Inevitably, it seems, our sewer backs up only on weekends or when I'm at work. Either way means maximum inconvenience. Flush a toilet, or start the clothes washer ... and all of a sudden nasty stuff makes its way back up into our shower and bathtub. It's not a problem a homeowner can take lightly.
This seems to happen about once a year for us, although my wife assures me the last time was three years ago. Maybe the supreme annoyance of the whole thing is just so stark that it sticks out in my mind. Sort of like a really, really bad movie.
In any case, the Roto-Rooter guy was out yesterday. I spent $118.95 for roughly 40 minutes of his time (and folks say auto-service labor rates are high!). But that's okay, because he fixed the problem. Our house is fully flushable once again.
What did I learn this time? I learned that my 25-foot auger / pipe-snake thing is no longer long enough. I've replaced it with the 50-foot variety (~$26). Next time, perhaps, a sewer clog beneath our backyard won't require outside assistance from plumbers who charge skyhigh rates.
Also, from talking to the very congenial Mr. Roto-Rooter, I learned that:
- Since our sewer drain is constructed from PVC pipe, using Drano or any other sort of commercial acidic clog remover is a big no-no. (Not that we've ever used it, anyway.) Such chemicals, aside from being environmentally yucky, apparently are great at dissolving the cement used to bond PVC sections together. That's not what you want to happen — unless, of course, you enjoy replacing whole chunks of sewer line yourself.
- The so-called "flushable" baby wipes now on the market (see Pampers Kandoo wipes) are indeed flushable. Oh, they'll go down the toilet all right. But after that, all bets are off. According to the plumber, they don't deteriorate much at all. In fact, he said, once they snag somewhere in the drain system, they will actually expand as time passes. In our case, he told us, they were likely the cause of our latest sewage mis-adventure. (And yes, we had made a point to flush only one wipe at a time. No more!)
- What auger-work I'd done the previous night pulled up only a small bind of roots from our pipe system. I know there are chemicals you can pour in your sewer clean-out that will kill any intruding roots in the system, and I asked Mr. Rooter about these. His response? Just use rock salt. That's right: He could install some Root-X foam root killer for $40 if we wanted, but he wouldn't recommend it with good conscience. Periodic (every 5-6 months) treatment with 1 cup of rock salt poured into the clean-out, followed by running roughly 1 gallon of water through the system and then allowing it all to "soak" overnight ... this would accomplish the same thing. As he so eloquently quipped, "Forty bucks will buy you a whole lotta rock salt."
Update: You'll probably want to read my "Sewer Line Repairs, Part 1" and "Sewer Line Repairs, Part 2" posts also, as they're an "addition" of sorts to this story!