Monday, November 24, 2008

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...

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Catching up...

Winding down with my temporary work, applied for a full-time job, and juggling a few other side projects means I've been doing a little less on the house and posting about that with even greater infrequency. Since the last post, I've pulled another 20'+ of old gas pipe out of the attic, moved a number of items to the shed (despite the near freezing temperatures and snow flurries that have descended upon town) meaning I once again have a foyer and am close to having a back room, and have been dealing on and off with the pipe clog. Using a borrowed drain snake I was able to reach the clog, but it seems to be quite big and solid - hair, most likely. Repeated jabs with the augur didn't get me anywhere. I was set to try some lye, but the stuff I had had truned into a rock and you're not supposed to chip it out and use it. Having had no luck opening the stand pipe cover either, I think I'll grab some washing soda, and some nasty chemical drain cleaner, when I'm at the store Sunday.

More updates as they are warranted.

Monday, November 10, 2008

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.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


Or fewer of them I suppose. Upon examining the hole in the porch soffit, and the rest of the soffit board, more closely, I've come to the determination that a large section of board will need to be replaced, and likely some backing board will need to be tucked inside to hold the gutter more firmly. That will have to wait until spring. For now, I've covered the hole with scrap particle board and caulk and added some screws to keep the gutter from sagging at that corner. One squirrel has been wandering around the porch in some confusion as a result - I think he can smell whatever the other squirrel managed to squirrel away up there, but can't figure out how to get in. Hopefully he doesn't start chewing soon, because he seems smarter than the last about avoiding the trap.

It doesn't look pretty (nor does the rest of the stuff around it),
but it does cover the holes. The broken board on the left behind
the gutter is covered too - there's a 2"x5" piece on edge
screwed to the main patch.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Will someone please invent a smoke alarm...

...that doesn't take five minutes to figure out it has a fresh battery in it? Or beep after you've disconnected the power AND removed the battery (that was an almost amusing 'whaaaaa?' moment)?

I just put fresh batteries into the smoke detectors upstairs (after determining that I'd have to run new wire all throughout the attic if I want them connected to each other, and deciding that the things are so damn loud that, should anything ever catch on fire, one going off will be plenty so why bother right now?). With the power off (from that attic checking) I put one in. After a moment, it beeped. No idea why. I pulled it out to deal with something else. After ten seconds, the damn thing beeped again with no power source; capacitor must have held some charge. Anyway, I go around and put new batteries in all of them. I flip on the breaker. There is some beeping here and there. I open a battery compartment to check to make sure it's in. It is. There is still beeping. I press all the 'press here to silence' buttons. Still beeping. I go downstairs to see if the manufacturer has a user manual online (they don't - I don't understand why companies don't archive PDF manuals of discontinued products...) While sitting on the couch. I notice less and less beeping. Then there is silence.

I swear, as soon as I go back upstairs they'll start again. They're just waiting for me...

No, seriously, why do smoke detectors take several minutes to figure out whether you've corrected the problem or not? The same thing happened in an apartment I used to live in. I realize these things are pretty simple machines, but still...

This has been the first, I believe, and only, I hope, post that is much more 'blog' and less 'house'.