important to periodically replace the sacrificial anode rod. Today,… Read more

Bill Shepherd is president of Shepherd’s Plumbing Heating & AC, Inc., a Diamond Certified company. He can be reached at (650) 409-1467 or by email.

Bill Shepherd

diamond certified contributor profile and expert article

Bill Shepherd: A Plumbing Affinity

By James Florence, Diamond Certified Resource Reporter

SAN JOSE — A third-generation plumber, Bill Shepherd was introduced to the trade at an early age and never looked back. “My family has been doing plumbing since the 1930s, starting with my grandpa,” he recounts. “I did my first job when I was six years old, when I helped my dad install a toilet at a neighbor’s house. From that point on, I basically fell in love with plumbing. I really enjoyed working with my hands and just had a natural ability for it.” During his teen years, Bill regularly worked for his father on afternoons, weekends and during summers before coming on full-time after high school. After 10 years of managing the business, Bill bought his father out and became its sole owner.

Today, as owner of Shepherd’s Plumbing Heating & AC, Inc., Bill says his favorite part of his job is solving tough problems. “I enjoy fixing something that nobody else can. Time and time again, we’re called into customers’ homes to deal with problems that other plumbers haven’t been able to fix. When we provide an effective solution, the customer is very happy, and that’s a great feeling.”

A resident of Sunnyvale (where he lives with his wife, Anna, and their four children), Bill spends his time outside of work on a wide range of active pastimes. “I love my job, but I also love my hobbies,” he says. “I’m a scuba instructor and I teach scuba lessons in Scotts Valley. Most of my family scuba dives as well, so we enjoy doing that as a family. We’re also into fishing, camping, backpacking…basically, if it’s outdoors, we’ve probably done it.” Additionally, Bill and his family regularly engage in charity work through their church, whether locally in their community or in foreign countries.

In regard to his professional career, Bill says his philosophy hinges on two essential values. “When it comes to dealing with customers, we’re all about honesty and integrity. Even if we’re installing something under a house or in the walls where no one is ever going to see it, we still make sure it looks nice and is done properly. Likewise, we’ll never sell customers something they don’t need. If there’s a less expensive solution available, we’ll tell them about it. I believe this approach has helped us build relationships of trust with our customers.”

When asked what he’d do if he were to retire tomorrow, Bill says he’d become more involved in international charity work. “I don’t ever plan on retiring, but if I did, I would probably spend more time going to impoverished countries and helping those in need. I currently do a fair amount of charity work overseas—for example, after the big earthquake in Haiti, we went down there to help with disaster relief. If I had more free time, I’d look for more opportunities like that.”

Ask Me Anything!

Q: What’s your favorite snack?
A: Fruit.

Q: If you could time travel, would you go to the past or the future?
A: I’d go back to the mid-19th century. I love that time period and the ideals and people associated with it.

Q: Are you an early bird or a night owl?
A: An early bird.

Q: If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?
A: Normandy, Germany, to see the World War II battlefields. I’m a pretty big history buff, so that would be fascinating to see.

Q: What’s the most death-defying feat you’ve ever attempted?
A: Driving in the Bay Area.

Read more

How to Prevent Toilet Problems

Shares

SAN JOSE — Even if your toilets work fine 95 percent of the time, problems are bound to arise once in a while. Whether your toilet is running non-stop or clogged and about to overflow, knowing what to do can help you… Read more

Expert Video Tip

Video: How to Stop an Overflowing Toilet

Shares
Complete Video Transcription:

SAN JOSE — Host, Sarah Rutan: If your toilet is running—or worse, overflowing—you’ll be glad to know there are easy ways to stop this from happening. Today we’re… Read more

Leigh Marymor is owner of The Lunt Marymor Company, a Diamond Certified company since 2007. He can be reached at (925) 567-3966 or by email.

Leigh Marymor

diamond certified contributor profile and expert article

Leigh Marymor: Pipes and Pictographs

By James Florence, Diamond Certified Resource Reporter

EMERYVILLE — As renowned as Leigh Marymor has become after 30 years in the Bay Area plumbing industry, he’s garnered an even more prominent reputation in the field of archeology. “I have an avocational passion for rock art research, which means I study prehistoric cave paintings and Indian rock art such as petroglyphs and pictographs,” he explains. “I’ve been doing this type of research for almost 40 years, and I’m also an activist for the conservation of local and international endangered historical sites. Additionally, I maintain a research database for the Bancroft Library at UC Berkeley, which gives students and researchers access to the literature of rock art studies.”

