Mickelson Plumbing & Heating, Missoula, Montana, specializes in plumbing, HVAC and boiler service, and high-efficiency systems. Starting his own business out of necessity, or perhaps the illusion of it, Andy Mickelson (@mick_plumb) launched Mickelson Plumbing & Heating New Year’s Day, 2011. I guess you could say it’s all part of Mickelson’s fabric and mental make-up—there Read more
Mickelson Plumbing & Heating, Missoula, Montana, specializes in plumbing, HVAC and boiler service, and high-efficiency systems.
Starting his own business out of necessity, or perhaps the illusion of it, Andy Mickelson (@mick_plumb) launched Mickelson Plumbing & Heating New Year’s Day, 2011. I guess you could say it’s all part of Mickelson’s fabric and mental make-up—there is no end result other than success. “I am a terrible loser; I hate not winning daily,” says Mickelson.
Turning the clock back to where it all began, Mickelson was eight years old when he got his taste of real hard work, helping out his father, a remodeling contractor. “It was easy to have my brothers and me helping out, and at that time, we were eager to get dirty and learn how to build things, and THAT has never stopped,” says Mickelson.
Soaking up knowledge whenever he had the chance, Mickelson has had many great mentors in his first shop, and the UA produces an incredible brotherhood of knowledgeable folks. “Dick Darne was one of the Journeyman that I learned the most from; he had a hip replacement, and a few weeks later I began my service career, carrying his tool bag and being his hands in the field when he couldn’t. All I had to do was listen to directions and retain the methods of his madness. The troubleshooting tactics I learned in a roundabout way were invaluable.”
Nearly 10 years after venturing on his own, who could’ve ever foreseen the situation we are faced with today? “The first quarter was one of the best we’ve ever seen, but April produced only 68% of the average business produced in the first three months of the year,” says Mickelson.
Thankfully, Montana has seen fewer COVID-19 cases than the rest of the country, and the state has re-opened for business. But that’s not to say Mickelson isn’t taking the necessary PPE precautions, and Mickelson is screening all customers at this time. “For the most part, we are not taking on work that can be postponed.”
In general, needless to say, Mickelson loves what he does—creating solutions for his customers. “Service work allows me to do that several times a day. It’s a good thing.”
But thinking of going out on your own? A heavily-involved Boy Scout leader, Mickelson suggests taking its motto to heart—Be Prepared. “Plan, Plan, Plan. There are fantastic resources available to help people prepare to start a business. USE THEM! Also, you have to answer the simple question, am I ready to be a business owner first and a plumber second? If yes, then proceed. If no, rethink the approach get your mind right. Businesses hire good plumbers, not the other way around.”
And those who are thinking of getting into the trades? “Do it, unless you have a better plan that actually pays,” says Mickelson, but he stresses that we need to kill the stigma that the trades are all about hard work. Concerning to Mickelson, those who discourage others from entertaining the idea of becoming a tradesman based on the work being too tough or man’s work. “Anyone who indulges in this tactic is merely afraid of their own deficiencies and nervous about being replaced by someone who may work smarter or harder.”
Sure, there are aspects that are hard, continues Mickelson, but with continued education and exerting oneself, reaching a higher level of employment in the trades is a real possibility. Good work ethics and attitude are noticed—one may not hear about it—but it doesn’t go unnoticed. And, share the knowledge others have shared with you. “I have always found that it is far easier to share knowledge with a willing listener than it is to intentionally with hold it,” says Mickelson.
Mickelson’s career has afforded him a good life with his wife and two kids. “Family time is my favorite. Second would be exercising my 2nd Amendment rights. Both of which usually occur outdoors.”
Yet balancing work/family life is a careful endeavor for Mickelson. “It’s really easy for family to take a back seat and be lost in the hustle. I traditionally try to make sure that work is done during the day and that my ‘Night Shift’ doesn’t start until everyone has begun to wind down for the night. All in all, business has taught me to use my time efficiently, and set priorities, Family, friends, money, seems to be a good flow.
All in all, waking up every day is a blessing for Mickelson. “I’ve told my kids for years that they are the only person who can make their day a bad day, so go into battle and aim for a great day, and worst-case scenario it’ll be OK.”
