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ohio_liberal Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Apr-22-05 05:51 PM
Original message
Help me unclog a drain
Edited on Fri Apr-22-05 05:52 PM by ohio_liberal
I have a really old house with, quite frankly, some hideous plumbing. The kitchen drain doesn't go into the wall, it goes into the floor, attaches in a really half-assed way to a metal pipe (it just is kind of shoved into the pipe and really isn't permanently attached) and then to the main sewer drain. The clog is in the 4" metal pipe before the sewer drain. I've taken apart all the pvc piping and cleaned it, poured liquid plumber into the metal piping, and tried to use a plumber's snake but it gets stuck in a bend in the pipe and can't go all the way down. I just want to get this darned thing unclogged for now until I can afford to redo the plumbing, and I can't afford a professional at the moment. So, should I try a stronger chemical? The hardware store has a vicious drain cleaner made of sulphuric acid that worked really well in the bathroom but I'm kind of leery of the currently open pipes and vicious chemicals. Or should I go straight for the clean-out plug on the main sewer drain and try to snake it from there?
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Stinky The Clown Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Apr-22-05 10:39 PM
Response to Original message
1. Our next dr neighbor "straight for the clean-out plug on the main sewer"
and wound up with egg on his face ... and egg shells .... and last week's onion peels .... and lots of unmentionable sewer goo.

What it sounds like to me is you have an "s-trap' ... a long ago prohibited drain setup that most codes no longer permit, but which, if installed, are 'grandfatherd' in. One of the difficulties with these was lack of a nearby vent stack. No ventie-no drainie. Can you see a vent stack anywhere near it (likely in the sewer main somewhere juuuust downstream of it)?

A picture would be reeeeeally helpful, but lacking that, lemme understand ....

You've disassembled from the bottom of the sink clear down to where the sink drain (before any other connections) goes to the main horizontal sewer line?

or .....

You've disassembled from the bottom of the sink to where the sink drain (presumably a 1-1/2" pipe) mates into a larger 4" pipe that then continues to a Y-connection into the mains sewer pipe?

Also, is the cleanout at the downstream end of the 4" horizontal sewer pipe visible and accessible?
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ohio_liberal Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-23-05 11:01 AM
Response to Reply #1
2. No pic, but I have a diagram
...thanks to MSPaint.

This isn't to scale but I'll try to give some dimensions if that helps. The pvc kitchen sink drain is literally just shoved into the metal pipe below. When I disassembled the PVC below the sink the straight pipe just pulled right out of the metal piping and had nothing actually connecting it to the metal pipe. The metal pipe is below the kitchen cabinet but not below floor level (about 3 inches above the floor line I'd guess). It extends about 6 inches below the floor into the basement and then makes a 90 degree bend to the right. I think the clog or whatever the problem is is in that pipe. I don't see any individual venting on any of the waste drains. That metal pipe (I have no skill and eyeballed it at about 4 inches but it's probably smaller like 2 1/2 or 3 inches) travels about 4 feet and attaches to the stack at a bit of a downward angle that I didn't add to the diagram. The clean-out plug is about 5 feet below that, just a few inches from touching the exterior wall and about a foot up from the basement floor.

The stack itself is part original and part of it was repaired/replaced probably back in the 70's. Someone cut a line along the exterior clapboard siding to replace it and add the vent to the roof and we found that when we removed old aluminum siding. It's a 3 story house so that vent is a long way from this drain pipe. I did think it's a clog because it happened right after my 6-year-old dumped some soggy cereal down the kitchen drain but I understand that it could be back pressure. I had no idea it was even clogged until my oldest told me it was raining in the basement. The connection between the metal pipe and pvc pipe was leaking in a mad way. Like I said, I tried a plumber's snake but I can't get it past that 90 degree bend in the pipe. I dunno if that's where the clog is or whether it just can't bend itself along the pipe. The last thing I want to do is open that clean out plug. Yuck. I was gagging just taking the PVC apart so I probably will be violently ill if I see raw sewage. But of course if that's what it takes then that's what I'll do.
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Stinky The Clown Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-23-05 01:22 PM
Response to Reply #2
3. That diagram is very helpful
I tend to agree with your initial assessment ... there may be a clog in the thing you label 'metal pipe' ..... the horizontal between the sink drain and the stack.

Don't worry about the height of the stack. That's not the issue. And relationship of the sink drain to the stack is such that you probably have enough venting that it should work. It isn't ideal, but it's probably okay.

I'm also worried about the joint between the sink drain and the 'metal pipe' portion. That should be fixed. That said, there's no need to worry about a pressure-tight connection in a drain line. They're only ever exposed to atmospheric pressure, which, in the pipe, amounts to zero. But it should be watertight to prevent leaks. Leaks (particularly in areas hidden from view, are **not** your friend. they can lead to huge damage.

But ... what can we try to fix the immediate problem?

I actually think I'd start with a strong chemical. The most potent drain cleaner you can find. If you can see the top of the 'metal pipe' above the floor, pour it (slowly - carefully - very, very carefully) into the pipe and allow it to work. It will need flushing afterwards, so after you pour, reconnect the sink drain. Then wait the prescribed time and flush as per directions (warm water is usually called for).

