It was one of those deals where they say they'll be there "between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. We'll give you a call and let you know when we're on our way."
So I took the time off to head home at about 11. Luckily, I got the call on my cell from Mario McPipewrench (I call all plumbers Mario) that he was on his way, and how do I get to your house from 95th and Antioch?
Anyway, he arrived shortly after I did. I escorted him to the master bathroom and demonstrated the clogged sinks. I offered my opinion on what the problem is (the drain is clogged somewhere beyond the p-traps). He gave a few thoughtful nods and considered the problem for a few moments before heading out his truck to get his gear.
I headed downstairs to check email as he started to open the drain cleanouts. A minute or two later I heard the menacing sound of the metaphorical colonoscopy as the drain snake ground its way through internal passages of our house's sewer system.
After several minutes of snaking, I remarked to myself how much aggressive noise the snake was making. Shortly after that it stopped, and I heard the master bathroom sinks turn on to test the drain flow.
Then, as I sat checking Twitter, I heard a tock sound, like a clock missing its tick. It was coming from the lower level bathroom a few feet away. I went to investigate and saw water dripping from the ceiling onto a half-used box of Kleenex, making the steady drumbeat of a water clock.
I hurried upstairs to deliver the good news to Mario.
"Hey, I think you broke a pipe. There's water coming through the ceiling downstairs."
Mario appeared to be overjoyed at the news. He followed me to the downstairs bathroom and saw the drip drip dripping of the drain directly above. After a quick Direct Connect to his manager to get clearance to continue the repair, he told me he would have to break into the ceiling to check the pipes.
It was my turn to be overjoyed.
I stood back while he cut a 16 by 16 inch square in the sheetrock ceiling. Two chunks of ceiling fell on the commode below, and I could see the black stain of sewer grease on the side that was closest to the pipe.
The leak was coming from a joint fitting where three pipes came together. Mario inspected the situation for a few minutes, isolating the leak and determining the best way to fix it. He concluded that a rubber gasket patch affixed with hose clamps was the easiest way to proceed. I had my doubts and wondered aloud whether it would be better to simply replace the entire fitting.
Mario must not have heard me.
When he had finished installing the gasket patch, which I unhappily determined was the plumbing equivalent of a Band-Aid, he went upstairs to turn on the faucets and test the patch.
Just as my superior plumbing instincts had predicted, the leak continued through a seem in the patch. I apprised Mario of the situation and suggested, a little more forcefully, that a replacement of the entire fitting might be in order.
He agreed and set to work removing the old pipes with a reciprocating saw.
The heat of the saw blade on the iron pipes mixed with the contents of the pipes to produce an aroma that I can only describe as burnt shite. Imagine the worst smoker's breath you've ever smelled. I'm talking the three packs a day, hasn't brushed his teeth in a week, just drank coffee with lots of cream, sour ass smoker's breath. Mix it with a healthy dose of burned, rusty iron. Take all that and add shit, and that is what the smell was like.
I actually felt kind of bad for Mario as he cut the first pipe and was showered with a stinking sticky stream of black sewer grease. I provided a few rags from my basement workbench for him to clean up.
Time passed, and eventually he had the new fitting installed.
We turned the faucets on again to check that there were no leaks. After a few minutes, we were satisfied, and Mario did his best to cleanup the black streaks on the wall and floors. I suggested we throw away the now-soiled rags.
So in the final analysis, we now have cleared drains and a new joint fitting. Those are pluses. We also have a hole in the ceiling of our downstairs bathroom, but our home warranty company will take care of fixing that. In the meantime, we'll keep an eye on the new fitting to make sure it doesn't start leaking.
On the downside, we'll need to repaint the walls and ceiling of the bathroom. But we probably would have done that anyway.
Also, I got a nice long blog post out of the deal. So there's that.
tagged: plumbing, home improvement, sewer, pipes, bathroom, sink