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Slow kitchen drain - tried almost everything!

8230 Views 17 Replies 9 Participants Last post by  Thurman
I have posted this same problem on two other sites in the past two months. I'm looking for some fresh ideas, so please forgive me if you're read this before!

My wife and I own a duplex. The first floor was used by my wife's grandmother, who passed away several years ago.

I am finally getting around to remodeling the first floor. About a year before she passed away, her kitchen sink began stopping up. Usually, a quick plungering would solve the problem. Since she didn't use the sink much, it wasn't much of a problem.

While I was remodeling the kitchen, I began focusing on the drain problem. First I took apart the garbage disposal, but found nothing. I then replaced the S-trap. I even then poured Liquid Plumber directly into the drain in the floor and let it sit for a few days. Nothing helped.

The drain consists of a one-foot vertical brass pipe going into the floor, a 90deg elbow, a one-foot horizontal piece, a 45deg elbow, and then a 6-foot horizontal pipe right into the stack. The whole thing is 1.5" diameter.

I've had suggestions that the system isn't vented properly. I've had others say that once the S-trap was removed, that shouldn't be an issue.

I've had people tell me there's a blockage somewhere, however I have snaked and snaked until my arms have fallen off. I can get about eight feet into the drain, which, coincidentally, it right where the drain hits the main stack. In the beginning, I had some gunk come out, but lately, nothing other than stagnant, stinky water. I apply pressure and twist and twiat, and whatever the head is biting into, it's not budging. This makes me think the head is biting into the stack somewhere.

No other drains in the duplex have a problem. The general opinion is that the problem is definitely somewhere from the main stack to the sink. I'm about ready to just cut the pipe and get in there with a flashlight to see for myself what is going on, but now I'm afraid that if I do that, I will need to tear out the wall again and replace my older S-trap with an in-wall system and a P-trap to make it code-compliant.

Thanks for any help or guesses anyone might have. I'm a few days away from just breaking down and calling a plumber.
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..........I'm a few days away from just breaking down and calling a plumber.
Counting 1,2.3

  • You have a main line problem
  • Ask your neighbors for a good plumber
  • Don't call one of the Radio Ad Plumbers
Thank you for the very quick response, but can you please explain why you think it's a main line problem when everything else flows fine, including the bathroom tub and sink which enter the main stack a mere 8" above the kitchen sink? You're the first person to suggest that.
Can you replace the pipe ? My in-law replaced his and it was over 50 % blocked. I don't think any amount of snaking would have gotten the buildup I saw. Since you are remodeling now is a good time. I would suspect a blockage at the junction to the main stack.

I have also heard pros and cons on the enzyme cleaners.
In most areas, "S" traps are not even allowed by code. They prevent venting. Caustic drain cleaners eat a small hole in the clog, and then run to the main, leaving a partial clog to start all over again. Enzyme cleaners such as Draincare by Zep, cling to and eat the organic matter. I am also guessing that the drain is galvanized steel pipe. These make their own problems with rust. If at all possible, I would replace this run of pipe.
Yes, I CAN replace the pipe. My issues are, however:

1) I'm not exactly sure how the pipe is connected to the stack It looks like the 1.5" pipe is going into a larger hole in the stack with some sort of adapter. I don't know how standard this is.

2) I don't know that with my little standard butane torch and plumber's wrench, I would be able to un-sweat (correct term?) the pipe from this "adapter", especially since it's always filled with water.

3) I've thought about simply cutting the pipe about a foot away from the stack to get a better idea of what's going on. If the pipe needs replacing, I guess I would just use a PVC pipe and one of those "clamps" to join them together, but I don't know how "legal" that is, or whether or not I would now need to convert the S-trap into a P-trap.
Sorry, majakdragon, I didn't even see your post.

It's a brass or copper pipe, not steel. And I think the problem with the drain cleaner is that there's so much water backed up in the pipe already, that the drain cleaner can't even penetrate into it. The drain cleaner I used before didn't even put a dent into it -- I poured it in, waited a few days, ran water, and it was still backed up.
Try the DrainCare as suggested. Always works for me.
.......can you please explain why you think it's a main line problem when everything else flows fine..........

………I can get about eight feet into the drain, which, coincidentally, it right where the drain hits the main stack. ………..
OK I take it back, since you know the Main Line is A OK do not call a Plumber
The Liquid Plumber didnt work because....well because its Liquid Plumber. That crap only does one other thing than what majakdragon stated. In addition to eating a very small (and I mean very small) hole in the clog any remaining Liquid Plumber will then begin to solidify causing even more trouble. Same goes for Draino or any other caustic drain "cleaner" on the market. Oh more thing it will do. Caustic drain cleaners will actually react with copper and eat it up.

What kind of auger did you use? You need a power auger to get through it. However, given that you're remodeling I'd go ahead and replace the drain, throw in a p trap and a vent. If running a vent up the wall and tying it in somewhere or terminating it by itself through the roof isnt an option I'd at least put an AAV on it.