While his involvement in the archeological field was inspired by pure fascination, Leigh’s plumbing career originated from more practical motives. “I was actually a starving art student at the time, attending a textile art school in Berkeley,” he remembers. “I got introduced to plumbing when my roommate offered to take me to work with him a couple days a week. I think he was just tired of me stealing his groceries!” After he graduated college, Leigh found himself at a vocational crossroads. “By the time I finished school, I was married and wanted to start a family. I realized that my art degree wasn’t going to pay the bills, so I decided to stick with plumbing.”

Leigh founded his own plumbing business in 1981, which he operated out of Oakland for nearly two decades before partnering with Jim Lunt to establish The Lunt Marymor Company in 1999. “We were friendly competitors for years, and through a series of conversations, we eventually decided to join forces.” Today, Leigh says the partnership has culminated in a company that offers the utmost in quality and service. “Both of us put a high value on customer service, craftsmanship and artistry, and over the years we’ve been able to combine these attributes into an affordable package.”

Originally from Philadelphia, Leigh lived in various locations throughout the United States before eventually settling in the East Bay Area. Several years later, he continues to enjoy life in his adopted setting, where he lives with wife, Amy. “I fell in love with the Bay Area the moment I came here to attend college, and I still love being here today. As someone who travels a fair amount, it’s always a great place to come home to.”

Juggling both a professional career and avid avocational interests—he jokes about doing plumbing in his spare time—Leigh says he’s no different from others in the Bay Area who wear a number of hats. “A lot of my generation is made up of what you’d call ‘Renaissance people.’ The skills we learned in college prepared us for our careers, but we also came to develop personal interests outside of that realm. Rather than choosing one over the other, we decided to combine it all and live full, versatile lives.”

When asked the first thing he’d do if he could retire tomorrow, Leigh’s answer comes as no surprise. “I’d probably head to a cave somewhere,” he laughs. “If I could somehow get an invitation, I’d love to visit the Chauvet Cave in Southwestern France. They’ve found 32,000-year-old cave paintings there that are as beautiful and sophisticated as anything found in later periods, so that’s something I’d love to see.”

Ask Me Anything!

Q: If you could time travel, would you go to the past or the future?
A: I would go to the past so I could meet some of the people whose art I’ve been looking at for all these years.

Q: What’s your favorite local restaurant?
A: Saul’s Restaurant & Deli in Berkeley.

Q: What’s your favorite holiday?
A: My wife’s birthday.

Q: Fiction or nonfiction books?
A: Fiction. I particularly enjoy Latin American surrealistic authors like Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Jose Saramago.

Q: Who makes you laugh?
A: Robin Williams, as well as some of the old classics like Red Skelton and Jackie Gleason.

Read more

How to Save Water in Your Home

Shares

EMERYVILLE — It’s important for California homeowners to be proactive about saving water, particularly during times of drought. By taking a few simple measures, you can minimize the amount of water that’s wasted in your home. One of the most… Read more

Expert Video Tip

Video: Water Heater Replacement

Shares
Complete Video Transcription:

EMERYVILLE — Host, Sarah Rutan: If you’re planning to replace your old, traditional water heater, it’s important to know the full extent of your options. Today we’re… Read more

Cameron Mason is a 25-year veteran of the plumbing industry and owner of Mason Plumbing, Inc., a Diamond Certified company. He can be reached at (415) 484-6836 or by email.

Cameron Mason

diamond certified contributor profile and expert article

Cameron Mason: An Unplanned Profession

By James Florence, Diamond Certified Resource Reporter

SAN ANSELMO — When Cameron Mason started plumbing to pay his way through college, he never thought it would become his primary livelihood. “I worked as a plumber while earning my degree in physical therapy,” he explains. “After graduating, I did an internship with a local physical therapist, but eventually I realized it wasn’t for me. I had fond memories of plumbing, so I decided to return to the trade full-time. After completing my five-year apprenticeship, I started my own business.”

Today, as owner of Mason Plumbing, Inc., Cameron says his favorite part of his job is solving problems. “I enjoy going into a customer’s home, looking at the problem they’re having and coming up with a solution. As a plumber, every day brings a new challenge, as well as a new opportunity to help someone.”

