Plumb Crazy…

Maybe I should say plumb sick. I went to Home Depot and rented a snake to use which is not the most fun job in world but worse than snaking is the actual draining of the water that’s filled the house’s pipes. As you can see in the rather squalid-looking photo, when I moved into the house 19 years ago and replaced the rotted cast iron with pvc, I had to attach it to the clay pipe bricked into the foundation with a rubber contraption. Because this seemed half-assed, a “clean out” was added just big enough for a snake.


This clogging has happened twice before (about 3 years ago and about 7/8 years ago) and what was done before was this… a wastebasket was held in front of that little 2 inch pipe and the cap was pulled off. If you know the basics of hydraulics you know what happened next… the weight of all the water above the release produces a certain amount of potential energy and stepping the pipe down from 4 inches to 2 inches increases this pressure, not sure how much but let’s just say, a whole lot. The wastebasket which full would hold enough water that it was almost too heavy to carry was filled in maybe 2 seconds and pressure of the stream practically blew the wastebasket out of my hand. Then I had to recap it so as not to have the rest cover my basement floor and forcing the cap over that stream basically splashed so violently that I was covered. Then empty the wastecan in the back yard and do it again until the pipes were empty (about a dozen times). I did it this way twice and contrary to the facts, I am capable of learning. This time I got an outside trash can which holds much more and placed it under the lowest part of the system and drilled a hole up through the pvc and let it drain into the can leaving only the sewage that was below the hole I drilled to come out the “cleanout”. So, as unpleasant as it was, it wasn’t nearly as bad as in previous years. I did manage to get a couple hours in after this fiasco…




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17 Responses to “Plumb Crazy…”

  1. cynthia Says:

    Doesn’t look like fun!

    We’re having the sewer line from the home we’re moving into video taped since the house is 100 years old – I dread what the plumber is going to find – clay pipes pierced with tree roots etc.

  2. ang Says:

    sounds totally disgusting….have any fun??

  3. gary Says:

    Probably doesn’t smell all that great, does it?

  4. Eugene Hon Says:

    You are quite a handyman as well – I would not dare touch anything like that – I will cause too much damage and my neighbours will probably kill me and bankrupt with their claims. Too much trouble, rather utilize the time to make work to pay for the plumber. Anyway what can one do, other than have a beer ready – for after action satisfaction, down a Carling Black Label, the lusty lively beer form South Africa. Come to think about it, I will probably hurt myself in the repair process (cut myself or any other part of my body that would get in the way) No thank you, toooooo risky, all this labour before the weekend – I don’t think so

    • jim Says:

      hi eugene, in addition to the plumbing probably, i also have a lifelong problem of believing that i can do it myself better and although this is not always true, i never have buyer’s remorse when i pay someone too much to do a worse job than me. of course i can’t fix my own car anymore and i went furniture-less for years because i thought i was actually going to make my own furniture. that being said, this is the type of job where maybe i should reconsider my curmudgeonly ways. i had no idea that Carling Black Label was from South Africa… we used to drink that when i was a teenager and my dad used to buy it in Ontario when we were on vacation. haven’t seen it in years tho.

  5. Corey Wong Says:

    Ouch… Used to have a similar problem with roots in the plumbing at my summer cabin, the locals suggested flushing large quantities of salt down the toilet every so often (once a month) to create a hostile solution to said roots. There seems to be a consensus that copper sulfate is also a good option too… maybe next time around?

  6. Allen Says:

    You could put a pvc ball valve on and control the flow better. You can also use a power washer with a jetter attachment to cut through the roots. It is self propelled and severs the roots with high pressure water. Rigid tools make one. it is even more effective, if you can use a see snake camera to show you where the problems are and how effectively you have cut the roots. the chemicals like “root x” help keep everything at bay in the meantime. where we live the city will come out and snake from the street as far in to the house as they can reach. maybe yours does too. Asking is free.

    PS. my five year old thinks sofia and sunglasses are hilarious. Thank you, for all the wonderful posts.

