Down The Drain, In A Good Way

Surprise! The projects have begun, a little earlier than expected.

I was supposed to be a passenger on a road trip this week. All I was gonna do was sit. But over the weekend, I realized I really shouldn’t. It’s too early to be traveling, with the recovery and all. So I planned to plan.

Then I figured with DH gone for some days, it would be a good time to have one project addressed, one which he has been mentioning for quite some time. So I did some research, and made a call, et voila!

The problem: mysterious, infrequent basement drain issues; sour smells; dried splashes at the drain but no actual backing up.  The background: We had one incident years ago with a backup. The plumber then used a camera to lodge the thing loose, because a look-see was cheaper than snaking (believe it or not!). He showed us that there was a “bend” in the sewer line on our side of the public line, and said we might get clogged up from time to time. He also said there were roots in the line and eventually we would have to have it addressed. Yes, there is a silver maple tree above the sewer line, and, well, their roots are known to aggressively invade sewer drains.

I had already started research, and planned to sometime this spring have a company come out to snake, and, if necessary, have trenchless replacement. Given our experience with other major systems in this house, I was prepared to face the worst case scenario. But last week the odors were pretty invasive, and permeated the whole house, so I had a guy come out today. Y’know, since I wasn’t going anywhere exciting after all.

I don’t know where I first heard of this company, but I did find Major Drain online, and liked what I saw. I remember that whomever mentioned them really liked their service. The office staff understood my issue and could talk intelligently about it, and the services they could provide, depending on what results they got each step of the way. They even quoted prices over the phone. Their web site states $130 + tax for drain cleaning (“cabling” they called it on the phone). Since I knew I wouldn’t be doing anything other than having DS#2 move boxes and clean up Nerf bullets in the basement, it was good timing.

Actually, I braced myself for the worst case scenario: cabling, then hydro-jetting the roots away, then Oblitaroot foaming root deterrent to prevent more roots, about $575. And I braced for the hard sell of sewer line replacement later in the year.

Well, that didn’t hold water.

One of the owners, Shawn, was here himself. He said if he got any root, we’d talk about what to do next, but that he didn’t want to have to do and charge more than what was needed. Wow! Awesome. He was quick and professional, and told me it was just buildup (sparing you details), no roots. Not one little piece of root. Wow, again. The work is guaranteed 2 months, which is nice, and he said if we start to get the same symptoms, he’ll use the camera and go from there.

$139 (with taxes) for a clear drain. No roots. No replacement. Fears allayed. At 25% of what I expected I would have to dish out, this was well worth it.

When I asked how often this buildup should be cleared, Shawn said only when we have a problem. I’ll bet a lot of other repairmen would have suggested every year or two. I liked that Shawn was honest, and tried to ease my angst, not play off it. Maybe I could have had the line cleared for less. But I wasn’t sure that was all I needed. I liked knowing what it all might cost me, depending on the situation. And maybe another company would not have been as professional and up-front with everything. Major Drain made me feel valued as a customer.

One project down! I am still making my list.

Meanwhile, leaking brakes in our ’98 beater that DS#2 drives, not good. Those are being addressed right now and will be about $900. Safety issues don’t get delayed.

What Is Cheap Thrills Doing NOW?! — The Pipes

This house was not built well, which should not surprise you.  Joy awaits us at every turn.  We had an inspection before we bought it, but most of the maladies are tucked behind walls, under soffits, and, well, disguised.

For one example, our upper level used to be an Easy Bake Oven.  We blamed it on bad ductwork for years, and made whatever adjustments we could.  In the process of getting bids for our recent siding repair, we discovered that the gable vents (designed to vent the attic and keep it cool) were FAKE!  So when the guys replaced the siding, and cut the appropriate holes for the vents, it took about a day for the hot air to escape and temps to normalize.  Within 24 hours, the temp difference between upstairs and main level was 1.5 degrees — where it should be.

