February 29, 2016 by phicks2012
A February morning at the castle, and I got up expecting an average day — maybe housework and a run to the grocery store, but nothing more exciting than that. Silly Me!! So I wasn’t expecting it when Jason came into my office and said “I have some bad news”.
I hate hearing phrases like that. In fact, the sphincter clench was nearly audible.
Alas, we have a recurring plumbing problem where an elbow in the main drain pipe running under the basement slab and out of the house develops a serious case of constipation, and we get a blockage, causing water (and whatever else) to back up and the basement toilet to overflow. It was doing it again (only water, thank God), and while we’d always known perfectly well where the blockage (always) occurred, that didn’t mean we’d ever been able to easily fix it.
Household drain snakes come in specific types and lengths. Some are very short and thin, and meant for use in bathroom drains. Some come with a hand-cranks or can be attached to an electric drill, but they only seem to come in 15′ and 25′ lengths, and our clog is always about 30′ in. Longer snakes (at least the ones we’ve found) cannot be attached to a drill, and don’t come with easily usable hand cranks. The crank-handles that come with them would not look out of place being utilized by Fred Flintstone, and — unless fed into a small pipe where they don’t have space to tangle — they are not stiff enough to go very far in without coiling and twisting and tangling rather than advancing. Our 50′ snake had all the firmness of an over-cooked noodle. Yep, we had a real assortment of the things — enough to open a snake house and justify hiring a herpetologist — but not a single one of them would do this simple job, despite the fact that we have a convenient clean-out/access port outside.
We knew from past experience that if we called someone like Roto-Rooter we’d be quoted $200-$300 for 5-minute’s work, so I started looking around for a rental machine, only to be told that most of the rentals took two large men to load and unload. Huh? I’d SEEN the units used by outside contractors to unclog that drain in the past, and not ONE of them was that large or heavy. Even if the rental fee was only like $55 for 4 hours, surely there was no WAY we had to rent anything THAT large to get the job done! Right?
So we finally decided that since this was a recurring problem — hair, cooking grease, toilet paper, and other assorted materials and impediments building up in that same pipe elbow again and again over time — it definitely was going to keep happening every 2-3 years. No doubt about it, so we bit the bullet and went shopping, and discovered that a local branch of Harbor Freight Tools had a couple of heavy duty units on sale. Okay, so they were still moderately expensive ($250), but they were nearly 70% off the regular price and were easily portable, so while I winced and grumbled it really did make sense to buy one — as long as it worked to solve the problem once we got it home.
So, on the way home Jason studied the owner’s manual trying to figure out what “some assembly required” actually meant, and informed me that it looked pretty straightforward, but that if he couldn’t get it working quickly he’d call our sort-of next door neighbor — “next door” being relative out here — and get him to come down to lend a hand.
Jack came over anyway, just to watch and heckle — he’s good at that, but Jason did get it working and had the clog removed in less than five minutes. Yep, we were able to run water and flush toilets once again after a half-day of hardship and plumbing deprivation.
So, while buying the thing wasn’t in my budget, I guess I’ll have to concede that it was a worthwhile purchase. My new eye glasses and LouLou’s dentures (the teeth for her bucket) will just have to wait yet another month, or so. Sorry, LouLou! We won’t even MENTION the elevator repairs. Sorry Achilles!!