Written by Mike Flenniken 5:57 pm Member Profile

From Reluctant to Committed

Engdahl stands in an ejector pump in 2019. 

Sam Engdahl did not want to become a plumber. His father, Craig, owned a residential and commercial plumbing company in the small city of Sequim, Washington, and Sam was determined to forge his own path.

Beyond knowing he also didn’t want to work in an office, he didn’t have a plan. After high school, he spent a couple years exploring his options. Still without a long-term plan, he spent the better part of his 20s working for his father before going to work logging and building roads, which he did for most of his 30s.

“It was about as far away from plumbing as you can get,” he said.

The work was seasonal, typically eight months on and four months off. Nearly a decade ago during one of Sam’s breaks, Craig asked for help at the shop.

“I wasn’t planning on sticking around,” he said, “but then my next job cycle out in the woods came and I chose not to accept it and stay at the plumbing company. Here we are nine years later, just plugging along.”

Not only is Sam fully entrenched in his career as a plumber, but he is taking over the family business, which is named Tom’s Plumbing after Tom Coffel, the partner Craig, now 75, bought out about 45 years ago.

“How we got from there to here, it’s been a journey,” he said.

Engdahl recently joined IAPMO, and in March 2023 he helped establish the Peninsula Chapter, the sixth in the state. IAPMO Vice President of Field Services Jed Scheuermann and member Ed Holmes got the ball rolling on establishing a chapter in 2017, and Brad Moore joined the effort before the pandemic in 2020. IAPMO members Antonio Cruz and Tim Herbert — who both live in the Tacoma area about 90 miles away — got involved in late 2022.

Engdahl said Cruz “walked into our office, shook our hands, looked us in the eye and told us about IAPMO.” Sequim is about 70 miles northwest of Seattle on the Olympic Peninsula — “We’re kind of like the Wild West; nobody really knew we were up here,” he said — and they had a limited knowledge about IAPMO beyond the code books.

Cruz, a plumber by trade, took the baton from Holmes and Moore. He made numerous trips to Sequim over a two-year period, speaking to shop owners and their staffs, as well as to the various plumbing wholesale houses in the area, notably Ferguson and Keller.

“My company thought it’d be a good idea to get involved, and the more we got involved we came to realize there was a whole world of information out there that we were missing out on,” Engdahl said.

From then he worked with Scheuermann, Cruz and Herbert to get the chapter going and was elected vice chair in May. They now have more than a dozen members. He said membership is already paying dividends.

“Being involved with IAPMO has definitely opened up some contacts that previously weren’t available,” he said. “If we have any questions, issues, any of that, through IAPMO we’re able to have a direct contact to labor and industry, and certain vendors and retailers have been more accessible to us.”

This includes product demonstrations and formal training that previously had been unavailable to them. Word about IAPMO is spreading fast in the area, with local supply houses displaying membership signs.

“It’s more like attraction rather than promotion,” he said. “IAPMO’s no secret up here now. We’re just trying to show that the pros outweigh the cons on this deal. You pay your membership fee, you get involved in this, and there’s a lot to be rewarded from it.”

Engdahl applauded IAPMO’s efforts to bring more people into the trade, especially given the nationwide shortage of plumbers.

“It’s a hard job to get people interested in, because most people think plumbing is just putting in sinks and setting toilets,” he said.

Engdahl and his wife, Danielle, have two daughters — Ashley, 23, and Samantha, 9 — and a 14-year-old son named Aidan. For his hobbies, much like his occupation, he isn’t a cubicle kind of guy, describing himself as an “outdoor enthusiast.”

Engdahl credits much of his success to his father.

“I would not be where I am today if it weren’t for my dad,” he said. “He’s probably forgotten more than I’ll ever learn in this trade. He’s not only a good businessman, but he built an amazing name in the community. He’s just a damn good plumber. He really is. He’s that last breed of worker that’s unfortunately going away. We also have an amazing crew — Becca Walton, Nic Frisk, Dustin Baker, Debbie Hoyle and John Heckathorn. It’s a pleasure to be able to work alongside them.”

When asked what ultimately made him decide to give up working in the woods and work full time with his father, Engdahl took a minute to reflect.

“My dad has always been there for me so the least I could do was be there when he needed me, and things just fell into place,” he said. “I guess destiny stepped in and kinda made the decision for me.”

Mike Flenniken is a staff writer, Marketing and Communications, for IAPMO. Prior to joining IAPMO in 2010, Flenniken worked in public relations for a group of Southern California hospitals and as a journalist in writing and editing capacities for various Southern California daily newspapers.

Last modified: June 11, 2024