Let's Talk Plumbing – or – What Grinds my Gears!

Swerd

Swerd

Audioholic Warlord
An old tradition on the AudioHolics Steam Vent, are occasional threads where someone just vents on life’s frustrations. We used to call these threads “What Grinds My Gears”. It’s been a few years since I saw one of these. This one is about my fun time being a DIY plumber.

My main purpose here is to crow about how I finally succeeding in clearing a blocked drain. This was a bathroom sink – my bathroom sink – not my wife’s – her sink is about 4 feet to the left of mine. She has plenty of hair. I don’t. That rules out a hair clog.

My house was built in 1993, that sink and drain pipe is nearly 29 years old. It’s never been completely blocked, but over the years it did drain slower & slower. I finally decided I had to clear that sink drain. I’m a dedicated DIYer, especially when it’s a job that looks like it can’t be that difficult ;). I’ve repaired toilet flush & refill valves, replaced shower, bathroom & kitchen sink faucets before. If I needed to install or join water supply or drain pipes, or natural gas pipes, I’d call a plumber. But clearing a clogged drain seemed easy enough. I’ve cleared my wife’s hair out of the shower stall drain, easy with one of these, but I’ve never had to clear a more serious drain clog before.

So I bought a snake (called a drum auger on Amazon) with a 25’ cable. It was made in China, came without any directions, and its red case had raised print in Chinese, no English at all. I even spent a few minutes on YouTube to see how you use these spooky looking things.

In a moment of self-doubt, I also bought a large jug of Liquid Drano. It contains a lot of sodium hydroxide (NaOH), a nasty caustic compound. In theory, NaOH works well at dissolving clogs made of organic debris, by a chemical process called alkaline hydrolysis. My first effort at clearing the clog involved using that stuff twice, thinking I could avoid the trouble of removing the U trap under the sink. It didn’t help. In fact, I think it made the drain clog worse. Before the Drano, the sink drained slowly. After two treatments, it hardly drained at all.

Lesson #1 – Avoid using Liquid Drano. Just don’t bother.

The first thing I did on Friday, was clear out all the stuff in the cabinet under the sink that I’d accumulated over the years. Quite a lot of it was junk.

Next I started removing the U trap under the sink. That U trap hadn’t been removed in 29 years, so it took a lot of effort to start those big plastic rings turning. I’m about 2½ times older than that sink. With my somewhat arthritic hands, it was hard getting those SOBs to budge, even if I was comfortably standing up. But I was lying on a hard tile floor, reaching under a sink into a bathroom vanity cabinet. I eventually did get it off, without destroying it, but with a lot of pain & cursing. At my age, even getting down on the floor or up from it is plenty hard. I probably had to do that somewhere between 15 and 20 times before I was done on Friday.

Plumbers are young, they have much stronger hands than I have, and they’ve done all these simple jobs before. They probably have better tools that I do too.

(Continued …)
 
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Swerd

Swerd

Audioholic Warlord
Part 2
Sure enough, that U trap was blocked. It wasn’t one of those wet hair balls that resemble drowned rats. The clog looked like a big wad of congealed gunge (to use a highly technical term). No hair, but it had large patches of black crud along with colorful streaks of what looked like undissolved toothpaste. I immersed it in bucket full of hot sudsy water and reamed it out with a big bottle brush until it was clean.

I was eager to put the cleaned U trap back under the sink and test it out. In a moment of doubt before I did that, I wondered if the clog had metastasized to extend beyond the U trap. So I was lying on the floor yet again, tightening the U trap joints. And I immediately had the disappointment of seeing the water in the sink NOT DRAINING :mad:!

Time to use the snake. At the time, it seemed easier to run the snake into the drain pipe from below the sink. I had already removed the U trap once. And I could operate the snake while standing up. But, snaking from above the sink, meant removing the sink’s popup plug. I could guess that would also be harder than it seemed. So I went in from under the sink. Looking back, that was not a good idea. Snaking from under the sink meant I couldn’t have water standing in the sink. As soon as I snaked through the clog, that standing water would immediately drain, signaling that my work was done. In addition to no signal, working from below the sink meant I had to operate the snake while lying on my side on that hard tile floor.

