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Famine to Feast

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Famine to Feast

Post by milspec6 on Fri Jan 20, 2017 1:08 pm

I just went from sitting on my butt for most of this month and much of last as well to going all out cleaning.  I was dying this winter and getting damn worried if I was going to be able to hold out for Spring when the bank job came along.  Well, now several other large commercial has popped up on short notice.  Here is the break-down for the week.

Sat:  First half of the bank (9,000 sqft)
Sun:  Convention Hall (8,500 sqft)
Mon:  Event Building (9,600 sqft)
Tue:  Event Building (8,500 sqft)
Fri:  Daycare center (3,000 sqft)
Sat:  Second half of the bank (9,000 sqft)

The problem is that I am solo for almost all of it.  This van is going to get worked to death, so the backup is expected to be important.  I am also going to be worked to death, but no backup available for that. Shocked

I feel like a lone cowboy trying to drive cattle by just himself and the old horse that has seen better days.  If we both get through this stretch, they should make a movie out of it!!!

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Re: Famine to Feast

Post by milspec6 on Fri Jan 20, 2017 1:09 pm

Might be my last stand for this winter....fail and I have to look for another line of work.
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Re: Famine to Feast

Post by Matt; My carpet cleaner on Fri Jan 20, 2017 5:40 pm

My knees ache just thinking about the man hours doing commercial work:) with that much sf


Last edited by Matt; My carpet cleaner on Mon Jan 23, 2017 11:32 am; edited 1 time in total

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Re: Famine to Feast

Post by dp1 on Fri Jan 20, 2017 6:16 pm

Ugh damn, that's a lot of carpets, but you'll see a lot of numbers on those checks too, sorry you have to do it all alone Sad
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Re: Famine to Feast

Post by milspec6 on Fri Jan 20, 2017 7:31 pm

I am trying to focus on those numbers as well, but right now I am just sitting here worried about what could go wrong. I have always tried to keep a day between large jobs like that so the machine and myself can recover.

Going at this hard is likely to be a problem for one of us. A bad failure of the truck would be a big hit and if I break, there may not be a Spring.

Cattle Drive begins in about 10 hours.
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Re: Famine to Feast

Post by milspec6 on Sun Jan 22, 2017 12:24 pm

Didn't even make it through job number two. Mad

After the bank job yesterday, the van ruptured a steel brake line coming home. Pedal went right to the floor with a total loss of braking system....luckily, there were no cars at that intersection. My highway drive home doesn't include any stops so I finished the drive with fingers crossed and got back into my driveway.

Brake systems are not supposed to ever fail completley as they have dual systems which are supposed to be independent of each other for safety. That was not the case here and it seems that GM has a history of it not being the case. Being a weekend, I am unable to repair it properly.

So, that means the box truck and the new propane system. That isn't looking good either. It fires up fine, but there is some water leaking so that weld repair must not have held up. It isn't a lot of water, but this job is a 7 hour run time so the odds of it holding on when fully hot is very unlikely.

The client is already upset with me because they thought that I was going to clean another building on the 20th, but all the emails (received and sent to confirm) were for the 27th. I am correct on this, but the coordinator is taking heat and passing it down the line. Telling her that I may have to cancel today's job is going to go over like a cement balloon.

I am very sore, broken down, and losing the fight at this point. Losing a lot of money at the same time with the missed jobs and repairs. I think my parents may have been right, I should have become a teacher instead.
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Re: Famine to Feast

Post by dp1 on Sun Jan 22, 2017 2:03 pm

There must be some way of patching that leak professionally, have a professional welder do the job ??
Go to Lincoln and find someone there to do the job ??
Man, that's too bad !! Sorry to hear that Bob Sad
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Re: Famine to Feast

Post by milspec6 on Sun Jan 22, 2017 3:49 pm

No sugar coating this one....I believe that was the end of this business and now I don't know what the hell to do.

Box truck did exactly what I feared. Hell, it didn't make it 30 minutes before the coil failed. The client is pissed and there is nothing that I can do about it.

