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DIAMOND CERTIFIED EXPERT CONTRIBUTORS IN THE Bay Area – Sewer Line Contractor CATEGORY

Fred Ramos is a 16-year veteran of the plumbing industry and owner of Star Rooter and Plumbing, Inc., a Diamond Certified company since 2011. He can be reached at (510) 402-5764 or by email.

Fred Ramos

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Fred Ramos: A Family Connection

By James Florence, Diamond Certified Resource Reporter

SAN LORENZO — When asked how he got involved in the plumbing industry, Fred Ramos attributes it to a family connection. “Before becoming a plumber, I was a technician at a home automation company,” he remembers. “My family had been in the plumbing industry for a long time, and eventually they asked me to come over, learn the trade, and help run the family business. Today, I work alongside my wife and my brother, so it’s really a family affair. Even my niece, Jessica, works here as our secretary.”

As owner of Star Rooter and Plumbing, Inc., Fred says that after 20 years in plumbing, his favorite part of his job is being out in the field. “Even though I’m the company owner, I still do service calls. The fact is, I’ve never really liked being in the office—I’d much rather be out interacting with customers and doing hands-on work.”

Originally from Mexico, Fred resides today in Hayward with his wife and three children. Outside of work, he and his family spend the bulk of their free time tending to their ranch. “My family owns a ranch up in the hills, so I like going up there with the kids and riding horses,” he says. “We do some competing on the weekends, so between that and keeping things maintained, it takes up a good amount of time.” Besides horses, Fred’s other passion is baseball. “My kids play baseball and softball, so I enjoy practicing with them, as well as playing with friends every now and then.”

In regard to his professional career, Fred espouses the importance of addressing a multitude of aspects. “When you run a business, you have to be on top of everything,” he explains. “You have to serve the customers, oversee your crew and make sure you have all the right equipment…and that’s just the beginning! I think a big part of my company’s success is having good, hardworking guys who take pride in their work and care about the customers. Plus, when you’ve been doing this as long as we have, it gets to be a routine, so things tend to go pretty smoothly.”

When asked the first thing he’d do if he were to retire tomorrow, Fred says he’d pay a visit to his hometown. “I generally don’t do much traveling, but I do go to Mexico every so often to visit my hometown, Zacatecas. I still have relatives there, including my 94-year-old grandfather, so I enjoy going down and spending time with family and friends.”

Ask Me Anything!

Q: What’s your favorite sports team?
A: The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, mainly because I lived in Southern California for the first year I was in the United States.

Q: What’s your favorite holiday?
A: Christmas.

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

Q: If you could live in the city or the country, which would you choose?
A: The city—everything is around you, so you don’t have to go far to find it.

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Trenchless Sewer Replacement

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SAN LORENZO — In the past, when a sewer line needed to be replaced, it had to be fully excavated, which was an expensive, time-consuming process that carried the added bonus of disrupting one’s lawn, sidewalk and whatever else happened to be… Read more

Expert Video Tip

Video: Streamlining Sewer Repairs

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SAN LORENZO — Host, Sarah Rutan: While repairing a sewer line was once an arduous job, modern innovations have enabled plumbers to streamline the process. Today we’re… 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

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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!

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Understanding Supply Valves

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BENICIA — Supply valves facilitate the distribution of water from the pipes in your walls to your home’s various plumbing fixtures. One common type of supply valve is called an angle stop, which is used to deliver water to sinks and toilets.… Read more

Thinking Proactively About Your Plumbing System

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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: Understanding Supply Valves

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BENICIA — Host, Sarah Rutan: Supply valves may be a minor part of your plumbing system, but ignoring them can lead to costly consequences. Today we’re in Benicia… Read more

Myles O’Dwyer is president of Pipe Spy Marin, Inc., a Diamond Certified company. He can be reached at (415) 890-6856 or by email.

Myles O'Dwyer

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Myles O’Dwyer: Pipe Guru

By James Florence, Diamond Certified Resource Reporter

LARKSPUR – It might come as a surprise to learn that Myles O’Dwyer’s turn as president of a plumbing service company was preceded by an extensive career in commercial finance. On the other hand, it explains a lot about the thriving success of his business. As Myles tells it, his newfound venture came as the result of a failed business merger. “I was in the process of negotiating a merger between a plumbing parts supplier and a service company, with a plan to combine them into a national franchise. When the parts supplier backed out, I went to work for the service company with an aim to improve its financial performance.” Benefitting from his business acumen, Pipe Spy expanded its operations to Marin in 2007, where Myles continues to run things today.

Originally from the Bay Area, Myles’ career in finance took him all over the United States, from Chicago to Connecticut to Los Angeles, before an opportunity arose for him to return to his native environment. Having spent several winters on the East Coast, Myles attests to a renewed appreciation for the temperate North Bay climate. “We still have our seasons, but it’s nothing like back east,” he affirms. “When I lived in Connecticut, the trees would lose all their leaves and just look like dead sticks for five months. It was depressing.”