A resident of Marin County (where he lives with his wife, Kamber, and their two children), Cameron expresses his appreciation for his longtime locale. “I was born and raised in Marin, so I feel very connected to my community. I really like the culture—it’s kind of a unique little bubble within the Greater Bay Area.”

Outside of work, Cameron spends the bulk of his time with his family. “During the last five years, my biggest hobby has been driving the kids to and from activities,” he laughs. “My son is a competitive swimmer and my daughter dances ballet, so I do a lot of chauffeuring.” When he’s not on call for child transportation, Cameron enjoys activities like mountain biking, working on his house and traveling. “We try to take a trip with the kids at least once every six months. We’ve been to Rome, Paris and Mexico, and we’re going to England later this summer.”

In his life and career, Cameron espouses the importance of integrity. “I believe in being a man of my word,” he affirms. “If I say I’m going to be somewhere at a certain time, I have to follow through with that. Basically, actions speak louder than words, and that’s what success in both life and business is all about.”

When asked about his future plans for retirement, Cameron says he doesn’t believe in bucket lists. “I’m already living the life I want to live. I work hard, but I get to have breakfast and dinner with my family every day, and I’m off nights and weekends. It’s a good balance, and you can’t ask for much more than that.”

Ask Me Anything!

Q: What’s your favorite sports team?
A: The San Francisco 49ers.

Q: What’s your favorite TV show?
A: “Fixer Upper.”

Q: Music or talk radio?
A: Music.

Q: What kinds of music do you enjoy?
A: I’m all over the place—I’ll listen to anything from Edith Piaf to Rancid.

Q: If you could time travel, would you go to the past or the future?
A: I’d probably go to the future and try to figure out what we could do right now to make it better.

Read more

Benefits of Hot Water Recirculation

Shares

SAN ANSELMO — Growing up, I remember going to take my morning shower, turning on the water and then picking out my clothes while I waited two to three minutes for it to heat up. While this is still the case… Read more

Expert Video Tip

Video: Hot Water Recirculation Pumps

Shares
Complete Video Transcription:

SAN ANSELMO — Host, Sarah Rutan: If you’re looking for ways to conserve water in your home, your first step should be installing a hot water recirculation… Read more

Victor Morales is operation sales manager at Gladiator Rooter & Plumbing, a Diamond Certified company since 2013. He can be reached at (510) 564-7933 or by email.

Victor Morales

diamond certified contributor profile and expert article

Victor Morales: Up for the Challenge

By James Florence, Diamond Certified Resource Reporter

SAN LEANDRO — After spending just five years working in the plumbing industry, Victor Morales felt he was ready to take things to the next level, so he obtained his state license and co-founded Gladiator Rooter & Plumbing with his wife, Esther. Twenty-five years later, when asked what motivated him to make the leap from employee to proprietor, Victor replies that he was simply up for the challenge. “I saw it as something to aspire to—a challenge to myself,” he remembers. “So far, it’s been a successful venture. Not only have we been able to keep our license in good standing, we’ve also been able to build a loyal clientele base by continuing to keep our customers happy.”

As operation sales manager of Gladiator Rooter & Plumbing, Victor says his favorite part of the job is taking care of customers and furthering his company’s positive reputation. “As a plumbing professional, my passion is providing our customers with excellent service at an honest price. Not only does this give me a personal sense of fulfillment, I also think it has been a major factor in the continued growth of our business.”

Originally from Mexico City, Victor came to the United States in 1979 and currently resides in Alameda, where he says the temperate climate and scenic landscape make for “a contractor’s heaven.” Victor believes limiting his company’s service area to the local region has helped it maintain its reputation for dependability. “Unlike companies that advertise all over the Bay Area, we only service Alameda and Contra Costa Counties, just because we want to stay reliable for our customers in the local community.”

When he’s not working, most of Victor’s time is devoted to activities with his family. “Esther and I have eight children, some of whom are grown up and some of whom are still at home,” he says. “We like to do things together like swim at the beach and go to Raiders or A’s games. My kids have been instrumental in motivating me to lead a successful life.”

