Adventures in home ownership, part 34.

Our bathtub backed up again. It’s done this every few months since we moved in. It went longer than usual this time, but finally stopped draining altogether. Normally I can use the plunger on it a few times and get it going again, but not this time.

I pulled out the drain snake I had on hand, took the drain cover off and tried to feed the snake in. It wouldn’t go more than a quarter inch. Doesn’t feel like it’s hitting a clog so much as a wall. Turning the handle does nothing. It’s clearly nowhere near the clog. Huh, maybe it’s too big to get past the mechanism for stopping the drain when you want to bathe? I had a similar problem trying to get it down the bathroom sink drain the last time that one stopped up.

Did some Googling. Turns out that, yeah, this snake is probably too big. What the hell would I know? I work in I.T. for Chrissakes. Out to the local Home Depot I go. Find a flat snake specifically for bathroom sinks and tubs. I also picked up a “Power Plunger” that uses CO2 cartridges to clear clogs because a couple of previous backups earlier using a compressed air plunger was the only thing that would clear it. I’m slightly worried I’m going to blow my pipes apart, but I’ll try the new snake first.

Get home and tried to insert the new, smaller, flatter, snake into the tub drain. Again, barely goes anywhere. Clearly not to a clog of any kind. OK, time to break out the CO2 plunger. Set it up, pressed down, FWOOSH and the drain starts sucking down water like an alcoholic at an open bar. I ran downstairs to see if it was pouring into my basement because, like I said, slightly worried I would blow my pipes apart. I can hear the water flowing through the drainpipes and there are no signs of leakage. Yay me!

As the water clears from the tub, I can see down into the drain and I notice that it doesn’t go down very far at all and I don’t see an S bend like I would expect to. More Googling and I learn that I probably have a trip lever with plunger assembly like the one pictured to the right. Except the shoe on mine (the 90-degree angle pipe directly under the grate) is especially shallow.

Now, I’m no plumber, but it seemed clear to me that even the new snake I had purchased wasn’t going to be much use for this so it’s a good thing I bought the CO2 power plunger. This also explains why it seems to get clogged every 5 to 6 months. The house was built in 1959 and has had more than one renovation done in that time. The main bathroom and the master bedroom’s half-bath sit right next to each other and have a door connecting them. The basement is finished with a drop-down ceiling which makes trying to find the pipes to look at more of a challenge than I’ve been able to motivate myself to undertake.

Still, I’m learning and slowly amassing a set of tools that, one day, might be appropriate to the problem I’m having. As of the first of May I have officially been a homeowner for three years and have, so far, managed to not completely wreck the joint. I’ve not exactly improved it much, but I haven’t wrecked it. It’s a low bar, but one I’m happy to be clearing.