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Today’s plumbing 101 headache of the day
In today’s Plumbing 101 headache of the day, poor planning on the kitchen plumbing from the previous owner. Since we have had some draining issues with our kitchen sink, Mr DIY’er, that’s me, decides to unstop the drain. No big deal. I take the plumbing apart on the sink and proceed to take each pipe and fitting apart. Clean the pipes and fittings and unclog what I find. No clog to be found in the immediate piping. Aaaargh!! It has to be a blockage in the drain pipe. So, I take a 25 ft drain snake and snake the drain pipe. Put the plumbing back together. Run the water and prepare for a victory dance. FAIL! The sink fills with water with no signs of the water draining. It just sits there. I’m stumped.
After a $128.00 dollar (this was on a Sunday by the way) plumbing lesson and general contractor lesson from an area plumbing franchise, I found out that our kitchen sink has an air-vent that has gone bad and it should always be accessible. If you are not sure what an auto-vent is, then let me explain.
When a house is built, all plumbing systems are vented, usually through the roof to prevent sewer gas build up in the advent of a clog or septic tank issue. Pipes sticking out of a roof on a house are typically the vents to the plumbing. In our case, luckily, the plumbing system is vented through the roof, with one exception, our kitchen plumbing. Due to the design of the kitchen and our flat roof design, I suspect, the former owner decided against putting another vent through the roof. So they went with a local auto-vent.
OH Sheet moment
As I said earlier, auto-vents should always be accessible. And they do go bad. As it turns out the former owner decided to put the auto-vent behind the sheetrock in the kitchen, DOH! One piece of advice, if you are ever told something will never go bad, disregard that information and error on the side of caution.
Do I tear out the sheetrock to try and find this thing or do I improvise? I elected, to Improvise! Here is why. Number one, we need our kitchen sink and we need our dishwasher. We will remodel the kitchen one day and at that time we will remove the vent or cap it. In the meantime, we will redo the plumbing in the kitchen and add a new air vent which will look something like this. Click Here
So after putting all of the plumbing back together and being very happy with how it turned out, FAIL! again. The sink is still not draining!
What the heck!
So now, I tear out the sheetrock and find the auto-vent and cut the piping. Then I cap the pipe taking this auto-vent out of the equation. Still, the sink fills and does not drain!
Another What the Heck!!
Turns out there was a clog after all! A ball of grease was the culprit! I just could not tell especially since the snake had little issues going through the drain pipe.
So, we had to call in a professional.
TIP: Find someone who knows a good local professional. The first time we called one of the big services that advertise in all the different media in town and it was a horrible experience. The first problem it was a Sunday, so that meant more money for the service call, second, the plumber did not want to be here. To top it off he failed to find the clog. With this said I will never use HEP again or any of their competitors due to this experience. Again, if at all possible find a good local professional. If you are in the Knoxville, TN area this is who we used.
TIP: To keep grease from building up in your pipes, Donnie from Haun Plumbing recommended filling your sink with hot water and Dawn dishwashing liquid. Then letting it drain through the pipes. Do this a couple of times and repeat about once a month. This will help dissolve the grease build up from normal everyday use.
Even though I did not fix the issue, there are a number of positives to take away from this experience.
- I did re-plumb the sink with new plumbing and that worked flawlessly after the clog was alleviated.
- Redoing the plumbing also simplified the configuration of the pipes and the trap making it easier to deal with in the future and giving me more room in the cabinet.
- According to the plumber who alleviated the clog, the way I did the auto-vent is now in code. Having it behind the wall is not in code in my area of Tennessee.
- As always it was a learning experience.
TIP: As with any DIY project if you are replacing parts, always remove the part if possible and take it with you. For example with the plumbing, I removed most of the pieces and took them to Lowes to make sure I had the right sizes. The worst thing for me is having to go to Lowes or Home Depot 3 or 4 or 20 times to get the right stuff.
I know this is not the most interesting stuff but if you read through this post, Thank you and I hope you learned a little something from it.