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plumbing « Well that was… an idea

Archive for category plumbing

More small stuff

Raked about half the backyard.

More clearing in back room and living room.

Took a wire brush to the stand pipe cleanout, then gave it another dose of Kroil. Will alternate this with a blowtorch for the next couple of days and see if it gets us anywhere.

Mapped a few electrical circuits in the basement, including finally isolating the dining room light so I can install the switch and unit – and have a dining room again!

Also sorted through most of the papers that had piled up on the coffee table, which isn’t really house-related per se, but at least I now have a coffee table again. And now Sarah’s calling saying they’re at the Feve, so I think that’s it for today…

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Hoo boy…

Okay, it’s been cold as heck lately plus I’ve been shutting down at work, so not only have I done less around the house but when I do things I’m usually too cold afterwards to type them up. I have been continuing to tackle the stand pipe. While Draino and other treatments got things flowing a little, I really just want to open up the cleanout and see if my suspicion is correct and there’s just a major blockage right there in reachin’ distance. So I’ve started alternating heat (blowtorch!) and more Kroil to see if this gets us anywhere. If you’ve never used a blowtorch, I highly recommend buying a house so you have justification to get one. A little unnerving at first, but perfectly safe if handled properly (read the instructions, kids) plus it thawed my shed lock in no time!

Also, some water in my sump pump pipe froze; quick fix (unscrew from the pump, shake it out, reattach) but I’m wondering how to keep that from happening for the next three months…

Also, this has nothing to do with the house, but I was in stitches watching most of it: http://www.hulu.com/watch/47611

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Getting rediculous…

Still having clog problems. To recap – there’s a clog somewhere in the standpipe below the four drains that feed to the main line (see pic here). It has to be below, down where they all come together, because pouring water down any of the lines – shower, toilet, sink – results in bubbles and gurgling noises in the others.

I relented and used a sulfuric acid drain opener yesterday. This seemed to work initially, but I may just have not put enough water into the pipes last night to know for sure. Further testing this morning reveals that the clog (well, a clog; it’s possible this one is further down the line) is still there.

So. The drain auger didn’t work – the clog is probably a hair clog (it’s quite solid when I do hit it) and I’m not pulling anything out when I do get the snake jammed into it. Enzymes didn’t work, which furthers the theory that it’s a hair clog. The sulfuric acid may have become too dilute, or there may not have been enough of it, or it may not have worked for some other reason. I’m inclined to think it’s the first option – read the directions on drain cleaners and it’s clear they are generally made to attack clogs in the trap of a drain, i.e. fairly close to the drain opening. To get the cleaner down to where this clog is means pushing water behind it.

I’ve also been unable to budge the standpipe cover even with some super penetrating oil loaned to me by Nate. That last one is frustrating because you just know the clog is probably right there…

My options right now seem to be thus:
– keep trying on the stand pipe cover; maybe use a blowtorch (after wiping away any excess penetrating oil) and use vise grips as opposed to a wrench
– find a way to get drain cleaner to the clog in an undiluted form. I’m thinking I could drill a hole in the PVC pipe from the sink and pour the cleaner into a run that heads downwards, as opposed to dealing with the various horizontal runs on the drains. I would then cover the hole with one of those rubber sleeves tightened by pipe clamps.
– call a plumber. I’m leaving this one until I have to – if I can’t open the stand pipe, get the thing to move with a snake, or get the drain cleaner to the clog undiluted, I suspect a plumber will have to do some significant labor to have any more luck. In the interest of not spending hundreds of dollars when I could spend several hours of my own time, I’ll keep at this until I’m heading beyond my abilities.

UPDATE (February ’09): Had to call a plumber and have the drain snaked. Even if I did get the cover off (he did it via vibration – hammer and chisel for a few moments, then it opened with ease) the clog – which he thinks was a bic pen or the like – was 5-10′ down the line. So I have a perfectly functioning drain now, which is great. But I did pay $165 for an hour’s work…

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Plumbing the depths

Been quiet for a few days, I know, but not because nothing is going on. The shed is almost finished out back (some rain and snow (none that stuck) delayed things, but the builder is working hard at this moment in some near-freezing temperatures, and the thing should be finished, including roof shingles, tomorrow) just in time for it to be too cold for me to want to haul anything out there.


