Romance creates Strasburg plumbing company

Mike Rose, co-owner of Rose's Plumbing, checks a water softener he installed in a Toms Brook home recently. A water softener gives softer skin and hair and takes the minerals out of water - including the calcium the causes build-up in hot water heaters. Rich Cooley/Daily


Twenty-eight years ago Brenda Beatley was a secretary for a plumbing company and bored when one of plumber Mike Rose’s assistants unexpectedly quit.

She asked if she could be a replacement apprentice plumber.

Mike Rose said, “Yes” and three years later Brenda said, “Yes” to his marriage proposal and together they launched Rose’s Plumbing Service of Strasburg in 1994.

As master plumbers (Rose also has a B Class contractor’s license) they have handled flooded basements, frozen pipes, leaky water heaters, dripping faucets, plugged toilets, clogged sewer lines and bacteria-spewing well pumps.

“The worst is getting in crawl spaces with snakes and bugs or working long hours when it is freezing cold,” said Mike Rose, 52, who has been dealing with vexatious plumbing problems for 33 years.

The major culprit is the limestone geology dominant in Shenandoah, Frederick and Warren Counties (limestone contains 50 percent or more of calcium carbonate).

Even after city or county treatment, public drinkable water remains “hard” with high levels of dissolved minerals, such as calcium and magnesium, that cause scaly buildup inside pipes and hot water heaters, restricting water flow and creating soap scum difficult to remove from sinks, tubs and appliances.

“Hard water increases the energy needed to heat the water as the calcium builds up,” said Mike Rose, “so the water heater needs to be drained regularly before it gets to where it clogs and the heating element burns out. It increases an electrical bill pretty good.”

While the price for an installed water softener system can range from $1,200 to $3,000 or more depending upon access, size of the water heater and age of the home, it makes a difference.

“It really shows up in way it affects the skin and hair,” said Wesley Larrick of Strasburg, who had the Roses install a water softener in his house. He also added a water filtration system to get rid of chlorine and iron “so we can drink water from the tap and not have to store it in a pitcher before drinking it.”

Larrick lives in a house between his daughter’s home and mother-in-law’s and all three use Rose’s Plumbing exclusively.

The water softener – or conditioner – uses an ion-exchange to remove the excess minerals from the water and requires minimal maintenance, reducing plumber visits.

“It makes quite a mess when they pop,” said Brenda Rose. Mike Rose added,  “The water heater may leak a little at first and my theory is it then scabs over the leak and next time it clogs.”

Over the years, the couple has installed hundreds of water softeners and carbon-based water filtration systems.

“We don’t use cheap stuff,” Brenda Rose said. “We don’t waste our time or yours. We put in what we would use in our home so it lasts.”

They strongly recommend against the tankless water heater trend because they require excess maintenance and “don’t work long with hard water,” Mike Rose said.

And with numerous wells in the three-county area, a problem often emerges with bacteria in the water.

Abby Walters, a realtor with Sager Real Estate, knows the issue well, having called Rose’s Plumbing more than 100 times in the past eleven years to purify the water in order to close a sale.

An ultra-violet purification system is installed on the well system and in the well pit experience has taught Mike Rose that the government-mandated fluorescent light bulbs fail to give off enough heat to keep well pipes from freezing in winter.

“They may be efficient but they make no heat,” said Mike Rose.

While business slows some with spring – winter is high volume with the bursting of frozen pipes – the Roses recommend water heater maintenance and in new homes checking outside water faucets to make sure they haven’t been damaged by freezes.

They recommend opening vents in crawl spaces – close in winter to retain heat – and in newly built homes researching where pipes are located before a problem occurs- especially making sure pipes aren’t flush with outside walls and subject to freezing in extreme cold.

“It’s very common in new homes,” Mike Rose said, “and sometimes in really nice homes.”

They correct the problem with insulation or in some cases, relocate the pipe trail.

“I recommend them to all my friends, family and clients,” said Walters. “They all have nothing but good things to say about their customer service.”

With 25 years plumbing together, Brenda Rose said, “Our customers have become our friends. When they call with a problem we can’t say no.”

Some of their tips:

  • Don’t use colored perfumed discs in toilet tank water because the chlorine will deteriorate the toilet’s rubber flapper.
  • Check well pumps and water heaters annually.
  • If you have just moved into a new house, have a plumbing assessment done.
  • Seek ways to reduce income taxes by investing in upgrading the water service in your home.