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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Our top floor bathtub has been draining very slowly for years. This is a house built in 1931, with the original cast-iron tub and plumbing. I tried snaking (couldn't get the snake into the drain more than a few inches before it wouldn't go farther). I tried a Zip-It drain cleaning tool (only goes a little way and didn't bring up anything). I tried Drano Max. I tried Zep Drain Care.

The tub doesn't have an overflow, but it does have an old-fashioned drain-stopper mechanism. The middle handle raises and lowers a large rod in and out of the drain, out of sight in the back of the tub. When turned counterclockwise (which I believe is the "open" position) it drains slowly. When turned clockwise (I think "closed") it drains even more slowly but doesn't stop it from draining completely. So we don't use that mechanism since it doesn't work well. The important thing is, in the "open" position, it drains slowly.

There is an access to the back of the tub from a closet in the bedroom. I took a bunch of pictures to show what's going on.

I wish I could access the drain pipe that's coming out of the bottom of the tub and snake it, but it's way too tight in there for me to get at it, or where it connects to the T. And I don't know if I'd be able to disconnect it without breaking it since it's so old and probably rusted frozen.

Is it possible the drain isn't actually clogged, but the drain stopper mechanism isn't actually opening completely? You'll see in one of the pictures that the large rod that goes up and down has threads on top, with what looks like a round "nut" (for lack of a better word) that holds it in place. Is it possible the rod is going too far down in the pipe, even when it's in the open position, and partially blocking the drain? Can that "nut" be loosened, and perhaps the rod screwed in farther, so that it raises up, so that it doesn't go into the drain as far? Of course, I don't even know what's going on inside the pipe where the rod goes down into it.

I'm grasping at straws. I know the pipes and fittings are very old and the problem could be solved by replacing all of it. But that's way beyond my ability, and we're not ready to have that project tackled yet even by a pro (when we eventually do it, we'll have the entire house done).

What can I try? Thanks.

Here are the first few pics, and I'll post a few more in a few minutes.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
A few other things I thought of:

The same bathroom where that tub is also has a sink and a toilet, both of which drain nice and fast. Assuming they're connected to the same drain pipe that the tub is, I assume the problem with the tub is near the tub and not further down the line. (Or can fixtures in the same bathroom empty into separately run drain pipes?)

And: One other thing I previously tried was plunging to try to loosen up any clog. Had no effect.

And: I don't see any vent pipe. But since the other end of the trap goes through a hole in the wall, I suppose the vent could be further down the line?
 

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Just wondering if this tub ever drained properly ?

I'm thinking lack of vent pipe or AAV might have something to do with it.
The trap may be restricted. I would be looking at the trap being partially clogged, hair and junk and possibly a venting issue. Just my two cents. Others here would know better.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Just wondering if this tub ever drained properly ?

I'm thinking lack of vent pipe or AAV might have something to do with it.
The trap may be restricted. I would be looking at the trap being partially clogged, hair and junk and possibly a venting issue. Just my two cents. Others here would know better.
Thanks for your reply, Kapriel. My wife, who originally bought the house in 1991 from the original owner, says the tub has never drained properly. But I don't know if it was that way originally (since 1931). If there's no vent or AAV I don't think there's anything I can do at this point. But if it's the trap, since I can't get at the trap through the tub drain, is there a way I can partially take apart that "plunger tube" and get access that way to clean out the trap? There appear to be cotter pins that attach that plunger rod to the activating mechanism. If I was able to remove that rod from that tube, I would think I could get a snake into the trap that way. But I don't actually know how to remove the rod to do that. Or is there a way to detach the drain plunger handle (on the tub side, that's turned to raise and lower the plunger) and get access that way? I also don't know the proper terminology for these fittings; perhaps someone here can describe more precisely what I have.
 