Victor attributes much of his professional success to his ability to surround himself with people who share his vision. “One of our original company goals was to assemble a very skilled and reliable crew,” he says. “By hiring high-caliber people who possess the same level of integrity and motivation that we do, we’ve been able to further our success as a business.”

When asked what he’d do if he could retire tomorrow, Victor says he’d transition to a full-time career as a stay-at-home dad. “We still have four young ones at home, so I’d definitely take advantage of the opportunity to spend more time with them and have a greater involvement in their lives.”

Ask Me Anything!

Q: Do you have a favorite sports team?
A: I’m a fan of the Oakland Raiders and the Oakland A’s.

Q: If you could visit one country, where would you go?
A: Italy—I’d like to see Rome and all the major historical sites.

Q: What’s your favorite thing to do on a rainy day?
A: Work. The rainy season is the busiest time of year for us!

Q: What was your favorite toy as a child?
A: My bicycle.

Q: What’s your favorite local restaurant?
A: Kincaid’s in Oakland.

Read more

Avoiding Problems with Toilets and Garbage Disposals

Shares

SAN LEANDRO — While plumbing fixtures such as toilets and garbage disposals offer convenient ways to dispose of refuse, it’s important to know a few usage guidelines so you can avoid potential problems. One of particular importance is knowing what… Read more

Expert Video Tip

Video: Caring for your Plumbing Fixtures

Shares
Complete Video Transcription:

SAN LEANDRO — Host, Sarah Rutan: An important part of maintaining your home’s plumbing fixtures is to know what not to dispose of. Today we’re… Read more

Ray Ramirez is president of General Plumbing and Rooter, a Diamond Certified company since 2014. He can be reached at (925) 388-6997 or by email.

Ray Ramirez

diamond certified contributor profile and expert article

Ray Ramirez: A Pipeline of Opportunity

By James Florence, Diamond Certified Program Reporter

ANTIOCH — After several years in the restaurant business, Ray Ramirez was longing for a change of pace, so when an opportunity arose to enter a new vocation, he didn’t take it lightly. “I was working in a restaurant and wasn’t really happy,” he remembers. “I wanted to get into a trade like HVAC or electrical, but I was having a hard time finding a company that would take me on. Finally, I was given an opportunity to apprentice with a plumbing company, which is what led me to where I am today.”

As president of General Plumbing and Rooter, Ray embraces multiple aspects of his career. “I never liked being stuck in one place, so I appreciate that plumbing allows me to go to different places throughout the day,” he says. “I’m also very interested in the technological aspects of the job, and I enjoy staying up-to-date with the latest industry innovations.”

Originally from Mexico, Ray came to the United States at the age of 18. Today, as a resident of Pleasant Hill (where he lives with his wife, Alicia, and their children, Anahi and Eric), he says he appreciates the central proximity of his adopted hometown. “My family and I like going on short trips to nearby places like San Francisco, Monterey, Santa Cruz and Reno.” Ray also enjoys staying active with hobbies like soccer and auto restoration. “I’ve been playing soccer since I was a kid, and I still play two or three times a week, which helps keep me in shape,” he says. “Another hobby that I recently started with my son is restoring old cars. Our first project is a ’64 Chevy pickup, which is currently in pieces. I’m not sure how we’re going to get it back together, but I guess that’s why we have the Internet!”

In regard to his professional career, Ray espouses the importance of deriving satisfaction from his livelihood. “If you’re not happy in your work, you’re basically wasting time and energy, so it’s important to make an effort to improve your situation,” he says. “I’ve been there myself—I was very unhappy while working in the restaurant business, but now that I’ve found something I enjoy, it gives me a feeling of satisfaction and purpose.”

When asked the first thing he’d do if he could retire tomorrow, Ray says he’d do some volunteer work, as well as spend more time on his recently acquired hobby. “I’d do some volunteering with Habitat for Humanity and other organizations that benefit those in need. I’d also like to get more involved in buying and restoring old cars.”

Ask Me Anything!

Q: If you could visit anywhere in the world, where would you go?
A: Mexico. Even though I’m from there, there are so many parts of it I’d like to see.

Q: What’s your favorite local restaurant?
A: Chili’s in Pleasant Hill.

Q: What’s a website you visit on a daily basis?
A: Craigslist. It’s a good place to browse classic cars and find parts.

Q: How do you like your eggs?
A: Over medium.