The stories I could tell you!  The  good news is that one by one, we’re I’m fixing these things.  Right now, in the heat of summer, of course, I’m addressing freezing pipes.  I’m almost done, but it has again proven to be quite the job for Do-It-Myself CT.  I know it’s getting done right, because I’m doing it.  Well, as right as I can without tearing everything out like Mike Holmes would do.  My fixes involve cutting holes in ceilings, through closet floors, and into walls.  Then I fix it right, then put things back.

Polyethylene Pipe Insulation, 1/2in. x 6The copper pipes in the upstairs hallway bathroom have frozen at least once each winter we’ve been here.  What we’ve done to resolve this has never been effective, and each year I’ve hoped in vain that a simple new solution would work.  I know that freezing pipes are caused by cold air flowing across them, and to prevent it you have to stop the air flow, not just insulate.  The soffit beneath the bathroom floor bumps out into the garage.  So my job this year was to get in there, install foam pipe covers on all the bathroom pipes, and spray foam all the cracks around them, starting with the bumpout.  Heh, heh.

Talk about your Pandora’s Box!  Copper supply pipes to nowhere.  I cannot even see the end of them, but there are no plumbing fixtures where they lead, and I don’t think I’m going to follow them through the fiberglass insulation.  (I may have them capped off.) 

Ductwork nightmare:  Flexible ductwork stripped of insulation and covering, with holes slit into the thin plastic to heat/cool the soffit area (?!?!).  THAT would explain the poor air flow in the bedroom it serves.  Corey from Duct Medic came out with his handy inspection camera, and discovered that that portion was only about three feet in, and told me how to fix it and what product to use.  Instead of opening up more of the garage ceiling, I pulled back the carpet in #2’s closet, cut through the chipboard, and there it was!  I’d rather work at knee level than above my head, so this was a faster fix that gets hidden — yay!

One little thing after another caught my attention, and I probably looked like a deer in headlights.  Most of the questions were answered by Ken, my architect former neighbor friend, by Corey, and by my best friend The Internet.  I’m accepting the issues I’ve discovered, addressing them, and moving on.  I am choosing to forgive the original builder.  (That’s huge for me.)   I need to get busy and fix things.

The bumpout only houses a small portion of the water supply, so I’ve had to open up the wall in #2’s closet to provide real access.  I’ve covered, foamed, and cut three access panels to install on the wall.  Yeah, don’t get me started.  I weatherstripped them, making the screws too short, so I’m off to get those this morning.

However, the real freezing problem has been the tub and shower piping,  which I accessed through the attic.  I’ve done a lot of work in that attic, including foaming around the cracks of the rigid insulation that surrounds the bathtub.  Imagine my surprise horror to discover that there were more holes/gaps/corners than I’d previously known, and a lack of bat insulation and vapor barrier! which allowed cold air to flow directly onto the pipes!  I’ve covered the pipes, and have begun the process of blocking off the pipe areas with rigid insulation and foaming every opening I can.  I ran out of spray foam yesterday, but I hope to wrap up this project today before it gets too hot.  The lack of vapor barrier is an issue that will have to wait until the bathroom is remodeled, which may not be in my lifetime.

Now, remember that when working around fiberglass insulation, you need to wear long pants, long sleeves, a mouth cover, gloves and eye protection.  This is why I didn’t want to address this issue in the summer.  Last year I had it scheduled to do in October, but I got a bronchial illness that took me down for weeks.  And remember that in Omaha we went from one week of pleasant weather to bitter, long-lasting cold at about that time.  It never got done, and I’ve been sweating buckets this year (literally!) to get this done with no excuses this year.

I’ll probably hold my breath during the first sub-zero front this winter, but deep down I’m confident these measures will keep the pipes from freezing.  And if they fail, at least we now have access panels to reach the pipes to thaw them quickly. 

This is what I’ve been doing for the last week.  Where’s the CHOCOLATE?!

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