While his career keeps him busy, Myles finds time to enjoy a variety of hobbies outside of work, from weekly basketball games to renovating classic cars and motorcycles, including his father’s 1934 Ford pickup. He also likes to keep up with his four daughters, all of whom are variously situated along the West Coast. “My oldest daughter is a kindergarten teacher in Seattle, Washington, my second-oldest is a chef in San Francisco, and I have a set of twins who are in college,” he proudly says. Myles also enjoys going out to support the football team of his Berkeley alma mater, the Cal Bears.

When asked what his future retirement might look like, the ever-ambitious Myles intimates that it’ll likely be the start of another enterprise altogether. “One of the things I’ve always wanted to do is get my PhD, so I’ll probably do that after I retire,” he says. “I haven’t decided whether to focus on business ethics or political science—I guess I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it!”

Ask Me Anything!

Q: Do you have a favorite movie?
A: I remember the best double feature I ever went to: “Patton” and “MASH.”

Q: What kind of books do you like to read?
A: I like mysteries that have some kind of historical element to them, like The Da Vinci Code.

Q: Beatles or Rolling Stones?
A: Beatles—but actually, the Beach Boys are the best!

Q: Who makes you laugh?
A: Richard Pryor, Steve Martin and Robin Williams.

Q: What’s your favorite snack?
A: Oatmeal cookies.

Q: What was your favorite Halloween costume as a child?
A: Every year I wore the same costume: the classic bed sheet ghost. It was very effective.

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How to Prevent a Sewer Line Backup

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LARKSPUR — Homeowners often don’t know they have an issue with their sewer line until it backs up inside their home. Fortunately, there are a couple of proactive measures you can take to prevent this from happening. One way to avoid… Read more

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Video: Solutions to Sewer Line Backup

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LARKSPUR — Host, Sarah Rutan: Preventing sewer line backup in your home is important. So today we’re in Larkspur with Diamond Certified Expert Contributor Myles O’Dwyer… 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

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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.

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HVAC System Longevity

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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

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Video: Maintaining Your Furnace

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SANTA CRUZ – Host, Sarah Rutan: Even if your furnace is functional, that doesn't necessarily mean it's efficientor safe, for that matter. Today we're in Santa… Read more

Rod Tehrani is owner of Absolute Plumbing and Drain, a Diamond Certified company. He can be reached at (925) 267-8561 or by email.

Rod Tehrani

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Rod Tehrani: A Technical Advancement

By James Florence, Diamond Certified Resource Reporter

CONCORD — After eight years of working construction, Rod Tehrani felt it was time to advance to something a little more technical. “I decided to look into plumbing,” he relates. “At first, it was a lot more grunt work than technical, but that changed with time. The more I learned about the intricate aspects of the profession, the more I enjoyed it. Eventually, I got hired by the county as a crew leader for underground pipe replacement projects. In 2002, I started my own plumbing business, and it has been growing ever since.”

Today, as owner of Absolute Plumbing and Drain, Rod says his favorite part of his job is the daily challenges. “Every day brings new situations and new problems to solve. Even if the job is basically the same, the unique situation can differ significantly. I enjoy troubleshooting and finding solutions to challenging problems.”

Originally from Iran, Rod came to the United States in 1995 and currently resides in the East Bay Area. “Transitioning from life in Iran to life in the U.S. wasn’t exactly smooth,” he says. “I had a business degree, but back then it wasn’t recognized in the U.S., so I basically had to start over from scratch. What I appreciated most was the fact that I was accepted here, despite being from a totally different culture. I will always be appreciative of the people who accepted me for who I am and helped me get on my feet.”

In regard to his professional career, Rod espouses the importance of going the extra mile to ensure customer satisfaction. “I’m not worried about being the biggest or most profitable plumbing company; I’m more concerned about making our customers happy,” he affirms. “Sometimes that means going the extra mile. For example, I recently did a job where I was at the customers’ home until 9:30pm, just so I could make sure they had running water before I left. They couldn’t believe I was willing to stay that long, but they were very appreciative. Driving home, I was tired but happy. That’s the kind of feeling that’s more rewarding than money.”

When asked the first thing he’d do if he were to retire tomorrow, Rod says he’d take a cruise. “I work six days a week, so if I retired, I’d definitely take some time to relax. Maybe I’d go on a cruise to Costa Rica. Of course, I’d want to keep the business running with my guys, so I probably wouldn’t retire completely. Maybe I’d just transition into a less hands-on role.”

Ask Me Anything!

Q: What’s your favorite restaurant?
A: The Cheesecake Factory in Walnut Creek.