Q: What was your favorite toy as a child?
A: My soccer ball.

Read more

The Benefits of Trenchless Sewer Line Replacement

Shares

ANTIOCH — When a sewer problem strikes, it often results in the need for sewer line repair or replacement. While traditional methodology requires a plumber to excavate the entire line—an expensive, time-intensive process that often leaves the customer’s yard in… Read more

Expert Video Tip

Video: Trenchless Sewer Replacement

Shares
Complete Video Transcription:

ANTIOCH — Host, Sarah Rutan: When it comes to sewer line repairs and replacement, a modern innovation has turned a once-arduous job into a relatively simple… Read more

Jonathan Millington is owner of Ace Plumbing and Rooter, a Diamond Certified company. He can be reached at (415) 523-0012 or by email.

Jonathan Millington

diamond certified contributor profile and expert article

Jonathan Millington: Crash Course to Success

By James Florence, Diamond Certified Resource Reporter

SAN FRANCISCO — Jonathan Millington’s plumbing career may have started with a crash course, but it ultimately led to an uncommon level of success. “In my early 20s, I was looking for a trade to get into and became interested in plumbing,” he begins. “I started reading some books about it and found a job with a local plumbing company. They gave me a real crash course. I think the idea was to train me really quickly and get me out in the field. As a result, I had to learn a lot from my mistakes, because I didn’t have a chance to fully learn things during my training.”

After getting a handle on the technical side of plumbing, Jonathan went to work for another company, where he gained insight on the service side. “After working in the field for a while, I was promoted to service manager and basically ran the business for the owner,” he recounts. “However, I didn’t agree with the way he handled customer service. This was back when most people used the Yellow Pages to find companies, and since he had a prominent ad there, he didn’t care whether customers were happy or came back. To me, it made more sense to invest in good service and build a loyal customer base. Not only would your customers be happy, you wouldn’t have to spend as much on advertising because of the repeat business.” Eventually, Jonathan decided the best way to implement his ideas was to start his own business, which he did in 2002.

Today, as owner of Ace Plumbing and Rooter, Jonathan says his favorite part of his job is finding solutions for his customers’ problems. “I think the problem-solving aspect was what interested me most about plumbing in the first place. Not only does it make for stimulating work, it’s fun to be the hero and save the day by fixing a customer’s problem.”

A resident of Daly City (where he lives with his wife, Marina, and son, Jonathan), Jonathan spends his time outside of work on a variety of active pastimes. “I enjoy snowboarding, playing golf and traveling when I get a chance,” he details. “I also love hanging out with my son. His favorite thing to do is ride his bicycle, so we do a lot of riding together.”

In regard to his professional career, Jonathan believes that his commitment to customer service has made all the difference in his long-term success. “Customer service has always been at the core of what we do,” he affirms. “I tell my plumbers, ‘If the customer isn’t happy at the end of the job, it isn’t finished—you need to stay there until they’re happy, even if that means getting me involved.’ Because of this, we’ve been able to build a very loyal customer base. Even if we’re booked out and can’t get to a customer’s house right away, they’re willing to wait. They don’t want to use another company because they trust us. That’s something I’m really proud of.”

Ask Me Anything!

Q: If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?
A: Colombia. I’ve done a fair bit of traveling, but that’s one place I still haven’t seen.

Q: Are you an early bird or a night owl?
A: I’m more of a night owl, but due to the nature of my business, I have to be an early bird. Things tend to start pretty early in the plumbing business.

Q: Do you collect anything?
A: Mainly souvenirs from traveling. My fireplace mantle is covered with odd trinkets I’ve brought back from all over the world.

Q: What’s your favorite holiday?
A: Christmas, because it’s all about the kids.

Q: What’s your favorite thing to eat for dessert?
A: Cheesecake.

Read more

The Importance of Sewer Inspections in Real Estate

Shares

SAN FRANCISCO — Before purchasing a home, buyers typically have a number of inspections performed to ensure the property’s integrity. A few common areas of inspection include the roof, the structure and the foundation. However, there’s one area of the home where… Read more

Expert Video Tip

Video: Real Estate Sewer Inspections

Shares
Complete Video Transcription:

SAN FRANCISCO — Host, Sarah Rutan: When ordering inspections for a prospective home purchase, don’t neglect the importance of a sewer inspection. Today we’re in San Francisco with… Read more

Gary Packard is operations manager of MAPLEService, Inc., a Diamond Certified company since 2004. He can be reached at (707) 585-9979 or by email.

