From Saturday evening to Wednesday evening, I spent quite a bit of time on a plumbing project. It started as a very clogged drain, but replacing some of the junky galvanized steel pipe with plastic became necessary as well.

Saturday, my kitchen sink stopped draining entirely. I started with plunging and running the garbage disposal, but that just moved water between the two bowls. I disassembled one of the traps, but it was clean. A horizontal pipe back from there was clogged solid though, hard black gunk. Couldn’t make headway on it with a hand snake. I put it back together, thinking I could then loosen the gunk with drain cleaner, but I cracked a nut on the slip joint, so had to replace that with plastic.

I tried some drain cleaner, but it still wouldn’t drain. When it went on a couple hours, I added some water and used the plunger on the other bowl to pull some through and water down the cleaner. I left it overnight, but it still didn’t drain. I pulled the mixture back and forth between the bowls a few times, but no luck. I added more water, then carefully drained it into a bucket from the trap. I tried snaking again, but it was still solid.

I decided to try to take off the horizontal pipe to clean it separately. I bought a pipe wrench and struggled to get it to move, then heard a ting noise and saw a slight drip. Upon inspection, I saw I had broken a small hole in the pipe. Darn. So replacing that part was required. I took apart the trap and pipe from the disposal side. The latter was solid packed the full 12″.

The two sinks go into a Y that then goes to pipe down through the floor. I had to use a screw driver to clear out the gunk from the one side of the Y, chiseling the hard stuff, pulling little bits out at a time, until the rest of it just fell down the pipe. I tried the hand snake there, but couldn’t get it to go far.

I had my dad come over to help. We tried to remove broken piece of pipe, but it wouldn’t budge and just got mangled. So we used it to loosen the elbow it went into, then my dad cut part of the pipe off with an angle grinder allowing us to then spin of the elbow and remove it. The grinder sure threw a lot of sparks and smoke and took quite a while.

With that off, we had top access. I did the same thing with the screw driver to clear that opening, and we tried the hand snake some more from both openings. We spent quite a bit of time, and made a little progress, but not enough to actually get the water that was still in the pipe to go down. We gave up on that and concluded that I should get a professional to snake. We did plan out somewhat what plastic bits I would need to buy to replace what we had removed.

I contacted my brother, who, from a previous snaking project of his own, had what turned out to be the perfect tool. It’s a rotating drum snake about the same size as the hand one I had been using before, but has a bit stiffer of a snake and stronger bit. More importantly, it has a motor that both rotates and advances it (or reverses it). Brilliant. A Ryobi P4002. It did the trick without much trouble. It did take some time, but went out the full 25 feet it had. In fact, I accidentally had the snake completely come out of the device, and had to detach the drum to get it to go back in. Reversing was slow, but I wanted to be sure it was cleaned out well, so I occasionally pushed by hand to feel and went forward again or spun it in neutral until things felt clear. I wiped the snake as I reversed. Felt good to get that done.

I spent quite some time at the hardware store (Ace) to figure out what pieces I would need to make it work. I did end up having to use a piece my dad had left instead of one I bought, and used a bellows type bendable piece stretched to the max to make the one side work, but it worked remarkably easily. The only leak I had was at the plastic going into the metal, but quite a few wraps of teflon tape took care of that. The other joints were done mostly hand tight but had no problems holding water. Back in business.

All that was left was cleaning, which was my project for this evening. I spent a fair amount of time getting the sink bowls and surrounding area to where I felt they were sanitary for dishes. I also spent a fair amount of time getting the black gunk and rust out from underneath the sink and on the surrounding floor. I still have to mop.

And of course there were dishes to do. I had been stacking them around the counter / stove while the sink was non-operational, but then remembered I had a camping “sink”, basically a thick flexible pvc bin. I was able to wash in that and then pour through the drain, with pipes removed, into a bucket directly below. It worked well, if slower than normal. I still have some dishes left from this, but should be able to handle them easily tomorrow or this weekend with both sinks operational and clean.

It always is frustrating when problems like this come up, but then it feels good to get things fixed up, especially when they’re improved. Sink will probably be quicker to drain, less noisy, less smelly, less likely to clog, and easier to work on if need be in the future.