In a service sector that is loaded with plenty of local options, Lu Villareal knows what sets his business apart and keeps his days booked full.
“What sets us apart is just the quality of products we use,” said Villareal.
Villareal is the owner of LAV Plumbing at 2941 N. Columbia St. in Milledgeville. A California native, Villareal spent his childhood helping with his father’s landscaping business before learning the ins and outs of the plumbing trade as a young adult. Villareal spent the early part of his career learning his trade in the San Francisco bay area before going on to do plumbing in high-end resorts and casinos. He has a wealth of experience in plumbing new constructions as well.
“I’ve done mostly new construction and remodeling,” said Villareal. “That’s what I learned first, so I learned all of the codes and how to do certain piping a certain way.”
Learning the trade on the west coast gave Villareal a leg up overall, as he was able to learn new, environmentally sound concepts right as they hit the market, skills he would eventually be able to bring with him to Georgia.
“We’ve been installing tankless water heaters since 2000,” said Villareal, pointing to one notable example. “We were installing them from the start.”
Villareal and his family moved to Milledgeville in 2009. Since his certifications from California did not immediately transfer to Georgia, he worked for two years in the state before getting licensed in fall 2011. Shortly after, LAV Plumbing was born and has been going strong ever since.
LAV Plumbing provides all aspects of plumbing services for both residential and commercial properties, including new construction, remodeling, water heater plumbing, specialty heating, drain cleaning and work with water, gas and sewage lines. Villareal and his crew work at construction sites daily while also attending to service calls to customers throughout the area.
The crew is kept organized by office staff members Brittney Johnson and Villareal’s wife, Kristin.
“I equate this out to running a doctor’s office. He’s fixing the problems, and somebody else is doing the paperwork,” said Kristin of the division of labor.
Villareal and his team work long days, typically getting started by 7:30 a.m. and working until dark. He admits it can be grueling to fit everyone into the packed schedule, but he is motivated to provide for his family, meet his clients’ needs and have the satisfaction of a job well done.
“I’m more worried about the finished product than just getting it done,” said Villareal.
“He takes pride in stepping back and looking at the system he just installed before the walls are closed,” added Kristin.
Kristin describes her husband as detail-oriented in his work all the way down to labeling the pipes going into the walls of new construction.
“He’s that meticulous,” said Kristin.
She added that her husband has been known to advocate for his clients by discussing product choices with building contractors to make sure the best application is always used for the situation at hand.
LAV Plumbing works on several new constructions in the Lake Oconee area while tending to a full gamut of service needs for Milledgeville residential customers. One product he has seen gain in popularity here in recent years is the tankless water heaters he first learned about in California early in his career. Newer tankless water heaters are now fitted with recirculation pumps that ensure that the customer not only has continuous hot water but also immediate hot water when turning on the tap. Villareal said the systems now even feature smart technology that can memorize the user’s daily habits and have hot water waiting and ready for peak usage times each day.
Kristin added that while such systems can be an investment up front, they save the customer money in the long run.
“In markets like over in Lake Oconee where the water is very expensive, you don’t want to waste [water],” said Kristin. “The savings in one year of having a recirc pump completely make up for it if you’re in a market where the water is expensive.”
Villareal continues to keep his eye on cutting-edge technology happening back in his home state including new trends in specialty and radiant heating systems and uses for solar energy to heat water. This allows him to bring this expertise to LAV Plumbing customers as soon as the demand arises.
Villareal owes his success with LAV Plumbing to his prioritization of using quality parts to get the job done. He educates his customers so they understand the cost benefits of investing in the quality parts and in replacements when that is the most cost-effective measure to take.
“In the long run, a customer that chooses to use us is going to end up with [fewer] problems with the same product,” said Villareal.