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

Q: Do you collect anything?
A: Watches.

Q: If could time-travel, would you go to the past or the future?
A: I would go to the past, when life was more slow-paced. These days, it feels like we’re chasing our lives to get to the end. I miss the simpler, slower times.

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An Important Pre-Purchase Property Inspection

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CONCORD — An important part of buying a new home is performing pre-purchase property inspections. These inspections verify that the home is in good condition and help rule out any unwanted (and expensive) surprises. One pre-purchase inspection I highly recommend is a… Read more

The Advantages of an Earthquake Safety Valve

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CONCORD — Due to high levels of seismic activity, earthquake safety is no small matter in the Bay Area. If you’re a homeowner, this means ensuring your home is structurally reinforced with supplementary measures like bolting and bracing. It’s also a good… Read more

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Video: Sewer Lateral Inspection

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CONCORD — Host, Sarah Rutan: Before purchasing a new home, there’s an important inspection you’ll want to have performed. To learn more, we’re in Concord with Lindsay Guay… Read more

Daniel Gagne is a lifetime veteran of the plumbing industry and owner of Benjamin Franklin Plumbing, a Diamond Certified company. He can be reached at (415) 788-4357 or by email.

Daniel Gagne

diamond certified contributor profile and expert article

Daniel Gagne: Plumbing Pride

By James Florence, Diamond Certified Resource Reporter

NOVATO — When Daniel Gagne began his plumbing career, he had no idea of the level of success he’d one day attain. “My dad was a plumber, so I was introduced to the trade at a very young age,” he recounts. “After high school, I worked for the family business for a while, and after doing some traveling in my 20s, I ended up in Marin County, where I got a job with a local plumbing company. In 1996, my brother and I co-founded our own plumbing business, which focused on new construction and remodeling work in Marin, Napa, and Sonoma Counties.”

Three years into their joint venture, Daniel and his brother decided to reorient their focus toward service and repair; little did they know it would completely change the face of their business. “We joined a plumbing organization that specialized in training owners how to run profitable service and repair businesses,” he explains. “Through this organization, we were introduced to Benjamin Franklin Plumbing—a brand concept one could license that included a ready-made logo and everything. I liked the concept and decided to sign up. Once we began advertising as Benjamin Franklin Plumbing, things really took off. Our business exploded, and within three years, our staff had quadrupled in size. Ten years later, we have almost 100 employees and three different locations in the Bay Area.”

Today, Daniel looks back with pride upon his accomplishments of the past decade. “I never really intended to build such a big business—I was more interested in being able to write my own story. Still, I feel proud of the things we’ve accomplished as a company. We kind of pioneered, at least in the Sonoma-Marin area, the way plumbers are perceived by creating a cleaner, more professional presentation. I’m also proud of the fact that we provide our employees with good wages and full benefits so they can live comfortably and take care of their families.”

A resident of Fairfax (where he lives with his wife, Ann), Daniel spends his time outside of work engaged in a variety of active pastimes. “Ann and I love getting out into nature and going hiking at local national parks. We also love to travel—we take about three major trips each year. We were recently in Bali, where Ann hosted a retreat that she put together, and afterward we visited her daughter in New Zealand. We both have family outside of the country, so we have plenty of reasons to travel.”

In regard to a professional philosophy, Daniel believes that having happy employees translates to having happy customers. “We’ve discovered the best way to ensure our customers stay satisfied is to put our employees first,” he explains. “When your employees are happy, they’re more invested in doing good work and treating customers right, and when that happens, everyone wins.”

When asked the first thing he’d do if he were to retire tomorrow, Daniel says he’d embark on a Greener lifestyle. “I would probably buy a property somewhere with lots of nature around it, build a self-sustainable home and plant an organic garden. I think it would be a very peaceful and rewarding lifestyle—to live in harmony with the Earth.”

Ask Me Anything!

Q: What’s your favorite style of music?

A: World music, especially Latin-based.

Q: What’s your favorite snack?

A: I like to eat healthy, so I prefer things like wild berries and raw veggies.

Q: If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?

A: I’d like to spend some time in Southeast Asia and visit Myanmar, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. I’m attracted to the culture and history there, including all the old temples and artifacts.

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

A: Do some cooking and watch a good movie.

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

A: Both. I usually wake up early during the week, but I like staying up late on the weekends.

 

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DIY Water Heater Maintenance

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NOVATO — A crucial aspect of plumbing system maintenance is to drain your water heater’s tank at least once a year. This is important because of all the sediment in the water, which tends to collect and sit at the bottom of… Read more

Expert Video Tip

Video: How to Flush a Water Heater

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NOVATO — Host, Sarah Rutan: The simplest way to increase your water heater’s operating lifespan is to flush its tank annually. Today we’re in Novato with Diamond Certified… Read more

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