Now ... a few words of caution. First, drain cleaner is potent stuff and not to be messed with. Keep the kids away ... and that means in the basement below the pipe, too. Sometimes, drain cleaners get the clog loose, but don't break it up. the clog just moves further downstream and forms a new clog. Not often .... but it happens. That new clog, being further downstream, could be both harder to reach and harder to clear. Kinda like a thrombosis.

Also, if you later decide to snake the line (if the drain cleaner fails to dislodge things) you'll be pulling the drain cleaner back out with the snake. That could be unsafe for you if you get drain cleaner splashed on your skin - or worse, in your eyes. I don't suggest you use drain cleaner and then a snake to follow up. As just said, it can be really dangerous to do so.

And always have the area ventilated.

If you want to tray the snake route instead of the drain cleaner route, then start the snake where the sink drain is removed from the 'metal pipe". Any snake can absolutely turn that 90 degree bend. If it doesn't, that may well be your clog. And some clogs are hard as bricks.

Now, you said this first showed up when your kid dumped cereal down the drain. That could certainly cause a clog in an already marginal drain. But it should also clear easily. In fact, just having water standing behind it should dissolve it in time. As of now, is there **any** draining or is water standing in your sink like a stoppered bottle? If it is draining, but very, very slowly, drain cleaner could be the better choice. If it ain't movin' a damned bit, you may want to go for the snake .......

Lemme know how this little bit a Saturday morning diversion goes. :)
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ohio_liberal Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-23-05 03:14 PM
Response to Reply #3
4. Thanks much for the input
Edited on Sat Apr-23-05 03:14 PM by ohio_liberal
I don't know the technical or proper names for all the fittings and pipes, so "metal pipe" is the best I can come up with. :D

I'll try the snake again, and if that doesn't work I'll go with the vicious sulphuric acid drain cleaner. It worked great on the outside drains last summer but the smell is awful. That "metal pipe" isn't draining at all but for about a couple of inches.

I'm also worried about the joint between the sink drain and the 'metal pipe' portion.

Me too. I knew when I saw it that it couldn't be a good thing. New plumbing is next on the 'to do' list but it's got to wait until June.
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Stinky The Clown Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-23-05 04:16 PM
Response to Reply #4
5. You know, at the end of the day, you may be better off .......
.... if there is any way at all to swing it, to call a plumber to clear it and reattach that drain. I'm just guessing here, but it will probably cost about $90 bucks. A lot to get some cereal out of a pipe (assuming that's what it is), but safer maybe. If you're not sure of yourself, and given you've got a clearly old system, it might just be the safest, albeit most costly, way to move forward.

Of course, the wrong plumber will get there, find this, this this and four thats wrong and try to talk you into fixing it all right now (cuz yer whole damn house is gonna fall down if ya don't).

Ask a long time resident neighbor for a tip on who to call.

And *****never****** call on weekend. That'll double the cost for sure.
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Longhorn Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-23-05 11:42 PM
Response to Reply #5
6. I stayed out of this because when I asked my husband,
he said, "Call a plumber!" ;)
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Stinky The Clown Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Apr-24-05 02:26 AM
Response to Reply #6
7. Sage advice!
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dweller Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Apr-25-05 10:26 AM
Response to Original message
8. there are several tools available
besides a snake/chemicals. Most work on the basics of pressurized water or air to blast past the clogs.
I've used one that is like a bladder that hooks to a hose, hose to spigot. When you turn on the water, the bladder fills the pipe and builds up pressure to bust up a clog. Another will use air pressure that you pump up (similar to pumping up a BB/pellet gun) and with the end of the gadget placed over a drain, pull the trigger to blast the air into the drain.

The water one works in the pipe itself, the air over a drain in a sink. You may want to try one of these since most are fairly cheap, reusable, and could clear it out.

good luck
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nedbal Donating Member (675 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-26-05 08:56 PM
Response to Original message
9. rent a drill powered snake
Should be about $30 for the day it will go in and out of the pipe easier. Around here you can get a number of roto- rooter types to do it for $50 to $75. Years ago I bought the Milwaukee one for $200. It's paid for it's self the half dozen times I've used it.
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RedRocco Donating Member (253 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Nov-26-05 01:55 PM
Response to Reply #9
10. I'ld just about bet...
that the ceral spoon is in there somewhere
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Zookeeper Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Nov-28-05 11:02 PM
Response to Original message
11. I unclogged my kitchen drain a few months ago...
fortunately, it was all pvc pipe and easy to unscrew. I had a crank type of auger that didn't work, probably because of the bend in the pipe. I went to the hardware store and found a type of auger that could be attached to a drill. That didn't work at first, but I just (stubbornly, says my husband and kids) kept at it and eventually did clear the clog. I drilled through a couple of extra times just to make sure the clog was gone before I reassembled the pipe.

A *temporary* fix for your mismatched pipes could be plumber's epoxy putty and duct tape.

I'll bet you've already solved this problem, though. What did you end up doing?
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