Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Bad Plumbing Ju-Ju

Given my recent posts, it's probably no great surprise I spent today working on plumbing. What's less expected is that it wasn't the plumbing in our house. My friend Cindy that helps run Oakland Firefighters Random Acts told me the back door of her mom's house wasn't shutting. You may remember about a year ago I did a bunch of work on her parent's house, mostly replacing a burst water heater, but I ended up working on other plumbing, and the back door that had been kicked in by a SWAT team and then replaced by some firefighters with Random Acts (people normally have to replace damaged property like that on their own; the police don't really take responsibility for it). They unfortunately didn't do a great job when they replaced the door, so I had to plane the door a bit to get it to shut. With time, hot and cold, and changes in humidity, it was again no longer shutting, so Cindy said it needed to be planed some more. Well, there was a bit more to it than that. The hinges hadn't been set right, so the door was binding against the inside of the door stop, and trying to close the door had caused the screws in the top hinge to split the wood and pull out part way. So I had to trim the door stop (I did so messily but as quickly as possible), replace the screws in the hinges with longer screws, as well as plane the door a bit.

But there were plumbing issues, too. The faucet in the laundry sink was leaking. Rather than tell anyone, Cindy's mom's caretaker had stuck a plastic bag under it. Over time, the water had gotten behind the block supporting the faucet, and into the plaster and lath wall. I fixed one leak and shut off the water to the faucet, but it needs time to dry out before any more work is done. The wall may need to be redone. Yrch.

And Cindy mentioned that the kitchen sink wasn't draining very quickly. Sure enough, it would start filling after running the water hard for a few seconds. I looked in the cabinet under the sink, and was dismayed to see drain pipes with signs of previous leakage, including electrician's tape wrapped around the middle of one pipe. But I gamely went forward, disassembled the trap and attempted to clean out the drain. The trap was clean, and I discovered that the main blockage was just inside the wall. Unfortunately it wasn't just gunk (though there was plenty of that), it was primarily rust, which neither the snake nor a bent hanger could do much with. I also ran the snake into a clean out down below the sink, and discovered that some where down the line there's stuff slowing things down there, too. At least that's just gunk (I think), but it was beyond what I could get out with the snake. So Cindy gets to call RotoRooter or the like and have them clean it. Though I don't think there's much they can do with the rust-filled pipe in the wall, either. I think that may need to be replaced, and that means ripping open the wall. Double yrch.


Katarina said...

I think "gunk" is a technical term, in plumbing circles, for something. Can't think of what, though....

Unknown said...

In this case, "gunk" is pretty fitting, as there are no toilets involved, only a kitchen sink. The most recognizable thing there was grease that had congealed in the pipe because the rust is making the water drain so slowly. Besides the rust, everything else was, well, gunk :-p