Adventures in Plumbing: Episode 2

This past fall, our kitchen sink backed up. All life ceased to function for a week and a half, and after a ten hours between a Saturday and Sunday, my father-in-law realized what it could be -- the vent pipe that sits on the roof.

People at work were all, "Don't put coffee grounds down the sink."

Which, yes, I do sometimes, but only from my Keurig reusable cups, but I kept wanting to say, "Don't you tell me what I'm doing wrong!"

When I found out that it was the vent pipe, you know, on the roof, I wanted to go up in said peoples' faces and say, "Ha! See!"

But before the problem was figured out on the top of the house, we had to start under the house.

We started at the clean out. Perhaps something died in the pipe. Perhaps. Getting inside the clean out pipe was its own debacle. It's a cast iron pipe, and molten iron (or something) holds the plug in place. The plug was so old that everything about it was twisting, so the plug couldn't come out. So my father-in-law took a hammer and a screw driver and chiseled away the molten whatever-it-was.

I was super helpful. Once all that nonsense was pulled out of the clean out, I held a bucket.

No excess of water shot out, which was good, so we pulled out the auger and kept shoving it down the pipe. Nothing came out and we didn't hit anything of substance, no mystery tree roots or dead rodent the size of a cat.

The clean out was not the issue. We had to figure something else out.

It was time for Marco Polo. I shouted, "Marco!" and I kept waiting for the clog to respond -- nothing.

With that, Saturday was done.

Sunday found my father-in-law up on top of the roof. First, we pulled out the leaf blower. He stuck it into the vent pipe while I sat in the kitchen with the PVC pipes under the kitchen sink undone. He let 'er rip, and I felt wooshes of air shoot through the pipe. A pebble tumbled out, as well as some leafy dead bits, but I could feel the air.

So, what could it be?

We stuck the hose down the vent pipe and water came out into the bucket through the open drain.

The blockage, it turns out, was somewhere over there.  Some solidified mass the size of a possum was hidden within the piping stuck behind the walls of the house. There was no auger that was going to get to that unless we used witchcraft.

With a look in his eye, my father-in-law wasn't going to allow the clog to beat him. He had a plan, up his sleeve yet.

After a trip to Lowe's, we sealed up the kitchen sink drain. Up on the roof, my father-in-law sat with the balloon contraption he bought. It attached to the end of a hose, and he stuck that down the vent pipe. We let the water run, and once it hit the blockage, the balloon began to swell, sealing the vent up.

At this point, I was under the house, watching the clean out (which had a few freezer bags covering it so I could see) and lo and behold, narsty things shot out of the pipes and sailed away.

So, it wasn't the coffee grounds, OK?

But, that clog was nothing compared to what came this February.