Comparing Vendors and Bids

Sewer and drain cleaning is a difficult business for both customers and vendors because clients can't see what their money is buying. The following information will help you get your money's worth.

You as a client need to ask what type of hydro-jetting machine will be used!!!
In order to sell jetting services, many contractors will use small "cart jetters". These machines are mounted on a little cart and are small enough to be carried around inside a van. These machines are designed for use on smaller 2 to 3 inch lines and are not adequate for cleaning larger 4, 6 and 8 inch diameter or larger lines. They can not deliver the volume of water needed to flush the loosened debris out of the line. This large volume of water flow is crucial.

They use these machines because it allows them to offer jetting services with little investment and the majority of customers have no idea that there is even a difference in the quality of service provided. Customers just naturally assume that jetting is jetting, not true.

Superjet operates full size trailer-towed hydro-jetters. These are $45,000 machines powered by a 50 horsepower diesel engine. If the $2,500.00 cart jetter was able to approach the effectiveness of the $45,000 pump, we wouldn't be spending $45,000 on each of our machines

Full size U.S. Jetter: 4,000 psi @ 18 gallons per minute.
Cart jetter: 3,000 psi @ 4 gallons per minute.

Ask if the contractor specializes in Hydro-Jetting.
Superjet is not a plumbing company that happens to have a jetter. We specialize in jetting sewers and drains. Our techs are not installing a water heater in the morning and trying to remember how to run the jetter in the afternoon. We have thousands of hours of specific jetting experience. This relates directly to the reduced amount of time required to complete a project correctly. Each technician is qualified to hydro-jet, line locate, video inspect, diagnose and provide recommendations.

Superjet uses rotating sewer cleaning nozzles.
Rotary nozzles are almost ten times the cost of non rotating nozzles but are far more effective at removing grease, debris and roots from lines in far less time. A non-rotating nozzle can leave pipes still streaked with grease and debris even after multiple passes. When the pipe conditions allow it, we always use a rotating nozzle.

Ask if there will be a CCTV video inspection system and pipe locating equipment onsite at the time of jetting. We always carry this equipment. This avoids costly return trips and valuable time wasted.

Do the Math
Recently I was talking to a prospective client, it was for a large high end restaurant, and she was telling me how she got such a great deal on her last jetting job. Well at this point you have to ask yourself why she wasn't using that vendor again. Anyway, she thought my time estimate was a bit high compared to the last vendor. I told her to do the math. After she divided the amount of time that the last contractors were on-site by the number of drains serviced, the smile literally left her face. The time average per drain came down to a ridiculous amount, less than 6 minutes per drain supposedly serviced. You can't clean drains devoting 6 minutes per drain. Don't forget that's an average that has to include set-up, break-down, moving hoses, filling with water and any clean up. You get what you pay for.

This same calculation technique can also be used for large properties and linear running feet. We use this formula to give us a real world estimate for the time required to clean the lines in question. For example, if you have a large property such as a mobile home community and you know the length of one of the main sewer line runs, with a map of the property, you can quickly figure out a rough estimate of the total number of running feet of line to be cleaned. If the clean/out access is difficult in back yards and such then you will be doing well to clean approximately 300 feet of line per hour. After all, your pulling hose into backyards and around buildings. If the access is easy, with clean/outs positioned in or very close to the street, you might be able to average 500 feet per hour. The operative word here is to clean the line, not just run a hose through it fast and call it good. Our standard practice at Superjet is to run each segment of line twice with a rotating nozzle at a relatively slow rate of travel through the pipe. This is an extremely effective method for cleaning a line.

The vendor you're bidding with needs to be able to tell you how the bid was calculated. This will tell you if your receiving a bid that is realistic or someone is just giving you the numbers you want to hear. I'll give you an example. We lost a bid on a big project to a large national plumbing company that gave this customer a cost number they wanted to hear. I went over the numbers with the prospective customer and showed them that it was physically impossible to run a jetter hose through all 6,500 feet of line in their mobile home park in the time they had been quoted. There were over 20 clean/outs that the truck had to be moved around to and the jetter had to be filled with water repeatedly. They had been quoted a "few hours". Do the math, 6,500 feet of line divided by 180 minutes is 36 feet per minute non-stop. NON STOP. To actually be able to do that amount of line in that time you would need a jetter hose 6,500 feet long (doesn't exist) with an uninterrupted supply of water and never move the hydro-jetter. No moving of a truck and no stops to fill with water. It's not physically possible. This customer, a manager not an owner, didn't care. It was all about the low bid. You get what you pay for.

Firm Bids and Low Bids
Keep in mind that firm bids or estimates that are not time-realistic work against the customer in the following ways; Drain cleaning companies are not psychics and usually do not know the condition or extent of debris in your pipes before they start working. If the time estimate is short in order to get the job and the operator runs into a very dirty line, they are not going to spend the time needed to get that line clean. Their choice is to go over budget or work for free. They certainly aren't going to work for free and going over budget may not be an option. The easy thing for them to do is the minimum amount of work to keep the line open and hope the customer makes it past any warranty period. The customer doesn't have a clue that they are receiving poor quality work.

A lower than normal bid should get your attention for the simple reason that the contractor needs to make a profit somehow. The only way to maximize his profit on his low bid is to put in as little time as possible. Ask the contractor to do the math for you and explain how the bid was calculated and how much time will be devoted to any given segment of line. If one contractor bids 17 hours and another bids 10 hours, don't just assume that the 10 hours is the one you want. Do the Math.

The easiest way to avoid these pitfalls is to use a reputable company that specializes in Hydro-Jetting and ask how the bid was calculated.

Call backs
Another thing to keep in mind is that many hydro-jetting companies work on quantity, commissions and not necessarily quality. If they do 6 or 7 jobs in a day but the fast work results in 1 or 2 call backs, that's acceptable because they're still making a large profit. They are still making more than if they had done 3 or 4 jobs properly. But if you're one of the call backs from inferior work, a warranty doesn't help much, especially if you're facing a large fine from the health department, a second hazardous materials clean up charge or big insurance losses from damaged property. We do not work on a commission basis and each operator is held responsible for any call backs.

Our industry is full of contractors willing to do as little as possible and run with their money. We are not one of them. Superjet is there to fix your problem and to do a great job at the price we quoted or less. We want your repeat business and we want your referral. Superjet. References gladly on request.

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