Meet my laundry room floor drain.
For the first few years that I owned my home, this thing was the bane of my existence.
Every 6 months or so the drain would back up leaving about 6 inches of water all over the laundry room floor.
The first few times it happened I tried pouring drain cleaner down it... but to no avail. So I tried to use one of those plumbing snakes, but the thing just kinked and got stuck about 6 feet in, and did nothing to solve the problem.
Finally in desperation I called the Roto-Rooter folks who came out and snaked the drain to the tune of about $250. Oy!
But the thing is... it just kept happening over, and over, and over again. The plumbers tried ever more sophisticated (and expensive) procedures, but without fail the thing would clog and back up once or twice a year.
After several years of this they told me that there was likely a problem with the main line and the only real solution would be to dig a trench through the backyard, remove the pipe and replace the line. I could just see the contents of my bank account floating down that drain!
To make matters worse, about 30 years after my house was built a detached garage was added in the back.
Given the relative locations of the drain, garage and alley it was very likely that the main sewer line ran directly under the garage, making it much more difficult and expensive to replace than it otherwise would have been.
At that point I was pretty much resigned to the fact that I was just gonna have to call a plumber a few times a year to come snake the thing out. But then an idea occurred to me.
All those plumbers really had that I didn't was a big fancy power auger... maybe I could buy one.
On one hand it seemed like a ridiculous thing for a non-plumber to own, but given the fact that I'd already spent WAY over a thousand dollars on the stupid drain, it started to sound like it might be down right cost effective!
So I hopped on the interwebs to see if I could price power augers, and somewhere in my search I stumbled upon something called a sewer rod.
Turns out that I'm not the only person on the planet who's ever had the problem of a clogged floor drain - go figure - and there actually does exist a tool designed for just this problem!
Basically a sewer rod is a long sturdy but flexible metal tape with a spear pointed roller ball on the end designed specifically for clearing sewer pipes.
It's much sturdier than your typical snake or auger and the ball on the end is designed to punch through big clogs. And get this, the thing cost less than $50!
So I hopped in the car, ran over to my local home improvement store, plunked down my $37.50 for a 50 foot sewer rod and voila! In about 10 minutes I had the drain running smoother than it had at any time since I'd owned the house! I felt like a genuine plumbing whiz!
It's not like the problem is completely solved... it still clogs every 6 months or so. But over the years I've learned to recognize the tell tale glugging sound that it starts to make when the thing is starting to clog.
So whenever I hear it, like I did today, I just run down to the laundry room, whip out my handy dandy sewer rod and fix it before it has a chance to back up and become a problem.
I ran into a guy who was a plumber at a party once and told him about my troublesome pipe. He said it's very likely that over the years the earth has settled so that the line no longer runs directly downhill as it originally did. So there's most likely just a "high spot" in the line where debris tends to collect, and the sewer rod clears the debris so the drain can flow smoothly again.
I have to say, that $37.50 was probably one of the best investments I've ever made. It has literally saved me thousands of dollars and untold headaches.
So tell me, what's the most money-saving DIY tool that you own?
Howdy y'all, I had a little mishap with the sewer rod today, and decided to post about it so that if anybody else out there on the interwebs ends up in a similar situation you'll have some clue how to get out of it.
The last time I used the sewer rod (they're also called sewer tape), I noticed that the ball thing on the end was loose and wobbly. Fearing that it might come off and get stuck in the pipe, I decided to replace it with a new one.
So, I got a new one and snaked out the drain. Now... this particular pipe has a pretty sharp corner about 5 feet in, and to get the tape around the corner you have to position the rod so the tape is vertical, because it only bends side to side, not up & down, if you get what I mean. So I got it past the corner no problem and it cleared the clog, but then I couldn't get the damned thing out! It kept getting hopelessly stuck at that corner.
Seriously, I pulled and pulled, shoved it back and forth, twisted the thing as much as was possible, cried, cursed... after about 5 hours I was at my wits end. I really thought I was gonna have to call somebody to either push the thing through to the sewer in the alley or take a jack-hammer to the concrete floor. I think the problem is that there's a lip on the pipe right at the corner and the thing was just getting stuck there - like this:
In hindsight, and with some further inspection of the old sewer rod, I figured out that the head on the old one wasn't just wobbly, half of it was actually missing! I remembered that the very first time I used it I had real trouble getting it out past that same corner - but was finally able to yank the thing out. I now think that I must have yanked off half of the ball on the old one the very first time I used it, and since I wasn't all that familiar with how it was supposed to look at that point, I just didn't realize it. OY! One can hope that in the 15 years or so since that happened the remnant part has made its way down the pipe to the sewer in the alley!
I'm not quite sure what I'm gonna do moving forward. I'm certainly NOT gonna use the new sewer rod on this particular drain again, and I also don't think it's a good idea to risk leaving any more parts in the pipe. I may try just removing the entire ball apparatus from the old rod and see how that works.
In any case. I just thought I'd post this update so if anybody else out there ever finds themselves stuck in a similar situation, you'll have something to try before doing anything really drastic!
OK... so just wanted to post that I replaced the sewer rod again, this time with a different brand. The original one was made by Cobra and had a ball end that looked like this:
I replaced it with one made by Ridgid that looks like this:
It's a little hard to tell from this picture, but the Ridgid sewer rod had two different ends to choose from.
I used the spear end and it had absolutely no problem with that corner and cleared the clog perfectly. The ball end could also be used, although you'd have to unwind the thing completely to get at it. But the ball is about half the size of the one on the end of the Cobra product.
Soooo... I guess the point here is that if you have a choice, I'd highly recommend going with a Ridgid over a Cobra!
Happy drain clearing y'all!