Wednesday, April 23, 2014

A crazy idea that actually seems to have worked.

Back story: Bath tub was draining really slow. We tried the Drano and Liquid Plumber and all that, still drained slow. I ended up opening the trap and snaking the line 9 feet down. Pulled out all the usual hair and black sludge (did you know all the soaps and shampoos combine to make the nastiest, blacked sludge you'll ever see?) and the drain seemed to run again.

Until recently...

So the tub is draining slow again, but this time it's way worse. I think the water was evaporating faster than draining. Which may actually be possible because this was during winter when the air was so dry if you were to cry, I suspect only a grain of salt would make it to the floor. Anyway... part of the problem is in the pipes, not as-in the clog is in the pipes, but the pipes themselves is part of the problem.

After the trap there is about 8 feet of straight pipe, then a 90 degree bend, 2 inches, another 90 degree bend, 2 feet and finally yet another 90 degree bend before dumping off into the big 4 inch line. Snaking it the first time, I made it through the first 2 bends, but wrecked the snake in the process. This time I couldn't make it past the second bend, but I could make it that far. So now at least I know the clog is in that last couple feet of the pipe. I'd guess it to be in the third bend.

So you might think, "obviously you need to take the pipes apart". I would agree, until I tried. These old cast iron pipes will not budge no matter what I try. We only have 1 tub/shower and I'm no professional plumber, so I really don't want to cut these pipes until I have a complete plan and know I can get it back together and running within a day. It's time to get creative.

If the clog is biological (hair, the bane of any shower drain) I know the Dranos and Liquid Plumbers can take care of it, but only if they can get to the clog. When I dump them in the drain, they just sit in the bottom of the trap and do nothing. So how can I feed the Liquid Plumber directly to the clog, bypassing the trap? 10 feet of plastic tubing.

Well this sounded crazy to me, but since the next option is cutting cast iron pipes, I'm all for trying it.
I open up the overflow in the tub and open the trap. Feed the tubing down the tub overflow and it falls out of the trap downstairs. I then feed the tube up the trap and horizontally down the drain pipe as far as it goes to the first bend, 8 feet. Duct tape a funnel to the end of the tube back up in the tub and start dumping Liquid Plumber in it. Adding hot water to help push the solution down the tube just until the water starts coming back out the drain from the trap (which is still open because it has a loop of tubing sticking out of it).

Tub drain (from right) into trap with tube hanging out
Tube looping back into trap and down drain line

I repeat this process for somewhere between 30-60 minutes I'd guess. When I've run out of Liquid Plumber, I figure I've done all I can, and put the covers all back together. The water now drains but refusing to get excited about immediate results, I leave it to the "wait and see" of a few showers and baths.

A month later, the tub still drains like it wants to suck you down with the water. My crazy idea seems to have actually worked! I intend to keep pouring the foaming drain cleaner down it every couple months and just maybe I can get away with not taking apart these old pipes.

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