Hello, spring. Hello, roots. Hello, flooded basementSpringtime brings basement plumbing problems.
By: Jana Peterson, Pine Journal
“Mom, there’s a puddle in the basement,” my son said.
This time, I couldn’t blame the puddle on the dog.
Water was coming out of the pipe that connects to the second floor bathroom and the kitchen.
After investigation – and all five of us carrying dripping area rugs outside plus extensive mopping – it didn’t seem like we could blame the pipe either. It was leaking because the water wasn’t draining fast enough, so it was backing up and putting too much pressure on that outlet.
The likely culprit? Roots in the sewer line. We’d learned that the first year we owned our wonderful, 80-year-old house in the heart of Cloquet, when sewage water backed up into the basement shower. The same thing happened the following year, because of roots and items that shouldn’t have been flushed down the toilet.
The third year we decided to take matters into our own hands, and rented a smallish snake from McDonald Rental in Cloquet. That worked, and we saved about $100 in the process. However, it wasn’t really the best thing for marital bliss, and I had vowed not to do that again. Our marriage is worth more than $100.
I decided to call a plumber, roto rooter guy, someone of that general description. The first person I called told me he didn’t really do roots, and recommended someone else.
“Call me back if you have bigger problems,” he said.
The next fellow told me it would be $150 minimum, which would cover the first I balked. A few roots in my line were going to cost me $150 for an hour’s work?
I headed to McDonald’s again, where I rented a snake for $25. I figured an hour or two and I would have that sewer line all figured out.
Bear in mind that the snake I rented should really be called a “baby snake.” It doesn’t have any teeth on it, and it’s only 30-feet long with more of a coil on the end. It’s easy to use and adequate for smaller jobs.
Although it is electric – it works like a drill but has a big compartment for the snake to coil up in – it does require one to physically push and pull sometimes as well.
Like Bob the Builder, I had a can-do attitude. Snake in, snake out, a few roots but nothing major to show for my efforts. It was time for the ultimate test.
“Release the bath drain,” I told my kids, cell phone to my ear, picturing the release of the kraken in “Clash of the Titans.”
I could hear the water running down the pipe. So far, so good. Supermom is on the job.
Then I noticed a tiny stream of water dribbling out of the trouble spot. I put the phone down and took my hand off the end of the pipe to find something to catch the dribble.
Whoosh, the plug at the end of the offshoot popped out and I was drenched, head to foot, with bath water and plenty of bacteria from that all-purpose sewer pipe.
Back to the phone, first to tell the kids to plug the bathtub again, next to call my faraway plumber friend for advice.
“You’ve got to get someone with a proper snake,” he told me. “One with big teeth on it, that will cut the roots.”
Enter the delightful Chris Oestreich and Midway Sewer and Service and their industrial-sized snake.
Oestreich ran the snake from the trouble spot all the way to the sewer main, then he also ran it through another basement pipe to the point where it connected with the first pipe. He said there were several spots where he could feel there was some obstruction.
At those points, he would pull the snake back a few feet and go over the spot until everything was smooth sailing.
One hour, $150 later, we could drain the bathtub without worry.
Until next year.
Jana Peterson is the editor of the Pine Journal is Cloquet.