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Robert Lamoureux: Broken snake needs to be pulled from plumbing

Your Home Improvements

Posted: January 23, 2009 7:38 p.m.
Updated: January 24, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Robert Lamoureux

 
Hi Robert,
I have a question for you. I was snaking out my line and ran into a problem. I pushed the cable in for about 50 feet but it would not come back out. Eventually it broke off in the pipe and it's still in there. The rental yard said it was my fault. The drains are better, but I don't want to leave it in but can't get it out. Do I have to get it out? I would be interested in any suggestions you could offer. Thanks,
Rich B.

Hi Rich,
Sorry to hear that. It's happened to me a couple of times over the years. Yes, you do have to pull that cable out of the line. The drains may be working fine for now, but not for long. That snake cable will act like a dam and pretty soon your plumbing will back up.

I do not recommend this to anyone else, but we have used a truck and tied off to the trailer hitch to slowly pulled that cable out of there. I put plywood across the back window to protect our driver just in case that cable whiplashed out of there. Again, I don't recommend doing it that way - that's just one of the ways that's worked for us in the past.

Once, one of our men got a camera stuck in a line. We had to saw-cut the floor to get it out. You just have to do whatever it takes, but you can't leave that cable in the pipe.

The best thing would be to bite the bullet, call a plumber and get some workers out there. They will ascertain what they need to do or where they need to dig to break that pipe and pull it out.

Mr. Lamoureux,
My toilets and drains are very, very slow. I've gone through some bottles of drain cleaner, but they are not working. Short of calling a plumber, is there anything I could do? Sincerely,
Marianne D.

Hi Marianne,
If your toilet is slow, then drain cleaners will not help. It's either a dirty main or a clogged-up vent. With the main, it could be clogged with who knows what or it could be from roots growing into the pipe. This is very common.

Snaking a line is more than most do-it-yourselfers want to try. Not that it's difficult, but it's something most people are not used to doing. If you want to do this yourself, I would start by renting a cable machine and snake the line out as far as you can. Snake it all the way to the street.

Most people try to go through the clean outs. This is the easiest way but sometimes, there are no clean outs and you have to pull the toilet and go in from there. To do that, turn off the angle stop and cut water going to the toilet and disconnect. Then bucket out all of the water from the tank, soak up the water from the bowl, unbolt and remove. Then unbolt the toilet and lift it out of there. You'll need a new wax ring when it's time to reinstall.

Going through the toilet takes more time, but if you go through the vents, they are going to be 2 inches. The problem with that is you can't use a large enough cutter. You have a 2-inch cutter but a 4-inch main, so the cutter is not thoroughly cleaning the inside of the main line.

If you go through the toilet, you can use at least a 3-inch cutter so you have a much better chance of cleaning the inside of that pipe or finding the roots that have caused the obstruction.

If you see roots on the end of your cutter once you pull it back out, you need to locate where the roots are, dig down and cut them out. These bands are good for allowing the pipes to move slightly - good for earthquake country - not good for root-proofing.

Hello,
We would like your opinion about our exterior of our home. Twenty years ago we had textured coating put on the house. The garage had peeled, because they put it on the masonite. The garage needs to have new stucco. We had two contractors say just paint over existing textured coating on the rest of the house and two other contractors said to sandblast and apply new stucco and color coat, and it will be like a new home. Which would you recommend? Can sandblasting harm the house? Our house is 50 years old. Any information would be greatly appreciated. Thanks,
Denise L.

Hi Denise,
Some forms of textured coating have a tendency to start spalling and it's not uncommon for it to start to chip off over the years.

They come in and basically put a thick top coat on. Usually, after about 15 years, you'll start to see indications of it going into a failure mode because it doesn't have a lot of adhesion - especially if they applied it over your garage siding which should have never been done.

For the garage, I would take it all down to the studs - remove the textured coating and the siding. Then start from scratch with lath, paper and stucco.

As far as your house is concerned, this is one of those instances where I would really need to see the condition of your home before I could make a recommendation.

You mentioned that two contractors suggested sandblasting the textured coating and applying new stucco.

This gives me an indication that it is not in the best shape. It comes down to a question of your budget, but if the textured coating on your home has already started to chip and peel, you could spot repair and paint, but keep in mind this might become an on-going maintenance issue. If it has already started to fail, it will probably continue so you may be at the point of sandblasting.

I would contact the two contractors that want to sandblast and ask them why they are suggesting removal and new stucco instead of painting the surface.

Sandblasting can etch the windows and frames of your home, but if you're working with professionals, they'll have the experience to do a proper job.

Robert Lamoureux has 25 years experience as a general contractor, with separate licenses in electrical and plumbing contacting. He owns IMS Construction Inc. in Valencia. Opinions expressed in this column are not meant to replace the recommendations of a qualified contractor, after that contractor has made a thorough visual inspection. Send your questions to
Robert@IMSConstruction.com. His opinions are his own and not necessarily those of The Signal.


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