Tuesday, September 23, 2008

A Few Stories From A Maintenance Technician

Just for the record, I live in central Florida and work as a maintenance technician for an apartment complex, and I am going to share a few short stories of what a maintenance technician will go through, after hours. These are a couple of the bad calls, I have had many, many bad calls late at night, but I only going to share a few. This is what you have to look forward too if you want to become a maintenance technician.

Just another day at the apartment complex, the thing I hate most about my job as a maintenance man, is that you have to go on call for a whole week. Every place is different, some complex’s have a four week rotation, like where I work at, and then some have an every other week on call rotation. It all depends on how big the apartment complex is and how many technicians that you have. The newer apartments don’t get as many emergency calls as the old ones do of course, and of course the one that I work at is pushing 40 years old, so the plumbing is shot, and I am good to get about 5-10 plumbing emergencies every week that I go on call. Some of the calls come in the middle of the night, like at 3 a.m., it can be nerve wrecking.

Last rotation that I was on call I got woken up by the emergency phone at about 3 a.m., the resident had said that he had water pouring down from the ceiling. I of course tried to talk my way out of taking the call, but he had insisted that it was an emergency and needed immediate action, because the water was pouring from a light and his carpet was getting wet, great. So I have to bang on the residents door that lived above him and wake her up at 3:45 am in the morning, explain to her that she had a leak coming from her apartment and I had to take care of it immediately. Sure enough I went to the water heater and it was leaking from the bottom of the water heater, her carpet was also soaking wet. So I secured the water to the water heater and told her that I would be out first thing in the morning to replace it.

Well I thought that I had the shutoff valve turned all the way off, until 3 hours later, 7 am I get woken up again with a call, the resident with the bad water heater said her whole room was soaking wet, so I hauled ass over there, then again shut down on the shut off valve with some pliers. All of her crap was soaking wet, she was pissed, but then again I was pissed off too, seeing as how I barely got any damn sleep that night.

I had a similar situation a couple of months ago, this time I was woken up at 2:30 a.m., I was still drunk and after the 5th time the resident had called I had finally woken up to return the call. He was screaming that it was like Niagra falls in his hallway. He stated that the apartment above him was a vacant apartment, meaning that nobody lived there, so I went to the office and pulled a key for the vacant apartment, went upstairs and the toilet supply hose to the toilet was completely off. So a steady pressure of water was just sitting there pouring for about an hour or so. So I immediately secured the shut off valve and called the on-call carpet cleaner, who didn’t answer his phone after about 5 tries, probably drunk and passed out too. So I go to the shop and get the wet vac and started vacuuming the soaked carpets up, both upstairs and downstairs. Then I told the guy that we will have the carpet extractors out there first thing in the morning to extract the water from the carpet. He was okay with that, the dude just wanted to get some rest anyway.

So if you decide you want to make a career being a handyman or maintenance man for an apartment complex these are some of the things that are going to happen, there is no way around it. You will get calls in the middle of the night sooner or later, and once you do, sooner or later it is going to happen again so be prepared. While I was writing this I had to do 2 a/c calls, but it is only 7 PM right now, most of the time the calls stop around this time. But if you get a call after, you know that it is most likely an emergency.

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Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Alternatives to Drain Cleaners

One of my favorite tools that I use when I am on the job is the plunger. You can get so much use out of a plunger it is ridiculous. I mean most people think of a plunger as a tool that can unclog their toilet, and this is true because it is what it’s used as most commonly. But the reason that I like it is the plunger is a very handy tool when it comes to unclogging anything that is water based and has pipes.

The reason that I am bringing this up, as soon as the average Joe that isn’t very handyman coordinated has a clog in either their bathroom sink or their tub/shower, they immediately run to the local home depot or whatever, and get buy some king of drain cleaner for about 10 bucks. Now drain cleaners do work in some cases but they can be expensive on your pocket, and they also wear down the piping of your drain system, which could eventually lead to a major pipe leak, then you will have to hire someone to tear down walls and repair the broken pipe, again, this will cost you major money out of your pocket.

So before you run to the store and buy the most expensive drain cleaner there is that guarantees it can unclog your plumbing pipes, try a plunger first. The plunger is a tool that creates extremely high water pressure to push blockage through the thin pipes into the main line, which is a lot thicker than the pipes under your sink, once the blockage is in the main piping system the flow of water will wash it away to its next destination, usually the city’s waste reservoir.

When you are plunging a sink or a bathtub, make sure that the water level is at least 6 inches above the water, this will account for maximum pressure that is shot through the pipes to unclog them. If you are trying to plunge a sink or bathtub with no water above the plunger, you are just wasting your time. So give the plunger a shot, fill the sink or tub up with water, give it about 3-10 half plunges to build up pressure within the pipes, then push all the way down with the plunger and lift up quickly, this will cause a huge blast of water pressure screaming through the plumbing pipes and will usually push the blockage further down the piping system into the main, where the blockage can float away by regular water pressure. You may have to do this multiple times, especially if there is a huge build up of hair.

If the plunger doesn’t work the next option would be a hand snake, the kind that I use is 25 feet long and is electric powered, kind of like a drill. This is how to unclog your drain if the plunger isnt working, whether it be a sink or bathtub. The hand snake works wonders, way better than any drain product that is out there, and it won’t damage your plumbing pipes either. As soon as I get a video camera I will be making many tutorials for you guys to actually show you how to fix stuff, the first ones are going to be related to plumbing, on how to use a hand snake, plunger, etc. Now I am not saying that drain cleaners don’t work, because sometimes they do, I have used them many times, but just recently I decided that there is no point, I can unclog any sink or tub with either a plunger or a snake, if the snake or plunger can’t unclog the blockage, I sure as hell know that no drain cleaner will.