Plumbing is the Devil v2.0

Water Droplet Photo with Nikon D40


Shortly after creating the Walt In PA blog, I wrote a piece on some plumbing trouble that I was struggling through. Since that post I have been lucky in that that I have only had to get involved in two other plumbing projects. Both projects, however, revolved around the same basic problem with my kitchen sink.

You see, I have an old house in need of work. When I bought the house I was excited and thought that I could save myself plenty of money by working on projects on the weekends and a few nights during the week, after finishing my day job. I have since learned a very important lesson as a new home owner, never underestimate how difficult it will be to find the time needed to work on an old home.

One of the many problems I have run into with my home is that my kitchen and bathroom are on opposite ends of the house. Being a small house with one story and an unfinished basement, this really isn’t a problem in and of itself. The problem is that both rooms utilize the same plumbing vent, in which case the kitchen gets the short end of the stick.

Because my kitchen sink is not directly vented, it has a tendency to drain relatively slowly. The slow flow of drain water lead to a clog several months ago in which I found myself covered in residual cooking grease and soap residue. While this may not be as bad as dealing with the raw human waste involved in a toilet related project, this kitchen sink waste is retched.

After an hour or two of being wet and filthy, I managed to use an auger to clear the clog and my drain was back to working at its relatively slow pace. I could have prevented future clogs by installing a vent on the drain, but I did not want to cut a hole into the exterior wall of my house to run a vent line at the time.

Sure enough, because I decided against installing the exterior vent, I wound up with another clog. The first time my clog reared its ugly head, I was able to make due with a simple plunger and a bit of drain cleaner. Unfortunately, this was just a temporary fix and my problem returned just a few short days later.

For the remainder of the work week, I made due with a plunger to open the drain when it clogged. This was becoming more and more difficult as the week moved on, as was the level of nagging from my wife on resolving the problem.

I was hoping to put off getting into the plumbing until the weekend when I would have a chance to go out and purchase a pipe wrench. The only wrench I had to remove the galvanized drain plug was a large adjustable wrench. While my wrench may have worked, the arm was far too short to give me the leverage required to break the plug free.

On Saturday, mere hours before heading to dinner party where I was required to wear a suit, my wife began complaining about our clogged drain. Having had enough, I stormed into the basement to remedy this problem once and for all. I found my large adjustable wrench and gave the clean out plug all I could. The plug didn’t budge.

Stopping a moment to assess the situation, I realized I was never going to get the drain plug out without more leverage. This is when I realized that I had a five-foot piece of two-inch diameter tube steel that might just work. Before long I had the plug remove and was staring inside of a drain pipe.

The first time I dealt with this clog, I was working further into the drain to clear it. This time I was surprised to learn the clog was back towards the kitchen sink. Dreading inserting my auger, I prepared myself for a gush of water as I broke the clog free and made a path for the sink full of dish water above.

After a little ingenuity, I was able to catch the rush of water in a five gallon bucket and keep most of the filthy water off of myself. After reaming the pipe for a couple of minutes, I flushed more water through the drain and thought my problem was solved. I cleaned up the basement and put the clean out plug back on the drain before heading back upstairs to flush a final bit of water down the drain.

I plugged up my sink and filled it with hot water in an attempt to flush out any remaining clog and be free of this nuance, once and for all. After removing the stopper, the water began to drain. At this point in time I felt confident and proud of my work. Then the water stopped draining. It was at this very moment that I realized a critical mistake. I assumed there was only a single clog and that the first one had not reappeared over several months of slow draining water.

Wet and angry, I stormed back down into the basement to get back to work. I pulled out all of the tools I just put away and got down to removing the clean out plug once again. This time I wasn’t so successful in catching the flowing water. I was splashed in the face and hit square in the chest with a disgusting gelatinous glob of residual cooking grease and old dish detergent before I was able to get the bucket back in to the proper position.

When the flow of water stopped, I removed the bucket and got out my drain auger once again. I began reaming out the galvanized pipe as if we had a long unsettled score. Within a few minutes I had the clog broken up and flushed away. I put the plug back in place and went back upstairs to once again fill the sink with water.

Just like before, I removed the stopper and the water began to drain. This time the flow was never interrupted and my job was complete. I stood there in front of my kitchen sink, plunger in hand, filthy and wet, staring at the drain with confidence as if I had slayed some sort of evil beast.

With a little swagger in my step, I went back down into the basement to clean up for a second time. Fortunately, at the first sign of trouble, the week before, my brother and I installed an under the counter vent while we discussed a future project I would need his help with. With the drain completely clear and the new vent system installed, the kitchen sink works perfectly.

After cleaning the vile smelling gunk off of myself, I celebrated with a cigar and a beer as a way of patting myself on the back for a job well done. Thinking back on the project, I am confident that plumbing is my absolute least favorite thing to do around the house. While I don’t mind getting filthy while working around the house, I absolutely hate being both filthy and wet.

What is you least favorite type
Of household project?

4 comments On Plumbing is the Devil v2.0

  • Agreed, plumbing is the nastiest repair job. How did you manage to get through it without at least one trip to the hardware store covered in gunk??

    • Craig,
      This time I was fortunate enough to not have to replace anything. The first time I worked on plumbing in my house, I must have made 3 trips to the hardware store, Each trip I was dirtier and wetter than the time before. I think the guy even started feeling bad for me, lol

  • I used to hate plumbing, until I found PVC pipe =) Buy some connections to hook the PVC to existing galvanized piping and you are good as gold! I am using a 2″ pipe I believe on my kitchen sink, which used to clog a lot also, and have not had a problem in over a year. I also did not put a vent in as the pipe should be big enough to handle everything.

    If I ever have a problem again, I can easily cut out some pipe and replace it with new PVC with little fuss. Couple couplers, and some PVC glue, we are right as rain!!

    Mike

    • Mike,
      I’d have to check but I think my drain pipe is 2″ (believe that is standard for Kitchen Drains). The trap, on the other hand, is 1.5″. Replacing what I have with PVC is on my to-do list, it just hasn’t come to the top of the queue yet.

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