Ah, the age-old question: is it duct tape or duck tape? Although often mispronounced, it’s actually duct tape (Duck is a brand of the tape) and covers a class of pressure-sensitive tapes that consists of three layers: polyethylene (plastic), scrim (mesh fabric) and rubberized adhesive. Yet, even with that clarification, the term “duct tape” can Read more
Ah, the age-old question: is it duct tape or duck tape? Although often mispronounced, it’s actually duct tape (Duck is a brand of the tape) and covers a class of pressure-sensitive tapes that consists of three layers: polyethylene (plastic), scrim (mesh fabric) and rubberized adhesive. Yet, even with that clarification, the term “duct tape” can still be a bit misleading – although it’s considered a fix-all that got its name from early-on usage in HVAC work, duct tape is, today, actually not recommended for use on ducts (though there are some versions that are approved for HVAC applications).
Here’s a rundown of tape types.
- General Purpose Duct Tapes: Typical Thickness: 6-9 mils, handy for DIY home projects or light duty patching and bundling for pros on the jobsite.
- Heavy Duty Duct Tapes: Typical Thickness: 10-17 mils, every tradesperson should keep at least one roll of heavy duty duct tape in the toolbox — and multiple widths or colors won’t hurt.
- Clear Repair Tapes: Typical Thickness: Approx. 7 mils, your go-to tape for airtight, waterproof repairs on any surface that needs to be seen.
- Structural Grade Duct Tapes: Typical Thickness: Approx. 17 mils, the most robust option for extreme jobs, including those that require a rope or chain.
Duct tape is undoubtedly one of those versatile items that’s earned a place in just about any toolbox. It’s flexible, resists tearing, and sticks to just about anything. As contractors know, when it comes to jobsite efficiency, having the right tools for the job at-hand makes all the difference—and saving time means saving money.
The Mechanical Hub ProStaff team recently took on the challenge of trying out a new tape to see if it was the one to grab to ensure the fix doesn’t fail and can save time, money and a lot of space in the toolbox.
Traditionally, ropes or chains have been the only option for contractors and installers when they encounter jobsite tasks that require intense strength and durability. Until now as one 36-inch loop of new T-Rex® Brute Force® can hold more than 700 pounds of weight and offers superior adhesion, so you can quickly secure, fasten and hold loads that you wouldn’t dare attempt with other tapes.
The high-bond, double-thick adhesive allows the tape to stick to rougher, dirtier surfaces and offers a durable, waterproof backing suitable for all-weather performance. Brute Force® represents the next generation of high-performance duct tapes with patent-pending Forge-Link™ Technology.
ProStaffer Andy Mickelson of Mickelson Plumbing and Heating, Missoula, Montana, was impressed with the strength and said, “T-Rex Brute Force tape has an incredible tear-resistant design, so much so that you’ll require a blade to cut it. The adhesive layer is much thicker than any other tape I’ve used previously. The tape seems to hold well when bonded to itself and smooth surfaces alike, even when the surface is not completely dry. It will make a great addition to any travel box or tool box.”
“We have found a number of uses for T-Rex Brute Force! Someone didn’t judge the width of the truck while backing up and managed to rip off a side mirror. The mirror was put back into place and held there with the tape until we were able to get it into the dealership,” said Shay Shepston of Reimagined Renovations, Champaign, Illinois.
Shay added, “It’s been used to hold a foam base cove to metal before installing a pool liner, to hold PVC pipes in place while we work, and many other odd jobs. It has been added to all our trucks and toolboxes!”
According to our ProStaff team, the only drawback—and one they all mentioned—was that you cannot tear it; it must be cut. Contractors are so accustomed to just tearing tape, it required remembering to have a utility knife handy to cut it.
ProStaff member John Thompson with Thompson Family Plumbing & Rooter, with shops in California and Arizona, put it to work with his team and shared, “T-Rex Brute Force tape was fantastic to have on our work trucks. On multiple occasions it was used to build confinement areas with plastic, plus a last-minute repair to hold the casing together on my jackhammer because I broke it during a project. You never know when you might need something of this strength to get out of a jam.”
He joked, “I have never seen anything this durable. It’s truly remarkable to see the strength this tape has. I wish I could say that I’m putting together a zombie bunker, because I would seriously use it. It’s ‘Ferocious!’”
