In today’s adventures in the little life of Yours Truly, a plumber just left. He’d been here all morning, since before 9am. But let me back up. (No pun intended.)
It started last night with a series of events.
First, an otherworldly, watery bloop bloop bloop sound echoed into the hallway. It sounded gentle and deep and dark. The mysterious sound seemed to be coming from the hallway bathroom. I went in to investigate and saw that the seductive bloop bloop bloop is the sound of large round bubbles rising from the sewer to the surface of the water in the toilet, one after the other. Most odd.
It stopped after a while, and nothing else happened, so I started getting ready for bed. When I turned on the water in my shower, though, I noticed that it wasn’t draining! I got in and washed my face, then turned off the water to see whether it would drain slowly, as it would if the drain was clogged. It didn’t.
It wasn’t behaving like a normal clogged drain, but I don’t know shit from Shinola when it comes to plumbing, so I went with the notion that the other shower would work.
And it was a good thing that I tried, because if I hadn’t, I may not have discovered that water wasn’t draining in that shower, either! I turned the water on for a few seconds and then off again to see what would happen, staring in puzzlement at the water pooled at the bottom of the tub, trying to think… and then, to my alarm, I watched as the drain started to spit black stuff out into the tub.
It was the Amityville Horror up in here, my friends.
I closed the shower door and backed slowly away, returning to my bathroom to use the toilet. It didn’t flush. When the tank stopped filling, I lifted the seat and found that the water had risen all the way up. The toilet paper was floating on top.
Give or take 20 minutes later – I spent the 20 minutes dancing to 90’s trip-hop, because I’ve been feeling that vibe lately, and what better thing to do upon realization that there’s a likely systemic underground sewer malfunction preventing you from showering and using the toilet – I lifted the toilet lid again to see whether the water level had gone down. It had. It’d gone all the way down. The toilet bowl was dry, and so was the one in the hallway bathroom. The water had drained from the showers, too. The black stuff in the hallway bathroom shower was stuck to the floor of the tub near the drain; it appeared to be dirt.
This confirmed my suspicion that the problem was systemic. I wasn’t amused. It wasn’t cool. The only way that an underground sewer malfunction situation could be amusing and cool is if alligators were involved, and they weren’t.
Fortunately, all of my sinks were working!
I was grateful for the sinks, and also for the handy little device I have that allows me to pee standing up, because I have to go a lot, and it would’ve been tedious having to pop a squat in the yard a hundred times before the toilets could get fixed. It wasn’t like I hadn’t already done squats in my workout that day, FFS.
It was midnight 41, but I called the plumber, anyway, because why wait? The person who answered the phone said that the plumber would receive the message immediately and would call me as soon as possible. I said okay and went to bed.
The plumber returned my call at 7:45am, and he arrived an hour later.
He listened to my suspenseful tale and was so experienced that he didn’t even look at the showers or the toilets. (So I didn’t have to clean them early this morning! But I’m glad that I thought that he would see them, because now they’re clean!) Instead, he went out to the backyard, scoped out the location of the bathrooms from the outside, and went straight up to the roof.
He spent some time up there with some sort of loud equipment, then came down and went to his truck to retrieve a different piece of equipment. Went up to the roof again. Made more noise. Came back down. When I became aware of a drilling sound coming from outside in the front, I looked out to see him drilling something on the sidewalk, metal on metal. Sparks were flying. I saw each individual spark as a dollar sign.
Eventually, he came to the door to ask me whether the patio outlet worked. (It did.) He explained that he had do (something or other) and then go back in with a more heavy-duty snake and camera to see what was going on. He got back up on the roof. More noise, and it still wasn’t sounding like getting-anywhere noise.
The next time he came down, he invited me to accompany him to the backyard to see where the snake with the camera had stopped. He had a gadget that could scan the ground and locate the camera, like a highly specialized metal detector. I tread lightly behind him as we made our way from the edge of the yard, out the back gate and along the fence on the other side, pretending that we were navigating a mine field.
The camera was elusive. I went back inside, and he went back up to the roof. More construction sounds reverberated through the house, and then I rejoined him in the backyard so we could return to our mine-clearing task. This time, the detector was able to find the camera! It was almost exactly beneath the back fence, on the border of my property and city property. Its pitch rose to a thin, high squeal when it found what it was looking for. (I realized in that moment exactly how easily entertained I am.)
The plumber said that I have newer pipes, which is good. They’re good. What he thought had happened was that there’d been a failure in the place where my new pipes met with the old city pipes, like the two parts had slipped and were no longer sealed together. Tree roots had grown into the pipe through the resulting gap. (Yeah, that story. The classic tree-roots-in-the-pipes story.) He said that the snake he’d used earlier in the morning kept pulling out roots, so he knew that roots were at the… (root of the problem, ahem). Now he could see exactly the where and the what and the how.
He’d dropped a video of the camera’s journey into my email while he was still up on the roof. It was pretty grody and cool. You wouldn’t know if you were looking at sewage system inspection footage or at colonoscopy footage. Plumbing is plumbing!
In the end, he was able to verify his assessment and blast out the roots with the hydrojet. Apparently it was difficult because of one large root that had grown in with the little ones; for a moment, he was nervous because it wasn’t going anywhere. He got it eventually, though. Now everything works!
But it’s a temporary fix. It’s a solution more than a fix, a solution for the moment, a way for me to use the plumbing for the next little while. I borrowed myself some time, because what has to happen (soon) is I’ll have to have him come back out to dig five and a half feet down at the back fence in order to remove a two-foot section of my clay sewer pipe (that goes toward the city sewer), replace it with a new section of pipe, and connect them properly this time. He was surprised that someone had taken the time to do an excellent job installing excellent, new pipes, but then messed up the part where the new pipes connect to the city sewer pipes. Like, details, man.
The official diagnosis on the invoice reads as: “Main Sewer Line Transition ABS To Clay Coupling Failed Underneath The Rear Alley Fence”
Kind of has a nice ring to it, I think. And I’m very happy with the service and with the plumber, himself. I would recommend this company to anyone. Local friends, if you need a plumber, hit me up!
I did some cooking and eating after he left, and then I sat down to regale you all with this thriller. Haha! I hope your morning/afternoon/night is going well, my friends.
And blessings upon you all. It’s Yule season now… multi-celebration season (including my own: my birthday is later this month)! We’re almost at the end of the year. Unbelievable!
Until we meet again, as they say.
2 thoughts on “Roots in the wrong places. (Plumbing party of one!)”
Excellent telling of the story! I was able to laugh and cringe alongside you, having experienced this scenario 12 years ago. The previous owner of my home had planted lovely redwood trees along the sewer line…!!! (who does that?!)… The low point in my house (we discovered) was the floor drain in the shower. Hadn’t really thought much about that, until I did laundry (in the garage) and ran the dishwasher at the same time. The water that flooded the bathroom, hallway and bedroom floor was not just the clean sudsy water that I hoped it was… ugh. Thousands of dollars later, haven’t had a problem (sewer related) since! How cool to have the sewer line video in your inbox!
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Hi Kathleen, thank you, and I’m glad that you enjoyed the way that I told this story! I was afraid it was going to turn out overly narrative and dull and wordy, so I made an effort to avoid that.
Redwood trees along a sewer line, what?! Those poor trees, not to mention the pipes! And poor you. The ordeal you went through as you discovered this landscaping choice of yore kind of makes my skin crawl. Ugh, indeed. I’m glad that you haven’t experienced a problem since!
Yes, the video of the camera’s journey is pretty interesting. Never thought I’d have footage from the inside of my main sewer line, haha