Meanwhile, I came home Saturday to find what looked like a minor mud explosion in my downstairs bathroom. Something had forced a lot of the gunk that built up in the pipes up out of the drain and splattered it around a bit. The cleanup was quick and easy but clearly there was a pipe problem. Still is, actually. As I write this, I’ve located several small leaks in the drainpipes (shower, sink, toilet), none of which should be too hard to fix – that’s another post. The bigger problem -and what likely caused the eruption – is a severe clog somewhere in the line.

The water in the pipes is clear – run the shower and it runs down past the trap no problem, for example. But run any of the three long enough and you can hear burbling from at least one of the others; when I used a plunger to test the drains I’d often hear it in both the others. All three – plus the outflow from the washing machine upstairs, and an uncovered(!) vent outside which I’ve recently covered – feed into a main standpipe and I’m guessing that’s where the problem lies:

Trying to figure out what to apply to the clog, though, and how is the trick. With the traps on all three bathroom fixtures – and the clog looking like it’s past the traps – it seems like pouring something down the laundry pipe would be best. There’s a short run of PVC at the top, though, and the best cleanser I have is lye – I’m reading that lye is not good for PVC (and absolutely not good for aluminum, galvanized steel, and other specific metals with which it can react; fortunately I have none of that – just copper, cast iron, and pvc). I’ve ordered some enzyme cleaners which will be good for keeping the pipes clear in the long run, but I need to get this clog out soon if I want to actually use my bathroom again – 45 second showers don’t really work.

The sink is mostly PVC to the stand pipe. The shower looks like all copper from the drain down. But again both, and the toilet, have a full trap somewhere on the line so I think I’ll try the laundry pipe first – if a dose or two does damage the PVC it should be a lot easier to replace that where it connects to the cast iron on the second floor than any of the other lengths.

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Sage advice

Years ago my grandfather said to me – and this was while I was in college – ‘Be a plumber. The world is always going to need plumbers.’ It should be noted that he was a film and television producer and did all right for himself and his family.

I don’t know if I should have become (or still should become) a plumber, but I do know this: there is no such thing as a small plumbing job. In an effort to make my non-working spigot work, I decided to seal any joints and connections along the run. I’ve found that – and maybe this is just anecdotal – poorly sealed handles and the like can cause decreases in water pressure even if they aren’t leaking themselves. In any case, it was worth a shot – some more plumbers tape, a wrench, and half an hour in the basement. Problems here were twofold, and all aspiring plumbers take note. First, the spigot was up a flight of stairs, out the back door, and around a corner, so testing it after making any adjustments required running back and forth. Have a partner, and a set of walkie talkies, to make things go faster. Second issue is an oldie but a goodie – know what’s on and what’s off. Same goes for electricity, but with plumbing you don’t have things like volt testers to remind you if you’re being a dumbass. Turn it off as early on the line as you’re willing (I should have just shut it off at the main entry line – I wasn’t using water anywhere else and the boiler was off). Long story short I’ve got a sweatshirt drying in the foyer right now. And the spigot still isn’t working well.

Also today – found a storm window that fits the empty space in the dining room window storm, and removed the broken glass from the interior sash. I think I’ll get that plastic shrink wrap for the winter though just to seal out any more drafts. Oh, and I need to caulk all the storm windows on the first floor at least to seal out drafts. Caulk is going to be my new friend this weekend. And those of you with purile minds can just leave now.

Tomorrow I’m planning on one last Lowes run coupled with a stop at an electrical supply place Dan Gregus highly recommends. If I pick up what all’s on my list right now, I should be able to cap this Project Week with a highly successful Project Weekend. Updates as they happen.

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With friends like these…

I should have more people over more regularly. It’s not just the multi-person projects that get done (painting part of one of the exterior walls, for example), something about having other people around gets me more active, to the point that I’ll swap a couple of mismatched cabinet handles in the kitchen (that I’ve been staring at for months) while we’re all standing around and chatting.

Sarah and Mike stopped over today and we did the above plus: mapped out shed dimensions to make sure I’m placing it well; installed a new jack in the basement to replace one that was missing (!); moved all the tree limbs that came down in the storm the other week to the front for city pickup; and I just put some plumbers tape on a valve in the upstairs shower to stop a small drip.

Pictures soon.

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HaHA! (triumphant sounding)

All I can say is I’m glad I a) bought a hacksaw the other week and b) had the foresight to buy plumber’s tape a while back.


Eight dollars of pipe connections later and it’s hooray for cleaning of clothes.

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