When I got home pulled the water heater apart and sure enough, it failed right next to the repair. I bypassed the heater lines and re-winterized the TM. I really don't know what to do with this damn truck. It has been completely useless to me, first the propane supply had to be resolved and now the heater again. Seriously, someone tell me these heaters aren't as fragile as they seem to be or do I need to give up on propane heat?

After all the hassle and work installing this propane system, it has all been just a money pit with no results. I am beginning to think that a steel coiled kerosene heater would have been the better option except that they do not fit well and require electricity to operate.

I am taking the coil to the military tomorrow in hopes that they have a welder that can get this done. LG says that they would repair it, but the shipping costs are very high and shipping risks equally high. Even then, I am leaving it off the truck until Spring....hard to install such a thing in the dead of Winter without creating more problems.

The van goes in tomorrow morning and unless it can be repaired quickly (which I don't believe it can) I am going to lose out on all of the remaining jobs and be fully broke and out of business. Even if it can be fixed, I will likely be losing my good name with my largest client, so that will end soon as well.

Yup, I sound pessimistic....well, that is because I am. For the first time in 10 years, I have very little hope that this business is going to survive another month. Even worse, that leaves me broke and unemployed as well.

I will not be posting any further for a few days. Nobody wants to hear from an angry pessimistic cleaner and that is all that I am right now. I am turning off my phone as well, no sense in getting job calls when I can't do anything about it anyway.

This cattle drive is a bust. Lost one horse and the other is lame, cattle is getting away, and it is getting cold out. Hope your lives are going better.
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Re: Famine to Feast

Post by Mo on Sun Jan 22, 2017 7:38 pm

I know its frustrating Bob Ive had two lg heaters and they both blew. Is there anyway you can connect to hot water on the job site?

Call Dave in Lincoln Nebraska and see if he can help.
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Re: Famine to Feast

Post by Freemind1 on Sun Jan 22, 2017 9:30 pm

I feel your pain Rob.

This is why I have feared going full time. I want to more than anything, but I too am small town. No one local to depend on for desperate needs. It just goes to show, that seemingly innocuous things can and do drive people out of business.

Personally, were you to survive this, I'd swear off propane heat unless you can afford to drop the coin on a new heater any time you have issues.

Our livelihood is completely dependent on our equipment functioning at 100% all the time. A guy needs to have like new spare equipment these days, and that is a huge cost too.

It's disappointing to me to see you sink all that money in this equipment all to have problems like this. I really AM sorry to hear it.

I don't know what advice to offer, other than to offer my appreciation for you sharing with us, and giving people the ability to learn from your experiences too. Other boards are just a bragging spot for people to lie their asses off about their "success". Not many really make it big in the service industries.

For my own business, I decided some time ago to avoid used stuff, like I do in my home life. I know people will talk about money saved buying used, and will talk about new stuff breaks too. However, I have found the problems I have buying new are far fewer than used. I will replace my water fed pole and filter housing in three to four years. I don't even use mine hard like other people, but my equipment is what keeps me making money. I look at it like if I want to stay in business, I have to invest it in things to keep me going/growing.

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Re: Famine to Feast

Post by ACpower1 on Mon Jan 23, 2017 3:03 am

Its just bad luck I guess, how did the coil blow out in the first place?

Ive had nothing but reliability with the LGs, and talked to some cleaners who have ran the same one for 20+yrs

Im sure someone local can weld that for you, then just keep pressure lower and do carpets only until you trust it.

a good welder should be able to handle fixing that coil
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Re: Famine to Feast

Post by Mo on Mon Jan 23, 2017 7:25 am

Speaking of famine Ive had quite a few cancellations this month due to bad weather, its making this January the worst month in the 9 1/2 years Ive been in business. Just in time for tax season

Feb is going to start out pretty good but who freaking knows if Ill have more cancellations.



Gotta go on line to buy more shit to stay cleaning. Starting to wonder if I should just dump this HWE and just go VLM full time again.