From your description of how the drain is tied into the stack I'm picturing the copper being soldered into a cast iron stack by way of a solder bushing. I'd cut the copper even with the fitting on the stack, cut a slot out of the solder bushing and with a hammer and chisel, get the solder bushing out. From that point I'd use a 1-1/2" fernco donut in the hub of the fitting to transition to pvc.

My guess is that if you do replace the drain you're going to find the clog right at the transition at the stack. If you dont want to go with the replacement then get a power auger and clean that sucker out.

Whatever route you go, get rid of that Liquid Plumr. If it actually worked dont you think we plumbers would make extensive use of it?
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We had the same problem with one toilet. It was tree roots. Ask a plumber to run a camera down a vent pipe. Yes it cost money. Ours cost $13000. to fix. We spent the money and have not had a problem since. I tried to solve the problem myself but it was beyond me-- it took a plumber.
The ZEP draincare sounds familiar. If it's sold in a white canister with a blue and yellow label, and you have to mix a "scoop" of powder with hot water, yes, I've tried that, and no, that didn't work either.

It sounds like I'm going to have to try renting a power auger first before replacing the line...
Well, I went to Home Depot today, and I was told that since the pipe is only 1.5" wide, that the "bigger" and "thicker" augers won't fit well, and if I have any bends in my pipes, I could damage the pipe or the tool. The only one they had that they would rent me was 25' long and 1/4" thick. Instead of renting the power auger, I simply bought the same thing for $21.00, and attached it to my own drill.

I put the auger in as far as I could go, pulled the trigger on my drill, and it started to go in. I fed a few more inches and pulled the trigger. It went down. I did this one more time and pulled the trigger. It went down some more. I decided to pull the whole thing out and clean the crap out... and all I pulled out was 8 feet of 1/4" spring that was twisted up like a pretzel.

This can not be a simple clog. The head has to be getting caught somewhere. I'm going to have to cut this pipe and if I get nowhere, call the pro.
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A garden hose from your hot water heater drain will force hot water at 50 PSI into the pipe. Use rags as a gasket. It's free and can't hurt.
This can not be a simple clog. .... I'm going to have to cut this pipe and if I get nowhere, call the pro.
C.M.,Since you've gone this far go ahead and start with cuttng the horizontal run to the stack. Cut out the largest section that is practical to replace with ABS.

If you can possibly replace the existing junction to the stack with an ABS Combination Tee & Wye, you will never have a repeat of not getting an auger through the transition.

The combination T&W's come in a wide variety of inlet to body sizes but even if you can only find, say a 2" inlet for a sze that will fit your stack, then you can always put a reducer in the horizontal run.

A Good Plumbing Supply House has a much bigger selection than the Big Box stores.


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** update **

First of all, thank you all for giving me the stones to take this problem on head-on. I took a little bit from everybody's suggestions.

I stopped off at Lowe's on the way home from work and got ABS materials I would need. The men that worked there really didn't have any good ideas as to how I would attach my 1.5" pipe into the stack. After describing the situation, I was told that it was common practice to use lead to seal joins like that, and I was probably best to leave it alone. I figured my best course of action at this point is to get a 1.5" Fernco, leave about 4" of the original pipe, and this way I could either attach the new ABS or the old brass drain.

I got out my saw and cut the drain pipe, and when it started leaking, I let it drip and came back 10 minutes later (there's a laundry sink right under it). I continued to cut. As I was cutting deeper and deeper, I noticed that the water coming out was more and more brown.

After cutting it through, I grabbed my flashlight and snake. Once again, the snake went nowhere, even though it was only going in about 8 inches. I did a little bit of scraping with auger, coat hanger, and screwdriver. I got nowhere, and decided I had to cut it flush and worry about how I'll attach it later.

After doing so, I was horrified to see that the cast-iron Wye was so clogged that I could barely poke my screwdriver through it. I can tell you that SOME of it was rust, but most of it was some kind of gunk that I had to remove with the screwdriver and hammer. Whatever it was, it was dark gray inside, and hard as rock. The good news is that under this crap, the pipe seemed undamaged (like I'm an expert!)

Using screwdriver, hammer, long round file, and crowbar (hey, it's curved like the Wye!), I was careful to remove all of it that I could, and not let it fall in. Once that was done, I cut and glued all but one of the ABS pieces. This I left unglued so that I have wiggle room to "properly" attach the pipe to the stack.

I feel so much better. I guess my main concern now is, since I still have access to the Wye, is there anything I can apply to it, like a foam, that would help "digest" this? I can't use Drain Care for obvious reasons, because it's no longer clogged, so it would just run down. I thought about mixing up a batch of it and squirting it on the inside, but I don't know if that will help.

Once again, thank you all for your help and support.
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Thanks for the Update. I give you an A for "Hanging On"
I agree Bob, this guy deserves a great ole big "Atta Boy" for hanging in there, and with patience to boot. I've seen that same mixture in drain lines before and after closely analyzing this I have come to the conclusion that it is made up of just "stuff" that NASA has not invented yet. That crud is tough, maybe it could be formulated for highway paving or something as I know that asphalt is easier to remove. Critical Mass, go give yourself a pat on the back and sit down for a while now. Thanks, David
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