First Home Owner Diaries Volume Four: Plumber’s Putty

It all started with a backed up bathtub…

Slow drain or slow brain?

Over the last six months since we’ve moved into our new home, our main bathtub drain has been getting slower and slower. This is not a new thing if you live with long-haired females. Recently, I was able to take a normal 10 minute shower and have the water rise past my ankles. This was the proverbial last straw.

Original Pipes

At our last house we had the same issue semi-annually and I invested in my very own drain snake. Previously, I would go through the tub drain or through the trap cleanout and snake it until I couldn’t snake it anymore. This would usually yield a large mass of hair-soap-scum nastiness that would leave the drain flowing like the Hoover Dam.

My previous successes gave me the confidence to charm my snake once again on this backed up drain. After a few attempts on what seemed too easy to be effective, I tested the drain. Immediately I noticed there was no change and threw down my champion snake in disgust. I retreated to the garage where I knew there was an access panel in the ceiling to the tub drain. As I was removing the access panel that the previous owner screwed AND glued, water began to drip. At this point I was fearing the worst… 

Old house | Old pipes
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Holy Pipe

To my surprise, under the access panel was an array of old corroded copper piping. Normally this would be fine as most mid-century homes in western PA have this infrastructure, but one of my pipes was missing a chunk. I concluded that my overzealous snaking caused this hole, but when I put my hands on the broken pipe, it almost caved under my grip. This was a ticking time bomb that was accelerated by my prodding. We have another shower in the house, but I decided this needed to be fixed, now. 

“I’m grateful that I have a father who’s not only willing to help on jobs like this, but adds a great deal of knowledge to most projects.”

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No drips

I called my home warranty company (AHS) and they assigned me a plumber whom I didn’t hear from for a day or two. After talking to the plumber’s office and not wanting to pay the service fee, I decided I could do this myself… mostly. 

When it’s cold and rainy, there’s nothing better than plumbing

On a cold, rainy, and boring Saturday my dad and I set out to get this problem fixed. It looks like an easy job, just replace the existing pipes and we’re done! Not so fast… the old plumbing had a vintage drum-style trap, infamous for getting clogged, which also needed to be removed. Our first trip to my local home improvement center yielded a bunch of stuff that might do the job. After careful planning, cutting, dry-fitting, hypothesizing, trimming, and thoughtful staring, we had a configuration that would work.

Cutting out the old piping was easy. A cut here, loosen screws there, and it all came crashing down. We put in a new drain system in the tub accompanied by an overflow down to a new trap and piping. After gluing the first part together we did a water test. No drips, success! The last thing we had to do was vent the pipes through the roof.

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Plumbing complete

Venting the trap and drain to the existing roof vent would require another trip to my local home improvement store, and food. After dinner we assembled the remaining parts our masterpiece of amateur engineering. Another successful leak test and we were done.

Another job well done

The only part that remains is patching the ceiling in the garage where the access panel was. After a few weeks to make sure there are no leaks, I’ll patch this with some removable drywall. Hopefully I’ll never have to open that panel again as long as I live in this house (knock-on-wood).

Plumbing isn’t the easiest task to undertake, but it’s easy to understand. You have to get water from point A to point B, end of story. It’s more of a puzzle than a labor intensive job, you have to assemble the right pieces to get water to flow properly, and away from your house.

I’m grateful that I have a father who’s not only willing to help on jobs like this, but adds a great deal of knowledge to most projects.

More of my DIY posts!