by Dennis Dalman
After spending days and nights in 40-below North Dakota weather, Adam Abfalter is glad to be back in Sartell with his wife, his stepdaughter and his very own plumbing business.
In January, Abfalter decided to open his at-home business, which he calls Sartell Plumbing. After 10 years in the business, as well as a two-year stint in the North Dakota oil fields, Abfalter knew he had plenty enough experience to go it alone.
The 2002 graduate of Sartell High School tried St. Cloud Technical College for a time, post high school, but he decided it just wasn’t his thing. So he moved to the Twin Cities where he became a plumber’s assistant and then a plumber’s apprentice and member of St. Paul Union Local 34. For four years, he worked in townhouses in the metro area. Later, he did a wide variety of plumbing work in residential, commercial and remodeling projects, much of the service work involving fixing faucets and water heaters. It was rigorous on-the-job training and mighty hard work – averaging 65 to 70 hours per week.
Although Abfalter is a Mr. Fix-It in every aspect of plumbing, his specialty in his own business is service work, especially for remodeling jobs in kitchens and bathrooms. Plumbing, he explained, is more complex than it was in the old days, when fixing a leak or unplugging a clog were common tasks. Plumbing nowadays is often determined by high-tech kitchens, bathrooms and other housing designs that require putting plumbing fixtures in out-of-the-way, sometimes unusual places such as lowering drains and unhooking things and hooking them up again in unusual combinations in different places. That is especially true of remodeling work.
“Nowadays a lot of people go for luxury, for looks and beauty in their homes, and so a lot of different kinds of plumbing goes into that,” he said. “It’s not just the old-fashioned plain old faucet and plain old toilet. Now it’s high-tech stuff.”
One example of high-tech, he noted, is his task of installing water pipes behind a clothes dryer. Some of the newfangled dryers now use steam for one of the drying cycles.
“Plumbing is a constant learning process,” he said.
Abfalter, of course, is also adept at the usual, old-fashioned plumbing problems – breaks, leaks, clogs.
Abfalter enjoys his job. Most customers, he said, are very nice, but there are some that turn into meanies.
“A few act like I’m the one who broke their stuff,” he said. “They take it out on me.”
But he takes it with a grain of salt, knowing most customers are very kind and grateful.
Abfalter’s wife, Oriana, and his stepdaughter, Jordan, are patient and supportive. They have to be, since Sartell Plumbing is open for calls 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Abfalter doesn’t mind the odd hours, however, not after his two years in the North Dakota oil fields.
“It was kind of fun working out there, but not in the winter months,” he said. “The year before this last winter, it was so cold and there was so much snow there. I was doing roustabout work, setting up equipment and also transferring frack water to transport trucks. I lived in an ice-castle fish house and watched a lot of movies when I had time off. Working outside in that weather wasn’t fun when it was 40-below so often. It pretty much broke me down.”
After his cold ordeal, Abfalter is so happy to be back home, safe and warm and cozy, waiting for service calls from kind – and even crabby – customers.
Sartell Plumbing’s phone number is 320-249-4947.