Business

Valenta Plumbing: After multiple generations, 'we still know how'

My Biz: Repair, remodel and reconstruction specialties of Cedar Rapids plumber

Ron, Tom and Zak Valenta are photographed at Valenta Plumbing in Cedar Rapids on Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2018. The family-owned business was started by the current owners’ father and grandfather in the 1950s. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
Ron, Tom and Zak Valenta are photographed at Valenta Plumbing in Cedar Rapids on Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2018. The family-owned business was started by the current owners’ father and grandfather in the 1950s. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
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CEDAR RAPIDS — There are new materials, tools, and techniques, but plumbing still comes down to the basics.

“We do a lot of fixing of toilets, fixing of faucets,” said Ron Valenta. “I guess that’s something we specialize in, excel in.”

“We’ve done it so long that we’re able to differentiate between, ‘Yeah, I’ve got a part for your 1962 faucet’ or ‘It’s time to replace it,’” said brother Tom. “We still carry a lot of stuff for the older faucets, but nowadays people are more inclined to just replace it.”

Another thing that hasn’t changed is homeowners’ willingness to attempt a do-it-yourself fix before calling the professionals.

“We don’t mind that,” Ron said. “Everybody’s going to try it themselves, and we’re more than happy to go in and pick up the pieces.”

Frank Jr. and Sr. bought an existing plumbing business in 1950. The brothers began taking over Valenta Plumbing from their father, Frank Jr., in 1972 — that’s when Tom, now 67, went to work there — and 1985, when Ron, 56, joined.

The family’s fourth generation joined the business in 2000 in the person of Tom’s son Zak.

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The dozen employees “mostly service residential and light commercial” properties, Tom said.

“It’s repair, remodel, new construction,” he said. “We won’t do the (Alliant) tower, but we’ve done tons of work in the tower after the original construction of it.”

Recent major jobs include the Kingston Commons condominium development on Fourth Avenue SW and the remodeling of a Cedar Rapids Hy-Vee store.

Valenta Plumbing also services hot-water boilers that supply steam for radiator systems. There are quite a few such systems around.

“More than you’d think,” Ron noted.

Business is usually “steady,” Tom said. “We kind of do all phases of it. That contributes to why we stay busy.”

“It keeps it interesting,” Ron added. “We never know what we’re going to be up against.”

The company’s years in the business have seen steel and copper pipe replaced by PEX pipe, a cross-linked polyethylene tubing, and press-fit copper tubing. Both eliminate the need to solder or weld pipes, “but we still know how,” Ron said.

The new materials hold up well if properly installed, the brothers agreed.

“Any steel piping in a house nowadays is old enough that it’s time to replace it,” Tom Valenta said. “It’s rusting shut.”

Most residential plumbing switched to more durable copper pipes by the early 1960s, he said.

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Other new technology includes tankless water heaters and wi-fi-enabled sump pumps that alert their owners when they’re running.

“They’ve been around a long time,” Ron said of the tankless heaters. “Their popularity has gone up exponentially in the past 10 years.” He attributes increased sales to “awareness, and also higher energy standards by the government. And dependability.”

l Know a business in operation for more than a year that might make an interesting “My Biz” feature? Contact michaelchevy.castranova@thegazette.com.

AT A GLANCE

• Owners: Ron, Tom and Zak Valenta

• Business: Valenta Plumbing

• Address: 1100 H Ave NE, Cedar Rapids

• Phone: (319) 365-6977

• Website: valentaplumbing.com

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