In addition to needing a utility knife to cut the tape, our ProStaff team suggested they would like to see the tape in more solid and neon construction colors such as red, white, green and possibly even reflective, as well as different roll size options.
T-Rex® Brute Force® is sold in 25-yard rolls and is available at national mass and hardware retailers. For more information, visit www.trextape.com/contractors.
Summer vacations are winding down and the annual ritual for parents buying school supplies for the kids is underway, but maybe it’s high time to kick off the old work boots and find a new pair. Does that sound like a great first step? Recently, Mechanical Hub ProStaff member Andy Mickelson, owner of Mickelson Plumbing and Read more
Summer vacations are winding down and the annual ritual for parents buying school supplies for the kids is underway, but maybe it’s high time to kick off the old work boots and find a new pair. Does that sound like a great first step?
Recently, Mechanical Hub ProStaff member Andy Mickelson, owner of Mickelson Plumbing and HVAC in Montana, tested a pair of Ariat Rebar Flex 6″ Waterproof Composite Toe Work Boots on multiple job sites and in various indoor/outdoor conditions to provide us with the following observations.
For those not familiar with the Ariat Work Boot Brand (most recognize the brand for its western boots), they have unique and tasteful designs while at the same time delivering high-quality performance and comfort in a stylish and fashionable boot.
Ariat work boots are designed and engineered with the contractor and jobsite person in mind. Constructed from premium sturdy and durable leather with the most advanced footwear technologies they offer superior performance and on the job critical protection in any work field or the environment. Ariat boots offer a safety platform to match every environment, such as the Grip Strip Platform, the Work Ride Platform, the Expert Safety Clog Platform and the Safety Clog Platform.
Ariat also offers ATS and 4LR technology for comfort, stability, and traction as well as waterproof technology with the impermeable waterproof barrier. Insulated boots featuring Thinsulate Ultra insulation will help to give your feet the highest level of cold weather protection and while remaining a lightweight shoe. Ariat also offers a steel toe range for added safety. Ariat boots come with an oil, slip, heat, and abrasion resistant sole that will perform with the best grip and traction on any floor surface.
MICKELSON: It’s the first safety toe boot that I have comfortably worn throughout an entire work day in many years. For the past few months, I’ve worn them almost daily, sunrise to sundown, and in many cases hours into the night, on various surfaces without issue.
The Ariat Rebar work boots come out of the box ready to wear, with relatively little break in needed. The boots have a stylish design with a combination leather and mesh upper. The insole of the boot is comfortable with decent arch support. The soles are listed as a slip & oil resisting, debris release design. I’d support that statement having worn the boots through the better part of winter. Snow and parking lot slop stomps off easily. The tread pattern seems to grip well on most surfaces even when the temperatures drop well below zero.
Many soles will begin to harden and become hazardous well before that, not the case with the Rebar. The debris release design comes in nice while constantly transitioning from snow covered ground onto finished concrete or similar smooth finishes. The uppers of the boot are leather and man-made materials, which lend to the boot breathing very well. Generally breathing well and waterproof aren’t generally both strong traits in a work boot, again, not the case with the Ariat Rebar.
As a Professional Plumber and Pipefitter, these boots have been nearly submerged numerous times and thoroughly soaked on the exterior with no leakage regularly. The leather is holding up fairly well with normal daily abuse, resulting in small cuts and scrapes. The hardware on the boots consist of a single plastic rivet and webbing attachments below, holding a quality paracord like lace. Double row stitching has the components locked together.
Overall I look forward to wearing these boots for as long as they’ll last and very much looking towards to fulfill my work boot needs with Ariat in the future.
Work Boot Specs:
- Waterproof leather in key protection and support areas combined with rugged mesh panels
- 100% non-metallic
- Anatomical last for true fit
- Injected lateral support cage
- Forefoot flex notch
- Mesh lining
- EVA cushioning midsole
- ESS midsole in heel for extra protection and support
- Oil-and slip-resistant Duratread™ outsole with debris-release tread design
- Defined heel
- Safety toe is ASTM F2413-11 M/I/75 C/75 EH rated
- 4LR™ footbed for support and cushioning
For more on Ariat work boots and other work gear, visit Ariat Work.