  7. Cheri @ Blog This Mom! Says:

    Sorry ’bout your plumbing troubles, but damn that bowl is FABULOUS.

  8. jim Says:

    thanks everyone for the suggestions… i will definitely take them to heart because I don’t want to do it again.

  9. nadia Says:

    That was mesmerizing.

  10. Frank C Says:

    Wow, that “stinks” Jim. All puns aside, I know your frustration of the “I can do it myself” mentality. Our house is about 158 years old. When I tiled the bathroom floor and attempted to reconnect the toilet it was a major fiasco. Cast Iron waste pipe, and now the floor was almost a full inch above where it was. To top it off the dang waste pipe came up to the toilet at about a 45 degree angle leaving little room for the straight down flanges to fit into. Needless to say it was a full day affair re-attaching the toilet. Just last weekend I found I had made a mistake in mounting it to the flange and the seal began to leak. So I got to do it all over again. A little faster this time, but oh the smell and the frustration that ensued were aweful! But still I don’t feel like I needed to pay a plumber for the labor. Glad to hear you got the situation resolved though. Good on ya!

  11. soubriquet Says:

    As I think I’ve mentioned before, I’ve made my living out of plumbing for some years… pretty much ever since I got so pissed that people who wouldn’t balk at paying a tradesman to fix their drains gripe at the idea of paying a potter a similar hourly rate.
    So, now I work for a company that rents out space in big old industrial complexes, but I did my time out on the road, leaping into action at the four-in-the-morning emergency call. Nasty? Oh yes, I’ve seen it all.
    I spend time, most months, sitting in a van watching live footage from poo-cam. Then, based on that footage, we plan our campaign, jet, dig, replace, line, whatever. The camera head can carry a radio transmitter that can be tracked from above, allowing the exact line of the pipe to be marked. It also measures its progress, so you can tell at what points there are problems.
    I don’t know what your local laws may be. In Britain, the pipes are yours until they exit the boundary of your property. After that, they are the city’s (or the water authority’s) responsibility.
    Usually, outside the property, there will be an access chamber. We used to call it a manhole. That’s apparently sexist. I meed very few female sewer workers, exactly none so far. But…
    my suggesion is this. If you can find such an access point, open it and make sure you can access the outlet. Go to your local builders merchants, (not home depot or other d.i.y. outlet) Wear your potting clothes, and talk in a confident and gruff manner, ask for a set of drain rods.
    They are usually in packs of ten, three feet long. there are two main types, one is a simple screw together, the other is a screw and lock, these are better. more expensive though. A set of rods in my local merchants, with tools is under $20.
    So, together, these give you thirty feet of reach. One of the tools will look like a double corkscrew. That’s the one that will hook into the obtruction and pull it back to your waiting bucket. a garden hose beside you will wash the rods off as they emerge, a bucket of warm water with disinfectant is wise. Plumbers merchants or industrial safetywear stores, or farm supply stores will keep long (elbow or more) rubber gloves.
    Do it, and the job might never need to be done again for many years. If the blockage is outside your boundary, the guys you pay tax to for your water and sewage connection should fix it at no cost to you.
    Salts or acids will not deter the trees unless you apply them constantly.

    And check out how much a camera-survey might cost, it beats filling your basement with sewage.
    Good luck!

    • jim Says:

      hi soubriquet… will be calling msd shortly and i’ve heard that they indeed have a little camera that they will send down your pipe from the road. we are having a flood in louisville today so it will undoubtedly have to wait, thanks for all the encouragement and helpful advice.

  12. Down In The Dungeon… « Sofia’s Dad’s Pots Says:

    […] roof proper and I didn’t think that 1 foot needed it’s own gutter, and of course my recent battle with the clogged plumbing have all combined into a less than hospitable environment to work but I’ve had the doors open […]

  13. Crawlin’ King Snake… « Sofia’s Dad’s Pots Says:

    […] the snake in question although it’s official name is the Electric Eel. You may remember this post where I describe one of the most awful things a homeowner has to do… well, not sure if […]

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