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If it were me I'd be looking at accessing the drain line which is shown right behind the drain knob. I would use WD-40 and easy on the fitting so as not to damage the thin wall and get it out of round. My guess is you'll find a big hair ball and build-up of soap and conditioners making draining almost impossible. If you don't want to do that sometimes pouring boiling hot water down the drain might help some but results are iffy and it's dangerous. I would probably stay away from any chemical cleaners and uncloggers.
There are others on this site that are much more knowledgable than me.
They should be able to help you better.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Do you have a good shop vac? Sounds crazy, but I've unclogged 3 drains this way...
I've heard of using a shop vac for this. I don't have one and in fact have never used one. I assume you use it to suck the clog out (I mean, rather than trying to blow it loose but risking just pushing it farther in). These are old galvanized pipes; can that much sucking power damage them? What recommendation do you or others have for a good, reasonably priced shop vac?
 

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The vent pipe I speak of looks like it has a gasket of some sort to allow venting as you can see the scuff marks on the brass tube.

Remove the knob hardware so you can remove that piece that slides up and down then snake the pipe or look and see if your vent port is clear.

This is not a big deal but if your not sure or do not have the tools call a plumber.:whistling2:
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Take the drain apart it's right there. Just be careful on the large nut and pipe.
The vent pipe I speak of looks like it has a gasket of some sort to allow venting as you can see the scuff marks on the brass tube.

Remove the knob hardware so you can remove that piece that slides up and down then snake the pipe or look and see if your vent port is clear.

This is not a big deal but if your not sure or do not have the tools call a plumber.:whistling2:
I'm not sure exactly where in the whole thing you're referring to. I've attached a picture with annotations. Note that what I thought of as the "drain" comes out of the bottom of the tub and, in this picture, is hidden behind what I'm calling the "Plunger pipe." I don't think that drain pipe is what you're suggesting I take apart, but some part of what I'm calling the "plunger pipe." Where it says "Large nut?" is that the large nut you're referring to? So, should I remove the cotter pins (or at least the lower one), and remove the large nut? And what about what I refer to as the "ring" -- that looks like it is screwed on. Lastly, I'm afraid that after removing the pins and nut, that when I lift the "plunger rod" out of the pipe, that the top of the rod will run into that inlet pipe that's directly overhead, before I can get the whole rod out. I hope you understand what I'm referring to here. As far as tools, I have channel locks, and can get a pipe wrench if necessary. What else would I need? Thanks for your help, I really appreciate it!
 

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Great Photo with text !

Ok first get some WD-40 and wet down large nut. This is the nut you want to remove it is a compression fitting. Remove cotter pin and anything else that will allow you to remove the plunger head. It doesn't matter how you get things things out that are on top of the plunger pipe but they must come out. Even if you didn't have a problem I would remove the whole assembly to clean and lubricate the entire drain system you have full access which is rare.
Anything with a threaded nut or assembly wet it down with WD-40 or something that penetrates so it will be easier to remove. Do not force anything even brass on brass can bind up making removal difficult.
I'm not sure if you can get replacement parts so be careful.
Your whole goal here is to get full access to the plunger pipe, not restricted access you want to remove everything in your way to put a snake down the pipe and hopefully reach the trap.
The plunger pipe is very thin be careful not to get it out of round as you will have a tough time to get it all back together if it's out of round. Once everything is apart the snake you want to try should be small in diameter and very flexible. Do not try a regular heavy duty snake as the pipe is not an ordinary heavy wall pipe if the snake you have is not that flexible just be gentle with it.
I would take pictures as you take this assembly apart so you have a good idea what goes where later.
 

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PS.... everything i just said should only take a few minutes to do.
If you really take your time it should only take maybe 10-15 minutes including a coffee break.

If you can remove something let the penetrating oil work or use a hair dryer to heat up the parts and then let them cool down and that should make it easier.

Just don't force or break anything it's old and getting parts ..... I don't know....
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Great Photo with text !

Ok first get some WD-40 and wet down large nut. This is the nut you want to remove it is a compression fitting. <rest snipped>
If it's a compression fitting, I assume there will be ring/ferrule inside. Will I be able to re-use it (I'm referring to your warning about finding replacement parts)? Also, I thought that compression fittings are always water- and air-tight -- since there's a large-diameter metal rod/pipe that slides pretty easily up and down into the even larger pipe (through the nut), how can it be water-tight?

I hope you don't mind all these questions. I want to be sure what I'm doing and what I'm in for before I start. Thanks.
 

