Welcome to my plumbing nightmare

Sometimes Monday really lives up to its reputation. Today would be one of those Mondays.

I had the day open to recover from the weekend jaunt to lovely Pelee Island to help open up my sister and brother-in-law’s cottage for the summer, and add a few home improvements. (More on this in subsequent posts.) It was a lot of work, but it’s nice to be productive and appreciated.

However, a day of recovery was not to be had.

Mrs. Akrondave started harping about the bathtub and shower drain being ridiculously slow and said that she was calling a plumber to snake it out.

Well, the last time “the plumber” came out, he charged $175 and it stayed clear for a few weeks. That is not an option, in my humble opinion, given our current financial situation (in short: dire).

This meant that I could either a) dump some caustic chemicals down the drain with no guarantee it will open the drain or b) snake that S.O.B. out, which I hate doing, especially if it occurs after having dumped caustic chemicals down the drain without the desired results. Again, with no guarantee of the desired results.

But I opted for plan b), coming off the heels of a successful round of plumbing and fix-it ventures up at Pelee.

There is one very large difference between my house and the Pelee cottage (which I often refer to as the Pelee Shrimp Shack, which has not yet caught on with Yvonne and Eric. Or anyone else, for that matter–but I digress): Pelee is new construction. My house has quite old, and often quite peculiar, construction.

This difference reveals itself in many ways. Today the difference revealed itself in the form of a ruptured, gushing waste pipe from the bathtub drain. This of course meant water running down into my (finished) basement, ruining a ceiling tile (no biggie) and soaking the wall and carpet, first with soapy water, then with black goo from the waste line. Black, smelly goo. The kind of goo you find in an old waste line: a particularly pungent blend of hair, soap scum, oily gunk and more kinds of bacteria than I care to think about.

If you know the kind of profanity that I occasionally utter, you could imagine me erupting into the kind of filthy tirade that would make your average sailor a little uncomfortable. I know, I know, it doesn’t really help the situation, but I felt a little better. But only a little.

The floor after initial emergency cleanup, but plenty of black goo still lingering.

The ceiling after gunk-catcher is installed.

This is after I gutted the old waste line. The copper/brass pipe had corroded to a paper-thin layer of metal that the snake perforated, thus making a mess.

I thought perhaps this trap (the whitish curved PVC pipe pictured here) might be the culprit in the Basement Flood of 2011, but no. It was doing its thing, installed by "real" plumbers a few years back to replace an ancient "drum" trap that no doubt was the original plumbing. They had to hammer out a 4-inch concrete pad to get at it. He called it a "career job." I'm glad I didn't try that one!

After a brief spasm of hating the situation and hating the house and hating life and hating everything, more reasonable thoughts took hold. This is not a job that I can blow off. No sitting around thinking about it. No working up the energy/courage/gumption to do it. It has to be done. And I have to do it. Sigh.

So I tore out the old stuff and found the offending pipe – luckily, it was accessible for the average home fix-it schmoe like me.

Miraculously, this job required only one trip to the HomeLowesDepot hardware store. Usually I must follow the rule that every project requires at least three trips to the hardware store. I will have to go get some replacement ceiling panels, but I don’t know if that counts as part of the same project. I may seek legal counsel for a ruling on that.

However, the job was not easy, nor did it go smoothly. And truthfully, how many plumbing jobs go smoothly? I had the stuff installed, but the section of pipe leading from the drain to the tee (which joins the drain line, the overflow line and the waste-out line) was an inch or two too long. I learned this the hard way when after having installed and tightened everything down, though it looked a tad off, it did not hold water. Luckily, the damage of this leakage was minimal. I had the work area (and area below) prepped for such possibilities.

I took the opportunity while the waste line was open to run the snake directly into the line and pulled out a disgusting gob of black, goo-coated hairball. It reminded me of the stink demon from Dogma. I recommend the movie, in case you’re wondering. George Carlin plays a cardinal and Chris Rock is an apostle, for crying out loud! What’s not to like?  Ahem, where was I? Oh, yes, giant slimy hairball. I called in a haz-mat team to remove the hairball from the premises.

So after much cussing and muttering and cursing, I removed the offending pipe, hacked off an inch or so of the pipe with, appropriately enough, a hacksaw, and proceeded to re-install. But first I had to fetch the elder offspring from school. Ah, a plumber’s aide!

Matt actually was helpful, holding a flashlight as needed and threading the drain insert into the pipe as I held the pipe below. After a fair amount of wrestling with the various lines, the pipes converged in a reasonably orderly fashion and tightened up nicely.  This time they tested successfully, and we once again have a functioning bath and shower. I’m tired, my back has muscle spasms and my forearms are shredded. But the job is done.

The new drain and hidden mess of a long-ago bathroom remodeling job.

The almost-good-as-new wall and floor. Dehumidifier is running 24/7 for a few days. My Sears wet vacuum has once again proved to be one of the best buys I ever made.

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7 thoughts on “Welcome to my plumbing nightmare

  1. Pingback: Workin’ the Pelee Shrimp Shack « AkronDave

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  3. Pingback: Son of plumber’s secret weapon « AkronDave

  4. Pingback: Once again battling The Beast « AkronDave

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