All of that quickly became painfully obvious as I was lying on the floor. In that position, it took a VERY LONG time to get that 25’ cable (or most of it) down the drain. After resting, I did it all over again, as this was my first effort at snaking a drain, and I couldn’t be sure I had done it right. By that time, admitting defeat and calling a plumber didn’t seem like such a bad idea.

By then it was Friday evening. No plumber was likely to come right away, and I didn’t want to pay weekend rates for what wasn’t a real emergency. I was quite sore on Saturday but I didn’t want to surrender to the clogged drain. So I procrastinated, waiting until today. First, on YouTube, I learned how easy it was to remove the popup drain plug. I had avoided trying that on Friday, but I realized it would be worth it for one last try. (Everything on YT looks like mere child’s play. I wonder if YT has DIY brain surgery videos?)

So earlier today, I was back on that hard tile floor, grunting & cursing, with vise-grips to loosen the brass nut that held the popup plug lever in place – without destroying it. Eventually, I got that done. Time for that snake again. But before reaching for the snake, I ran the faucet until there was several inches of water in the sink. As I turned to get it, I heard the water suddenly whooshing down the drain. I looked under the sink and saw it was dry – no leak from the U trap. That was an unexpected surprise. I ran a lot more water down the drain to convince myself it was real. As I did that, I heard a loud sloppy glump sound from the shower stall. (The two bathroom sinks share a drain line with the shower stall, joining it under the shower drain’s U trap.) This was too good to believe, so I ran a lot of water into both sinks and the shower to convince myself that drain was clear. It really was :cool:.

Lesson #2 – Don’t give up. You’re more persistent than that ugly congealed gunge wad.
 
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ryanosaur

ryanosaur

Audioholic Warlord
An old tradition on the AudioHolics Steam Vent, are occasional threads where someone just vents on life’s frustrations. We used to call these threads “What Grinds My Gears”. It’s been a few years since I saw one of these.
I don't get it.

Politics? Religion?

Just everyday stuff that burns your biscuits?

I'm stuck... Need help.

;)
 
ryanosaur

ryanosaur

Audioholic Warlord
BTW, @Swerd , congrats on your home plumbing experience! Hopefully you pulled your pants appropriately low enough. If not, start with that first, next time. :p
 
Swerd

Swerd

Audioholic Warlord
BTW, @Swerd , congrats on your home plumbing experience! Hopefully you pulled your pants appropriately low enough. If not, start with that first, next time. :p
I didn't think of that, and the YT video ignored that essential instruction. That could easily be why nothing I tried on Friday seemed to work.

Lesson #3 – Unless enough crack shows, that congealed gunge wad knows you don't mean business.
 
Alex2507

Alex2507

Audioholic Slumlord
The clog looked like a big wad of congealed gunge (to use a highly technical term). No hair, but it had large patches of black crud along with colorful streaks of what looked like undissolved toothpaste.
Sounds like it tastes nasty.
 
mtrycrafts

mtrycrafts

Seriously, I have no life.
What, only 2 episodes in this series? ;) :D

Yes, DIY is fun. I built my/our house totally with only a few inexpensive helpers, from grading to roof tiles, to solar panels years later. A big 2 story house.
Plumbing is fun. Cleaning drains is not. Interesting, I have similar issue with my drain. Now I just free float the pop-up plug, not connected to the lift arm. When I start to hear gurgles, I pull the popup and poke down to the p trap with a narrow metal rod with a small bend at the end of it. Does the trick. Same gunk you described.
Toothpaste, shaving cream a good combo to start the clogging or rather building up the gunk. A snake may have a hard time managing that small P-trap.
Also, next time use some used carpet pieces placed in the cabinet and edge and on floor, or several floor mats. Even a bunch of towels will do.;) Hard on the body.
 
Swerd

Swerd

Audioholic Warlord
Plumbing is fun. Cleaning drains is not.

Interesting, I have similar issue with my drain. Now I just free float the pop-up plug, not connected to the lift arm. When I start to hear gurgles, I pull the popup and poke down to the p trap with a narrow metal rod with a small bend at the end of it. Does the trick.
Not a bad idea. I have a bunch of these which are thin enough to go down the drain without removing the popup plug.
They weren't up to the big gunge wad I had.
Same gunk you described. Toothpaste, shaving cream a good combo to start the clogging or rather building up the gunk.
I wanted to take a biopsy slice of that wad and send it out for analysis. It looked like it could be of alien origin.
Also, next time use some used carpet pieces placed in the cabinet and edge and on floor, or several floor mats. Even a bunch of towels will do.;) Hard on the body.
Now you tell me.
 
