Thanksgiving Fun

Well, not quite fun.

We did have an excellent Thanksgiving, even though one of our guests was stranded up north due to weather. That, however, is not the subject of this post. The subject of this post is home repairs, and how they almost always occur at the absolute worst time.

About six hours ago, at 1:00AM, the trouble began. Our guest noted a gurgling sound coming from the kitchen. I went in to check it out, and confirmed what I had suspected– the drain was definitely slow. Not good. Last time we had that sound, I had to tear out my downstairs bathroom to the studs and the floor joists and rebuild it from scratch.

I cleared the sink (who would have thought that I could mess four full loads of dishes in less than 36 hours), and inspected. The water was slowly draining, so I was hopeful. I employed the double plunger method, as suggested by our guest, in an attempt to force out the blockage. It seemed like I had made some progress. Water was draining fast. A quick flush of the toilet and a flooded bathroom indicated otherwise.

I went outside and opened one of the cleanouts. All the backed up material came flooding out. Not good. I went under the house, and opened the other cleanout. There was water to the top of the 4″ pipe. Again, not good.

As I was now covered in some pretty nasty stuff and couldn’t use the water, there was no way I could go to bed. I decided to stay up until Home Depot opened at 6:00AM, and I researched my options.

The plan was to first try a bladder. This is a rubber balloon-like device that you attach to your garden hose, and insert into the pipe. The pressure from the hose causes the bladder to expand, sealing the system upstream, and subsequently sprays water into the pipe. In theory, the hydraulic effect pushes out the blockage.

The secondary option was to rent a drain rooter. This is the big snake device that plumbers often use to clear drains. Almost certain to work, and with my luck, almost certain to cause immense amounts of expensive damage in the process.

The third option was to call a plumber and proceed to fill his (or her) crack with cash (sorry plumbers, you must get sick of those jokes, until you get paid, that is!).

I was at Home Depot when the opened, and was back home by 6:05AM. I rigged the bladder up to the hose, and climbed under the house as daylight was just barely visible. I wasn’t comfortable being under the house near electrical wiring while spraying water at high pressure, so I rigged up a valve that I could control while standing outside. I went to stuff the bladder into the nearly overflowing pipe and realized… it was empty. That was good, I thought– it’s not a full blockage.

I put in the bladder, crawled out from under the house, and slowly applied the water. I could hear water spraying in the pipe, so I knew it was filling. After about five minutes of increasing pressure, the spraying noise had stopped. It sounded like water was flowing. Success!

I shut off the water, ready to close things up and hit the shower. Alas, it was wishful thinking. All of the water that I had just pumped into the pipe began flowing out of the cleanout. I quickly turned the water back on in hopes that the bladder would re-expand and re-seal the pipe. It did.

I let it flow with my ear on the sewer pipe (good times) until it sounded like it did before– silence. I then added slightly more pressure. With that, I heard a huge ‘woooosh’ sound that lasted about five seconds and then transitioned to the spraying sound of the bladder in an empty pipe.

I turned off the water, and removed the bladder. No back flow. I went inside and turned on the kitchen and bathroom sinks, and crawled under the house. Between the both of them, there was less than 1/4″ of water in the pipe.


I started at 6:05, and finished at 6:50. Nice. I woke up Jaime and told her everything was fixed (as she asked), and hit the shower. Now I’m enjoying a nice cup of coffee and having a nice, quiet morning.

In the grand scheme of home repairs, I rate this to be relatively simple, very cost effective, excessively inconvenient, and extremely disgusting.

That is all.

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