Master plumber Mike Casanova did not instantly fall in love with his trade. In fact, for his first five years as a plumber’s apprentice, he outright hated it. It wasn’t until trade school, when he got a wider view of plumbing, that he developed a curiosity. He began to appreciate both the intricacies and the vastness; how remarkably innovative it is and yet how little most people think of it in their everyday lives. When one is able to see that bigger picture, plumbing is no longer about the aggravation of a clogged drain or the labor of digging a trench. In perspective, plumbing is truly one of the most important advancements in modern times.
We spoke with Mike recently about his background, his thoughts on plumbing, and his business, Commode Commander, as well as some inside knowledge and tips that homeowners might find useful.
Cinch: Let’s dive right into it. Do you like being a plumber?
Mike: I do. It’s probably more fascinating to me because it’s hidden. Sometimes I wonder what plumbing would be like if it was worked into the decor of a house. I mean, it would probably be gross, but it really is interesting, how it works. It’s intricate. And it really is a key to society, to sanitation and keeping us healthy.
Cinch: How did you get started in it?
Mike: Odd jobs after high school led me to it. I never thought I’d go to college; in fact, I don’t think everyone should go to college or feel any pressure to. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, so I started doing random work, here and there. One day I answered an ad for a plumber’s apprentice.
Cinch: And you hated it at first.
Mike: Yeah, for like five years. It was just physical labor, 90% digging up pipes. I’d work 16-hour days, six days a week. It wasn’t until my next job that I got bumped up the chain a bit and started appreciating it more. Then I went to trade school and really got into it. That’s what inspired me to start my own business.
Cinch: A fascination with plumbing?
Mike: That and needing a new type of challenge. The trade itself has sort of a ceiling in terms of growth. Don’t get me wrong, a week doesn’t go by where I’m not surprised or faced with a tough problem to solve. But in terms of my own career growth, owning a business was a different plateau I wanted to reach. And now that’s about 80% of my job.
Cinch: Do you still go out on service calls?
Mike: Sure do.
Cinch: What are the most common problems you find?
Mike: It’s always a clog of some sort, usually a toilet or a garbage disposal. Or something is preventing the whole house from draining. And most of the time, it’s an emergency. That’s the thing about plumbing — most issues need to be dealt with immediately.
Cinch: Is there anything homeowners can do to keep their plumbing in good working order?
Mike: Most issues are the result of a fluke, like a tampon getting flushed, or old age. For flukes, the only fix is common sense. Don’t flush heavy objects down the toilet. Be sensible with your garbage disposal. Try and use hair traps in the shower. Old age is old age. A common issue is root intrusion. Roots enter pipes and cause blockages. When it comes to garbage disposals, I try to avoid them altogether. I fix them, but I don’t own one personally. Higher-end models usually last a while without problems, but the lower-end disposals that you buy for $100 — they’re more trouble than they’re worth. I say, just put your table scraps in the trash. Overall, plumbing systems are well designed, and there’s not much you can do for maintenance, especially anything built from the ’50s to the ’70s. That was a good era for plumbing construction.
Cinch: What’s the verdict on clog-busting products?
Mike: (Hesitates). Not a fan, personally. The funny thing is these products were created by plumbers. But if you have cast-iron pipes, the product doesn’t know the difference between the pipe and the material it’s meant to eat away at. Also, if people use a liquid agent unsuccessfully, and then call a plumber, the liquid can back up through the pipe and burn our hands.
Cinch: What’s the simplest repair a homeowner can do?
Mike: Fixing a running toilet — 99% of the time, it means buying and installing a new flapper, which costs $5 or $10, and takes 10 minutes to install.
Cinch: What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
Mike: The satisfaction of being able to analyze, diagnose and fix a situation. Also, using my instinct, and continuing to hone my craft. I’m still learning.
Cinch: Last question: Do you have any hobbies or personal interests that align with your “hands-on” nature?
Mike: One thing I’m really passionate about is fishing. I’m an avid fisherman. I go down to the Everglades a lot. I do like the hands-on, technical aspects of it — the sport, the strategy, the equipment — but really, I do it for the peace and quiet.
The information in this article is intended to provide guidance on the proper maintenance and care of systems and appliances in the home. Not all of the topics mentioned are covered by our home warranty or maintenance plans. Please review your home warranty contract carefully to understand your coverage.