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Whybenormal 07-30-2011 07:58 PM

Tub drain completely blocked. Snake no help. Sink and toilet fine.
My kids bathtub was draining slowly until my kid poured dirty water from his fishtank in the tub. Now it is completely blocked.

Here are the facts:

1. There is no access under the tub. It's a tri-level house.
2. One waste pipe comes down to the basement from that floor and the tub is the only thing that is blocked. The sink, shower and toilet all drain fine. They all empty into the single pipe.
3. When I run a snake into the tub overflow, it seems to hit an obstruction (the P-trap perhaps) and then continues down for at least 6 feet without an obstruction. No hair at the end of the snake when I pull it up.
4. Pulling the snake out does not clear the blockage in any way.
5. When plunging the drain, water comes out of the overflow. When blocking the overflow, I can pull and push the plunger but the blockage persists.
6. My house was built in 1962 so there might be a tub drum trap but I see no evidence of one.
7. Did not try a chemical drain cleaner and will not go that route.

What I do not understand is that if the blockage is further then 6 feet down the pipe (since I snaked at least 6 feet) why then are no other drains blocked? The sink and toilet are much closer then that to the tub.

I wish I had one of those cameras that I could snake into the overflow and see what's causing this problem. I will probably need to bite the bullet and call a plumber on Monday unless I can think of something else to try or if anyone has any ideas. I've been cleaning out blocked drains for years but this one has me stumped.

Thanks for your good advice.

Whybenormal 07-30-2011 09:09 PM

Since posting this, I worked on the tub a little more and found out that the blockage is actually quite close to the drain. I think one of those clear plastic disposable razor covers might have fallen into the drain. I put one into the drain just to see if it would fit and it does. There is no screen over the drain, just the part that has a screw-hole in the middle so it accepts a screen. My kids removed the screen long ago.

While I was snaking the overflow, I reached the obstruction I mentioned in my first post (the P-trap) the little water that is covering the drain will move, indicating that the obstruction is being touched. The water does not drain, it just shimmy's a little so I know I was right at the obstruction. I tried to pull the razor cover out with my snake but could not do it. I even took a shopvac and tried to suck it out. No luck. If this plastic cover is wedged inside the plastic P-trap and I have no access to the trap, what is the best way to remove the razor cover?

Jupe Blue 07-30-2011 11:36 PM

Open the ceiling below the tub and access the plumbing there?

DannyT 07-30-2011 11:52 PM

does your drain have the trip lever on the back of the tub to stop the tub up or was it just a plain cover on the back of the tub and the stopper was on the drain in the bottom? what is on the other side of the wall behind the tub?

Whybenormal 07-31-2011 03:51 AM


Originally Posted by DannyT (Post 697154)
does your drain have the trip lever on the back of the tub to stop the tub up or was it just a plain cover on the back of the tub and the stopper was on the drain in the bottom? what is on the other side of the wall behind the tub?

Yes, it's the trip lever that moves a plastic plunger up and down. I did notice that when I re-installed the trip lever mechanism, the plunger would not go down initially (lending credence to the fact that there was a solid obstruction). While snaking it, I might have pushed it further down the P-trap since the plunger now moves freely.

I pulled the plans to my house and it showed a 24" by 24" plumbing panel behind the tub which is in the master bathroom. Unfortunately this panel does not exist. The builders probably did not install one. I'm amazed that a plastic P-trap has no access. What happens if it has to be replaced? It must be 47 years old!!

I will try to see if I can buy some sort of auger with a clamp or something like that on the end and see if I can somehow grab onto the obstruction and pull it out. I might have to cut an access panel from the master bathroom but really do not want to mess up the wall if at all possible. A tool with a camera at the end (Ridged makes them) is an option but that will let me see the obstruction, not remove it.

buletbob 07-31-2011 07:03 AM

you mentioned your house was built in 62. that would lead me to believe your plumbing was roughed in with either galvanised pipe or copper pipe. Ill assume galvanized, if so the inside of the pipe could be restricted from years of build up. I have seen 1 1/2" wast pipes with the inside reduced to just a 1/2" dia. drain hole from carosin. just a thought.

oh'mike 07-31-2011 07:16 AM

Cut an access hole --1964---could have a barrel trap --If you want to make it easier to cover--look in the plumbing section before cutting---buy a plastic access cover first and cut the hole to match the cover.

COLDIRON 07-31-2011 07:18 AM

Cut the access panel in the bedroom and fix the problem.

DannyT 07-31-2011 12:00 PM

i remember having to fix a tub drain that was clogged years ago. the screen was missing from the drain and it had no cross piece in the bottom for a screw. what happened was they dropped a cap from a bottle of shampoo and it slide right into the drain where the plunger would normally go. i ended up cutting the back out of a cabinet in the kitchen to get access to take the drain apart from the back to get the cap out.

Mike Swearingen 07-31-2011 08:14 PM

I built my home with two full baths in 1977. I don't remember when I started using it, but I have always used non-caustic enzyme-based drain cleaner (like DrainCare) for clearing drain clogs. It won't hurt the tub or the drain pipes, but it WILL eat out the organic gunk (hair, soap scum, etc.) that usually clogs a tub drain.
You just run a bit of warm water and pour in a generous amount of DrainCare and let it eat overnight. Then flush the gunk down with hot water. I always start that with a kettle of boiling water first. Yu may hav eto do it more than once until the drain runs completely free.
Works for me!
Good Luck!

Whybenormal 08-01-2011 10:55 PM

Well, I have fixed the drain...but not without a lot of frustration. I bought a Ryobi inspection scope and went about poking holes in the ceiling and wall where I "knew" the P-trap was. No matter where I looked, I could not find the trap. I think the tub is resting on a wooden cross-brace and the trap is between 2 cross-braces and is inaccessible unless I pull a huge chunk of ceiling down along with removing one of those cross-braces and all of the insulation that seems to be stuffed into the area around the tub.

I ended up getting a different snake and attaching my electric drill onto it and somehow was able to pull up what looked like nylon wire, congealed hair and dental floss. I shudder to think about when I really NEED to replace the trap. I cannot understand why my house was built in such a way as to prevent access to such critical components as a P-trap.

Anyway, the tub is flowing again. A filter will be installed tomorrow. Thanks to all who replied to this post.

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