Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Fixits

Okay, probably not many folks care about this. But my dad asked, so here's the long answer.

Last week I was swimming in plumbing problems. Kitchen drain and no hot water. Here's the resolutions...

Drain

The kitchen drain had been clogged for 10 days and I had tried everything I could from the kitchen end of the clog and was dreading opening the sewage line in the basement. Plus, I've been sick lately and just didn't have much energy left for such a project. I called three plumbers and all were booked for two weeks. One person quoted me a price of 3000+ kroner ($500+) which seems pricey to me, even for Norway.

So, I waited for a good day and bit the bullet. I knew the clog must lie in the last two meters of pipe in the basement near where the kitchen drain meets the main drain. There's a port in this line that I was nervous about opening, especially with an electric warm floor down there and potential for all kinds of mess. I set up a big bucket, a shield of tape, and a string of tape from the pipe down to the bucket to encourage water to flow in the proper direction. Then I opened the port on top of the line. It was dry inside.


This was not the scenario I hoped for. I hoped the clog would be just below the port and I could drain the water slowly from a semi-open port in a controlled way and then have easy clog removal. A dry pipe here meant the clog was further up, probably at the bend 1,5 meters up with water filling 6 meters of pipe above that waiting to come down.

I tried two different snakes, which pulled out small amounts of sludge but could not penetrate the clog. Something hard had clogged this pipe. Our house stood empty for 3 years while the owner was in a nursing home. That's plenty of time for a mostly clogged pipe to harden into some kind of impenetrable rocky cement thing. The pipes down here are big, thick, and welded together – cutting into them may be the last resort.

Running out of options, I decided I would hit the mass with the snake as hard as I could 100 times. It wasn't a good plan, but it was the only thing I could think of to do. I stood there patiently ramming the snake, counting to 100. It felt like absolutely nothing was happening. When I reached 100, I pulled out the snake and was rewarded with a small trickle of water. Exciting! I expectantly stared into the opening...

Suddenly, a shlorping noise and then, well, the word that came immediately to mind was a "shit-storm". And that's a pretty accurate description actually. Sludge came rocketing down the pipe spraying out of the opening. I clapped my hand over the top, preventing most of it from coming out, but the damage was done. See below.


I called for Pam. We went into emergency cleanup mode, washing, vacuuming, drying and then repainting the walls. The sludge was not as bad as it looked at first, it was more like mud that turned into dirt as it dried. Afterwards, miraculously, it looked perfect again.

Drain works! Hurray! We saved 3000 kroner!

Hot water

Now the other puzzle. Here was our old warm water heater - over the bathtub with faucet and showerhead attached. Weird, but it works. Well, it did work. The element went out and I had planned to just replace the element myself until I found out prices. A new element would cost 700 kr. and we were planning to remove the heater and buy a different one next year, and a new heater was only 3500 kr.  We went ahead and bought a new high-speed heater and had it installed in the bathroom closet out of the way of bathtubbing. That left this mess over the bathtub:


Ugh. Hot and cold pipes in weird places, faucet and shower heads to affix to a concrete wall somehow. I took pictures of the set-up, went to K. Lund and showed them the pics on my phone, and they set me up with parts. I borrowed a copper tube cutter from my tool man Martin and have this strange but perfectly functioning solution:


This will work well until we get around to remodeling the bathroom. Until then, we have the ugliest bath in Trondheim. But it works.

Incidentally, I've been told that K. Lund is one of the most expensive plumbing shops in town. But I'll tell you what, those guys were so eager to help, had great advice, and set me up with exactly the right parts first time. I think that's worth a little extra cash.

Loving it

We've been doing a lot of fix and renovating. And absolutely loving it. After renting houses for the past several years, it's a very beautiful thing to have our place that we can do whatever we want with it. It's worth every hassle!

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