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Compression fitting for your drain could be anything.

Best guess is a double beveled plastic ring or maybe a square cut "O" ring
made of rubber.

It will not be a brass ferrule that you cannot remove which is what a typical compression fitting is.

This fitting allows vent to slide up and down as you can see from photo.
it's always a bit loose and a little lube vaseline, never seize, grease, etc will
keep it free and moving.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
OK, Kapriel, I've wet the large nut and the threaded ring with WD-40 and will let it sit overnight. Tomorrow I'll see how easy it is to remove that nut. Thanks.
 

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No need to wait.

Try to uncsrew fittings with channel locks or pipewrench.

If it is really stuck you can wait but I'd try it now.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
OK. I was able to easily remove the large nut, as well as unscrew the inner pipe (which moves up and down within the outer pipe into the drain) from the "head." But there is still not enough room on top to remove the inner pipe. Even if I was able to disconnected the horizontal supply line up top, which the inner pipe can't move past because it bumps into it when I pull it up, there's only another 5 inches of clearance up top, and from inserting coathanger wire down the inner pipe, I know it's much longer than that (perhaps 15-20 inches).

When I lowered the inner pipe all the way into the drain (as far as it would go), it worked perfectly at completely blocking the drain and no water drained out of the tub. Great, except when I did the opposite and raised the inner pipe as far as I could OUT of the drain, it made no difference in how fast water drained. That tells me that it's not an "adjustment" problem in terms of how high or low the inner pipe is screwed into the head.

Interestingly, there seems to be an "inner" tube WITHIN the inner pipe (which itself slides up and down in the outer pipe). That inner tube starts maybe a foot down or so. You can see this in one of the pics below.

Trying to get the coathanger wire through the inner tube of the inner pipe, it stopped as if it was hitting a hard bottom within the pipe. I could not get it through.

There is a little space between the wider-diameter outer pipe and the inner pipe, and I threaded the coathanger wire through there. Same thing, I hit a hard stop at the bottom (probably a "lip" which stops the inner pipe from going any further).

So, I can't remove the inner pipe, can't get through it, can't get around it. I'm stuck. Do you have any suggestions? Thanks.
 

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Ok,

Looks like you have to remove the hot and cold pipes and tub spout.
Each one of those has a "union" fitting which is a nut that separates the two pipes.
You will have to remove the faucets as well.

It's a strange set-up but then again I'm not a plumber.
If it were me I'd undo the entire set-up and take a good look at what you have.
Tubs like this need maintenance and it's just a matter if your going to do it or pay someone else to do it but it has to be done.

It looks like a PIA but it's not that bad and once you do it taking it apart again will only take a few minutes.

I have no idea what you'll find, but you need to take it apart to have a look.

Kap
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Ok,

Looks like you have to remove the hot and cold pipes and tub spout. Each one of those has a "union" fitting which is a nut that separates the two pipes. You will have to remove the faucets as well.

It's a strange set-up but then again I'm not a plumber. If it were me I'd undo the entire set-up and take a good look at what you have. Tubs like this need maintenance and it's just a matter if your going to do it or pay someone else to do it but it has to be done.

It looks like a PIA but it's not that bad and once you do it taking it apart again will only take a few minutes.

I have no idea what you'll find, but you need to take it apart to have a look.

Kap
Thanks for sticking with me on this, Kap. Even if I removed the hot and cold pipes and tub spout (which I would be VERY reluctant to do due to the age of the pipes and my lack of experience), and the faucets, there wouldn't be enough room on top to pull the inner pipe out of the outer one. When I said there was only 5" of clearance, I meant ABOVE that horizontal pipe. There is a wooden beam there right at the top edge of the access opening. And there's way more inner pipe left in there than 5".

Failing that, if the next step was to try to disconnect that outer pipe itself, I'd have no idea how. There's not even enough room to get my head in there to see what I'd be doing.

As you say, it's either me or pay someone else, so I think I'm going to have a pro take a look. Perhaps they have some sort of specialized equipment that would make it a "snap" (relatively) to them.

Thanks again.
 
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