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Mickey53 12-14-2009 10:50 AM

Removing Water Line Obstruction
I will start this off with "I can't blame the kids"
Redoing a shower in the master bath. Water supply lines open. The hot water line comes through the slab as a 3/4" copper. Reduces to 1/2" copper and continues up to the shower valve. At the point where the 3/4 changes to 1/2 there is a "manifold" with two 1/2" copper lines going back down into the slab. This bathroom is about 30 feet from the water heater. There is another bathroom between it and the hot water heater.
Now that I have set the stage --- In the process of adding additional pipe to go from the slab to the new location of the shower valve, a #2 pencil, with eraser was dropped down the 1/2 hot water feed line. As you recall from above, the 1/2 hot line comes off a 3/4 feed from the slab and is a straight down shot.
Attempted to "blow" the pencil out with water pressure - Attempted to "vacuum" the pencil out with a wet/dry vacuum that had the hose reduced to 1/2 inch and placed over the 1/2 hot water pipe.

Now that you are all having a great laugh, :laughing: suggestions on how to remove this obstruction? So far nothing appears to be affected. I would guess that where the 3/4" copper goes through the slab there is either a Tee or a 90 degree elbow. The pencil, at the time it disappeared, was sufficiently long enough that I don't think it could make a 90 degree bend.

Saturday was not my day for plumbing work.

Mickey (real name withheld to protect the innocent, make that the guilty)

Ishmael 12-14-2009 12:36 PM

You're not the first one to do that...
...I got a new customer recently and took care of some odds and ends for her. She asked me to have a look at a 2nd floor lavatory faucet because they've never been able to get much hot water out of it. After flushing out the stems , cleaning the aerator, replacing the riser (from the stop valve to the faucet) - all without any improvement - I shut the water off and cut the pipe just below the stop/shut-off valve under the sink. Sure enough...a piece of a #2 pencil! (And no...I did not do the original plumbing let's just be clear on that)

It seems odd to me that water pressure won't force it out. It's a wooden pencil, right? If it isn't wedged somehow, it should float right to the top of the pipe. You may have to put a female adaptor on the end of the pipe, and screw a 3/4" male hose adaptor into the female adaptor. Run the other end of the hose someplace where the water won't hurt anything and let it run full blast for a minute or so. Try and keep the first foot or two of the hose straight to give the pencil someplace to go, then just before you shut it off, crimp the hose over right at the adaptor to trap the pencil in the hose. Unscrew the hose and see if you got it.

Bondo 12-14-2009 01:56 PM

Ayuh,... Or unsweat the 3/4 to 1/2 fitting,+ take the pencil out...

Brik 12-14-2009 03:51 PM

Yeah, I would say maybe even cut it close to the slab (leave enough room for coupling) and then use one of those grabber things if the pencil isnt sticking out. May be a good place for a shark bit coupling. Personally I have trouble soldering close to a slab cause the heat gets absorbed into the surounding concrete. I just dont do it enough.

Thurman 12-14-2009 07:34 PM

Trying to picture this scenario, even though you described it well. IF this pipe the pencil went down into is "straight down", could you maybe place a ball of something like modeling clay, plumber's putty, etc, on the end of a 3/8" dowel and ease the dowel down into the pipe until it grabs the pencil? It is hard also to me to imagine that water pressure/volume will not dislodge the pencil. Good Luck, David

Mickey53 12-15-2009 08:49 AM

Good suggestions - keep them coming -

I did cut the 1/2" pipe above the 3/4 to 1/2 transition. That is where I connected the hose to "vacuum" out the pipe. Don't have enough room below the manifold to cut the 3/4 and solder it back together.
Yes, it was a wooden pencil, with the eraser end down. The only reason it may not "float" is the weight of the eraser (and the metal housing that holds the eraser).
Thought about trying compressed air from the water heater end, but that might take a lot of air.

The putty or clay on the end of a stick concerns me as I would be afraid that I would lose the putty/clay and cause more problems (that would be my luck).

47_47 12-15-2009 10:10 AM

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How about trying pickup fingers? I'd be leary about using high air pressure.

Michael Thomas 12-15-2009 10:12 AM


Originally Posted by Brik (Post 366694)
May be a good place for a shark bit coupling...

This was new to me:


Brik 12-15-2009 10:37 AM

Michael - Those sharke bite things are really cool. I used one where I had a bad shut-off upstream and couldnt dry out the pipe enough to solder.

You can also get nice 1/4 turn shut-off valves. No more soldering inside your cabinets!
Oh, and the same connector works on copper, pex and cpvc as I recall.

DangerMouse 12-15-2009 10:54 AM

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do you think maybe it's doing something like this?


Mickey53 12-15-2009 11:28 AM

DangerMouse -

I think that your drawing is probably what is happening. I cut off the 1/2 pipe about 3 inches above the 3/4, and was unable to see the pencil. Wish I had a way to look into the pipe and see for sure.

DangerMouse 12-15-2009 11:39 AM

then... Bondo's suggestion is all i can think of. cut it off and reattach, or torch it apart.


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