Diid I mention the welds on the Orbot handle broke and thats after replacing the motor, bearings,pad driver and velcro driver Firing Cat
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Re: Famine to Feast

Post by dp1 on Mon Jan 23, 2017 8:34 am

Oh yeah, connect to hot water seems like a good idea, but you still have to be careful with the temperatures as it may blow the pump seals.
I'm so sorry to hear that Sad
I just checked the distance from here to Lincoln, it's almost 1600 miles, almost 22 hours drive, I don't think I can make it without taking a rest overnight, that would make it 2 days trip and 4 days round trip, I have a big commercial job early next week, sorry Bob, I wish you're a bit closer Sad
Hang in there.
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Re: Famine to Feast

Post by kevinj6121 on Mon Jan 23, 2017 9:25 am

Wow Bob, sorry to read about your situation here, if i were a wealthy person i'd bail you out in a second
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Re: Famine to Feast

Post by dp1 on Wed Jan 25, 2017 4:51 pm

Bob, how's it going ? I texted you yesterday, hope you got things going.
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Re: Famine to Feast

Post by milspec6 on Wed Jan 25, 2017 5:20 pm

First off, let me apologize for posting that and running away. That was not the right thing to do, the world just sort of fell on me and I needed some time to sort it out.

Second, thanks for the support, I do appreciate that as well. Being a lone operator, there isn't anybody to reach out to for support and this place has always supplied that....thanks for that.

I did manage to get my van repaired on Monday. It took most of the day for the shop to replace all the brake lines and the ABS unit. The failure was at the ABS and that is why it took all the brakes at once and the steel lines were all in very bad shape with some weeping leaks already starting. This is one of the many joys to living in the rust belt.

The shop got me back in the game (minus $1300) and on the job that evening. I was able to finish those buildings the last 2 nights solo before driving home in a snow storm and waking up with the flu today. At least the jobs got done and I am off for 2 days until the next one.

The coil has been repaired by the Navy Seabees, but they told me that it will fail again in the same area at some point.....month, year, 2 years, it is anyone's guess.

The problem is that the straight section was replaced using a "socket weld" which is just sliding the new pipe over the coil tubing and welding into place. That leaves a ridge inside that pipe instead of a seamless interior. Pressure and moisture gets into it and the pipe will start to swell and swell until it bursts. You can see it on the old repair.



They discovered that the piping size used by LG is a non-standard size so I would need to custom order a 10 ft pipe and use a couple of welded couplings to repair this without having that same ridge inside the pipe. I didn't have the time so they repaired it with the using the same socket weld, but shaped the pipe joint to have only a 1mm lip compared to 1/8 of an inch like the previous repair had.

The repair looked really nice until they pressure tested it and also found a hairline crack on top of the port where the thermostat goes. They had one hell of a time trying to seal it up due to the material. They would close the crack and then find that the crack just kept moving. They went through 4 welders and 8 hours on it before finding a solution. It held up to 400 psi of air psi at this point, so the repair is considered done. Good guys too, they agreed to do it in exchange for power washing a deck in the Spring.

I plan to connect the coil to the TM and run the psi up to 1,000 (mine is rated to 1400 psi) to see if it holds before I ever consider installing it back into the truck. Even if it holds, I plan on keeping it in the house until Spring or maybe even just have it for an emergency back-up. Bottom line is that this truck with that heating system is useless for regions with winters like the Midwest and I dumped almost $40k into a set-up that is worthless except for the warmer months.

That means that I am down to just the old van for a couple of months and will likely need to replace the LG coil or give up on propane and install a Northstar fuel burner. After that, this box truck is going to be sold off before August and I will be leasing a new Butler direct drive.....if I am still in business, which is up in the air still.

I didn't have the funds to support a bad winter self-employed and I knew that going in. I was really hoping to be able to avoid any major repairs, but between the Van's direct drive shaft repair and now brake lines, I wasn't able to avoid it and it hurt the financial situation at a time when there was no cleaning work coming in for several weeks at time.

