Plumbing Company Builds On Tradition
Back to Baumbach History
By John Reosti
Times Staff Writer
William J. Baumbach II gets wistful
when he talks about plumbing.
Plumbing used to be an art, said
Baumbach, president of Baumbach Plumbing
of Fairfax Station. They dont do it like
they used to.
Baumbach points to piping as a sign
of decay. Complaints about lead in water
forced the introduction of plastic pipes, an
innovation he disdains.
It used to be galvanized black steel.
It was like cast iron, Baumbach said.
Though he is only in his 30s,
Baumbach can be excused if his plumbing
talk sounds old fashioned. He owns one of
the oldest and best-known names in
Northern Virginia plumbing.
Baumbachs father, 89-year-old
William J. Baumbach, Sr., was a pioneer in
the plumbing industry. A self-made business
success who left school after the fourth
grade, the elder Baumbach invented several
In the mid 1930s, Baumbach, who
founded Baumbach Plumbing in 1928, made
plumbing history when he installed the
plumbing for an apartment complex in
Arlingtons Buckingham subdivision before
construction started on the building.
In the 1960s, Baumbach invented a
diaphragm for drains that reduced backflow
and flooding. Patented in the United States
and Canada, Baumbachs Suds and Floods
Backflow Preventer is still widely used
Baumbachs introduction to plumbing came
by accident. After the death of his father,
Baumbachs mother took in boarders to help
make ends meet for the family.
One of the boarders was priming for
his plumbing certification and enlisted the
teen-aged Baumbachs help. After reading
the plumbing code to the boarder, Baumbach
decided to take the certification exam himself
An outgoing, gregarious man,
Baumbach was a dominant force among area
plumbers until his retirement in the 1970s.
Baumbach taught veterans returning from
World War II plumbing at Washington-Lee
At one time, 95 percent of the
plumbers in the Washington area had worked
for Mr. Baumbach, said his wife, Beryl,
who still helps out in the familys business.
In the uncertain business climate
since the elder Baumbachs retirement,
Baumbach Plumbing has struggled at times.
Shortly before he retired, Baumbach
moved the business from Arlington, its
location for 50 years, to Fairfax Station,
where he had bought 14.4 acres 20 years
William Baumbach III and his
brother, Andrew, who inherited the
company, were left with the task of retaining
the companys Arlington customer base
while expanding westward into Fairfax
County and Manassas.
According to Beryl Baumbach, most
of the companys business still comes from
the Arlington area.
Things out here are still new compared to
Arlington and dont need (the things) that
Arlington needs, she said.
The Baumbachs also attempted, with
limited success, to expand into small home
repair and remodeling jobs.
We do repair, replacement, furnish
and install . . . it would be a remodeling of a
bathroom or a kitchen, not someone putting
a wing on their house, said Beryl
Baumbach was also hurt by an influx
of small contractors during the recession.
According to Beryl, many skilled workers
laid off from the construction industry went
to work for themselves.
She said small operators by-pass
county permits and use low quality materials
to undercut the prices of more established
They dont get permits; they dont
get inspections when required and we do,
If someone is putting in a gas hot
water heater youre supposed to get a permit
which means you have to charge the
customer a little more, she added.
Throughout their business ups and
downs, Beryl said her familys company
always maintained the standards set by
William J. Baumbach, Sr.
Theres more of a personal feeling
involved when its family owned and
operated because (we) are interested in
obtaining a good relationship, she said.