Master Craftsman: John Lotito of Montauk Plumbing & Heating

John Lotito in his office at Montauk Plumbing & Heating.
Barbara Lassen

There’s nothing worse than a heating breakdown in winter than perhaps an AC shutdown in August or a water leak at any time. The only response that will do when these happen is one that is immediate.

John Lotito, owner of Montauk Plumbing & Heating, understands this and addresses the concern when asked to describe his company’s business philosophy.

“Our availability to basically get to somebody in an emergency in a timely manner is what sets us apart,” he begins.

Hallmarks of the business that he purchased in 2017 and has since expanded to three locations include amassing a staff of longtime career professional plumbing and heating specialists who, like Lotito, have been educated and have worked for decades in a career they love. Montauk Plumbing’s tradespeople are all highly skilled in the traditional craft of plumbing and are fully up-to-date on the current technology of the industry.

“We have a massive amount of experience,” he says. “Some of the guys have been in the plumbing and heating field for a really long time. There’s an immense amount of history here and how the company was built up.”

Lotito sums up this skill level among the professional members of his 38 employees like this: “Old-school quality, backed by new-age technology.”

The adage has served the company well. It has grown under Lotito’s ownership from two to 32 trucks and from one location in Montauk to having a second in Bridgehampton. A third will open in Southampton this spring.

The 56-year-old Montauk resident enjoyed a long and successful career as a plumbing and heating specialist following a formal education in the trade. He then worked all over New York, first for several employers, then running a couple of his own firms, before buying Montauk Plumbing. Lotito joined the previous owner in the business in 2015.

“About six years ago, I was going to semi-retire,” Lotito recalls. “I came out to Montauk and ended up doing a subcontracting job for the original owner of Montauk Plumbing. He asked me if I wanted to work for him, but I said ‘no,’ that I’d been on my own. Then he asked me to be his partner, and I accepted a six-month offer. One year later, I bought him out.”

“Looking back, I still laugh about how my former partner wanted to run the company,” he continues. “He says he wanted Montauk Plumbing to be a ‘boutique plumbing company.’ To me, those two words don’t belong in the same sentence.”

While he loves the plumbing craft, he is enjoying being an owner now and is proud of what he has accomplished on the East End.

“We’re super-efficient in responding to people,” he says. “When I first came out here, I heard from builders and homeowners when going for appointments for estimates that they didn’t expect me to show up because most companies out here just don’t.”

It was a matter of trial and error and building a good support team, he says. The Massapequa native was first introduced to the trade at age 12.

“My brother worked for an oil burner company and used to take me on the truck with him on service calls, then I got interested in that and took a course in high school,” he recalls.

At the age of 18, Lotito had two years of trade school followed by full-time plumbing jobs at Nassau Hospital (now NYU Langone Hospital — Long Island) in Mineola. By age 26, he passed his final plumbing exam to obtain his plumbing license and became a member of the plumbing trade union.

Among satisfying career highlights, he’s worked on various commercial jobs, at restaurants and hospitals and large-scale projects in schools.

“In the late ’90s, there was a housing boom, and I started doing high-end homes on the North Shore of Long Island,” he says. “I opened my own business and worked throughout Nassau County, in Manhattan and Upstate New York doing plumbing work.”

What he loves about the plumbing craft is being able to solve problems he sees on a regular basis. Plumbing and heating is the hardest of the trades, according to Lotito, because of the complex variables that make up the plumbing and heating system. He likens it to solving a puzzle that is always changing.

There are many different types, sizes and materials to consider; which ones you need depends on the job. The skilled plumber knows the pipes—PEX, PVC, copper, galvanized and the complex set of fittings to use with each.

“One elbow, for example, can have up to 10 different materials,” Lotito says. “You have to know all of them and how to put them together.”

Old-school plumbing was a matter of copper water lines, bell and spigot with lead and oakum waste pipes and lead wiping. These days, it’s mostly PEX water lines and PVC waste lines. The seasoned plumbers at Lotito’s firm have traditional and up-to-date knowledge, and their expertise is extensive and special.

“It’s kind of like a dying trade that lost a little bit of its value,” Lotito continues.

“A skilled plumber has the expertise to build a water, waste and venting system in a house, going from architectural views on a scaled piece of paper to the mechanic’s end of it in the field,” he adds.