Swerd

Swerd

Audioholic Warlord
I've shared my mini plumbing DIY story - my kids' bathtub water stopper went kaput and did it in the best chinesium fashion of completely rutting the cross in the middle of which you are supposed to spin to extract it.
the fight to extract the darn thing was epic and required a specialty tool that may not be aware it even exists:
That's a classic tool that only a plumber could have. Did you buy one? Did you ever use it a second time?
 
BoredSysAdmin

BoredSysAdmin

Audioholic Overlord
That's a classic tool that only a plumber could have. Did you buy one? Did you ever use it a second time?
I bought it later, though I've learned my neighbor already got one. I wish I never need to use this POS ever again.
Hammering it into your bathtub, not sure if you're going to damage the tub, isn't for lighthearted.
 
panteragstk

panteragstk

Audioholic Spartan
I've shared my mini plumbing DIY story - my kids' bathtub water stopper went kaput and did it in the best chinesium fashion of completely rutting the cross in the middle of which you are supposed to spin to extract it.
the fight to extract the darn thing was epic and required a specialty tool that may not be aware it even exists:
Boy the company that sells those isn't messing around with their bundles. I can get one for $20 or 3 for $170? WTF? 4 for $220?

So weird.
 
panteragstk

panteragstk

Audioholic Spartan
I'm extremely lucky to have a plumber for a brother in law and it has saved me a bundle.

I'm very much a DIY guy, but plumbing of a certain level isn't something I mess with. Drains are fine, and so is anything close to that, but when it comes to the actual water lines, nope. Not risking it.

It's a bit weird that he's also a RIchard...

I got this shirt for when he comes over.

 
BoredSysAdmin

BoredSysAdmin

Audioholic Overlord
Boy the company that sells those isn't messing around with their bundles. I can get one for $20 or 3 for $170? WTF? 4 for $220?

So weird.
1x sold by Amazon. Pack of 3-4 sold by less than honest a 3rd party seller "Premium- deals" - in hope larger biz didn't catch it, and they could price gouge it.
 
jinjuku

jinjuku

Moderator
I just use one of those rubber bladders and a garden hose. I have two different sizes depending on the drain. Never failed me yet.
 
adk highlander

adk highlander

pessimistic optimist
We found 2 days before we were leaving for vacation that one of the spigots had frozen and cracked over the winter. My wife watered the lawn for 3 hours before anyone went downstairs. Fortunately none of the electronics were damaged but need all new flooring and several sections of drywall. Made for an interesting last couple of days before we left the country.
 
Swerd

Swerd

Audioholic Warlord
I just use one of those rubber bladders and a garden hose. I have two different sizes depending on the drain. Never failed me yet.
I remember seeing them on Amazon. I wondered if they actually worked. You may be the first person I've known who's tried them.

My bathroom sink is on the second floor. I'd have to run a garden hose from outside at ground level. Do you have an adapter to let you attach a garden hose to an indoor sink or shower faucet?

Among the junk I found in the cabinet under my sink, was a bag full of parts that I used back in my waterbed days. I needed them to use a garden hose to fill or drain the water bed. I already tossed them in the trash, but trash pickup is tomorrow. I can retrieve them :rolleyes:.
 
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Swerd

Swerd

Audioholic Warlord
We found 2 days before we were leaving for vacation that one of the spigots had frozen and cracked over the winter. My wife watered the lawn for 3 hours before anyone went downstairs. Fortunately none of the electronics were damaged but need all new flooring and several sections of drywall. Made for an interesting last couple of days before we left the country.
I hate when that happens. I bet you'll never again forget to shut off & drain those outdoor spigots before winter.
 
adk highlander

adk highlander

pessimistic optimist
I hate when that happens. I bet you'll never again forget to shut off & drain those outdoor spigots before winter.
Agree. Plumber coming today and looking at auto purge valves. Adjuster said he has been to 10 of these in our area. Those 40 below nights got us.
 
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