If nothing else goes wrong and I finish up the Bank job this weekend, I should be in much better shape come middle of February and able to make it to the Spring rush. It is just very hard to stay optimistic this time of year.
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Re: Famine to Feast

Post by Mo on Wed Jan 25, 2017 8:19 pm

These mechanical failures always seem to come at the wrong time Bob. Its especially frustrating when that happens and your back up equipment fails too.

Keep your head up man. The first winter in business is always the toughest and you'll get through this. My first winter I stocked shelves at Frys overnight till spring came. Do what ever you need to do to get to spring and you'll be over the hump
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Re: Famine to Feast

Post by milspec6 on Wed Jan 25, 2017 8:36 pm

I feel the same way and it has been learning period. I'm used to being a workaholic, having pushed it 60 hours per week for the better than 15 years. It is so difficult to relax and have some faith that the phone will ring and jobs will come. At the end of this week, I will have over $6,000 in invoices pending, a week before I was convinced that there was never going to be any more work until Spring.

This bank that I am working on owns the paper on just about every business in that town. As long as they end up happy, it should mean a wide open door to many more opportunities in the future. They liked the first outing so much they even bought lunch. Just have to repeat the magic Saturday.
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Re: Famine to Feast

Post by Freemind1 on Wed Jan 25, 2017 11:34 pm

Glad to hear your spirits have come up some.

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Re: Famine to Feast

Post by milspec6 on Thu Jan 26, 2017 12:47 am

Thanks Freemind, I still have some fears for the rest of this winter, but at least I have one machine still and some work to do. It could be worse.
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Re: Famine to Feast

Post by milspec6 on Thu Jan 26, 2017 1:23 pm

Looks like someone hit the reset button this weekend......just added a ballroom cleaning (8200 sqft) for Sunday.

I wonder what will break down this time?
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Re: Famine to Feast

Post by Matt; My carpet cleaner on Thu Jan 26, 2017 2:05 pm

Good ol' navy to the rescue.
Winston Churchill once said "never, ever five up".
I don't think 26.1 mile marathons are in your blood!

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Re: Famine to Feast

Post by milspec6 on Thu Jan 26, 2017 3:59 pm

Winnie is correct, the fight continues. Thanks for the reminder.
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Re: Famine to Feast

Post by dp1 on Thu Jan 26, 2017 4:34 pm

Glad you got it fixed, if I were you, I would send that heater to LG when you're really slow one of these weeks between now and May ? Unless they charge an arm and a leg to repair it, you mentioned the shipping charge is high, what I would do is ask one business in your town that does a lot of shipping and have account with a shipping company, usually they get rates as low as 25% of what non account holder get charged for.
Another thing is I had a truck carrier once shipped an Everest 650 hp from Florida to their headquarter in LA for $ 500, 2 pallets, one for the machine and one for the waste tank and all accessories, I'll try to find out what's the name of the company and let you know if you're interested.
I get frustrated too when things break down and tend to just give up and sell things but it seems like when you bought the truck and machine, you have a good vision and if you just take a deep breath, it might still work in your favor ? Nonetheless the butler lease sounds really good too and you don't have to worry about a thing ( I hope they cover freeze damage too ? ) lol.
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Re: Famine to Feast

Post by milspec6 on Thu Jan 26, 2017 5:19 pm

The thinking behind this box truck was a good one, it was just designed according to Summer cleaning since that is the majority of the work around here. I was planning on just running it hard during the warm months and then running the butler in the winter months...just store the cargo truck in rented storage somewhere. The problem is that the old butler is well....old and failures are adding up while reliability is declining.

LG said they would repair the coil for $250, but the shipping round-trip was almost $500. It didn't seem like the answer at the time. If I stay with propane, I will replace the entire heater for a high psi #3 instead of the #4. Parts are easier to find for the #3 and I doubt it will matter much regarding heat. Still not sure about staying with the design though based on my limited experience thus far.

Not sure what will happen this Summer. Might sell off the box truck complete or scrap it out and put the TNT into a van if I decide to give up on it. Right now, I am just going to keep it winterized and hope the butler holds out for another couple months.
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Re: Famine to Feast

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