When the heat index reaches more than 100 F, like it does on most late-summer days in Broward County, Florida, you’ll take any relief you can find.
With no natural shade to be found on their cast iron rehabilitation jobsite in Coconut Creek, Robert Rogatinsky and his team from National Pipelining Technologies (NPT) erect large foldable canopies over their work areas and crank the air conditioning in the lining trailer all the way up. There’s nothing particularly unique about this setup. Any trade working outside in the summer months does their best to protect themselves from sun and heat. What is unique, though, is Robert himself. He could have ended up having a career where he worked inside in the cool conditioned air of courtrooms every day.
“My dad likes to joke with me when he sees me out here,” says Robert. “You could have been a lawyer.”
That path was laid out clear for Robert. His father is an attorney in South Florida, he’s young, smart and charismatic. It’s easy to imagine him wearing a suit to work every day and doing well in any sector of law he chose. But he decided he wanted to be a plumber, and his father, Samuel Rogatinsky, was supportive from the start.
Samuel describes a young Robert as being fascinated with digging from a very early age. He would plan the size, depth and location of holes to be dug with the same vigor other boys put into playing cops and robbers. When Robert’s obsession didn’t fade as he grew old enough to enter the work force and choose a career, Samuel realized he didn’t really have a choice in the matter.
“I started to realize that joining my law firm was not in his future,” Samuel Rogatinsky said. “Robert was born to do underground construction.”
The Coconut Creek job didn’t require much in the way of excavation. A low-rise condominium with cleanout access on the east end of the building, the building’s residents had experienced multiple backups and blockages before having NPT conduct a camera inspection under the slab. Following that inspection, Robert and his team were contracted to rehab around 70 ft of a cast iron underground lateral/sewer pipe via CIPP and open six branch reinstatements. They accomplished this onsite using Picote millers to descale the pipe and then lined using MaxLiner wet-out and inversion equipment and cured with SpeedyLight UV LED. They did dig a small access point where the pipe left the building on the west side. Partly to create B side access, but mostly because Robert just cannot help himself. He loves excavation. In fact, the original plan when he formed his company was to focus on dig and replace, specifically tunneling.
“At 17, I saw a vac truck and a crew in Tyvek suits working on the side of my neighbor’s house,” Robert said. “They were tunneling under the house, and without thinking, I jumped in the hole and crawled through the 40-ft tunnel.”
To put it lightly, the job superintendent was not thrilled when he discovered Robert in the tunnel. Some words were exchanged, and it was made clear that Robert should leave immediately. But Robert knew he had found his path, a way to combine that childhood enthusiasm for digging with a way to make money. He reached out to the superintendent who had kicked him off the jobsite, and a week later he was working with their tunneling division replacing pipes throughout South Florida.
“From that day forward, I knew I would have some sort of career in underground plumbing,” Robert said. “I was not interested in installing water heaters or working on gas lines or installing a faucet.” The kid just wanted to dig.
In 2020, after years of working for other contractors, Robert passed his Florida Plumbing Contractors Exam and started NPT. They still do plenty of tunneling, but a brainstorming session with his father during the process of forming the business led to adding trenchless pipe rehab to their repertoire.
Samuel’s law practice specializes in property damage claims. He was fighting against the insurance companies every day as they tried to limit the amount they would pay out to homeowners and business owners to replace broken pipes by breaking open slabs or tunneling.
“We both concluded that the future of plumbing is in fact pipelining,” Robert said. “Homeowners needed a more economical solution to breaking slabs and being forced to remodel their entire house – especially since the insurance carriers stopped paying.”
Like a lot of contractors, they had their growing pains in terms of systems and equipment when they first started lining pipe. They kept looking for ways to improve and eventually settled into a lineup that works for them: MaxLiner’s materials (lateral and vertical liners, CalTubes resin), wet-out and inversion equipment, Picote millers, SpeedyLight + UV LED curing system, Dancutter Superflex and a Harben E-180 jetter.
With their arsenal of equipment dialed in, they began to focus on the most difficult component to acquire: good manpower.
“People, people, people,” Robert said. “The biggest struggle is finding qualified people who want to get into the trenchless industry, or any trade for that matter.”
They built a strong sales and administrative team, with Robert in the field running operations and being a working foreman. He prefers it that way, but knew he needed help. Eighteen months ago, he hired a conventional plumber, Marcus Mason, and the two quickly hit it off based on a shared work ethic and an enjoyment of problem solving.
“Rob is extremely hands-on,” said Mason. “We’ve learned a lot from each other and found a flow to our work where we wet-out liners without saying a word to each other. Pipelining is all about finding your rhythm and your way of doing things. Find what works and roll with it. Rob and I are on the same page when it comes to that.”
Even with their success in lining, tunneling remains something that NPT does well. And while most projects used to be designed as one or the other – they either lined it, or they tunneled it – recently they’ve begun to combine the two approaches. Robert credits this with a recent increase in booked projects.
“I find that being able to offer condominiums and industrial properties the combination of trenchless and tunneling is a big deal,” Robert said. “We have the ability to do both because of my years in the tunnels and now we have the best machinery in the world to line pipes.”
Samuel Rogatinsky couldn’t be prouder of the man his kid who loved to dig has become. He says that most people never find their passion, but Robert found it early in life. That has been instrumental in NPT’s success.
“I’ve never met anyone who works as hard as Robert,” Samuel said. “I know that he will continue to get better and better at his chosen profession. I look forward to witnessing his growth and to see him become a leader in the trenchless pipelining industry.”