Not-so-fun plumbing

I figure we had more than enough plumbing excitement when we had our house re-piped, but I guess our house wasn’t through with us because we’ve had two completely unrelated plumbing issues just a month later.

First, our kitchen sink clogged up. Dave made a few attempts to clear it, including replacing the P-trap, (which was looking gross, but apparently not the issue) but he finally admitted defeat and called a plumber. The guy showed up with a nice big electric-powered pipe snake and went to town. He showed us that we actually had a very convenient clean-out for the kitchen drain on the outside of our house:


It’s that black (ABS) thing in the middle of the picture. Actually it was originally galvanized steel painted to match the rest of the house, but the guy had to use a HUGE pipe wrench to get it off, so he was nice and replaced it with an extra ABS cap he had in his truck. So we can hopefully get it off using a normal wrench if we ever need to.

Anyway he pulled out a massive amount of gunk and made a huge mess on the patio. Luckily it hosed down pretty easily. (You can just barely see a bit of discoloration in the picture above.) We chatted while he worked, and I guess as houses like ours settle over time, the angle of the drain pipe running under the house tends to flatten out, making it much more likely that gunk will just sit and build up there. If that’s the underlying issue, we could always get the pipe replaced, or we could just get it cleaned out every few years. It’s also possibly that the previous owners just liked pouring grease down the drain, in which case this will hopefully be a one-time deal since we try to be pretty good about keeping grease out of there.

Moving on, here’s our other, ongoing, plumbing issue:

Front lawn

That patch of extra-healthy looking grass means there’s a leak somewhere under our front lawn. We were hoping it was the irrigation system, but when we turned off the main valve for the irrigation and checked a few days later, that patch of grass was still wet and swampy looking. And if you draw a straight line from the water meter by the street to our main inlet valve on the side of the house, you run right through that patch of grass. We tried turning off our main water valve for a few hours and then checking the water meter to see if it moved. I’m pretty sure it moved a bit, though it’s hard to tell.

Anyway, the fix for this involves turning off the water at the street and digging a big hole. We have no idea how deep we’ll have to dig, but hopefully not too far considering the ground doesn’t really freeze here…

Ahhhh the joys of home ownership. But taking pictures of random house stuff isn’t nearly as fun as taking pictures of babies. So here’s a bonus baby picture to make this post more interesting:



Posted on May 2, 2013, in home improvement and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Dan Clemmensen

    If you are wasteful and let hot water run freely into the sink, or if you occasionally boil a big pot of spagetti and dump the water immediatly into the sink, you are unlikely to get much grease buildup. Running the dishwasher with too much soap also helps. But if you have a frugal, eco-responsible, energy-concious lifestyle, you are more likely to get grease buildup. Fortunately, you now know about the clean-out you can just use a power snake.

    Since you must dig anyway, you should be prepared to replace the entire run from the street into the house instead of just fixing the leak. That pipe is now about 50 years old: this may be a whole pipe problem instead of a point problem. Ask around in the neighborhood to see if any neighbors have experience with this: you may decide in advance to do the whole replacement, which is likely to be cheaper than making the decision on the fly.

    • Hmmmm. Dave thinks it can’t be that old since the pipe is apparently PVC, as we learned back during the solar install when we were trying to figure out how our electrical was grounded. Then again, the plumbers told us that for a house this size they normally recommend A 1″ main, and ours is currently 3/4″. They offered to give us an estimate on a “trenchless pipe replacement” which we declined at the time. Maybe we should talk to them…

  2. Dan Clemmensen

    If you have ever felt that the water is just not running fast enough at any tap in the house, under any circumstances, then a bigger pipe may be useful. If you have never felt this, then not. But if for any reason you decide to replace the whole run, by all means upgrade to 1″ or even larger: the cost differential is trivial compared to the other costs of replacing the run.

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