Gary Packard

diamond certified contributor profile and expert article

Gary Packard: Plumbing Heritage

By James Florence, Diamond Certified Resource Reporter

SANTA ROSA — As a fourth-generation industry professional, you might say that Gary Packard has plumbing in his blood. “My great-grandfather was a plumber in Salt Lake City, my grandfather was a plumber in Idaho, and my dad spent more than 40 years plumbing in Oregon and California,” he says. “I started going on jobsites with my dad when I was six or seven years old. I guess you could say I was born into it.”

While he hadn’t originally planned to follow in the path of his forebears, Gary still managed to find his way into the family trade. “To be honest, I didn’t want to be a plumber, but I just kept getting drawn back into it,” he laughs. “In the mid-1980s, Oregon was going through a major economic downturn, and jobs were scarce. I was working as a sticker maker when my father told me about a plumbing company in the Bay Area that was hiring. It sounded like a good opportunity, so I decided to give plumbing another shot. Twenty-eight years later, I’m still doing it!”

Today, as operations manager of MAPLEService, Inc., Gary says his favorite part of his job is guiding customers toward a positive outcome. “I enjoy talking to homeowners, getting to know them and helping them make good choices. Rather than pressuring them to buy particular products or services, I prefer to educate them about their different options so they can make informed decisions.”

Originally from Oregon, Gary lived in West Sonoma County for many years before recently relocating to Windsor, where he lives with his wife, Darlene. When asked his favorite thing about life in the Bay Area, he says he appreciates the diversity of the local land- and cityscapes. “I like the fact that I can go from a big city like San Francisco to the Russian River or the redwoods within the span of an hour or so.”

Outside of work, Gary spends much of his time in nature, whether hiking at Shiloh Ridge or fishing at local reservoirs. “I also enjoy coaching youth sports—over the last 25 years, I’ve coached everything from little league baseball to varsity high school football,” he says. “I appreciate the opportunity it gives me to be a positive influence on young people.” Additionally, Gary takes time to keep up with his two sons: Randall, who coaches a professional baseball team in Germany, and Dallas, who is currently working as a plumber while attending college.

In his life and career, Gary espouses a maxim he often references while coaching youth sports: Live life with your heart, hustle and pride. “In addition to sharing that with my players, it’s something I’ve experienced in my own life,” he says. “When I was first hired at MAPLEService, I started at the bottom, digging holes and jack-hammering concrete. Today, I have my own desk and I’m supervising jobs. By staying true to my heart, hustling on the job and taking pride in my work, I was able to achieve my goals.”

When asked the first thing he’d do if he could retire tomorrow, Gary says he’d withdraw to a more tranquil environment. “Living in California, the one thing I miss is experiencing seasons, where you can tell what time of year it is simply by looking out the window. So, if I quit working tomorrow, the first thing I’d do is start looking for a nice little retirement place in an area with a slower pace of life than what we’re accustomed to in the Bay Area.”

Ask Me Anything!

Q: Did you play any sports in high school?
A: I played football and baseball, and I ran track.

Q: If you were a professional athlete, what number would you wear on your jersey?
A: 13. Most people think 13 is an unlucky number, but I’ve always had good luck with it.

Q: What’s your favorite season?
A: Winter. The snow on the mountains; the crisp, cool air—it’s like a new world.

Q: What’s your favorite snack?
A: Grapes.

Q: What was your favorite toy as a child?
A: My Tonka truck. I actually still have it!

Read more

Spring Cleaning for Your Plumbing System

Shares

SANTA ROSA — With the arrival of more congenial weather, spring is the time when many people begin tackling various home maintenance projects. In addition to common “spring cleaning” tasks such as repainting your house or cleaning your carpet, it’s… Read more

Expert Video Tip

Video: Water Heater and Toilet Maintenance

Shares
Complete Video Transcription:

SANTA ROSA — Host, Sarah Rutan: Today we're in Santa Rosa with Diamond Certified Expert Contributor, Gary Packard of MAPLEService, Inc. to hear his at-home… Read more

SELECTED PHOTOS FROM THESE TOP RATED COMPANIES

Shares