• John McGary, Woodford Sun Staff

Cold snap brings plumbing problems

When it got very cold last week, business heated up for area plumbers.

For Jeff Semones, a plumber for four decades, and his son, Cody, that meant 10 to 12 hour days, six days a week. He said his two-man shop is always busy, but …

“When the cold snap hit, that’s when everything froze, then of course, everybody calls – businesses, residences, everybody’s froze,” Semones said.

Semones Plumbing is headquartered in Versailles and serves Woodford, Fayette, Franklin, Anderson, Jessamine and Scott counties.

“We’ve been everywhere this week,” Jeff Semones said.

Semones said his customers were told they might not get a visit for a day or two, after which some called elsewhere and were, perhaps, told the same thing. Knowing he could put a larger staff to more profitable use was frustrating, he said.

“We need two more guys right now, but it’s kind of hard to find help,” Semones said. “We try to look at every avenue you can to find somebody. It’s not only us – every plumbing (company) around is just looking for help. I guess young kids aren’t getting into it.”

Semones said in Kentucky, would-be plumbers must serve a two-year apprenticeship before taking a test for a journeyman’s license. The days can be long and, during the type of weather that leads to frozen pipes, the working conditions less than comfortable.

“When we’re outside, it’s battling the elements and then if we’re fixing something, we’re getting wet and then we have to go back out and our clothes freeze,” Semones said with a laugh. “It’s a brutal process in this cold weather.”

Government workers, from public works employees to firefighters, also had to brave the elements last week. Versailles Public Works Director Bart Miller said his employees had to fix a water leak on Paddock Drive on New Year’s Eve.

“(They) were there pretty much all night,” Miller said.

Last week’s workload for Jeff and Cody Semones also included trips to churches, a veterinary clinic and the Woodford County Historical Society.

Friday, Semones said he and his son were beginning to catch up on their backlog, but were having to pay some customers a repeat visit.

“We’ve got a lot of them done, but unfortunately, some of them have frozen back up a couple of days later because of such cold conditions. We’ll be working tomorrow. We’ll go as long as we have to,” he said. “Everybody’s got to have water.”

Semones also offered tips designed to help prevent the sort of plumbing problems he saw all last week:

• During winter, disconnect hoses from outside faucets.

• Make sure outside air doesn’t have an easy path to plumbing. “Any place where air can get to plumbing, as cold as it is, it’ll freeze immediately,” Semones said.

• Let faucets near outside walls drip.

• Open cabinet doors to allow heat to better reach sink and toilet pipes.

• If possible, insulate pipes near outside walls and under the house.

• Know where your main shutoff valve is located. “If (a pipe is) frozen right now, people don’t realize they have a leak until it thaws out, then the line is ruptured …”

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