Friday, February 6, 2009

Pis Aller, or Fun with Plumbing

Want to hear something amazing? The plumber the home warranty company sent came on time this morning. Actually, he came a little early.

I was right about what was stopping up the kitchen sink pipe between the garbage disposal and the drain with the trap. It was pistachio nut shells, all right. The plumber unscrewed the PVC pipe, emptied the contents into a bucket, and handed it to me to take out to the compost bin. Then he screwed the pipe back on and that was that.

Good grief! Is that all there is to it? I could have done that myself! Maybe I didn't need to call the plumber after all!

Upstairs in the bathroom, he was just as quick to remove the lavatory trap and the straight pipe connected to it. The assembly was full of water, of course, and when he emptied it out into the bathtub, a few gray flakes of calcium deposit dropped out.

That's odd. That wouldn't be enough to cause the rattle I'd heard before.

I picked it up and saw there was some greenish goo in it. So while he was doing something or other under the sink I ran hot water through the trap assembly. And this is what came out:

That's not lime flakes, that's bona fide pebbles! As to how they got there, my working theory is that my POs' preschooler dropped them in more than five years ago, but only now has it come to matter.

I figured that now the problem was taken care of, and once the pipes were put back together the basin would drain and all would be well.

But no. It was still clogged. When the plumber went to his truck to fetch his motor-driven snake, I decided that no, I couldn't have done this job myself.

It took two tries with the snake to clear the drain. Apparently the obstruction was pretty far down.

But there was still a problem. "This trap is on backwards," said the plumber. "Do you have leaks in this sink?"

"No-- I don't think so-- I mean, I've never noticed-- "

"I'm surprised if you haven't. This flange isn't designed to go on this end of the trap. Whoever did this put it on the wrong way."

So he took his little coping saw and cut off a few inches of the straight pipe so the trap could go the right way around. With that done and the pebbles removed, my drain could get a better scour and I won't get the buildup that had caused the pipes to stop up below.

But he tried and tried but couldn't get the trap to go on the correct way. Or he got it on and it leaked. Or he got it on and the gasket broke.

Why? Because whoever installed my pedestal sink failed to make sure it was resting on its pedestal. So the weight that isn't taken by the wall bolts is taken by the plumbing, with the result that the first length of drain pipe is at least 5 degrees out of true. And given the "creative" way some previous owner that adapted the wall tile to a cockeyed piece of trim, this doesn't surprise me one bit.

I sat there watching for most of this operation. Not sure what the plumber thought of it, but I like to know what's going on and learn. But after the plastic gasket broke, I figured I'd clear out of his way.

When he came downstairs, he was apologetic: "I had to put it back the way it was. That's the only way I could make it work with that crooked drain pipe."

So barring being pebble-free, I won't get the improved scour through the trap. Oh, well! The drain is flowing freely again, the water gurgling merrily down its gullet, and that is something that was long overdue.

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