Recently my friend Betty called to ask if I could come over to check and see why her kitchen drain was not working properly. When I arrived she explained that a friend had already started taking things apart but part way through the work he felt that it was too hard and that he could not finish the job.
I felt bad for the gentleman because he has been very handy for most of his life and now at 75 he finds it difficult to crawl underneath kitchen sinks and re-work old crusty plumbing. Someday I expect that will be me.
He was on the right track, but did not know that part of the problem was actually in the main line down in the basement way below the sink.
I went there with the intention of plunging and perhaps snaking the line to clear out any clogs, but once I got into it found that he had disconnected everything but did not have enough parts to re-connect it properly.
So I took it all back apart and cleared the main line with the 25 foot snake that I had brought. The sludge coming out of that pipe looked like something you might see living in a swamp in an old horror movie. It was no wonder her sink would not drain. I held off naming it and finding a collar and leash for it.
There was a greasy plug that was at least two feet long once I pulled the snake back out of the pipe. There was no way Betty could have known this was the case because she lives alone and she rarely has more than a few guests over to the house at one time.
I took all the pipes apart and inspected the main line to see exactly what parts I would need in order to re-connect her kitchen sink drain properly. First thing to fix was that the main pipe was sagging and needed to be propped up in order to get everything back to level and square.
I used some wood blocks to temporarily shore it up until I could get some measurements and find the right kind of supports to use for the old and new piping.
After measuring all of the gaps in the pipe I ran to the local “Home Depot” store to get the remaining supplies I would need to rebuild her kitchen sink drains. One tricky thing to connect when there is not a lot of room under your sink is the dishwasher drain, and this installation was very tight indeed.
I ended up routing the dishwasher connection on one of the horizontal runs above the “P” trap. This allows the dishwasher to drain properly without worrying about it backing up into the sink.
Once I had the dimensions figured out it was time to dry fit everything, take measurements, and start cutting the pieces to fit each section of pipe. The two main bowl drain connections are fairly easy as the tubes slip into the tee connector and you have some amount of adjustment built into their natural lengths.
Once the two drains were connected together with a tee, I could then work on connecting the “P” trap to the tee and then connect that to the wall pipe that then drops through the floor into the basement piping.
The overall alignment was tricky so I had to use an old plumbers trick I learned from an old plumber where you use your soldering torch to gently soften the white plastic tubes so that you can bend them to a custom shape.
The trick here is to not hold the torch on one spot too long, and to heat the tube evenly along the area you want to create the bend in. Next you want to have a bucket of water and a towel to set the plastic up quickly in the position you want it it remain in when you let go.
Do not rush this, and never try to fit the hot tube into the piping before it cools as it will be like trying to poke someone with a soft linguine noodle. Anyhow once you have set the shape you want with cool water, you can fit that pipe into the main drain and start tightening all of the fittings and tubing nuts. these are somewhat fragile and almost never require more than hand tightening unless there is something stopping them from lining up correctly.
If I find there are drips once assembled, I prefer to apply a thin band of pipe dope to the threaded and mating surfaces one at a time until the leaks are stopped. The dope also helps me to thread the fittings together smoothly without forcing things together.
Now it was time for water testing the newly rebuilt drains. We filled the sinks with hot water, and unplugged them both at the same time in order to flush away any debris which was still left over from snaking the line clear.
All was well, so then I went into the basement and with a few of the plastic “J” shaped straps I secured the main drain line to the joists so that it was solid and no movement was detected when the pipe was shaken back and forth. So far my friend Betty reports that the drain is working better than ever.
Now I just have to wait and see what project she comes up with next! Please let me know Betty, I am waiting by the phone!
This article is based on many years of working on various plumbing jobs, and being owner of some older houses.
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